By Matthew Kuju
Before he became the 17h Emir of Lafia, His Highness, Hon Justice Sid Dauda Bage was a Judge of the apex Court in Nigeria, the Supreme Court.
On March 26, 2019, Sidi Bage emerged as the 17th Emir of Lafia Emirate following the demise of Mustapha Agwai I on January 10, 2019.
By the time he mounted the throne, he had spent 37 years serving at the various levels of Judiciary in Nigeria.
Born on the 22nd June 1956 in what is today known as Lafia Municipal Local Government of Nasarawa State, he attended Dunoma Primary School Lafia form 1963 to 1969, Government Secondary School Lafia from 1970 to 1974. He gained admission into the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria for a Diploma in law which he did from 1975 to 1977 and later obtained his LLB in the same field from the same university. He then proceeded to the Nigeria Law School Lagos in 1980 and was called to the Bar in 1981.
Emir Bage was at Ground Training Group, Nigeria Air Force Base Kaduna from 1981-1982 as a legal officer where he observed the compulsory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC).
Thereafter, he was appointed Magistrate Grade II in the Plateau State Judiciary in 1982.
He was Promoted Magistrate Grade I in 1984, promoted Senior Magistrate Grade II in 1986, appointed Chief Magistrate II FCT Judiciary in 1989, promoted Chief Magistrate I in 1990 and was promoted as Deputy Chief Registrar FCT Judiciary in 1991.
He was again promoted substantive Chief Registrar, FCT High Court January, 1992, elevated to the High Court Bench as a Judge November 9, 1992, elevated Justice Court of Appeal December 10, 2007. He was appointed Justice of the Supreme Court on December 5, 2016.
Recently, the Emir hosted the Editor of Eggonnews at his palace in Lafia where he fielded questions on his vision and dream for Lafia Emirate as well as Nasarawa State for as long as he remains on the throne.
Hereby are a few questions and answers at the interaction.
Every leader, as he comes to the leadership position has a vision, mission and a focus. I am sure when you were coming to take over the throne, you must have had a vision and a mission you would want to accomplish in the course of your reign. We want you to tell us the vision, mission and the focus you have as long as you are on the throne.
Bissimillahi Rahmani rahim! Alhamdulillah. My own I call it a dream. You can call it a vision or a mission. I call my own a dream. I have always had this dream that if given this opportunity which Almighty has given to me, what I will do first is to see what I can do to bring our people together.
I think this has been done so much before. I will do the best that I can to let our people know that we are one and the same people. The Almighty has done it for us. It is just for us to appreciate the gift of Almighty to us.
We are the only people with this advantage when you go round the country with this advantage that we have. Majority around us where we are in this location we found ourselves can one person say our blood is one. By the decision of the Almighty, He has decided to cross our blood.
You have a father, you must have a father. There is no place that intermarriages have played vital roles like we have here where we are. None of us can claim that he is full this. You are either half this or half that. That is the case, the desire of the Almighty that we remain as brothers, keep ourselves as one people, see how we can foster unity, see how we can come together and see it as an advantage.
We should not allow anything, anything, some of them very small to divide us as a people. I will like to see how I can bring our people together. People here are very hardworking and dynamic people. But somehow for some reasons there is a bit of little misunderstanding. And I will consider all this misunderstanding as if they are something that is surmountable. We can surmount them.
We can now know that we are brothers, hold ourselves together, keep ourselves together, come together and see what we can do in unity to bring about progress. None of us here is different from one another. The intention of the Almighty is for us to live together. Since the time I came, if anybody would come to tell me that he belongs to this tribe, and then by the dint of settlement or whatever, he is now settled. I say no to that. Wherever you find yourself, that is your home. That is where the Almighty desires that you should live and that is your home.
So, we should try to keep ourselves as one, as brothers and see what we can do in furtherance of God’s purpose as brothers, as brothers’ keepers, whatever that we have. Anything the Almighty has given to us as donated we should be able to share among ourselves. If I have a portion I can give part of it to my brother. And ask the Almighty to bless the remaining portion. With that, we can live together in peace without any rancor and without any misunderstanding.
