How Umaru Altine, A Fulani Man Became the Mayor of Enugu

Updated: Nov 25, 2021
By Amina Lawal

Did you know that the first mayor of Enugu city was a Fulani man? Enugu is the capital of old Eastern Nigeria with a majority of Igbo speaking people; therefore it is imperative to explore and understand how a Fulani politician became the mayor of the city. He held this post till 1958.

Who Is Malam Umaru Altine?

Mallam Umaru Altine was an ethnic Fulani cattle dealer from the Old Sokoto Province of defunct Northern Nigeria. His kids were raised in the house of the late Sultan of Sokoto. He grew up under the reign of Sultan Siddiq Abubakar III who was the Sultan for 50 good years and one of the longest-reigning Emirs ever in northern Nigeria.

As a descendant of Uthman Dan Fodio, he could have been Sultan of Sokoto. But he preferred the world of trading, travel, adventure (he joined the army and worked with the railways) and politics (one account says he first contested an election in Tambuwal, Sokoto state), and he carved a niche for himself in these respects. He was handsome, was always well dressed, and people were magnetically drawn to him.

He later migrated southwards where he came under the heavy influence of the late nationalist, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who was his mentor. Azikiwe gave Altine immense support and played a very significant role in his emergence as the Mayor of Enugu. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s political machine made it possible for Alhaji Umaru Altine to become the mayor of Enugu.

Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first Governor-General and first President of Nigeria was by no means perfect in his political career but his faith in one Nigeria was unshakable, unquestionable and his quest for unity and indivisible Nigeria was never in doubt.

How Umaru Altine Became The Mayor of Enugu

It will interest you to know that Malam Umaru Altine was not appointed. He was elected Mayor of Enugu two times. Malam Umaru Altine was the Vice Chairman of the NCNC Youth Association at Enugu. He identified with the NCNC as a political party. During elections, NCNC decided to nominate him at Coal Camp where he lived. He contested and won the election.

When Altine won the election, it was decided that this man did not see himself as a Fulani man but a nationalist. And the NCNC believed in one Nigeria. So, they let him be the Mayor of Enugu.

Before he was elected the Mayor by fellow councillors, he was President of the Enugu Branch of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) Youth Association, a post to which he was elected in May 1953 with the support of the Igbo middle class who were mainly businessmen, civil servants and professionals.

He contested twice for the post of Mayor of Enugu against Igbo opponents and won both times The second election was even more significant in the sense that NCNC had asked him to step down for somebody else and he refused. Instead, he resigned from NCNC, ran as an Independent candidate and beat the NCNC candidate.

On the 10th of November, 1956, at a meeting of the NCNC, Umaru Altine was elected as President of the party branch without any opposition.

By the April of 1957, Altine’s support had dropped and the leadership of the Enugu Municipal Council had to be taken over by Mr LBC Ezechi, a trader from Udi.

His Style As Mayor

In Enugu, he wore the Babban Riga, as well as a Turban. On other occasions, he wore suits as the event demanded. He went to Church in Enugu if his duties as Mayor called for it, and went to do the kick-off at the stadium when occasion demanded. He was willing to adjust while retaining his identity.

Mallam Umaru Altine was fluent in Fulfulde and, to cap it all, he married an Igbo Lady. A noble, free and simple spirit is in evidence here.

Umaru Altne’s Death and Legacy

Malam Umaru Altine died in 1996, in his house in Kaduna. He was survived by his wife and children, including Abdulkareem Balarabe Umaru Altine. He was widely regarded as a detribalized Nigerian. A street in Enugu has been named after him.

What do you think about this great man? Do you think this is possible currently? Tell me in the comments.

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