In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, his entire household and all those who follow him until Doomsday.
The Chairman of this occasion, his Royal Highness, the Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Mera, fellow speaker, Dr. Umar Mustapha, discussants, Bar. Nurudeen Asunugie, Hajia Sakinat Ajijola and Shaykh Harun Ajah, distinguished brothers and sisters, as-Salaam alaykunm wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu.
I am extremely humbled by this invitation to speak in this gathering of great minds on this topical issue, His Eminence Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 15 Years of Leadership: Progress and Prospects.
AL-MUQADDIMAH (PROLEGOMENA) :
William Shakespeare was right when he said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”.
Alhaji Muhammad Sa’d Abubakar CFR, mni, effectively falls into all three categories of greatness. As a prince of the highest traditional stool in Nigeria, he was born great. By rising by dint of hardwork and discipline to become a Brigadier General in the Nigerian Army and by actualising his princehood to sit on the throne of his forefathers in the Sultanate, he achieved greatness.
Thereafter, by virtue of his twin role as the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) where he has to play the highly challenging role of leading more than 120 million Muslims, he has greatness thrust upon him.
It is far from hero-worshipping, therefore, for all of us to have gathered here today, Saturday, 30th October, 2021 to celebrate the 20th Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, a mover, a shaker, an exemplary leader, a quintessential Sultan primus inter pareil and a combination of royalty, humanity and simplicity nulli secundus.
Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar comes across as a first class traditional ruler and the first Sokoto monarch to shun opulence by towing the path of simplicity since his coronation on 2nd November, 2006.
Evidence abounds of his preference for little even in the face of profusion and his choice of low-key and moderation when pomp and pageantry was readily available as an integral part of royal niceties and the perquisites of his highly reverred office.
Whereas generals in the army are known for barking orders and that military carriage that is suggestive of obedience willy nilly, Sultan Muhammad has elected to adopt a consultative mien in the Sultanate and this has won him immense admiration from his emirs and subjects. The result is a Sultanate in harmony from which no grunts, growls or grumblings emanate.
His diplomatic acumen must be acknowledged with the realization that not once has there been any report of strained relationship with the executive arm of government in the state. He fits into the Nigerian democratic system of indirect rule by politicians via traditional rulers. This is no mean feat for a man who has just removed the shining medals of an army general.
As a result, Sokoto has become today one of the few fortunate states where the chief executive focuses on the socio-economic welfare of the people without having to cast curious glances over his shoulders for assurance of the loyalty of his citizens. Expectedly, this has brought social equilibrium and progress to the state.
Remarkable progress has been made in the state under the able leadership of Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. With a population figure of 4,998,090 (2016) in a land area of 27,825 square kilometers, a Gross Domestic Product (GDP ) per Capita of $1,274 and a literacy rate of 73.4, Sokoto State has performed creditably well.
SULTAN ABUBAKAR’S ROLE AS PRESIDENT GENERAL OF NSCIA :
Sultan Abubakar has earned accolades for himself as the ‘people’s Sultan’, not just the Sultan of Sokoto or Sultan of Nigerian Muslims but Sultan of the people. He was able to do this through his amiability, his accommodation, his tolerance, his manifestation of maturity , his level-headedness and his patience in the face of provocation.
For in spite of the use of uncouth language and vilification from certain quarters, particularly from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Sultan Abubakar never for once lost his princely gait but remained committed to the decorum of royalty. For him, it has always been noblesse oblige.
He was the first sultan to leave the safe havens of the Sokoto Sultanate to interact firsthand with Muslins south of the Niger. He traversed the whole of Yorubaland attending Islamic programmes. He was in Oshogbo, Ibadan, Ondo, Akure, etc. Not only that, he was also palpably visible in the South East and South South. Enugu, Owerri, Portharcourt, etc have played host to His Eminence.
For the first time in ‘geography’, Nigerian Muslims are being treated to what they consider a humongous luxury, namely, a sultan who refuses to remain in an armchair, a roving prince of hope and a royal bridge across the Niger.
Sultan Abubakar has strengthened the NSCIA in many ways. First and foremost, his open door policy and active participation in progrmes organised by Muslims in the South has endeared him to millions of Muslims in the country. This has also cemented the unity of the Ummah in no little way and the old mantra of North-South dichotomy is fast becoming an old song. This has also restored confidence in the NSCIA to a large extent.
A good example of how the Sultan’s active engagements have succeeded in warming the hearts of majority of Nigerian Muslims towards the NSCIA is the way the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) changed its perception of the umbrella organization soon after Sultan Abubakar came on board.. Though a critic and a doubting Thomas ab initio, MURIC became an ardent supporter and active participant after seeing dynamism in the new leadership of the NSCIA.
In his open door policy, the Sultan increased the membership of key committees and coopted new faces from various organizations across the country. He also created new committees. For example, the Moonsighting Committee of the NSCIA was created to address the issue of controversies during the two major Muslim festivals. This Committee has succeeded in drastically reducing division among Muslins during festivals or Muslim public holidays. The Sultan also reinvigorated the General Purpose Committee (GPC) of the NSCIA.