Principally, I want to bring all of us together. And I have this belief to my heart that we are one people. And I did say this during the time of my inauguration. If you heard my speech, I said I will foster a scene of unity. I will never be part of any mission of disunity among our people. All the people here are one people.
So what are we fighting about? We should not fight. In fact in the lighter mood, what I mean is the people around here, I call them my mothers. And mothers are more compassionate. They love more and they pity more. So I feel really safe in the hands of my mothers.
In this scene, am not talking about gender. I am saying like in parables… When I say my mothers, I mean the people that gave us the mother side. And my blood… I share the same blood with them, that is what I mean. I just mentioned it in a lighter mood and in the parables. It is not the gender thing. They are male and female. It is the same thing.
So I will like to see what I can do to bring all our people together. I have advocated for this. In all these places, there have been small, small disputes. Since my coming here, I have visited all those areas. I have gone to those areas. And I have started discussing with the leaders of the areas so that we find lasting solutions to the problems.
Recently, there was little misunderstanding in Daddare area. But the Sangari brought all the people together to let me know what the problem was. Immediately, he set up committee from both sides. And very soon, we are coming together with the committee to see how we can resolve it. Once there is a problem quickly we will move o settle it.
My dream is to foster a sense of unity amongst all our people. And for our people now to consider each other as one people, feel some sense of oneness instead of feeling some sense of disunity among our people. That is my dream. You can call it a vision; you can call it a mission. But my dream is I want to see a situation where I don’t have to think that I am this or I am that. Look at myself first and foremost we are one people. And we are people, by destiny God has made it that we should live together in peace and help one another wherever we find ourselves looking for help. We should be able to extend hands of help to each other. That is my dream. Once that is achieved all others things we are thinking about will start unfolding and start coming.
Once you are able to establish sense of unity, once we are able to establish peace amongst the people, then we think of progress, think of development and we think of the way forward. You will never have anything that will take you back. That is my dream.
Thank you your Highness. Before your coming to the throne, you were a Judge up to the Supreme Court. By the grace of God here you are as a traditional ruler. Perhaps you may want to compare to us, how life was as a Judge of the Supreme Court, and here you are as Emir of Lafia.
I think essentially, life may be a little bit different because the responsibility may differ but not so much, but not so much. As a career person, first and foremost a lawyer and we started a career, there was a defined coursed career. There was a defined responsibility.
We were asked to discharge this responsibility in accordance with established rules. These rules can come in form of either civil or criminal as the case may be. But there are rules that you have to abide by straight. These things are written and rigid. If you don’t follow them somebody is there to check, somebody is there to question it. Because if you by any sense digress someone is there to tell you that you have acted outside the constitutions, outside the law, outside the established rules, outside what is expected of you.
So you are going one direction in accordance with what is established. That is the difference between what is there and what is here. What is there is that all the things are written. While here all the things are unwritten. But they have been entrenched over time. They are like customs and norms of the people. And when you come you will meet some of the elders to repeat some of the customs to you. They are not like written laws; they are like… you can call them customary laws, unwritten. Let me say it this way. They are like unwritten customary laws. The way they will present it to you – they will say it as if it is a written law. They wouldn’t want you to digress from it. We wouldn’t want you to go out of it. But this time around they are not written.
The other side it is written. You can take and look. But this one you cannot take it and look at. But they are there. As soon as I start going outside, there are elders to tell me no; you are going out of your way. You can come back. That is not what your ancestors did. This is the way to go about it. So they bring you back. You don’t have to go that way.
So I think that essentially, as a person I have always thought of what I told you earlier on. I have not been happy the way things had been going on. I still feel that we can do more. What I have in my mind at the back of my mind always are my people. Every one of us. I don’t like the idea of anybody looking at the other brother with any sense that is not expected of it. I am not better than any other person. The other person could even be better than me.
