So Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano is gone? It is incredible. My generation grew up thinking emirs and kings were ‘immortal’. This was especially so with the revered late monarch. He exuded the aura of immortality. He had been emir forever. The idea of Bayero dying was so remote for kids my age as to invite the word ‘impossible’. The emir dying or dead? Inconceivable. Death was for ordinary mortals. And the late king was extra ordinary.
It was similarly incredible that he could be assailed by illness of any brand. Our juvenile minds believed that he, indeed, was enduring. He represented to us, impressionable youths, the super human. In our infantile mentality, Bayero was eternal. He was above human foibles and frailties. It was, for instance, unthinkable for the monarch to betray any ‘humanness’ in public. To yawn or to even guffaw before ordinary mortals was a taboo, the late Bayero dutifully violated. In the course of my career as a reporter, I can’t recall a single incidence the emir was overwhelmed by consuming mirth in public. The closest was a charming smirk behind the ‘amawali’
As a kid growing up in the walled city of Kano attending Kwalli Primary School, a walking distance to the palace, we struggled every day to catch a glimpse of his royal majesty. His sartorial elegance was matchless. His presence was such that he dominated the environment. I recall stories fed to us of his grandeur. We were told and we believed that the Magajin Dabo was “invincible”. During festivals especially the two annual Eids, we struggled to have a visual contact. We grew up believing the tale that a visual contact with the emir would wash off our “sins” of the previous year. So like a moth to a naked light, so were we attracted to the departed emir during any of such festivities. Such was the awesome veneration my generation held the emir.
His palace protocol was elaborate. But he was a simple man. He might not have betrayed ‘human’ foibles in public but he was humane. As an adult I recall two close encounters with the departed emir. The last was as recently as 2012. On both occasions, Bayero completely disarmed me by his infectious humility. The first was in 1993.It was the year he celebrated 30 years on the throne. I was head of news desk of the now rested and state run TRIUMPH newspaper. I led a team of reporters from the stable. We sought an interview and we were duly granted. No advanced questions were requested. On the appointed date we turned up on time and the monarch, I must say, a stickler for time, was waiting.
Untutored on palace protocol and very heady, I ‘fired’ questions unhesitant, some of which were pointedly unkind. They were deeply personal. I fancied myself as ‘Larry King’ or ‘Stephen Sucker’ of BBC Hard Talk fame. I ignored ‘cold’ stares from my older and more sober colleagues from the vernacular titles at each question I asked. And gracefully and straightforwardly, the late emir answered in his slow majestic tone.
‘Your Highness, you have been on the throne for 30 years, can you tell me what the saddest moment was?’….how many children do you have? What has shocked you the most these past 30 years? Which government do you prefer? Civilian or military? How is your typical day? Etc.
And he answered all queries. “We can’t remember a sad day during our reign….all our subjects are our children….we have seen changes these past years especially in the growth of the media…
Done and dusted, the emir bid us farewell but not until we all prayed to the Almighty Allah to spare his life to mark his Golden Jubilee twenty years later. And we prayed that we would be alive to conduct what would be the ‘final interview’. Except for me and the photographer that covered that event, my two other colleagues Danjuma Baffa and Umaru Wudil, are late. May Allah rest their souls.
Fast forward to 2012.Sometime in November of that year, I was privileged to lead the Management of this newspaper to a courtesy call on the esteemed king. It was part of the programme to open a regional office of this paper in that ancient city. Originally the chair of the Board was billed to lead but the onus fell on me as he was unavailable.
This time, my encounter with the late ruler was different. It was not an ‘interrogation’ passing off as interview. It was more like a ‘homeboy done good’ paying homage and seeking royal blessings. He gave both in abundance. I reminded him of our prayer 19 years earlier and that only a few months remained to make history as the longest serving king in the thousand year’s history of the emirate.
He listened attentively. He responded through the Wanbai, Abbas Sanusi who assured that our request for an interview when the emir celebrates 50 years was granted. This paper’s 2013 almanac had the emir reading a copy intently.
Bayero was a tolerant leader. That bears repeating. He was also progressively modern. That explains in part, the presence, in his court, the colour of rainbow. Under his shade, everybody found a home. He was greatly diplomatic. Adieu Ado Bayero.