Dragging the Sultanate into the murky waters of politics, by Kasimu Auwalu

These are indeed not the best of times for the once-revered traditional institutions in Nigeria, particularly,the Sultanate of Sokoto, founded by the legendary reformer Sheikh Usman bn Fodio.

The institution established by Sheikh Fodio which liberated the people from the fangs and angsts of the evil rulers of that time is now being reduced to a mere pawn in the hands of some politicians whose ideologies and actions are antithetical to the real pillars upon which the Sokoto caliphate was found.

It is no secret to all watchers of the affairs of the Sultanate that that revered institution is now at the beck and call of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Sokoto state under Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. The governor’s whims and caprices are the laws in the Sultanate.

This is worrisome bearing in mind that the sultanate is supposed to be apolitically neutral. It represents the people irrespective of their partisan leanings. But the reverse is the case now. The Sultanate under Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar has ‘defected’ to the PDP together with Governor Tambuwal. The attendant effects of these moves are eroding the remaining glory the institution enjoys from the general public.

The activities of Alhaji Kabiru Tafida, chief of staff to the Sultan and Sarkin Fadan Sokoto, is generating concern from good people of Sokoto and other concern Nigerians and even those from outside the country, who hold the sultanate in high esteem.

Since the defection of Tambuwal to PDP, Sarkin Fada also defected to PDP, specifically becoming the opposition party’s leader in Kware local government where he hails from. 

For the record, the Sarkin fada was the same person embroiled in the purchase of the controversial N700 million guest house for the Sultan in Abuja by Governor Tambuwal in August last year.        

Although the bid for the house was for N650m, according to the Sokoto state government, the government began making suspicious payments from the Paris Club refunds released to states into the account of the Sarkin Fada of Sokoto whose company was reportedly serving as intermediary between the state government and the company the state memo claimed had bid for the house in Maitama, Abuja.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said they arrested and interrogated the chief of staff to the Sultan after its Financial and Intelligence Unit found suspicious transactions between the Sokoto State government and the Sarkin Fada.

This same man has metamorphosed into full-blown PDP chieftain, to the extent of threatening Sokoto district heads, specifically the district head of Durbawa, to either ‘work for PDP’ or risk being dethroned. This is a dangerous trend capable of further eroding what remains of the sultanate’s glory.

The Sultan’s chief of staff was fully involved in the PDP congresses in Sokoto. This is he did, by openly converting the Sultanate guest house along Abuja road in Sokoto as the PDP meeting centre, where delegates were housed before they travel to Port Harcourt for the PDP national convention.   

He was again, to play a prominent role in Port Harcourt during the PDP national convention, where he worked for Tambuwal until their expected and eventful downfall.

People begin to wonder how can a whole chief to staff to the sultan be involved in politics and the sultan didn’t caution him if not he is representing his interest there?

The Sultanate’s partisan posture reach its peak during the President Goodluck Jonathan regime. It was an eyesore for all lovers of the Sultanate how the Sultan reduced himself to the lowest ebb of becoming the ‘boy’ of the former President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, purposely to curry financial favours from Jonathan.

The supposed seer of Sheikh Fodio reduced the Sultanate to an annex of Wadata Plaza simply because he wanted President Jonathan to buy him a private jet as he did to Oritsejafor. He supported and campaigned for Jonathan, and maligned Muhammadu Buhari at the slightest opportunity.

For the sake of the planned gift of the private jet, the Sultan reduced himself to a clown by publicly exchanging banters with Oritsejafor in the most unbecoming manner of any serious monarch on national televisions.

Many people are aware of the relationship between the Sultan and the former Minister of Petroleum Diezani, where he visited her at her Abuja residence, as well as the minister’s frequent visits to the Sultan’s suite at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja.   

Many Nigerians are still appalled by the treatment the Sultan meted to President Buhari, when he visited him that morning in his palace in Sokoto, as the presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011. 

The post-election violence that followed which made the people of Sokoto protest to the palace with an effigy of the Sultan will remain a sore in the hearts of many who revere the Sultanate.

It wasn’t either surprising his reunion with former Governor Dalhatu Bafarawa despite their open confrontation at the grand mosque in Makkah. They are the best of friends now because of his return to PDP.

The Sokoto monarch’s romance with the PDP is blossoming despite the various efforts put in place by Dr Isa Pantami in securing audiences with President Buhari for the sultan.    

The sultan has carefully chosen his friends since the election of President Buhari. As the former Emir of Gwandu Haruna Jokolo pointedly asked, why is the Sultan always frequenting the oil-rich Niger Delta state of Rivers for conflict resolution and interfaith evangelism at a time when Borno and Yobe states were boiling over Boko Haram insurgency?

No one can say with certainty how many times did the Sultan visit the northeastern states in the last six years. Didn’t the two insurgency- prone states need his conflict resolution evangelism? Or, it because the two states are too poor to fill up his briefcases with US dollars and pounds sterling, that is why he abandoned them and frequent Rivers state?    

As an advice to the Sultan, I believe that the Sultan can still do good by focusing on the bludgeoning illiteracy level, high maternal mortality and morbidity rate, skyrocketing incidents of poverty, dilapidating infrastructure, insurgency, violent extremism, herders-farmers clashes, communal conflicts, religious intolerance ravaging the north.

What happened last week added to the absurdities the Sultanate has been reduced into recently. The Sultan was cited at the British embassy in Abuja, receiving Prince Charles. Yes, Prince Charles, not the Queen of England. This development has triggered criticisms from all quarters of the country. Particularly, as the same Prince Charles was seen paying homage to the Ashanti monarch in Ghana in his palace. In contrast, in the 1950s when Sir Abubakar III was the Sultan, the parent of Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth and her husband, went to Sokoto to pay homage to the Sultan in his palace.

Another major challenge the Sultanate is bequeathing the Muslim Ummah in Nigeria is the fact that the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) and Jamaatu Nasril Islam (JNI) are becoming more irrelevant by dabbling into issues that don’t concern them at all.

The sultan, courtesy of his nonchalance attitude and divisive tendencies, has succeeded in further dividing the Ummah with some prominent Muslim clerics revolting against him for the first time in the history of Nigeria, simply because he has sided with the other sect.

His appearance like a side kick of Prince Charles is nothing unusual because the Sultan has already downgraded his status and equated himself to the status of the CAN president. 

Unlike his predecessors like Sultans Abubakar, Dasuki and Maccido, who always sent representatives such as late Dr Lateef Adegbite, Abdulkadir Orire, Sheikh Bashir Sambo to JNI and NSCIA meetings, the Sultan has abolished that tradition by attending any meeting anywhere no matter how low key it is.

It is no gain saying that something must be done to arrest this slide to abyss of ridicule and infamy by the Sultanate. It is thus the responsibility of the children of the Sultanate and other good spirited individuals to redeem the fading image of the Sultanate. And the time is now. 

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