Friday, August 11, 2017
WHO IS THE SULTAN OF SOKOTO?
WHO IS THE SULTAN OF SOKOTO?
By Professor Sani Abubakar Lugga, the Waziri of Katsina
The gracious move by the Sokoto State Government to purchase a N650 million official guest-residence and office in Abuja for His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto has generated a lot of comments in the media that exposed the ignorance of the writers/commentators on the exact position and status of the Sultan and the roles the Sultan plays in contemporary Nigeria, Africa and the World. This write-up is meant to expose people to who the Sultan of Sokoto is; and what the Office of the Sultan of Sokoto symbolises.
Historically, since the Jihad led by Sheikh Usman Danfodiyo, all the Emirates under the Sokoto Caliphate had official guest-residences attached to all the Palaces for the Amirul Mumineen,the Sarkin Musulmi, the Sultan of Sokoto. In the early days of colonial indirect rule, the Sultan and all Senior Emirs and Chiefs and their large entourages in Northern Nigeria were provided with guest-residences in Kaduna, the then Northern Capital City. Those residences still stand and serve the Northern Emirs and Chiefs and their supporting staff while on a visit to Kaduna. The residences were built by the Northern Nigerian Government and are today maintained by the respective Northern States’ Governments. The Kaduna guest-residence of the Sultan of Sokoto is currently estimated at over N3 billion and those of other Senior Emirs and Chiefs range between around N1 and N2 billion each.
Currently, Northern States’ Governors have similar guest-residences in Kaduna and in Abuja some valued at over N10 billion. Perhaps one might argue that Governors are the Chief Executives of their States and have roles and functions that make them to frequent Abuja, so they deserve the N5 to N10 billion guest-residences. And perhaps if one is made aware of the status and the roles and functions that make the Sultan to frequent Abuja, one might sheath the drawn sword meant to dismember the N650 million guest-residence. One may wish to note that a State Governor is a Leader of one State who serves for a maximum of eight years in office; while the Sultan is on a life- long appointment and a Leader of over 90 million Nigerian Muslims and over 30 million others in the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali that made up the Sokoto Caliphate. The Amirul Mumineen, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, LLD, CFR, mni, is the 20th Sultan and Titular Ruler of Sokoto Caliphate, the largest Empire in Africa since the fall of the Songhai in 1591 and up to colonialism in 1900. He is the President-General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and the President-General of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), positions that make him the only legitimate Leader of Nigerian Muslims. As the Chairman of National Council of Nigerian Traditional Rulers and the Chairman of Northern Nigeria Traditional Rulers’ Council, the Sultan has travelled more widely in Nigeria than any other Traditional Ruler for making peace; thereby garnering enormous influence over Nigerian Traditional Rulers and by extension, over their subjects, irrespective of their tribes or religions. The Sultan chairs the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) with the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria as co-chair. The Sultan also founded and chairs a non-governmental organisation, the “Interfaith Initiative for Peace”, with one of the most influential Christian Leaders in Nigeria, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, as co-chair. These positions gave the Sultan a respectable influence on about 70 million Nigerian Christians; in addition to the influence he has on the Muslim community. Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad has therefore crossed one particular boundary that no Muslim leader in West Africa had crossed before, that of making peace with non-Muslims! The Sultan also joined hands with several Christian Leaders the world-over to promote peace globally. He attended several inter-religious meetings, seminars and conferences abroad. Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad was number one on the list of 126 World Muslim Leaders and Scholars who signed an open letter denouncing Islamic State Terrorists (ISIS) on 19thSeptember 2014. The Sultan was also the only West African Religious and Traditional Leader who delivered a speech at a symposium on Cultural Diplomacy and Religion held at the Vatican City, Rome from March 31st to April 3rd, 2014.
The fine peace efforts of Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad earned him a nomination for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. A report issued by the International Peace Research Institute on 4th October 2012 stated that two of Nigeria’s notable religious leaders, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III and the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan, have both been nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, representing Islam and Christianity respectively. According to the report, the Sultan and the Cardinal have made the list alongside the former US President Bill Clinton, Prof. Gene Sharp of the United States and the Echo of Moscow Radio Station, for their efforts at campaigning against the misuse of religion. That was a nomination never done to a Nigerian Political, Religious or Traditional Leader before.
