Today, all national and international roads lead to Lagos State, the main hub of Nigeria’s economy. In that State of Excellence, a grandiose event of historic remembrance that will be watched live on different cable network electronic media globally takes place. The event is being graced by the President General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar as Special Royal Guest.
The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, General Muhammadu Buhari is expected to be the Special Guest of Honour at the occasion while the 4th Republic’s pioneer Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Hamed Tinubu, the Jagaban Borgu, will be the Chairman.
Other high caliber guests expected at the event include some serving State Executive Governors, foreign delegates and Ambassadors as well as a galaxy of distinguished personalities across the continent of Africa.
The occasion is for the 34th National Qur’an Recitation Competition, the formal opening of which will be declared today. Participants in the event will consist of the representatives of all States of the Federation including those of the Southwest region.
The attendance of this occasion by His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto is a confirmation of the fact that this millennial Sultan is rather of Nigeria as a country and not just of Sokoto as often cited in the media. Looking at the random itinerary of His Eminence very carefully and the intention behind that itinerary, no sensible person will dispute the fact that he is truly of the nation and not of a particular region. There is no other Sultan in Nigeria, even in Africa.
Ever since he assumed office in 2006, this Sultan has had cause to touch virtually every part of Nigeria repeatedly not only to ascertain the unity of the Muslim Ummah but also to ensure peaceful coexistence of all citizens irrespective of their tribes and religions. Even in the past three months, he has visited the Southwest alone about five times. He was in Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States for various events. And he visited some of those States twice or more within the period.
Just yesterday (Thursday), December 26, 2019, he was in Ibadan, Oyo State, where he attended the grand finale of Islamic Vacation Course (IVC) of the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN). It was from there he moved to Lagos to attend today’s great event. In the history of Sultanate in Nigeria, no Sultan has ever been so dynamically committed to unity, peace and harmony.
Who is This Sultan?
Time flies. It has been 13 years since His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar, CFR, mni, ascended the Sultanate royal throne as the 20th Sultan. The specific historic date of his ascension was November 6, 2006. Until then, the lofty man’s name did not ring any bell in Nigeria. And he was probably not conscious of the royal blood in him. If he was ever conscious of that at all, his humble nature did not reflect it. But the thinking of man is quite different from the will of Allah. And when the thinking of man clashes with the will of Allah, the latter automatically prevails.
His Ascension to the Throne
For Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, ascending the throne of the great Sokoto Caliphate was like the rise of the sun ‘anon meridian’. Whenever it beams its rejuvenating rays over the world, all the stars in the galaxy take their bow with reverence.
History and man are like Siamese twins. The one cannot do without the other. History makes man just as man makes history. And the reciprocal baton continues to change hands between them as long as they mutually remain in existence.
Thus, the sudden emergence of a 50- year-old Brigadier General called Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar as the successor to the exalted throne of the great Sokoto Empire without controversy in 2006 came as a surprise to many Nigerians. His own father, Sultan Saddiq Abubakar ascended the same throne at the age of 37. Surely, the name ‘Muhammad Sa‘ad’ played a significant role in the emergence of its bearer as Sultan.
The Mystery in Name
There is something mysterious about name which humanity is yet to comprehend fully. A puzzling secret seems to exist in the vocabulary of life which sticks to every man like a second skin. That secret, pearled in the yoke of name, is an effective evidence of destiny in man. Our names are the light that glows at night to lighten up our ways towards the glare of the days through the threshold of life. And when the dawn comes to render the glowing light ineffective, the bearer bows out into the recluse of death leaving behind an indemnified signature on the sands of time.
This was the case with Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the greatest man that ever lived on the surface of the earth. Even as an unlettered son of Arabia who was born in an era of blatant ignorance, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) introduced into the world, an unprecedented civilization that opened the eyes of humanity to everlasting guidance.
In recognition of Prophet Muhammad’s human exemplariness, the Almighty Allah said of him in Q 33: 21 thus:
“You (Muslims) have a good example in Allah’s Apostle for anyone who looks to Allah and the Last Day and remembers Him always”.
That verse of the Qur’an is a divine template for all rightly guided Muslims in the conduct of their common lives as groups and communities just as it is in their personal mannerisms as individuals.
