By Tukura Matthew
The traditional institution has a long and chequered history in the country, particularly Northern Nigeria. It was the only form of organized administration known and respected by the people before the coming of colonial masters. For example in Northern Nigeria, the colonial masters met a well organized traditional system of administration and took advantage of it and introduced Indirect Rule system to govern the people through their rulers.
Almost every part of the country had a well organized rulership system known either as Emir or chief; these traditional rulers had lesser chiefs such as Ward, Village and District Heads who served as grassroots administrators but under the watch of these Emirs or chiefs. They were not maximum rulers but ruled their subjects according to traditional norms. Possible excesses of their powers were checked by the kingmakers. If a traditional ruler exceeded his powers and became tyrannical, he was deposed according to the traditional norms of the people.
The wisdom of the colonial masters to build their system of administration on the foundation of traditional system was one factor that informed why indirect rule was a huge success in Northern Nigeria.
The Sudan of Sokoto, late Sir Ahmadu Bello succeeded as Premier of the then Northern Nigeria as an astute political administrator because his policies were based on sound native authority system. He responded to the needs of his people of diverse tribes, cultures and religions because he fully involved traditional rulers in both decision making and its implementation. All through the Nigeria civil war (1967-1970), which lasted for 30 months, the military regime turned to traditional rulers for support, advice and co-operation before they were able to crush the descendents.
The role of traditional rulers in maintaining peace and orderliness among others in any given society is so important that it cannot be over emphasized. One school of thought has argued that because of its importance, specific roles of this institution be enshrined in our constitution, while others say giving specific roles to our traditional institution means limiting their powers. Whether the argument is in favour or against, one fact stands out that the role of traditional institution is so crucial in a society.
It was the importance of their fatherly role that Nasarawa State, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu’s administration initiated an executive bill titled “A bill for a law to amend the Nasarawa state local government law 2000 and to provide for more electorate functions and roles for traditional institutions in the state” this bill was passed into law by the first state House of Assembly on 17th August 2005. In a speech titled “for the Glory of our traditional institutions” while=signing the bill into law.
On November 16, 2005 Governor Adamu now a senator of the Federal Republic representing Nasarawa West Senatorial District said: “Our traditional rulers have for long been isolated in the backwaters of our democratic dispensation. The law ends that isolation in our State. Their winter of irrelevance ends and their summer of relevance begins today. It closes one chapter of social instability and opens a new one in co-operative partnership between the custodian of our culture and tradition and our political administrators at the Local Government and State levels. The law marks the retracing of our steps into our immediate past and the laying of a new foundation for our social, political and economic system and a giant step forward in our quest for modern development. Today, the bridge is reconstructed, the missing link has been re-established and the foundation for our stability has been strengthened. We welcome our royal fathers from the cold.”
Lafia Emirate has a well defined system of selection and succession.
The 17th Emir Of Lafia
On March 26, 2019 Justice of the Supreme Court, Sidi Bage emerged as the 17th Emir of Lafia Emirate following the demise of Mustapha Agwai I on January 10, 2019.
The kingmakers faithfully implemented this instrument by selecting a born prince and a successful law officer in person of Justice Sidi Dauda Bage as the 17th Emir to mount the throne of his forefathers.
At the official turbaning ceremony, Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura said the State Government was happy with the selection exercise and called on the people of Lafia emirate and the entire State to support the Supreme Court Justice turned traditional ruler.
A good start of his job as Emir, Justice Bage, an Apostle in the temple of Justice on excursion to the throne said “We are one, we must unite to develop the emirate and I pledge to be just in my dealings with all.”
This apt opening speech from the new Emir of Lafia is one of the qualities of a good leader as he promised “to be fair to all” irrespective of tribe, religion or political afflation.
Now that Emir Bage is on the throne, he should look back at history as a Judge and the chronological ascension to the throne of Lafia emirate and the footprints of the past royal fathers and make his positive contribution that would add value to the emirate.
In a paper presented by Alhaji Yakubu Muhammed (Magajin Garin Lafiya) titled “The Lafia Emirate And The Influences of Kanem-Borno In The Socio-Economic Development Of Parts Of The Central Region Of Nigeria” at the celebration of Kanem-Borno millennium and Yerwa centenary 12th-16th November, 2007, said: “Dunoma founded Lafiyan Bare-beri and established a dynasty at a period the whole area acknowledged the sovereignty of Aku-Uka of Wukari by whom he was accredited.”
For the records, some of the emirs who have ruled Lafia emirate include: Musa Danjaji (1809-1814), Umar (1814-1819), Abdullahi Dalla (1849-1866), Umar (1868-1873) Abdullahi Dalla Bahago (1873-1881), Mohammed Agwai I (1881-1903), Musa Abdullahi Dalla as the 11th Emir of Lafia, Abdullahi (1918-1926) Alhaji Yusuf Musa II, Alhaji Dr. Isa Mustafa Agwai the 16th Emir of Lafia, whose ascension to the throne was on 28th May, 1974. All these royal fathers past of peaceful emirate contributed to the peaceful, social and economic progress of the kingdom.
