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Nigerians in History: Maitama Sule

Born Yusuf Maitama Sule on the 1st of October 1929, the man, popularly referred to as Maitama Sule was a Nigerian politician, diplomat, and elder statesman who held the title, Danmasanin Kano. From 1955 to 1956, he was the chief whip of the Federal House of Representatives. In 1960, he led the Nigerian delegation to the Conference of Independent African States. In 1976, he became the Federal Commissioner of public complaints, a position that made him the nation’s pioneer ombudsman. In early 1979, he was the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria but lost to Shehu Shagari. He was appointed Nigeria’s representative to the United Nations upon the return to civilian rule in September 1979. There, he was chairman of the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid.

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Public Complaints Commission

The rise of economic nationalism during the 1970s led to the enactment of a decree stipulating minimum requirements for local content in many companies doing business in Nigeria. To capitalize on the benefits of indigenous control of the economy, many permanent secretaries, federal commissioners, state governors and their cronies established firms to conduct business with the government. It was with the intent of patching the revolving door and to stem small-time corruption that the Public Complaints Commission was created in 1975. It was meant to hear and tackle complaints by the common man in a simple and efficient manner. Sule, as head of the commission, was known to have taken his job seriously, partly because he was a potent political commodity and had a lot to gain from the goodwill of the people when a transition to civilian rule was in place. As a result of the commission’s effort, corruption during the period was temporarily curtailed.

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National guidance

In 1983, Sule returned to a familiar role, this time under a democratic government as the head of a ministry to tackle corruption. The new but short-lived ministry was created solely to invest time in an ethical re-orientation of Nigerians. Sule, who had acquired a solid reputation as a tough U.N representative when he was chairman of a U.N. special committee on apartheid, was asked to lead the ministry. However, his appointment was not satisfactory to critics. Shagari’s administration was removed by a coup, with the coup plotters citing corruption as a major reason for the incursion.

Polemical statement

Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule said,

“Everyone has a gift from God. The Northerners are endowed by God with leadership qualities. The Yoruba man knows how to earn a living and has diplomatic qualities. The igbo man is gifted in trade, commerce, and technological innovation. God so created us equally with purpose and different gifts.” 

– Yusuf Maitama Sule

The aforementioned statement has been used by some to stir up fears of northern political domination in the country. The fear of northern dominance can however not be dismissed.

“May God give this country leaders not rulers, leaders with the fear of God.”


Sule died on 2 July 2017 in a hospital in Cairo, Egypt, after suffering from pneumonia and a chest infection.


Peter Blackburn, “Corruption in Nigeria: can it be ended inland of greased palms,” Christian Science Monitor. December 5, 1983

Simone K. Panter-Brick, Soldiers and Oil: The Political Transformation of Nigeria. Frank Cass, 1978. p 123. 

David C. L. Lim, The Infinite Longing for Home: desire and the nation in selected writings of Ben Okri and K.S. Rodopi, 2005. 


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Jeremiah Aluwong

Jeremiah is a scholar and a poet. He has a keen eye for studying the world and is passionate about people. He tweets at @jeremiahaluwong.

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    31st March 2020 at 3:57 am

    Thanks for all your information, Website is very nice and informative content

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