Time flies. It has been 15 years, just like that, since a unique Prince ascended the throne of the great Sokoto Empire as the 20th Sultan on that throne. The precise date of that great event was November 6, 2006. And, the name of the Prince in question is Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, a Brigadier-General in the Nigerian Army. By virtue of that royal ascension, the new Sultan also statutorily became the President-General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). Ever since he assumed that exalted royal office the impact of his leadership as a royal father and Commander of Nigerian Muslim Ummah (Amirul Muminin), has been unprecedentedly historic.
When this Sultan was five years old on the royal throne in 2011, yours sincerely wrote an article in this column, in commemoration of that great event. And, the article remains as current today as it was then. Thus, an excerpt from the article is hereby republished for the records. Please, read on: “In every crowd of horizontal men there must be one vertical man who deserves special reverence, not much because of his vertical position but because of the significant difference which that position makes to all people irrespective of ethnic and religious dichotomy”.
History and Man
History and man are like Siamese twins or a pair of scissors. The one cannot do without the other. History makes man just as man makes history. And, the reciprocal baton continues to exchange hands between them unabatedly.
Fifteen years ago, in Nigeria, an innocent human crescent lay hidden in the firmaments of the orbit waiting to be sighted before prompting Nigerian Muslim Ummah into a united folk. That crescent is the towering personality generally known today as the SULTAN. The gentleman’s name did not ring any bell in Nigeria before he was named and crowned as ‘THE SULTAN OF SOKOTO’ in November 2006.
Thus, the emergence of Brigadier General Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar (rtd.) as the successor to the exalted throne of the great Sokoto Empire without any controversy came as a surprise to many Nigerians. At 50 years of age then, many people thought that this Prince was one of the youngest men to emerge as the Sultan of Sokoto in many years. But he disagreed with such impression and recalled that his own father, Sultan Abubakar Sadiq III who demised in 1988 ascended the throne at the age of 37.
Equipment for Royalty
With the combination of a sound military background and an impeccable diplomatic prowess that equipped him for the royal office, this Sultan has no comparison in the annals of Sokoto history and his choice for that royal office was exemplary.
Since coming into office as a millennial royal Captain divinely designated to successfully pilot the affairs of Islam and the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria, the hitherto trend of intra Islamic quarrels has finally vamoosed.
Philosophers who once asserted that every new century has a way of producing a great leader may be quite right after all. The example of His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar is a manifest attestation to that assertion. Ever since he assumed the exalted royal office in 2006, this great man has convincingly exemplified all the qualities of genuine leadership in the contemporary time. Every statement he has made socially, religiously or politically and every action he has taken officially or privately has proved to be a school in which all well-meaning people have learnt one positive lesson or another.
As ABU Chancellor
Five years after his Eminence’s assumption of office as Sultan, the symbiotic relationship of history and man zoomed to the center stage for reconfirmation of their mutual role. On Wednesday, (November 23, 2011), a galaxy of well-meaning men and women, from all walks of life, and from different parts of the world, assembled in Zaria to say “we are here to bear witness to the greatness of a crescent of hope”.
It was the day His Eminence was installed as the Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. The occasion was just one of many magnetic laurels accruing to Dr. Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar since he assumed office as Sultan.
An American President, Harry S. Truman (1884-1972), once described a leader as “a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it”. By his activities and functions so far, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar has proved Truman right by demonstrating to Nigerian Muslim Ummah that the time has come for reformation, not only of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), but also the Sultanate.
When this Sultan assumed office 15 years ago, he hinted the world that the Sultanate would be put on the internet to enable all Nigerian Muslims, home and abroad, to gain direct access to their leader. And, that was at a time when the use of the internet as well as that of the computer was strictly exclusive to a few Nigerian elites. This was why this Sultan decided to start the reformation of the Sultanate through the instrumentality of the internet by removing exclusiveness from access to knowledge. Thus, as an exemplary leader with exemplary foresight, he began to demonstrate his leadership prowess with mastering fingers on the computer.
The Mystery in Human Names
There is something mysterious about names which humanity is yet to grasp comprehensively. A puzzling secret seems to exist in the vocabulary of life which sticks to every human being like a second skin. That secret, pearled like an oyster, in the pouch of name, is an effective evidence of destiny in man. Our names are the light that glows at night to brighten up our ways towards the glare of the days in the threshold of life. And, when the dawn comes to render the glowing light ineffective, the bearer bows out into the recluse of demise 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 Arabian desert 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.
