Special Report

September 10, 2017

N650M Abuja Guest House: My story, by Sultan Abubakar 111

Sultan suggests home grown solutions to security challenges

The Sultan of Sokoto

•A Sallah to remember in the Sultanate

By Bashir Adefaka

Celebrating Sallah, particularly the just concluded Eid-ul-Adha, with the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, and Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, could be fun. Durbar was the Sallah extra! The occasion was spiced by a troupe sent by the Oba Ewuare 11 of Benin which performed to the admiration of the Sultan and his guests. Those in attendance watched the Benin troupe on one side just as they concurrently kept eyes on the colourful Durbar staged by scores of camel and horse riders, princes and districts’ heads.

•Sultan arrives Eid

Some white men also chose to be Sallah guests of the Sultan, the man who is revered for his capacity as the most influential monarch in Nigeria, the fourth in Africa and the 17th most influential Muslim in the world.

Order of events on Sallah Day

Sultan Abubakar 111’s penchant for organisation appeared quite vividly in how he prepared for, proceeded to and returned from Eid.   It also showed in how his itinerary for the rest of the Sallah day was executed by his security, protocol and palace staff.

Beginning from 7.00am, the paraphernalia of his convoy had started to gather with the car that would convey him to the Eid praying ground in place, the security apparatus on ground and taking charge of the route to be taken by the trado-religious leader just as council chiefs and others to be in the convoy arrived. Around 8.00am, the Sultan emerged from the palace inner chamber through the main reception and, once the kaakaki (trumpet) blasted, every person scheduled to be in the convoy took position. The lead escort moved to the roundabout in front of the palace to clear the road of traffic. Sariki Sa’ad Abubakar is a “prophet” that is honoured not only in foreign land but also in his own country and the Sokoto Caliphate.

As the glittering Mercedes Benz with the number plate ‘SULTAN’ drove towards the gates, a car suspected to be that of the Secretary to the Sultanate Council, Alhaji Faruq Ladan, followed the lead escort. The Sultan’s car followed. On standby outside the palace gates were eight red attired horse riders, two of whom, immediately after sighting the Sultan’s car emerge through the gates, took position in front of the car, while the rest six surrounded right, left and back, thereby shielding the vehicle completely. A sports utility vehicle (SUV) conveying members of the Sultanate Council drove directly behind the Sultan’s car, followed by a bus conveying the princes and then the Sultan’s Press Crew bus among others. The long convoy then began the journey to the praying ground.

Sokoto people are very interesting people. While some of them were already seated at Eid, there was a mammoth crowd of others who lined the route, waving to the Sultan as the convoy passed by. Already on ground at Eid were Governor Tambuwal, his deputy and other dignitaries. The moment the Sultan arrived, the Chief Imam rose and started the Eid prayer by raising up his hands with a scream, “Allahu Akbar!,” repeatedly for the first seven times and then followed by another round of five times.

At the end of the prayer, the Chief Imam read his sermon in Hausa. The sermon focused on the need for Nigerians, particularly Muslims, to live together in peace, harmony and unity, pointing out that hate speeches were no friends to any country desirous of meaningful development. Interestingly, the same message that was delivered in Sokoto was also delivered by Imams all over the North and other parts of Nigeria. This is the power of effective leadership.

The Sallah continued with the Durbar procession but the Sultan also reciprocated the governor’s homage with a courtesy visit on him at his private house on the day next to the Friday Eid. The experience during the visit by this reporter shows clearly how the government and the traditional institution in Sokoto have collaborated for the peace and economic successes that the state has recorded and continues to build upon.

Sultan speaks on Abuja Sultanate Guest House

Be it for reason of being a retired general or just because of his royalty, Sultan Abubakar III doesn’t talk anyhow. Although when he eventually talks, no one will be left in doubt of the need to talk. Alhaji “Saadu,” as colleagues fondly called him in his days in the Army, is such a humorous, enigmatic and pragmatic personality. It was in the same spirit that this reporter had the opportunity of getting him to tell his own side of the story about the issue of the Abuja Guest House linked to him.

“I think there is somebody somewhere who just wanted to spite me and the governor of Sokoto State; otherwise, I see no reason for the report that Sokoto State government bought a house in Abuja for the Sultan who already owned a house there.   It (report) is highly despicable. I wonder what kind of journalism some of our journalists practice these days. Journalists just jump into issues they do not know how they (stories) began and where they will end, and write reports and their publishers publish same. That is also part of the problem with the social media”, the Sultan started.

“What actually happened was that the Sokoto State government decided to get a house in Abuja for the Sultanate Council and not for Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; the house is to be used by anybody who becomes the Sultan of Sokoto. That is the truth of the story. And they sat down at their State Executive Council meeting, discussed and got it approved. It was legally done therefore. All the transactions concerning the Abuja house they wanted to buy were done by government. When they consulted me and said they would get the house and furnishing for over a billion naira, I told them no, ‘why should they buy a house of over a billion?’ I said that when they hand over the house to the Sultanate Council, I will move all the furniture that I use in the house that I live in currently, which is on lease, into the official residence.

“And because of that input from me, which implied that there was no need for government to furnish the house, the cost reduced from over N1 billion to about N650 million. That should be appreciated by anybody who is public spirited. But because payment was made from government account to somebody’s account, who is one of the sons of the soil doing his own business as a private person and has his right to do business, and he has been doing contracts for government and is not a government official, somebody in the EFCC flashed it and he was right to have done that.   But when they saw the whole thing, they discovered that there was nothing wrong with the transaction. But somebody in the EFCC still had to give that as a story to an online newspaper and see what they wrote about me, saying I have a house in Abuja and I still collected money from government to buy a house in the same Abuja. So funny.

“But I am always happy whenever I remember that people who do this against me are only helping me as Allah will make sure that my sins will be removed and placed upon them. What Allah does to people who commit this kind of hypocrisy against another is that, He will take their good deeds away and replace them with the sins of the person they have wronged. That is my consolation. And that is why I refused to speak on the matter and I will never speak on it because it does not make sense to me.

The truth is open and nobody is in doubt of the clarity. No financial wrong was committed and the Sokoto State government has come out with the facts and that is final. And do you know that even up till now, the state government has not handed over to the Sultanate Council the Abuja house, which will be furnished with my own money? They are the ones doing the buying of the house. But they will definitely hand it over and when it is handed over, we will work on it to ensure that it meets the standard of the Sultanate so that we can hold our meetings and receive our visitors there without having to go out again and rent halls to do our official events in Abuja”.

Some Sokoto natives who spoke to this reporter on the Sultanate Abuja house believed the report was sponsored to smear the Sultan.

One of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “I cannot say precisely who is the sponsor of that report or who in the EFCC is being connived with to do that kind of attempted damage to our leader, but I do know that his soaring popularity, which is natural, is the headache of some people.   And there is nothing they can do about it because in the North, we have a standard and our governments know the standard and they respect and keep to the standard, hence the need for a befitting Abuja house as decided by the Sokoto State government.   Let me just warn whoever thinks he can dent the image of our traditional and religious leader, the Sultan, to desist because he won’t succeed and he will return a disgraced person”.