By Ibrahim HassanWuyo
KADUNA, the capital of defunct Northern Nigeria, is highly revered and unique in many aspects, especially to Northerners.
Even though the state creation of the 1970s had divided the Northern Region into many states, each enjoying its relative autonomy, one thing that continues to place Kaduna high above other state capitals in the region,is the famous area known as Unguwan Sarkin Musulmi.
This is an area where almost all the emirs in the North have their houses and live peacefully with other influential and non-influential individuals in the old Crocodile City.
Unguwan Sarkin Musulmi will, all things being equal, continue to have the advantage of hosting all the emirs and chiefs in the North, at a particular place and time.
Made popular by Sultan Hassan Dan Mu’azu who was travelling from the Sultanate in Sokoto to Kaduna to meet with British colonial masters, Unguwan Sarkin Musulmi has retained its status as an area where major governmental decisions are taken and policies made for the growth and development of the Northern region. No wonder city dwellers often fondly refer to the area as “Sarauta”, meaning Royalty. Others simply call it Gwamnati or Hukuma in Hausa, meaning authority.
A look at the settlement revealed that the monarchs who own houses in the area include, among others, the Sultan of Sokoto, the emirs of Zazzau, Ilorin, Gwandu, Yauri, Katsina, Argungu, Daura, Katagum, Kazaure and the Lamido of Adamawa.
Other emirs who were previously not living in the area have, in recent years, acquired houses there befitting their royal status.
Interestingly, the late Premier of Northern Nigeria and Sardaunan Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello was a resident of Unguwan Sarkin Musulmi. The now Centre for Historical Documentation and Research, Arewa House, is an attractive location in Unguwan Sarki. Historically, it was the office and official residence of Sir Ahmadu Bello. Till date, Arewa House continues to attract local and international tourists who visit the complex to see things of cultural and artistic interest, including relics associated with the Sardauna, the spot where he was shot and killed, among others. The central mosque in the community, the famous Sultan Bello Mosque, is attached to the Arewa House, bestowing the surrounding an ambience of spiritual relevance, architectural beauty and class.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, as Ladan who grew up in the area could recall, was the reason why the emirs have chosen to stay at Unguwan Sarki.
According to him: “Unguwan Sarki is just not about kings. When the high and mighty are in Kaduna, they reside in their personal houses in our community. Those that I can easily mention include former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon; Lt. Gen TY Danjuma; the late Gen. Hassan Usman Katsina; the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua; his brother, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; the in-laws of former President Ibrahim Babangida; the late Ambassador Magaji Mohammed; the late Ambassador Shehu Lawal Giwa; the late Senator Kanti Bello; the late Umaru Dikko; Governor Nasiru Ahmad El-Rufa’i; former Governor Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa; Senator Ahmed Makarfi; Ambassador Sarki Tafida; President Muhammadu Buhari; the late Umaru Ali Shinkafi; Gen. Zamani Lekwot; the late Senator Isaiah Balat; the late Sheik Gumi; Ambassador Jolly Tanko Yusuf; Air Commodore Dan Suleiman; Col.Abdulmumini Aminu and virtually all his Northern counterparts while they were governors in the 1980s and many others.”
Ladan said the first primary school class in the community in the 1950s was a single room in their ancestral home in the community. It was later extended to become the now famous Sultan Bello Primary School.
“My grandfather was the famous muezzin, who always called for prayers in the Sultan Bello Mosque. We lived peacefully with the kings and the rich. There is a place behind called Unguwan Doki: that is where horses are kept and taken care of. Many families in this area enjoy the game of polo and competitions attract people from all over the world,” he said.
Malam Muhammadu Mai Littattafai said he has lived in the area for over three decades and could attest to the fact that no law-abiding peasant was ever intimidated or harassed by the rich and famous who dominated the community.
“We live peacefully. We still have people in our midst who had lived with the late Sardauna. His driver before the assassination, Sarkin Mota, is in the neighbourhood. So also his orderly. We call him ‘One Minute’. They were close to the late Sardauna and have decided to live here with their families ,” he informed.
Perhaps it is the uniqueness of Unguwan Sarki that made almost all the Northern states governments to have their Kaduna liaison offices in the area. Their cluster is around the famous Lugard Hall which now serves as the Kaduna State House of Assembly.
A holiday in Kaduna without visiting Unguwan Sarki will remain incomplete because that is the place where one could see architectural beauty, stabled horses and enjoy an atmosphere where those who wield influence and enormous power in Nigeria reside.