By Aliyu DANGIDA
Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Sani II (CON), is currentlyÂ the Emir of Gumel in Jigawa state. He was aÂ Â Commissioner of Information and Home Affairs in the defunct Kano State.
TheÂ 67 years traditional leader succeeded his late father, Alhaji Mohammed Sani, who died in 1980. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Sani II recalled the role he played during the late General Sani Abachaâ€™s regime to ensureÂ that traditional institutions were given 5%Â from the LGâ€™s grant.
What role have Emirs played in the development of Nigeria?
Well, as heads of their community, Northern leaders have certainly played great role in economic, social and political development of the country because they were opinion builders.
They have influence in the appointments or elections of people into the various Parliaments in the country.
Let me give an example with my uncle, the late Waziri of Gumel, Alhaji Ibrahim who was a one time Commissioner in Plateau and Zaria during the Sardauna Regime. He was a traditional ruler and head of NPC in Gumel.
He exercised great control over appointments and disciplinary action of the various categories of the party followers and to aÂ great extent,Â he influenced the election into the Houses of Northern House of Assembly and also the Federal Parliaments.
So, politically, they certainly influence the appointments of politicians into key positions like Ministers.
So, from the example I gave you, you canâ€™t avoidÂ Â playing politics or being influential in politics as long as you are a leader or an opinion builder. Politics is linked to any movement or thought of a person. Everything you do in life is politics.
So, really, Northern leaders have contributed positively to the development of the nation in the last 49 years.
Is it true that the Northern traditional rulersÂ influence political leaders?
To some extent,Â I will say yes. But I have to say that the influence is minimal,Â although during the Sardauna and Tafawa Balewa regimes, the influence on political leadersÂ was great because most of the political leadersÂ Â were from traditional institutions.
Did their influence produce any significant change?
You know, during those days, the political leaders themselves were from the traditional institutions. So, what ever decision they made was looked at as coming from traditional rulers and they really influenced social, economic and education development.
I could remember when I was in Primary School in Hadejia in 1950s. The Sardauna of Sokoto visited the school and he told usÂ Â Â Â Â that he wanted us to emulate him. So, the Sardauna of Sokoto really influenced female education.
People likeÂ Rakiya Attah from Ilorin Royal family, Nigerian Ambassador Abdulmalik,Â a prince from the royal family benefitted from the Saudaunaâ€™s pronouncement.
And that Northern traditional institutions depend on government allocation?
Yah! we do to a very large extent.Â In fact,Â Â I was the one who complainedÂ to the Late General Sani Abacha that the salaries given to us were not commensurateÂ with our position as traditional rulers.
I equally complainedÂ to him that the monies given to the local governments were being misusedÂ because if you look at the LGs,Â Â no significant development takes place at that level. Their leaders only share money among themselves.
He [Abacha] said they would look into it and immediately summonedÂ a meeting. And after the meeting, they all agreed to my request that I wasÂ right, that from the allocation given to the LGs we should subtract something and give to the emirate councils.
Initially, it was 1%. I said to him, â€˜Your Excellency, what you have voted for us is too small?â€™Â and IÂ advised himÂ to increase it.
HeÂ said, â€˜ okay, we will look into itâ€™. Later, it was increased to 3%. Then, he sent for me and toldÂ me, â€˜we have increased your request to 3%â€™ .
I told him,â€™Your Excellency, the 3% is manageable but not sufficient.â€™Then Abacha said, â€˜okay you want us to share the allocation 50/50?â€™ (Laughs)â€¦. I said, â€˜No your Excellencyâ€™. He said, â€˜okay, we will approve 5% for you only. I said, â€˜thank you.
That will be alrightâ€™. The late General replied, even if it is not alright, we will not increase it for you.
And my reason for insisting that our percentage should be increased was that some emirate councils have only one local government and if you give them 1% out of the money collected by the LG, what difference will it make? It will make very little difference.
Take Machina local government, for example. It is an emirate council in Yobe state, (One emirate council one local government).
And Kano state government has 44 local governments but one emirate council, while the situation differs else where.
I equally advised him to employ inspectors of local government who will be checking on the developmental aspect of the LGs inÂ their areas because the funds given to them are enough to develop their areas but they donâ€™t.
Certainly, IÂ was the one who canvassed the increase of 5%allocation to emirate councils, because really before the increase, we were really suffering.
Are you satisfied with the 5% allocation, or doÂ you still need more?
SomeÂ Â aspects of the money allocated to the state are not given to us, like VAT,Â oil wind fall profit. So, if they can provide us with that, we would be financially alright.