The Qualities of Leadership in Him
Good leadership, according to sages, is recognized, not just by official position held or by any use of force at one’s disposal. Genuine leaders are mostly known by their utterances and actions through the magnanimity of their conducts. Such are leaders who never say YES when they mean to say NO. They never make promises and renege on them just as they never betray people who trust them.
Those were the qualities embedded in Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which prompted the Almighty Allah to say as follows about him in Qur’an 33:31:
“There is, surely, an excellent example for you (Muslims) to emulate in Prophet Muhammad for those of you who believe in Allah and the hereafter and also remember Him (Allah) at all times”
This Sultan knows all these with consciousness and practical inclination towards implementation. Without education, adequate transmission of information to the benefit of mankind would have been impossible. And, without adequate information, there would have been no progress. That was why Sultan Muhammad Saad Abubakar started his reformation of the Sultanate from the premise of education. It is only with education that most problems in this world can be solved without much ado. Sultan Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar also believes that education without social harmony is like a virtue without value and that there can be no harmony in a society where people are overwhelmed by ignorance and penury.
Believing fervently in the ability of education to the brute in man, His Eminence, Dr. Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar has consistently focused on both education and social harmony in his advocacy for a serene society that is dominated by peace and tranquility in Nigeria.
At his installation as the Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University in 2011, Sultan Muhammad Saad Abubakar, told the crowd that the current socio-economic indices in Nigeria were a clear indication that the country had begun to drift. He lamented that despite the nation’s abundant resources, development had failed to match Nigeria’s human and material wealth.
In his words: “Corruption has emasculated our progress even as poverty and unemployment have pushed citizens to the brinks, fuelling and confounding social conflicts and inter-communal crisis have extracted heavy toll in both human lives and property”.
He went further to say that: “Persistent insecurity, (even at that time), had generated panic and anxiety in Nigeria and he concluded that “our social and physical infrastructures are far from meeting the needs of the nation.
According to His Eminence, even ten years ago, “the country appears to be adrift and at the core of all these is moral decadence engendered by ignorance and greed.”
He also noted that the reform of the tertiary education sector could not be effective without putting in place, the progressive developments required in the basic and senior secondary education sectors. He insisted that “our state governments, especially those of the North, must begin to realize the enormity of the challenges facing the education sector and take urgent and necessary steps to address those challenges. While lauding the founding fathers of the ABU, especially, the late Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sultan urged the authorities of the institutions to continue to abide by the cardinal principles on which those institutions were founded.
That is the renascent Sultan for you, a man who is at the topmost echelon of the tree of comfort but feels so much concerned about the plight of the peasants who seem to be deliberately consigned to the weeding of the shrubs without any hope by the power that be. Ever since he became the Sultan,, His Eminence has never relented in his advocacy for good governance, denunciation of corruption and religious acrimony.
Which other leader in Nigeria has ever made such touching statements to give the underprivileged masses a ray of hope on this land of despair called Nigeria?
If those in governments at the Federal and State levels had heeded His Eminence’s admonition and counsel, perhaps, Nigeria would not have been plunged into the evil dragnet in which she is today. The words of foresighted elders are words of wisdom which can only be ignored by those who are awaiting their peril.
His Interfaith Inclination
When the Sultan was invited in January 2010 as a Special Guest of Honour to a religious seminar organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) with the theme: ‘Knowing Your Muslim Neighbour’, he delivered an historic speech that reverberated meaningfully across the entire world. And, in May, same year, he also invited the leadership of CAN to a special conference of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) held in Kaduna. The theme of that conference was: ‘Islam in the Eyes of the Christians’. He is the first Nigerian first class Monarch ever to engage in such an interfaith affair at the national level and his speech on that occasion was also electrifying. Please read an excerpt from that speech as presented below:
“….we initiated, as we had done for the 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 like Nigeria.
By speaking out incessantly against certain government policies which seem to deliberately impoverish ordinary Nigerians and therefore trigger insecury in the land, and, by facilitating personal assistance for the needy, within his own personal resources, this Sultan has rekindled confidence and hope against despair in Nigerians and the Muslims are the luckiest for it. Such a leader deserves allegiance, loyalty and regular prayer from the Ummah.
If this Sultan had not been who he is, in terms of uprightness and social equanimity, even his 15 years on the throne, so far, would have looked longer than 50 years. We pray the Almighty Allah for elongation of this Sultan’s life with very sound health, protection and continued Allah’s divine guidance. Amin!
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