Locally, Sultan Muhammad Sa'ad had been honoured severally by public and private organisations. One of such honours was that of one of Nigeria’s most influential newspapers, the LEADERSHIP Newspaper, which granted His Eminence Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III and His Eminence Cardinal John Onaiyekan the “PERSONS OF THE YEAR 2012” Award.
Furthermore, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad is a Member of the National Institute (mni), a Holder of Nine Honorary Doctorate Degrees from top Universities, an Awardee of Seven Military Distinguished Service Medals, a Retired Brigadier General and Former Nigeria’s Defence Adviser to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and other Gulf States. Besides the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto was the only Nigerian Leader to be visited by a serving USA Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry, on August 23rd 2016. Government could not kill polio in Nigeria, but the Sultan killed it through the Traditional Rulers he leads and that earned him two thank you visits by the world-financier of the polio eradication project, Mr Bill Gates.
All these and several other roles and functions being performed by His Eminence Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad, made him to inadvertently stay more out of Sokoto City than in it. He meets with Local and International Leaders in both the public and private sectors more in Abuja than in Sokoto. The Sultan is not a local champion; he is a National and Global Leader who is striving to see to National and Global peace, harmony and understanding; particularly between Muslims and non-Muslims and between all tribes and sections of Nigeria. If Political Leaders, Company Chairmen and Directors, who are on limited tenures, deserve guest-residences in Abuja worth billions of Naira, why not this internationally applauded Leader and peace maker, who is on a life-long appointment? It is a known fact that many Christian Religious Organisations have guest-residences for their leaders in Abuja worth hundreds of millions or even billions of Naira. Some Muslim Organisations have also joined the queue, the latest being the Izala Group with a N200 million guest-residence. It may be argued that Private and Religious Organisations get their guest-residences through private funding, so why should the Sokoto State Government fund that of the Sultan? Well, the Sultan of Sokoto is a bona-fide government employee, who has the added advantage of being a Traditional and Religious Leader “without borders”, so he is entitled to a guest-residence in Abuja paid for by the government. Perhaps Traditional Institutions and Religious Organisations might chip in to furnish and improve the property.
It is pertinent to let it be known that, the Sultan, Emirs and Chiefs and all their District and Village Heads are government functionaries by virtue of the provisions of the Chiefs Appointments and Deposition Laws in all the Northern States that were domesticated from a similar Northern Nigerian Law that existed during the Colonial and First Republic days. Therefore, all Royal Palaces are maintained and/or built by the States and or Local Governments in the Northern States. The Emirates and Chiefdoms Traditional Councils are also jointly funded by the States and Local Governments. Perhaps the advantage the Sultan and other Traditional Rulers in the Northern States have over the Governors and other political elected/appointed government functionaries is that of tenure. Whereas politicians on the Executive Arm of Government serve a maximum of eight years and government employees serve up to a maximum of 60 years of age, Traditional Rulers serve for life; even if the occupant lives for over 100 years! The debate on the relevance or otherwise of the Traditional Institution has been on for decades, but the fact remains that all Leaders of Governments and Governments’ Agencies always run to the Traditional Rulers for succour whenever they could not handle any matter or go for advice whenever they are bereft of wisdom. Another undisputable fact is that Traditional Rulers (particularly the Sultan and the Emirs) also double-up as Religious Leaders and their authority here surpasses that of the Political Leaders who are said to be “secular” in their disposition.
NOW, WHO IS THE SULTAN OF SOKOTO? The Amirul Mumineen, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, LLD, CFR, mni, is a Muslim Leader who has robust influence on Muslims in the West African Sub-Region, has some influence on the non-Muslim community in Nigeria and is globally respected. As the President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, the pronouncements of the Sultan of Sokoto to the Muslim community in Nigeria carry more weight than those even by the government functionaries. For example, the Sultan announces moon-sightings and dates for Islamic festivals and Muslims adhere to his instructions, except some few dissenters, who are found even in Muslim Countries.