What is important is for me to give him that assurance of dignity and respect that the Almighty has given to me that is all, because human beings do not need anything more than that. What is important in life is that, as you sit here with me and I look at you with dignity and respect the Almighty has given to me, you will leave here as a very happy person. But when you come and then you are received with disdain or anything like that, whatever I can offer will not impress you. That human dignity, that human respect… What is important is your dignity that is all. If we do that… I think that is the most precious price that we can get.
So, over there, when we were there still in active service, we gave the best that we could to the country. And we leave for those that will judge us, because we cannot judge our own case. But as we come back here, what we need to do is to give back. And we are giving back is to do the best that we can do to our people.
So essentially… although, may be the way I have answered, it might be I didn’t touch directly your question, but I have tried to see what I can do to navigate around it to give some sense of what is in my mind. And what is in my mind is that once I am able to relate with you today that you are my brother, and you have the right at any time to come into this palace to see me if you have a problem, share that your problem with me, let me see whether we can find a solution to that problem, I think I would have achieved my conviction.
Your Highness you are the Chairman of the council of Chiefs in Nasarawa State. Having related with other traditional rulers in Nasarawa State, how would you describe the traditional institution in Nasarawa Stat? Are you satisfied? Is there anything that can be done to make it better? Because over the time, some have people said that some traditional rulers have done things that have reduced the respect and the dignity that should be accorded the institution. Are you satisfied with what you have noticed so far?
Let me say something about that. Today as we are in Nasarawa State what I discovered is that, I am not saying it because my other brothers are not here, but I want to say that we have one best caliber of traditional rulers in this country in Nasarawa State. If you look at the composition of the council, you will see that there is no profession that exists in the curriculum all over that is not represented in the council – Science, Art, Commercial – we have medical doctors, we have engineers, we have lawyers, this and that.
If you go round this country, you can hardly find in one place as convenient as we have here in Nasarawa State. And I am very proud of that, very, very proud of that.
You see, there is something that is agitating the people. And people feel it is an easy path. But I think it is not an issue as far as I am concerned. There are two things there; there is one aspect which I think has to do directly with the welfare of the traditional rulers. There is something between those of them that are occupying that position and the government. I think there are the responsibilities of those traditional rulers with their people. You see an aspect that can be put the two together. But they are going in separate ways.
People look at their traditional rulers in different perspectives. People want to see their traditional rulers help them to translate some of their traditional things, their deity as the traditional head. They aspire to see that these rulers that have been selected or elected as the case may be or whatever represent their interest. And they are the protectors of their interests and the protector of their customs and traditions.
I am perfectly in support of anybody who desires that he should be given the opportunity in the leadership of his people to represent them in any capacity in the traditional institution. There is no problem about that. People can have many leaders, choose as many. There is no problem. But where the problem lies is just little. Sometimes, it is that traditional institution comes in with a lot of responsibilities. You are coming in, you are not coming in as an individual. You are shouldering a lot of responsibilities. That is where the problem comes in.
When I came in here I was given the list of some of the staff in service. I inherited not less than one hundred servants.
Now it is not all that the government can cater for. And I discovered that the late Emir here, my father, was augmenting from his pocket to keep some of the servants going, about forty seven of them almost fifty are not on the government payroll. He was making up from his pocket. And when you go round, you will discover that almost all the traditional rulers have so many people around them. Some of them are not catered for by the government. And the reason is not farfetched. As long as he is there, they will leave all other things they do in life, they hands off those things completely and come and stay with him to serve the palace and to serve that interest. And somebody who has left all that he or she does for a living, where then will he get what will support his/her life or his/her living? You have to make up for that.
That is why you find some of our traditional rulers today in trouble. The responsibility is quite heavy. Some of them apart from the income that they get from the government, they don’t have so much extra to shoulder some of these responsibilities. Therefore, some of them have to go out, out of there domain. Some of the traditional rulers are being accused of not living in their domains.
