Following the passing of the 18th Emir of Zazzau Alhaji Shehu Idris on the 20th of September 2020, and as required by Law and tradition, eligible Prince’s of the ruling houses of the Zazzau emirate have indicated interest for the vacant and revered stool. The people of the Emirate and Nigerians as a whole are currently awaiting the final choice of the new Emir to be appointed by Governor Nasiru Ahmed El Rufai as required by law. It is understood that 13 Prince’s have indicated interest and are all waiting with their various supporters for the outcome of the selection process to conclude.
The last few days and weeks have therefore been filled with lots of hue and cry over the issue of a rather irregular list purportedly being that made and submitted by the kingmakers of the Zazzau Emirate council, accusations of financial inducements, underhand dealings and a directive by the state government for a repeat of the process and all sorts of rumours and insinuations. Some of these have been confirmed by reports and admissions by the state government and others unsubstantiated both in the social media and through verbal communication between people. This has given rise to a lot of tension and excitement among the different competing candidates and their supporters. Not surprisingly all parties have tried to control the narrative in their favour.
Understandably this has been in relation to the succession battle for the Revered Throne of the Zazzau Emirate to produce the 19th Emir of Zazzau to continue in the good works and foot steps of their forbearers.
Against this background of seeming confusion, it therefore becomes imperative to examine in depth the laws, practice and convention that governs the selection and appointment of an Emir, especially as it relates to the Zazzau emirate
The significance in this case is the years it has taken to exercise this law on the Zazzau emirate as the last emir was on the throne for more than four decades, 45 years to be precise and as such it is a new event to majority of the participant albeit an old tradition to be repeated.
There is existing an established law supported by a convention for the replacement of a chief or an Emir in the Zazzau emirate in the event of the vacation of the seat either through death, resignation , abdication or removal. This law is the Appointment and Deposition of Chiefs at Section 25 of the Northern Nigeria Legal Code which came into force on the 3rd July 1930 and still remains in force today.
An examination of the law, customary practices and historical antecedents will provide details of provisions of the law and the customary and governmental practices in the past that has established the convention leading unto the selection of an Emir . This will throw more light on the process we are about to witness in Zazzau Emirate.
This sets out the law governing the Appointment and Deposition of Chiefs (Emirs) in Northern Nigeria. It is a simple law but with room for a lot of interpretations . Within these lines especially at Section 3 (1)(2)&(3) and section 7 the current task of the selection and appointment of the next Emir of Zazzau will be made.
Added to this law is the convention under the customary law and practice that provides for the submission of a list of qualified candidates to the Governor for selection of the most suitable candidate as Emir; where Conventions in law are generally defined as rules of the constitution which are not enforced by the law courts and are subject to political pressure unlike established laws. Customary law in Nigeria are those practices accepted by members of a particular community as a result of their long established usage. Customary law also demands equity and justice which leads to the promotion of peace and development in the community.
Therefore in the course of the histories of the Zazzau emirate over time from the sultanate of sokoto to the colonial rulers to the post independent governments, king makers and especially the government of the day have continuously worked on conventions to reflect the needs of the times. There are numerous examples of this like when one delves into the story of how the British Authorities settled for Emir Jaafaru Ishiyaku as the Emir in 1937 despite not even being on the shorlist because of his Administrative and leadership track record, typewritting knowledge etc. Thus customary law and practice has established that when faced with the power of selection, the Kingmakers and Government of the day had always resorted to issues of capacity, capability and leadership qualities above all else.
In further examining customary law vis a vis the rules of convention it should then be that some fluidity would be expected especially to reflect the sign of the times and alter the preconditions for consideration of Prince’s to the exalted office of Emir.
It would seem that sticking to old habits in modern times is akin to living in the past while trying to survive in the present. An amalgamation of current trends especially around setting criteria for selection should reflect the need for modernity. Little wonder there was wide scale criticism of the purported selection criteria by the kingmakers putting issues like the leading of a local area over public service or inclusion of national honours or the limiting of knowledge to particular qualifications. That led to rife speculations on favouritism of particular candidates over others in an important contest that should really seek to pick out the best and most experienced of the Prince’s that could assist the state and government in moving the Emirate forward in the 21st century.
On closer scrutiny therefore the supposedly leaked scoring sheet of the Kingmakers making the rounds If true raises more questions than answers, like on some of the criteria mentioned above when it makes it so obvious that only one candidate meets some of those particular items. Why wasnt the grading based on each candidate’s strength or weakness in the area of governance and integrity.
The choosing of 2 Prince’s from the Katsinawa dynasty that just concluded more than 6 decades on the throne also negates the justice issue of the customary law and established convention of the Emirate thereby leaving other dynasties to face extinction. This has been one of the glaring points to accuse the kingmakers of complicity and bias. Looking at the list further it does appear that some of the prince’s from the other ruling houses are better qualified but yet they were even totally ignored in the recommendations.
In summary a simple interpretation of the law is that the kingmakers should recommend In line with customary law and practice but based on capacity using an acceptable criteria to reflect the current needs of the emirate and the state government at any given time while the governor can chose from any of the qualified candidates (or indeed an eligible candidate from outside as history has shown – if need be) an Emir that will assist the state in reforming the institution to meet the current needs of the people and the state. One would have thought the Kingmakers to have consulted the political leaders in the first place so they can have a unified position going forward but alas it may seem that the accusations of pecuniary and primordial interest had led to heavy handedness in the matter where the king makers had decided on their own without wider consultations expected of convention to reach the decision that they did. Little wonder the state government requested them to redo the list with a new criteria.
It is now the understanding from various reports that there was a refusal by the kingmakers to change the position setting the stage for a potential dispute with the state government over the affair. Thankfully we will not be without an Emir in whatever circumstance as the law on Appointment and Deposition of Chiefs does provide a redress mechanism even in the event of a dispute.
In all this there is a need for transparency, honesty and probity in the actions of firstly the kingmakers who are charged with the sacred role of sincerely advicing the Governor to do what is right and in turn the Governor to chose from the list of all qualified candidates (or other eligible ones) and to do what is best for the Emirate of Zazzau, Northern Nigeria and by extension Nigeria. The issue of justice must always be served so as not to disenfranchise other ruling houses in the Emirate and render them extinct thereby making the Zazzau Emirate that of a mono dynasty which certainly looks the case now.
In view of the foregoing it is therefore the expectation that superior judgement centered around justice, truth, and intrest of the people shall be the guiding principles adopted by the Government, as has been done in the past, by the Sultanate, British colonial authorities and State Governments in choosing a befitting person as the 19th Emir of Zazzau.
It is therefore imperative for the general public to look deeper into the issues before sentimentally taking sides or going against both the Kingmakers and the State Governor in judging on the entire process and the conclusion.
May Allah provide them with the wisdom and courage to do what is right. Amen