The Sultan of Sokoto is the Spiritual Leader of about 90 million Nigerian Muslims and over 30 million others in neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali that made up the defunct Sokoto Caliphate. He gained this position as the 20thoccupant of the over two hundred years old throne founded by his ancestor, Sheikh Usman Danfodio of the Qadiri Sufi Order who led a Jihad in 1804 that established Sokoto Caliphate, the largest Empire in Africa since the fall of the Songhai in 1591. At its zenith, Sokoto Caliphate stretched from Massina in modern day Mali (in the north) to Ilorin and Old Oyo in modern day Nigeria (in the south). It also stretched from Dori in modern day Burkina Faso (in the west) to Garoua in modern day Cameroon and Moundou in modern day Chad (in the east). Indeed, at the time of the 1894/95 Berlin Conference (where Colonialists partitioned Africa and Asia into their colonies) Sokoto Caliphate was the largest Empire in Africa stretching over 1,500 Km from Garoua to Dori (east to west)! Sokoto Calipahe was seconded in size and bordered on the north-east by the Kanem-Borno Empire. That perhaps accounted for the British Colonialist's arrangement where the Sultan of Sokoto headed the Nigerian Muslims and the Shehu of Borno served as his Deputy, an arrangement that subsists up to today.
Sokoto Caliphate also influenced the Jihad led by Sheikh El Hadj Umar Tall of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order in the areas that today make up the States of Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, and Mali. Sheikh Umar sojourned in Sokoto from 1831 to 1837 where he married the Daughter of Sultan Muhammad Bello, who inspired him to launch his Jihad. Therefore, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad has influence over both the followers of the Qadiri and Tijaniyya Sufi Orders in West Africa, who form over 90% of the Muslim population in the Sub-Region, estimated at over 300 million. The Leader of the Qadiri Order in Africa, Sheikh Qaribullah Nasiru Kabara of Kano, Nigeria, and the Leader of the Tijaniyya Order in West Africa, Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Cisse of Senegal, respect and do pay homage to the Sultan.
Right from the day of his official installation, about eleven years ago, His Eminence, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, left no one in doubt as to his vision and mission for the exalted throne of the Caliphate, for the Muslim Ummah and for peace and harmony in Nigeria in particular and the World in general. He stated categorically on the day of his official installation as the 20thSultan of Sokoto in 2006, that he is a father to all Muslims and a brother to all people irrespective of their ethnic or religious leanings; or their social or economic status. His vision was for Muslims and non-Muslims to live in peace and harmony with one another for the progress and development of our dear Nation in particular and the World in general; and his mission is to ensure the cultivation and sustenance of his vision. The local and international actions of; and speeches and lectures by His Eminence, Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, have clearly shown that he is resolute in achieving his vision and mission. In just a matter of eleven years of his accession to the exalted Sultanate Throne, His Eminence the Sultan has achieved the following:-
1. In His Quest For Peace and Unity. His Eminence the Sultan has been the most travelled Traditional Ruler contemporary Nigeria has known. Nearly all his local journeys were for making peace among the diverse ethnic and religious communities of the badly battered Nigerian Nation and nearly all his foreign journeys were for making peace the world-over. He has attended and/or hosted over three hundred religious, social, traditional or cultural functions at his Palace in Sokoto, Nigera, in all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria and in several other countries of the world; in just a matter of eleven years that he ascended the exalted throne of his forefathers! Within the same period, he has delivered over five hundred written and verbal keynote addresses, lectures, speeches and comments on diverse topics both in Nigeria and abroad. Amongst these are keynote addresses and lectures he delivered at the Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA (October 2011), Centre for Value in Leadership, Lagos (February 2013), Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA (October 2009), World Justice Project Forum, Vienna, Austria (July 2008), Columbia University, New York, USA (November 2007), United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Washington DC (November, 2007), Institute for Security Studies, Bwari, Abuja (November 2009), Arewa Consultative Forum (April 2010), National Leadership Initiative, Lagos (October 2009), Chatham House, London, UK (2011), Vatican City, Rome (April 2014), National Peace Institute, (2014), National Institute, Kuru, Jos (2015), National Security Summit (August 2015), National Police Summit (May 2017), etc. His Eminence the Sultan also delivered lectures speeches and keynote addresses at various traditional, academic, religious and other occasions both in Nigeria and in European, African, Middle-Eastern and other Arabian countries.