In addition, the public engagements of the NSCIA became more frequent while its interventions in the socio-economic welfare of Nigerians became more robust. In a solo effort, Sultan Abubakar also initiated a group of Muslim activists and journalists who meet quarterly to jaw-jaw on matters affecting the nation and issues which threatened the survival of Islam in the country.
In November 2014, the indefatigable Sultan also established a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development (SFPD). The foundation has keyed into issues like gender-based violence, capacity building, the almajiri phenomenon and out-of-school children syndrome. It has also partnered with the International Interfaith Peace Corps (IIPC).
Although the Sultan means well and the NSCIA has the potentials to solve a plothera of problems facing Nigerian Muslims both individually and collectively, a fundamental characteristic of the NSCIA may inhibit this potential.
By the nature and composition of the NSCIA, anyone who occupies the position of governor in Sokoto State has the power to depose the sultan. Unfortunately, the removal of the sultan has the bandwagon effect of removing the president general of the NSCIA.
This is because Section 6 Cap 26 of the Laws of Northern Nigeria empowers state governors to depose traditional rulers and this includes the sultan. Incidentally, too, Article 7 (i) of the NSCIA constitution stipulates that the Sultan of Sokoto shall be the president General of the NSCIA.
Here lies the dilemma facing the Ummah. The governor of a single state can depose the sultan and leader of all Nigerian Muslims. This situation is capable of causing unmitigated embarrassment. It also has the capacity to trigger a religious crisis of unimaginable dimension.
Whereas even the president of Nigeria cannot interfere in the affairs of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), a state governor can interfere and even depose the sultan and President General of the NSCIA. This has far-reaching comparative disadvantage vis a vis the bargaining power as well as the pressure group influence of Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.
We only need to turn back the pages of history to recall the sack of Sultan Dasuki in 1996 by the military governor of Sokoto State. He was the 18th sultan if Sokoto. How can the Muslims guard against a repetition of that anomaly? How do we ensure that our president generals are not disgraced in future?
The solution lies in securing immunity from deposition for the Sultan. This means one of the two laws have to give way. Section 6 Cap 26 of the Laws of Northern Nigeria which empowers state governors to depose traditional rulers and Article 7 (i) the constitution of the NSCIA which gives the Sultan the singular authority to be the president General.
The good people of Sokoto State must recognize the favour which Allah has bestowed upon them as the sole candidates for the prestigious position of president General of the NSCIA. There is no doubt that they will want to continue to enjoy that priviledge by maintaining the status quo.
The onus is therefore on the Sokoto State House of Assembly to set the machinery in motion for the repeal of Section 6 Cap 26 of the Laws of Northern Nigeria in such a way that it will exclude the Sultan from the governor’s exercise of the power of deposition. It is a simple exercise which may not go beyond a motion in the House seeking to insert the phrase ‘except the Sultan of Sokoto’ in the dethronement clause.
We remind all and sundry that this is not about the reigning Sultan. It is about the progress of the Ummah. It is about freedom from undue executive influence.
I thank the organizers of the Sultan’s 15th coronation anniversary for inviting me. But I have a public apology to tender to the organizers. My return flight from Lagos to Sokoto and back cost an incredible sum of N225,000. It made me curious but the riddle was not resolved until I boarded the plane and I was told to sit in the 1st class section. That was when I discovered that the agent who booked my flight bought a 1st class ticket for me, believing that I must be a big man since I am a professor.
It still hurts me that I had to waste so much money because somebody thought I was a big man. It would have been a different thing if the money paid for the ticket was mine. But alas, it belongs to the organising committee of this programme. Well, for wasting so much money, for falsely occupying a 1st class seat on board Max Air Boeing 737, for living a fake life from Lagos to Sokoto, I have decided to punish myself. I hereby forfeit any honorarium due to me for presenting this paper.
Quarter finally, I want to thank you all for listening to my presentation with rapt attention and particularly for tolerating my ignorance. When I first received the invitation, the first thing that occurred to me was to ask why me? Why Ishaq Akintola of all the Ishaqs in this world? Why not Ishaq Kunle Sanni? Why not Ishaq Oloyede?
Semi finally, the reasons for my questions are that Ishaq Kunle Sanni is a bull dozer and no oppressor of Muslims can withstand his giant figure. Ishaq Oloyede is a snake charmer before whom all kinds of snakes, cobras, pythons, anacondas, etc shake, tremble and vomit their unmerited intakes. At least you are all aware of the huge python that swallowed about N300 million in JAMB office. Professor Oloyede simply ordered the huge snake to appear before him but on sighting Oloyede, the huge snake vomited all the money it had swallowed.
That is why I think either Ishaq Kunle Sanni or Ishaq Oloyede should have been invited to deliver this paper, not a poor teacher, a Liliputian, and the most oppressed Muslim in Nigeria. Ishaq Kunle Sanni is a bulldozer, Ishaq Oloyede is an acknowledged snake charmer. Ishaq Akintola is the only one who does not talk, who is very gentle and who is most oppressed.
Finally, I wish to congratulate His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) on the 15th anniversary of his coronation. I pray for peace in Sokoto and the rest of Nigeria.
Long Live the Sultan!
Long Live Sokoto State
Long Live Nigeria
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director, Muslim Rights Concern
Sokoto 30th October, 2021
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