Professor Muhammad Shafi’u Abdullahi is the traditional title holder of Wakilin Makarantar Zazzau. He is one of the senior counsellors of the Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris. He revealed the reasons behind the prominence of the Zazzau Emirate in Nigeria, among other issues.
The Emir of Zazzau is said to be the longest serving ruler in the Zazzau Emirate, is there anything special about that?
There are many special things about that. First of all, we give thanks to Allah for sparing his life. We are also happy to serve under the emir as counsellors.
The special thing about the long reign of the emir is the number of people that are praying for him. Before he became the emir, he had many well-wishers like us. This continued up to today. Another special thing about the emir’s reign is the fact that he has already made history as the first emir that served the emirate for over 43 years.
The previous emirs were not blessed with long reign. Therefore, there is everything special about the reign of the emir.
The development that the emirate witnessed during this period is a blessing to all of us. Zazzau had witnessed development and growth within this period. There were development of industries, schools, especially tertiary institutions, and even influx of people into Zaria.
Peace and security that are prevalent in the emirate are other things that we have to thank Allah for. It is also stating the obvious that Zaria has become prominent in Nigeria, Africa and the world during this reign.
I think writers should document the progress recorded during the reign of His Highness. This would help the future generation in running successful regimes.
Residents often describe the emir as peace-loving and tolerant, is it the same thing with you, his counsellors?
Usually, leaders get the support and prayers of their followers if they are handling the followers with fairness. This the emir is doing and this is why all of us are always appreciating his patience and style of leadership. He respects all of us, as if we are not his subjects.
The emir remains the way we knew him. He has remained patient and tolerant. The way the people from outside perceive him is the same way we see him. Our perception of the emir is that he is a father that wants to see the progress of all of us.
What distinguishes the Zazzau Emirate from others?
Zazzau Emirate is unique because it has rich history. Even Daura that is seen as rich in history cannot compare itself with Zazzau. Daura became prominent because of a particular event that happened at a particular moment. But Zazzau is older than most of the emirates in the North.
Zazzau Emirate served and it is still serving as liberal emirate that brings together people from different backgrounds. There is one emir of Zazzau that was nicknamed ‘Gunguma.’ He got that name because he was regarded at that time as the most prominent and powerful emir. He got the name Gunguman Sarakuna because most of the then emirates were under his reign.
It is from this type of history that you would know that Zazzau Emirate is different from other emirates. Again, when you study the names of the people that ruled Zazzau, you would find that it has a long history of Islamic followership. Most of the rulers of Zazzau, even before the Jihad of Sheikh Usman Bin Fodio, were Muslims, unlike what you have in other places.
Similarly, when you look at Zaria’s ancient wall, you would discover that the ancient Zaria town is much bigger than most of the emirates we have around. For example, you cannot compare the ancient wall of Zaria with that of Kano in term of size. The ancient wall tells you the ancient size of a particular city. Therefore, the ancient wall of Zaria is more than twice of that of Kano, not to talk of smaller ancient cities. I think the only emirate that may be the peer of Zaria is that of Gobir.
It amazes to see more than 150 district heads and counsellors participating in Zaria’s annual durbar. How does the emirate manage and organise such a large gathering?
Durbar is always an interesting event. It is not all the district heads and counsellors that participate. Despite that however, in every durbar, you can’t find less than 150 entourages of district heads and counsellors participating. District heads in Zaria are more than 170. Another interesting thing is that despite this number, accidents are minimal.
It would also surprise you to know that, all these district heads pay homage one after the other to the emir during the durbar. From there these district heads return to their base and also receive the homage of their people. From here you can see the connection the emir has with the people of the grassroots.
Do you think emirs and other traditional rulers are playing the role they supposed to play in addressing insecurity in Nigeria considering their direct contact with the citizens?
The role that traditional institutions play in ensuring peace and stability in Nigeria cannot be overemphasised. People respect traditional rulers. What they need is encouragement from government for them to be discharging their roles effectively.
Most Nigerians respect, listen and obey the words of traditional rulers more than the politicians. I know most Nigerians would agree with me on this. For example, Emir of Zazzau has been on the throne for over 43 years and up to today his people are not tired of him. They still respect and obey him. Some politicians hardly finish their first term before people turn their backs on them.
Traditional rulers maintain a strong tie with their people. There is a tradition here in Zaria where the emir meets his subjects at least once a week, usually on Fridays. After the Juma’at prayer, the emir would sit in a special place in the palace and everyone would be allowed to see and even lay down a complaint if there is any. You can’t have this type of opportunity from a politician, even a local government chairman.
Since your ascension of office as a title holder in the emirate, what can you say is your outstanding achievement or failure?
I think my efforts at improving the standard of education in Zaria would be something that would continue to excite me. Establishment of schools and assisting young people to acquire education are things that I am always proud of. The recent approval of the federal government recognising the National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS) as an examination body is another milestone that I will not forget. I have been with the board for many years and to have nurtured it to this level is something that I should be proud of.
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