2. For Religious Understanding and Harmony. His Eminence the Sultan has organised and/or attended over one hundred and fifty inter-religious functions locally and internationally; particularly on Muslim/Christian relations. As the Chairman of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council, (with the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria as co-chair) he has devoted a lot of time in seeing to the development and sustenance of mutual understanding and respect for one another by Nigerian Muslims and Christians. His Eminence the Sultan and one of the most influential Christian Leaders in Nigeria, His Eminence Cardinal John Onaiyekan, founded a non-governmental organisation, the“Interfaith Initiative for Peace”.These positions gave the Sultan a respectable influence on Nigerian Christians; in addition to the influence he has on the Muslim community. Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad has therefore crossed one particular boundary that no Muslim leader in West Africa had crossed before him, that of making peace with non-Muslims! The Sultan also joined hands with several Christian Leaders the world-over to promote peace globally. He attended several inter-religious meetings, seminars and conferences abroad. Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad was number one on the list of 126 World Muslim Scholars and Leaders who signed an open letter denouncing Islamic State Terrorists (ISIS) on 19th September 2014. The Sultan was also the only West African Religious and Traditional Leader who delivered a speech at a symposium on Cultural Diplomacy and Religion held at the Vatican City, Rome from March 31st to April 3rd, 2014.
3. For The Progress Of Islam.His Eminence the Sultan, as the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs introduced the rotation of the meetings of the Council in order to avail Muslims in all parts of Nigeria the benefit from and participation in the activities of the Council. In addition, as the President-General of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, he initiated the reactivation of its States Branches and the expansion of its operations to cover all parts of Nigeria. He has also led several Islamic functions in many other countries in person or by representation.
4. For Cultural And Traditional Affinity. His Eminence the Sultan is the Chairman of the Northern Nigeria Traditional Rulers’ Council and the Chairman of National Council of Nigerian Traditional Rulers (with the OOni of Ife from Southern Nigeria as co-chair). This made him to visit Traditional Rulers in all parts of Nigeria and/or attend cultural or traditional functions organised by them in order to cement the cordial relationships between ethnic nationalities in all parts of the country.
5. For Caliphal Values. His Eminence the Sultan commissioned professorial and Doctorate level researchers on the “Danfodio Books Project” to collect, establish authenticity and publish books written by Sheikh Usman Danfodio, Sheikh Abdullahi Danfodio and Sultan Muhammad Bello. So far, the project has collected over 400 of such books from many West African and Sudanese sources and hundreds of thousands of copies from about 100 of these books have been published and distributed to institutions of learning and the general public free of charge. The Sultan did this as the major Islamic sects in Nigeria and the West African sub-region (Tijaniyya, Qadiriya,Wahabiyya, Sunni and Shi'a) fully accept the thoughts and Islamic verdicts of those three distinguished scholars, thereby enhancing the unity of the Muslim Ummah. The Sultan has also published select works of the trio on “Leadership” that has been found to be extremely useful to the current Nigerian situation. As a result, the book is in high demand by both Muslims and Christians and is also being distributed free of charge.
6. For Charity, Peace And Development. His Eminence the Sultan strengthened the Sokoto Zakkat Committee that is now functioning effectively, collecting Zakkat from the wealthy and disbursing it to the poor, the disabled and those entitled to it in accordance with Islamic provisions. He also personally endows the disabled and the poor from his own resources. He is also making efforts to encourage other Muslim Traditional Rulers to do the same with a view to helping the poor and the needy and to use it as a spring board for the eradication of begging (bara). In addition, “Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development” was founded by Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad for peace building, charity and development and operates in partnership with UNICEF and Bill Gates Foundation. It is on record that Mr Bill Gates, as the financier of the fight against polio world-wide, visited the Sultan twice to discuss and thank him for his effective leadership on the fight against polio in Nigeria. It is also on record that Nigeria achieved success in the polio fight only after the Sultan took over the fight and mobilised Nigerian Traditional Rulers on it.
7. For Harmony With Governments At All Levels. His Eminence the Sultan encourages Traditional Rulers to constantly dialogue with the Federal, States and Local Governments. He has also reconciled many warring Traditional Rulers with their home governments thereby bringing about harmony and understanding between them. In addition, he initiated the presentation of a bill to the National Assembly with a view to creating appropriate roles for Traditional Rulers and for insulating them against partisan politics.