Alhaji Muhammad in analysing what the immediate past Emir of Lafia achieved, said: “This is certainly what propelled the king makers of Lafiya in selecting Alh. (Dr) Isa Mustafa Agwai I as the 16th Emir of lafiya on the 28th May, 1974. The Emirate, under his able leadership, has made tremendous progress in these past thirty-three (33) years. Social and economic infrastructures have expanded within and national recognition accorded from without. A vanguard in the agitation for and subsequent creation of Nasarawa State with headquarters at Lafiya, he strategically opened up his domain to all enterprising citizens from all walks of life and all parts of the country”.
Power as a revolving chair has turned to Justice Sidi Dauda Bage as the new and 17th emir of Lafia. All he needs is the support of all and sundry to enable him succeed as the founder of the emirate succeeded.
Justice Bage has taken over the reins of power when Lafia the capital of the emirate is no longer a glorified Local Government Headquarters but a fast growing city of a state capital.
With Lafia as the capital of Nasarawa State with its population growing at a geometric rate, coupled with the numerous security challenges, the seat of the Emir of Lafia is no longer an easy one. The needs of the people in the area of social amenities are over stretched and even increasing and these are issues the Emir and the government of the day need to squarely address. Personal problems of what to eat, family squabbles are brought before the palace for solution. As the adage goes, an uneasy task lies ahead of him that wears the crown.
This is the hot seat the new emir of Lafia now occupies for the rest of his life. Luckily enough, the royal father rose through ranks to the apex Court of the land and acquired a lot of life experiences all these years.
The grace of Allah and wisdom coupled with individual and collective support, the new emir of Lafia will overcome the challenges that followed his ascension to the powerful seat of Lafia emirate.
Taking and lifting up Lafia emirate to the next desired level is a collective leadership responsibility. In achieving this, an equalitarian society must be promoted and defended by the subjects of the emirate and the entire State. Good enough Emir Bage will continue to preach, promote and defend the cause of justice coming from a constituency that frown at injustice. As retired Supreme Court Judge, the emir has a critical role to play in ensuring that things are done rightly.
May this turning point in the life of Justice Bage bring? Transformation of Lafia emirate council, Nasarawa State and traditional administration 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 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)
Bage worked as a Legal Officer, Ground Training Group, Nigerian Air Force Base Kaduna (NYSC) 1981 to 1982, and appointed Magistrate Grade II 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, and appointed Justice of the Supreme Court on December 5, 2016.
While presenting the staff of office on Friday May 3, 2019, Mr Al-Makura said emergence of the new emir was a welcome development to the people of the emirate given his track record in the temple of justice.
He expressed confidence in the ability of the Emir to engender peace, justice and equity in his domain.
Mr Al-Makura noted that his administration had incorporated the traditional rulers into the governance of the state, especially in peace building, saying their incorporation had yielded tremendous results.
“The vast background, training, experience and exposure of our traditional rulers have contributed immensely to the maintenance of peace and harmonious co-existence amongst the people,” he said.
He attributed the relative peace in the state within the last few years to the support of the traditional institutions.
Mr Al-Makura also extolled the virtues of the late emir, Isa Mustapha Agwai, saying that the emirate enjoyed peace and witnessed unprecedented development during his reign.
He prayed God to grant the new emir sound health, wisdom and foresight in the task of superintending over the affairs of the emirate.
In his vote of thanks, the new emir, said the presentation of the staff of office was an honour done to the people of the emirate.
He urged the people of the emirate to sustain the peace and harmonious co-existence that the late emir, Agwai I, exemplified.
He noted that the Lafia emirate was unique as all the tribes were inter-related by blood and ancestry.
He, thereafter, promised to consolidate on the peace building efforts of the late emir to engender rapid socio-economic development of the emirate.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the ceremony had in attendance notable traditional rulers across the country led by Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III.
Others are the Shehu of Borno, Kyari El-Kanemi; Tor Tiv, James Ayatse; Gbong Gwom Jos, Buba Jacob Gyang, among others.
With this wealth of experience and exposure, no doubt, Lafia Emirate Council could not have been luckier having him as the new Emir of Lafia. He will sure ensure fairness, justice and equity in his reign. That way, there will greater peace, togetherness and understanding among the people of the Emirate. Almost on a daily basis, since his assumption to the throne, many individuals and groups have been visiting the palace to pay homage, pledge loyalty and pray for God’s wisdom and protection as he carries out his roles and responsibilities as a revered royal father, both as Emir of Lafia and Chairman, Nasarawa State Council of Chiefs. It is the hope and prayer that there will be greater development and peace during the reign of the 17th Emir of Lafia, the Honourable Justice Sidi Dauda Bage.