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Sultan and his Igbo friends

By Emeka Obasi
The heat is all over the country. There is smoke, no fire yet and I have to commend prominent compatriots who rose in unison against the threat of kicking out every Igbo from the far North.

Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar IV, visits Enugu

One voice that will cool frayed nerves is Sultan Muhammad  Sa’ad Abubakar, III of Sokoto. I am so sure that because of the prompt response of responsible Northern leaders, the Sultan has the situation under control.

While many of us, Southerners, call for restructuring and bewail the marginalization we are going through especially under the present dispensation, I make bold to say that there are very wonderful Hausa and Fulani in our midst who feel our pains as well.

Not all Hausa-Fulani are out to colonise the nation. Many of them are very reasonable and accommodating. This blanket condemnation is as result of the greed of a few. And because the greedy few seem to have a way round some collaborators down South, we all vent our spleen on all core Northerners.

Sultan Abubakar, III, is a true son of his father, Sir Siddiq Abubakar, III,[1903-1988], the 17th Sultan of Sokoto. He has also shown that he is a blood brother of his predecessor, Sultan Muhammadu Maccido.

The present Sultan did not mince words in condemning the activities of killer herdsmen who have held several parts of the country to ransom especially since the beginning of the present administration. He described them as terrorists from outside Nigeria.

There is something like a strong cord holding the Igbo and these three sultans together. Sultan Abubakar, III, it was who honoured Mamman Dike and made him a powerful voice in the Sokoto Emirate. I think he had a title, something like Bada Mafarawa.

Dike was from Asaba and followed the United African Company [UAC].That job exposed him to Lord Frederick Lugard who employed him as driver. For 46 years, he drove the colonial master.

When Lugard left, Dike joined the Sokoto Emirate council. Some of his friends could boast that he was like a kingmaker since he was very close to the ruling class. He lived up to the age of 130.

Sultan Siddiq Abubakar,III, was a man of peace and very liberal too. Under him, the Women’s Training College, Sokoto, was established. In those years, it was not common to allow muslim women imbibe Western education.

Under him, many Igbo established business in Sokoto. There was the Universal Hotel, owned by Ogbunuga Afor. This same man from the then Eastern Region, was the first Eze Ndigbo of Sokoto.

Of course, while Universal Hotel thrived, there were other hotels owned by  Igbo business men in the North. In Kano, there was Premier Hotel, set up by C.D. Jones Okpala, from Aguata. Race Course International Hotel, Maiduguri, belonged to one Nwofor.

Historic Hotel, Damaturu was the property of Chief George Anyaegbunam, from Ogbunike. His wife owned a bakery which was patronised by people from as far as Potiskum and Biu. Another prominent Igbo was Chief Okafor from Nnobi.

Dr. Ngozi Anyaegbunam, former University don, Pioneer Woman Editor, Champion Newspapers and Media Consultant, is one of the children of the Ogbunike Chief who also lived in Jos.

Sir Saddiq Abubakar, 111, once had differences with the Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, over tax issues. The Sarduana  hired an Igbo lawyer, Ernest Egbuna,  brother of Justice Willy Egbuna, Chief Arthur Mbanefo’s father-in-law. That did not in any way pitch the Sultan against the Igbo.

His son, Sultan Muhammadu Maccido, rose to prominence as a Prince when  he supported his father’s resolve to protect the Igbo in Sokoto during the May 1966 pogrom. Maccido and brother-in-law, Marafa, succeeded in stopping their kinsmen from setting a Roman Catholic Church on fire. It was no surprise the senior Sultan eventually became Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Sultan Maccido kept in touch with his Igbo friends and would even visit them in Lagos. It touched many that when he died in an air crash on Sunday October 29, 2006, with his son Senator Badamasi Maccido and grandson,  another victim was an Igbo woman, Dr. Nnennia Mgbor.

Dr. Mgbor, was West Africa’s first Ear, Nose and Throat [ENT] surgeon. Her father was the great Dr. Mbonu Ojike, first Republic politician, better known for the phrase: ’Boycott all boycottable.’ He died in a car crash.

Following Maccido’s death, one of his brothers, became Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, III. Till date, he has not departed from the ways of his father and older sibling.

The present Sultan trained as a soldier and is member of the Nigeria Defence Academy[NDA] Regular Course 18. Prominent course mates include Hama Bachama, Honest Irmiya Stephen and Capt. Bala Shagari. Col. Stephen once acted as governor of Lagos State during the Buba Marwa years.

But the highest ranking officer of Course 18 is Lt. Gen. Onyeabo Azubuike Ihejirika, former Army Chief. Other Igbo officers include Gens. Eugene Nwanguma[Gw Uris], M.A. Ndubuisi, Air Cdre. C.N. Abiagom, Cdre K.C. Opara, Group Captains O.F. IhenachoI[who served in Chad with the Sultan in 1983], C.U. Chiedu, A.O. Maduka and Col. T.E. Okem.

These friends are so close that as Chief of Staff, Gen. Ihejirika and his friends were in Sokoto for a re-union. And when Lt. Col. F.O. Ekwealor was buried in  Nzam, Anambra State in 2014, the Sultan was part of the arrangement.

The Sultan’s love for the Igbo was also replicated to some extent in Kano. When Alhaji Ado Bayero ascended the throne as Emir in 1963, two Igbo men: Mike Agbamuche, Pesonal Legal Adviser, to the Sarduana and John Okoloafor, from Arondizuogu were part of the story.

Alhaji Bayero and Col. Emeka Ojukwu were friends. Names like Chiefs Jideofor of Alor,  Okonkwo of Umudim, Nnewi and Miss Edith Ike [later Okongwu, Mark Odu] made news.

With the Sultan, exuberant youths can only enjoy freedom of expression. Nothing beyond that.  Igbo at heart.



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