People don’t look at the other side of the responsibility that traditional rulers shoulder. If they are in town, if the traditional ruler is in town, it may not be necessary for a great number to even cook that day. They come to find their living in his palace, where he is. What does he do? Does he ask them to go? No! And some of them, not all, but a sizeable number are finding it difficult to carry that responsibility along. And with the expectation of the government on them because of this responsibility, because what they get is so minimal it cannot take of the responsibility they have, vis-a-viz the office that they have now, and what the expectations of the government have on them. What they get is so minimal that is not able to take care of all the responsibilities. And some people think the traditional rulers are not living up to their responsibility. They are. Look at them. Look at the ones we have in the State here. Believe you me, I said it and I want to be quoted that they are about the best that you can get from this country. It is just that the resources are not just enough to go round. And this is a reflection of where we are.
The resources of the government itself are also not sufficient to do so much for the tradition rulers. So, where the government does not have enough to go round, it is the traditional rulers that have to look elsewhere to get something for their people. That is where some people look at some of our chiefs and emirs as if they are not living up to some expectations. But believe me they are doing their best.
If you see from the little that the government sends out, the sharing formula and what their take home is, I think they need to be commended. And they deserve more respect.
Before I forget, let me say, I am not at all worried about the number of the traditional rulers we have in Nasarawa State. I am not at all worried about it. In fact I have been advocating for having a general council. What I mean is that the Council of Chiefs as it is composed today, it is not every chief that is a member of the traditional council in the State. The law provides for those traditional rulers are in the Local Governments Headquarters. The most senior in the Local Government headquarters is automatically the member of the traditional council of the State. And also the most senior traditional ruler in the Development Area is also a member of the traditional council of the State.
So, we have the number of the Local Governments that we have and the number of the Development Areas that we have are those that constitute the traditional council of chiefs in the state. Believe me, left to me, and when I came in and saw it, I said why not abolish this and let all the graded chiefs in the State be the members of the traditional council. And my reason is quite simple. You may be leaving out people that are wonderful and have brilliant ideas, very brilliant ideas that may help the State and help the Council. And because they are not the most senior in either Local Governments or the Development Area, they are out. And their voices may not be heard.
So, I insisted. And when the matter came in the Council, I stood my ground and I said I would want to see a situation where all of us will gather in one place to discuss always. When there is an issue that we want to discuss, before we forward that to the government as advisers of the government and the custodians of our traditions and the people, let us come together as one.
I am happy to say that the council of chiefs in Nasarawa State graciously said okay, we understand what you are thinking and talking about. Let us do it this way. Let us have at least twice in a year, meetings of all; so that all of us will come together. Let us come together and put our ideas together. You cannot underrate a person; sometimes we have very brilliant people that can bring wonderful ideas that can bring progress and the agenda set by development to the State.
They said alright, no problem, all of us will be coming together. And now we have agreed that all us will come together at least twice in a year to discuss and then forward to the government.
So, I think this is one of our achievements. Now we can bring every one of us together to discuss; I don’t want to see anyone left out. Once you are a graded chief, we want your voice, you should be heard, because you represent the voice of your people. And there may be things that are peculiar to you, which we need to hear them from the horse’s mouth. If we say that after meeting
We said that, instead of the system where, after the meeting with the most senior person in the Local Government, he will then go back and call meeting of other chiefs in the Local Government, and he will say things that are peculiar to you and things that are peculiar to your Local Government to see how you can relate those things to the government. It passes through somebody before it gets to the council of chiefs. We may not have it all. But when we have the discussion together and hear direct from the horse’s mouth, we can achieve a lot.
So these are some of those things that I am very happy that we have been able to reach out. I thank all the members of the council for graciously accepting that, that all of us can come together at least twice in a year and meet as one council and take resolutions as one council and pass them over to the government. It may not be that, that has now qualified or made like a law as the composition of the council. But we have broadened the body to come together at least give our contributions to the development of the State. I think am very, very happy for that. It is a happy development. In the course of time, I know that once we start meeting, and we are coming together, it will take over from the other Council
I think in a nutshell the traditional rulers in the State are people that you can be proud of. They are highly educated and with high sense of responsibility. So if anybody has any misgiving that anyone of us is not living up to expectation, I think it is left to the judgment of that individual. But on the whole, what you see as the reflection of the people is as the result of the traditional rulers living up to the expectation.