Muslim groups advocate insulation for Sultanate
The transition, on Monday night, of the former Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki at the ripe age of 92 has reopened debate to tinker with certain clause in the laws of Sokoto State, which empowers the state governor to depose the Sultan.
The deceased who would have clocked 93 on December 31, 2016 ruled for just eight years as Sultan of Sokoto. He was crowned on December 6, 1988, but dethroned on April 20, 1996 during the military regime of the late General Sani Abacha.
The justification for the amendment of Section 6 CAP 21 of the Sokoto State Laws stems from the huge responsibility placed on the shoulders of the Sultan as the leader of Muslims in Nigeria.
Section 6 CAP 21 says inter alia: “The Governor after due enquiry and consultation with the persons concerned in the selection, may depose any chief or any head chief whether appointed before or after the commencement of this law …in the interest of peace or order or good government.”
Sultan of Sokoto drives its power as the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the umbrella body for all Muslims in Nigeria from Article 7 (a) of the 1973 NSCIA Constitution, which confers the headship of the organization on the Sokoto monarch.
The lacuna, as pointed out by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is the tendency for the state governor to activate the clause for political reasons, and thereby put the entire Nigerian Muslim community into “monumental embarrassment and unmitigated disaster.”
While condoling the current Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammadu Sa‘ad Abubakar III, the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal and the people of Sokoto State over Dasuki’s passage, MURIC insisted his deposition in 1996 was politically motivated.
“Although Islam has a fatalistic philosophy of death and the deceased was not even young at all, MURIC is devastated by the demise of ex-Sultan Dasuki because of the circumstances in which he died. He was deposed by the state military governor, Col. Yakubu Muazu, in 1996. He never regained the throne until his death a few hours ago.
“As the 18th Sultan of Sokoto, the ex-Sultan was also the President-General of the NSCIA which is the umbrella organization of all Islamic organizations in Nigeria. It is most unfortunate that a state governor would possess the power to remove the head of all Nigerian Muslims. This is sad, preposterous and unacceptable,” the group said in statement signed by its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
MURIC promised “to ensure that no Sultan will taste such bitter cup of disgrace in future,” as the removal became monumental embarrassment and unmitigated disaster for Nigerian Muslims. “Of course we know that the deposition of ex-Sultan Dasuki was politically motivated. The state governor simply obeyed orders from Sani Abacha, the late military dictator and former head of state.”
Noting that the NSCIA Constitution and the Sokoto State Laws are at cross purposes, the group premised its agitation for amendment on the need to prevent subjection of Nigerian Muslims “to serious embarrassment and constitutional confusion whenever the governor of Sokoto State chooses to invoke this obnoxious section. Their national leader can be removed by the governor just by snapping his finger.
“MURIC rejects this impunity. It is draconian, ridiculous and pernicious. It is a clog in the wheel of progress for Nigerian Muslims. The governor can have his way with any other traditional ruler in the state. The Sultan must be exempted unless the people of Sokoto State want to provoke Nigerian Muslims to call for a radical amendment of the NSCIA constitution. But we don’t see any need for that because the ruling Sultan is a blessing for the Ummah.”
The way out, according to MURIC is for the Speaker of the Sokoto State House of Assembly “to set the necessary machinery in motion to amend this obnoxious section. The current Sultan and his successors must be immune against deposition by the state governor.
“We suggest the insertion of the phrase ‘except the Sultan of Sokoto’ after the words ‘or any head chief’. It is so simple. All we need is for one honourable member of the House to raise the motion for the amendment of Section 6 CAP 21 for the insertion to be effected. We appeal to all stakeholders in Sokoto State not to delay the amendment for the sake of posterity. The political climate in Sokoto (and Abuja too) is favourable today. It may not be so tomorrow.”
The group also called on Nigerian Muslims to be alert and politically conscious, saying, “Freedom cannot be enjoyed by the naïve and the myopic in society. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”
In the same vein, the Secretary-General, Muslim Ummah of South West of Nigeria (MUSWEN), Prof. Dawud Noibi said any effort that will lead to the removal of the obnoxious clause would be welcome by the Muslims.
As an umbrella body that embraces Muslim organisations and institutions operating in the South Western Nigeria, MUSWEN, Prof. Noibi asserted, is always conscious commenting on constitutional and political matters. “However, given the position of the Sultan in the Muslim community in Nigeria, being the Amirul Mumineen (overall leader), we consider it unfair for political authority to remove a religious leader for political purposes. The Sultan has played very important role in the affairs of Muslims in the country. Therefore, the power of the governor dealing with him for political reason will not go down well with Muslims.”
After the death of Abubakar Siddique, the 17th Sultan of Sokoto on November 1, 1988, Dasuki was among the leading contenders to become the new Sultan. Some of his opponents included Shehu Malami and Muhammadu Maccido. Maccido was the son of Abubakar Siddique and he was popular among the populace in Sokoto. However, Dasuki was close to the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida. On December 6, 1988, he was announced as the new Sultan.
The announcement reportedly led to five days of rioting in which 10 people died. He was considered a modernist against the wishes of some who wanted the traditionalist candidate, Maccido.
As Sultan, Dasuki tried to endear himself to the Sokoto populace. He built 10 Quaranic schools in 1990 and established an adult literacy class. Dasuki also tried to unite the Muslim ummah through the reorganization of Jama’atu Nasril Islam and the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA). He gave impetus to the appointment of the late Dr. Lateef Adegbite, who became the first Yoruba Secretary General of NSCIA.
In 1996, Dasuki was called into the office of the military administrator of Sokoto, Yakubu Muazu and was told he was deposed as the Sultan. He was flown to Yola and then taken to Jalingo where he was placed in exile. Muazu gave some reasons for the banishment such as Dasuki was causing enmity among the people and among the royal family, ignoring government directives and traveling outside his domain without approval or notice from the government.