Published On: Thu, May 30th, 2019

Lessons from Suleja’s royal gladiators (II)

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THURSDAY Column with Mohammed Adamu

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By now rumors of the rejection of the nominations by the traditional Kingmakers’ Council –as with all previous rumors of State attempts to avoid Bashir Barau and to make Awwal Ibrahim king- had taken the innocence out of the once peaceful Suleja. The major gateway city to the Federal Capital was becoming a theatre of spontaneous protests and demonstrations. Especially by the youths. And it was starting to get violent. The people were determined they wanted none but the retired civil servant, Barau. The State, it appeared, was even more determined it would have absolutely none but the former Governor, Awwal. And so what the Kingmakers had done by presenting all-three children of the same late emir Sulaiman Barau, in deference to the Emirate’s succession rules by direct lineage, was to present the State with a fait accompli: head or tail to have to either pick a Barau or no one else. And because the State’s attempt had failed also, to use the paw of the Traditional Rulers’ Council to pull its now-burning chestnuts out of the fire of a royal gambit it had created, the Governor was now at a crossroad. Many observers had thought that having virtually used up all his four aces, now he had either to respect the will of the people expressed through the resolution of their Kingmakers, or to device yet, another scheme to subvert it.
But quite the contrary Dr. Musa Inuwa had in fact one last ‘ace’ up his executive sleeve; namely to pull the plug on the kingmakers and to supplant their obstructive customary rules with new legislation. And since it appeared that Dr. Inuwa believed State Governors to be some kind of John Austin’s theoretical sovereigns who ‘command’ but themselves are not subject to the ‘command’ of others, now was the time –he may have thought- to breathe the force of law into his executive commands. He would make, amend or abrogate any customary rules standing in the way of executive objective. Suggesting that if the State could not circumvent moribund rules to ‘kill one bird with one stone’, -namely to make one of its ‘chosen’ a king, then the State would tinker with the ‘rule-making process’ to ‘kill two birds with one stone’, -namely to make one of its ‘chosen’ a king and to also punish those who had stood in the way of the state’s ‘right’ to make one of its ‘chosen’ a king. Governor Inuwa was now moving the royal battle from the streets of Suleja to the parliament house in Minna. With state Assembly lawmakers usually in the pockets of their governors, what better place to go get by ‘hook’ what he was unable to grab by ‘crook’? And so, three days after the Etsu Nupe-led Council of Traditional Rulers had spurned the Governor’s ‘indecent proposal’ (for it to assume the role of Kingmakers for Suleja), Dr. Inuwa now resolved to pull the gloves off and to go for broke.
He first issued an Executive Order titled ‘Appointment and Deposition of Chiefs (Appointment of Emir of Suleja) Order NSLN No. 2 of 1993’, which created an ‘Electoral College’ empowered to nominate a new Emir in the event of the death, resignation or deposition of the Emir of Suleja. The ‘College’ now consisted of three new kingmakers in addition to the earlier four which had just ignored Awwal and nominated the three Baraus. The Governor had previously trimmed the original seven-man kingmakers’ Council to four by knocking off three princes on the grounds that being eligible ‘royals’ technically they were now interested parties. But now that, rather than feel gratified to do the State’s bidding, the four-man Council had disappointed by not including Awwal in its nominations, Dr. Inuwa, by this new Order, was returning the membership of the Council to seven with the re-introduction of three, allegedly state-sympathetic, new members, namely the ‘Sarkin Yaki’, ‘Tafida’ and ‘Santali’. By the way, these new three many sources within the emirate said were titles with no king-making history and that in fact the ‘Santali’ was merely the king’s ‘kettle and kolanut-bearer’. They said that it was infra-dignitatem the throne of Zazzau Suleja or any other throne for that matter, that such a one should be elevated to a king-maker.
But the royal infra-dig did not just end there, the new Order in fact, had also provided that only the three new ‘state-sympathetic’ members, plus one of the previous four, namely the ‘Galadima’, would now have voting rights. Meaning technically, that the three ancient others, namely the ‘Chief Imam’, the ‘Salanke’ and the ‘Magajin Malam’, who had enjoyed voting right all through history, by this new Order, had now lost that right. They were now to be mere observer-kingmakers. Plus the new Order also provided that any three members of the Council with voting right would now constitute a quorum and could convene the Council -whenever the need arose- to make a new king. And so, on the 29th of September, 1993 the three new ‘voting members’ were assembled in Minna, rather than Suleja (allegedly for security reasons), to convene a meeting of the new ‘Electoral College’, right in the Government house, under the shadows of the Governor, where they now freshly nominated four candidates, with Awwal Ibrahim top on the list and Bashir Barau, a distant third. The deed at last was done. And the Governor, predictably, proceeded immediately to approve and announce Awwal Ibrahim as the new Emir of Zazzau Suleja to succeed his uncle the late Ibrahim Dodo Musa.
By the way, almost contemporaneously with the making of that controversial Executive Order, the Governor had also presented to the State Assembly, for accelerated passage, a bill titled ‘Chiefs Appointment and Deposition (Amendment) Law’ –so that both the ‘Executive Order’ and now the amendment ‘Legislation’ had almost simultaneously come into effect (one anticipatorily and the other retroactively) to: 1, alter the rule of succession by lineage so that in addition to eligibility accruing only to direct sons of a penultimate king from a candidate-ruling house, now even grandsons of kings (like Awwal) were eligible; 2, confer on the Governor power to appoint new kingmakers and to “prescribe the method of appointment” of chiefs or head of chiefs, in addition to, 3, retroactively validating all previous actions of the Governor with regard to the appointment of Awwal as Emir, as having “been lawfully done”.
The law being an ‘ass’, what the Governor had succeeded in proving was that if the State could not use the ‘ass’ as a furrow to pull the plough, it would use it as a beast to bear its burden. But this was at a cost, both for the new King and for the State: because for the next nine months of Awwal’s controversial reign, the new Emir could hardly perform his royal duties as his royal motorcade was regularly pelted by youths who had sworn to make the realm un-rule-able. In fact, virtually every Friday he had to be specially protected to and from the Mosque by an unusually large number of mobile policemen armed to the teeth.
By the way, a writ of summons and an ex-parte motion at the instance of the aggrieved traditional kingmakers had since been filed at an Abuja High Court, with the motion unfortunately dismissed having come too late in its bid to “restrain the Niger State Government from “nominating, approving and or appointing any person for the vacant stool of the emir of Suleja”. But on the substantive case, the trial Judge Justice Oyewo J., had entered judgment in favor of the kingmakers by: 1, declaring as illegal the reconstitution of the Kingmakers’ Council that elected Awwal; 2, declaring the three additional kingmakers incompetent to perform the function of king-making; and 3, declaring as illegal, null and void the purported Order which created the Electoral College, including the purported nomination and subsequent approval of Awwal as Emir of Suleja.
Plus the judgment also declared the peoples’ candidate, Bashir Sulaiman Barau as the validly nominated successor to the throne and directed that he be appointed immediately. But…!

to be concluded

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