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LogoDaily Independent Online.         * Thursday, August 28, 2003.

Emirs as local tyrants

By Shehu Sani

Every Sultan and Emir and their scion have their origin and source of nobility on a bitter history of conquer and subjugation of a particular sociological formation after a certain period of cruel, savage and bitter war waged by their ancestors against a common helpless people. The throne of every Emir or Sultan is resting on two major pillars: the tradition which is Hausa and the religion which is Islam. In tradition, the power is derived and in religion the power is justified. The Emirate or Sultanate of any kind does not represent the custodianship of tradition or religion, it represent the crown or sum of its manipulation.

There is nothing like blue blood or royal blood. Every human blood is human blood. However, blue or royal blood can be defined as a chain of association of a particular people who assumed a position of self-worthiness with its origin in their root of brute force, violence and imposition.

Every Emir, Sultan, Lamido or whatever appellation is given to an apex royal, possesses these negative tendencies. An Emir cannot be an agent of unity because it is within the circumference of his ethnic, tribal or village enclave he derived his authority and influence, and unity could be a dissolving agent to the kingdom.

The Emirate as an institution that needs religion to give it a spiritual legitimacy, they use religion to politically and socially immobilise their society. They use religion to propagate retrograde fatalism and obscurantism. 

Constitutional rule and democratic ideals rescued the poor masses of the north from the claws and harmful influence of the emirs and the emirate system. In pre-independence and even years after independence, the monarchical structure as represented by the Emirs symbolises terror, intimidation and infamy for the common man. Most of the fortresses, splendor, fanfare and gallery of their highnesses visible today were built upon the right, sweat and blood of ordinary people. Emirate system used to be sustained from such crime as slavery and slave trade rapacious tax system of the helpless locals to outright seizure of farm produce and farmland of the peasant talakawa. 

Our fathers suffered from their heinous and repressive role during the NEPU activism in the first republic and in our recent past, we had to deal with their treacherous support and celebration with military dictators.

The role the Emirs and their ‘noble’ counterparts from other parts of the country played under military regime is an open historical fact. Emirs and their traditional institutions aid and abet the stabilisation of coups and the sustenance of military dictatorships. Because of their avarice and philosophy of identification with every government in power, military adventurist always found them a ready-made structure and source of support. Emirs leading a caravan of other traditional rulers – paying homage and solidarity to military dictators like Babangida, Abacha and Abdulsalami who misruled and loot are ugly sight that will stick forever in the memory of the conscious among us.

In the reign of terror, during military regime, when denial of freedom, violation of fundamental human rights and abuse of power is the order of the day, Emirs and their institution were on the side of evil, calling on oppressed people to ‘co-operate’ or ‘respect constituted’. The self-acclaimed ‘fathers’ of our society does not deem it fit to speak out against the injustice and violence unleashed against their ‘children’. Testimony to their opportunism and lack of principle is the deposition and subsequent incarceration of Sultan Dasuki by the Abacha’s junta and also the arrest and murder of Shehu Yar’Adua by the same regime. Rather than challenge or fight Abacha, they praise, celebrate and reinforced his regime until the ultimate King rescued us and wiped him off from the face of the earth.

Emirs played other roles as serving as informants to secret security agents of the defunct military regime which usually leads to arrest of  or suppression of dissenters. In the north, many of the followers of the Shiite sect have suffered from this.  Today, the Emirate institution has rediscovered the importance of commercialisation for relevance. Indiscriminate award of chieftaincy title to serving public office holders, politicians, rich retired military generals, police, customs, immigration officers, moneybags and landlords are the preoccupation of our Emirs.

It is a traditional burden on its entire subject. Its merits are more of an assumption and imagination and its harm are evident. Northern minorities agitating for self-determination from the emirate system appear to be doing that on a wrong track leading to same destination. Elites from the minority championing the cause are not doing that to emancipate their people from royal enslavement and subjugation. The elite are simply not championing a republican cause. The prevalent case as it is in Southern Kaduna State and other areas in the north clearly shows that the elite intent is more to have an enclave, a sort of an autonomous circle within their ethnic circle for which they can also rule and subjugate like Emirs but on a different label.

King Juan Carlos of Spain, Queen Elizabeth of England, Emperor Hiro Hito of Japan, Jabeer Al-Sabah of Kuwait, Fahad Ibn Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia as monarchs have every reason to be proud and perhaps haughty of their monarchy. For their people are not only free of want and misery  – from Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Minna, Yola, Maiduguri, Jos, Bauchi, etc. where lies the relevance of an Emir or their morale (or total) pride in an aerial view of a community with one salacious expensive palace surrounded by mud and inhabited by an oppressed people.


Sani is President,

Civil Rights Congress,




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