Peculiarities in Names
Sultan’s first name is Muhammad which he bears in emulation of the Prophet of Islam. His second name is Sa’ad meaning ‘Good ‘Luck’ which makes him a name-sake of one of Prophet Muhammad’s companions (Sa’d Bn Abu Waqqas) who was a great Army General of Islam. And his (Sultan’s) surname is Abubakar which means ‘father of youths’, an inherited name which he shares with the first Caliph in Islam (Abubakr Siddiq). In every one of these names is a profound meaning with profound influence on the personality and conduct of the current Sultan.
As an Army General, like Sa’d Bn Abi Waqqas, Sultan is demonstrating the courage of a brave leader. As the father of the youths, like Abu Bakr, he is bridging the gap between leadership and follower-ship by breathing a breeze of hope into Nigerian Muslim youths from time to time.
Identity of a Leader
A leader is known, neither by the aura of the office he occupies, nor by the enormity of the power wielded in that office. Rather, a leader is known by the magnanimity with which he exercises the power entrusted to him and the humility he demonstrates in his interaction with the people. This is the lesson that Prophet Muhammad’s leadership taught Muslim rulers in one of his Hadith when he said: “A powerful person is not the one who can suppress others (with the enormity of power or instrumentality of office) but the one who can resist the temptation to use such power by whim”.
Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar seems to have exemplified this prophetic teaching as a Muslim leader and a faithful one for that matter. And through his humble interaction with all Muslims in Nigeria irrespective of tribal or geographical boundaries, he has become the first Sultan to create a strong feeling of a united Muslim Ummah in Nigeria under a competent leadership.
Philosophers who assert that every new century has a way of producing a great leader may be right after all. The example of His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar, is a manifestation of that assertion. Ever since he assumed the exalted royal office in 2006, this great man has convincingly exhibited all the qualities of genuine leadership by all standards. Every statement he has made socially, religiously or politically and every action he has taken privately or publicly has proved to be a school from which all well-meaning people of Nigeria have learnt one positive lesson or another.
History And Man
History and man are like Siamese twins. The one cannot do without the other. History makes man just as man makes history. The symbiotic relationship of history and man, which is not in doubt, was reconfirmed in Sokoto 13 years ago (November, 2016) when a galaxy of well-meaning men and women from all walks of life assembled to say ‘we are here to bear witness’.
That was on the occasion of His Eminence’s ascension to the royal throne of the Sultanate when he was unanimously chosen by the Sokoto king makers and crowned as the Sultan following the demise of his immediate predecessor, the former Sultan Muhammad Macido.
It should be recalled that His Eminence shares birth day and month with a great son of Ogun State, the late Bashorun MKO Abiola (May the Almighty Allah repose his soul in eternal bliss). That date is August 24. The only difference in the dates of birth of these two great men is the year in which they were born. While MKO’s birth year was 1937, that of his Eminence was 1956.
Before the official emergence of Nigeria as a country through an amalgamation of certain tribes and regions, Sokoto Empire was beyond today’s Nigeria. It consisted of a vast area of today’s Niger Republic, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Benin Republic and some parts of today’s Togo. However, with the partition of Africa into various colonial entities in 1884, the Sultanate of Sokoto became drastically reduced with a large chunk of its territory falling under various colonial authorities.
His Intellectual Origin
In the days of Uthman Dan Fodio and his brother, Abdullah Bn Fodio, the main glory of Sokoto Empire was knowledge. And that became its legacy for the descendants on the Sultanate line. It is on record that Clapperton, a British colonial agent, once had an interesting intellectual encounter with the first Sultan, Sheikh Muhammad Bello, the son of Usman Dan Fodio in 1824. After that encounter which came in form of debate, Clapperton had to admit thus: “He (Muhammad Bello) continued to ask me several other theological questions, until I was obliged to confess myself not sufficiently versed in religious subtleties to resolve those knotty points”. And, when Clapperton returned to Sokoto two years later (1826) and presented Sultan Bello with a copy of Arabic Euclid, he was shocked to learn that his host already possessed one. Both Muhammad Bello and his father, Usman Dan Fodio, engaged in such complex linguistic, theological and legal studies that the one had 97 books to his credit while the other had 93.
