Mallam Aminu Kano was born in Kano city in 1920. After his elementary school education in Kano, he proceeded to Katsina College. He also attended a course at the Institute of Education of the University of London. Like many children of his time in northern Nigeria, Mallam Aminu Kano was not happy with the colonial order and administration in northern Nigeria. As a teacher in Bauchi, he joined the newly formed Bauchi Discussion Circle of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Issues affecting the freedom and development of northern Nigeria and the country in general were discussed by this group in Bauchi. When Aminu Kano was transferred to Sokoto as the head of Maru Teachers College, Maru, he joined the Jamiyyar Mutanen Arewa which was also a socio-political and cultural organization that was concerned about the future of northern Nigeria and Nigeria in general. However, because Mallam Aminu Kano had a more radical and revolutionary view of the society and was advocating for a faster transformation of the traditional northern Nigeria, he fell apart with many of his colleagues and as a result, broke away to finally join a radical party known as the Northern Elements Progressive Union in 1951. His party became ideologically opposed to the traditional and conservative Northern People’s Congress of Ahmadu Bello which advocated for gradual transformation of northern Nigeria within its traditional structure; the Emirate system.
Mallam Aminu Kano did not like the traditional administrations (known as Native Authorities) headed by the emirs in northern Nigeria because he saw them as the agents of the colonial government.
The native authorities all over northern Nigeria were used for:
- The collection of kharaji (taxes) from the talakawa (commoners, poor people) as well as jangali (cattle tax) from the Fulani nomads.
- There was also the issue of the conscription of commoners into forced labour on public projects.
- The Alkali courts were also seen by Mallam Aminu Kano as instruments of exploiting and intimidating the talakawa by the administration of the emirs.
- In addition, Mallam Aminu Kano was worried about the poor condition of women in especially Muslim communities of the north. Women were denied education, Western and Islamic and were generally oppressed in the society.
However, because of the dominant position of the NPC and the support which it enjoyed from the traditional leadership in northern Nigeria, Mallam Aminu Kano’s party, the NEPU found it very difficult to win elections in the region.
Mallam Aminu himself managed to win a seat in the 1959 Federal Parliamentary Election and became a member of the House of Representatives where he was also appointed its Chief Whip. In the subsequent military government of General Yakubu Gowon, Mallam Aminu served as the Federal Commissioner of Communications and Health.
In the wake of the second republic, Mallam Aminu Kano established another radical party known as the People’s Redemption Party (PRP). Again the interest of the commoners was the cardinal objective of the party. They were to be freed from taxation, illiteracy and other forms of exploitation. The PRP won two states; Kano and Kaduna out of the 19 states in existence at that time.
Mallam Aminu Kano died on April 17th 1983 in Kano. A number of places are named after him such as the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano and Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Research and Training, Mambayya House, Kano.