Education and Literacy
When some Europeans first came to our own part of Africa in the 16th century, they found that the most literate part of what is called Nigeria, today, was the north. And that was because Islam had reached that part of the country with its Arabic literacy since the 11th century. The British colonialists confirmed this when they arrived in the 19th century. The only reason why those colonialists did not retain Arabic literacy in the north was that they did not understand it. If they had not ignored Arabic literacy, the north would not have been perceived as a backward region educationally today. At least by 1919, when the southern part of Nigeria was just beginning to embrace literacy with some seriousness in less than a score of schools that were then in existence, the north already had about 25000 schools where various subjects were taught and learned in Arabic language.
Immediately after ascending the throne, Brig. General Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar became very much aware that as Sultan of Sokoto he was wearing two crowns. One is that of an Emperor which the royal office symbolizes. The other is that of Amirul Muminin (Commander of Nigerian Muslim faithful). And as Amirul Muminin, he knew that interacting with and consulting the various Muslim communities in Nigeria, in order to carry them along in decision making at the apex Islamic body called Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), was a sine qua non. Like any other thing modern, this millennial Sultan is modern by all standards. He knows that the link between the Sultanate of Sokoto and the Nigerian Muslim Ummah is Islam. He knows that without Islam even the Sultanate of Sokoto could not have come into existence. He knows that he needs the genuine recognition and cooperation of all Nigerian Muslims to function effectively as Amirul Muminin.
By his activities and functions so far, Dr. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar has indicated to Nigerian Muslims that reformation of the NSCIA is a necessity to suit the modern day requirements for the growth and development of Islam in Nigeria. He knows that for that apex body to be effective, such reformation should take the form of Renaissance. Therefore, as soon as he assumed office, he put both the NSCIA and the Sultanate on the internet to enable all educated Muslims in Nigeria and beyond have access to their leader. And as an exemplary leader, he demonstrates his leadership prowess by personally possessing mastering fingers on the computer.
Today’s Muslim generation in Nigeria is passing through a paved way without taking note of it. This 20th Sultan of is of triple heritage. As the President General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), he is a religious leader. By virtue of his national royal status as the Chairman of all Nigerian traditional rulers, he is a political leader. And, as a retired Brigadier-General from the Nigerian Army, he is a military leader. Thus, his triple heritage is complete.
His Royal Agenda
In what looked like his royal agenda in respect of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs [NSCIA], when he emerged as Sultan, His Eminence rolled out, certain fundamental programmes to the utter delight of all Nigerian Muslims.
When presenting those programmes at an interfaith conference, he said: “….we initiated, as we had done for the Jama‘atu Nasril-Islam (JNI), a thorough review of the activities of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs [NSCIA] and an extensive reform of its structures”.
“It is our firm belief that these reforms are not only desirable but necessary to reposition the Council to play its strategic role as the apex Islamic body in the country and to respond, effectively and meaningfully, to the challenges facing the Muslim Ummah in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society. We have had extensive consultations over a couple of years and have received very useful inputs on the reform agenda from all the constituent bodies of the Council. Our strategic objectives in this exercise had been and shall remain the following:
The promotion of Muslim Unity and Solidarity to accord the Ummah the ability to speak with one voice and to act and work together for the advancement of Islam.
The development of Education and Economic Enterprise, to enable the Muslim Ummah play an active role in the socio-economic life of Nigeria.
Promotion of peace and religious harmony both within the Muslim Communities and between the adherents of Islam and Christianity.
Establishment of effective linkage with Government, at local, state and federal levels, to safeguard the interest of the Ummah and to build consensus on those vital issues that bind us together as a nation….”
Hope and Wish
“It is therefore our hope that as we bring this reform process to its logical conclusion, we will receive the support and patronage of the entire Muslim Ummah as well as the co-operation of all stakeholders, including state governments and indeed the Government of the Federation”.
“Finally we must all work hard to limit the influence of wealth in our society and to support those values that promote social responsibility, excellence and hard work”.
That is Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, a leader who knows the problems of his followers and associates with them in solving those problems. Probably without a leader like him, the Nigerian Muslim Ummah would have gone irredeemably asunder.
“…..Fa amma bi ni‘mati Rabbika fa haddith”.
Long live the Sultan! Long live the NSCIA! Long live the Nigerian Muslim Ummah! Long live Nigeria!
By Femi Abbas
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