Maiduguri — The Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Mustapha Umar Ibn El-kanemi is dead. He died in a Cairo hospital, Gala'a Military Hospital, where he was rushed to when his health deteriorated early last week.
The 19th Shehu of Borno, who died at the age of 85, according to sources, was flown abroad last Wednesday when it became clear he needed urgent intensive medical attention.
Borno State Government confirmed the death of the Shehu in a statement by the Director of Press in the Governor's Office, Alhaji Usman Chiroma. The statement said, "With a heavy heart filled with deep sorrow and anguish we regret to announce the death of the 19th Shehu of Borno, H.R.H, Alhaji Mustapha Umar Ibn El-Kanemi, CFR, aged 85 years, at about 7.00 am today, Saturday, 21st of February, 2009, at Gala'a Military Hospital, Cairo, in Egypt, after a brief illness."
In the statement, the governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, described the late monarch as "an outstanding elder statesman" with a remarkable passion for peace, "a father to all", and "a rare jewel of his people whose loss no words can describe."
The governor said, "Though the pain of such death is seemingly inconsolable, the family and the people of Borno, and Nigerians as well as Muslims should take solace in the fact that though we love him, Almighty Allah (S.W.T) loves him more as He has taken what He gave, after a fruitful life of service to mankind."
Sheriff prayed Almighty Allah to grant the late Shehu full forgiveness and eternal rest.
Secretary to Borno State Government, Ambas-sador Baba Ahmed Jidda, announced that the monarch would be committed to mother earth today at 4.00pm according to Muslim rites.
A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised by the Borno Emirate Council to speak on the matter, revealed that the monarch was sent to the Egyptian hospital amid tears from relatives and palace staff as his condition had become worrisome.
Though, news of his death started filtering into the ancient city of Maiduguri on Friday, there was no official confirmation from the palace or the state government until yesterday.
Atmosphere of grief enveloped Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, and other major towns in the state yesterday following news of the passing away of the traditional ruler, described by residents as a peace lover.
When THISDAY visited the Shehu's palace in Maiduguri, there was gloom and silence and a convergence of large numbers of dignitaries, especially from his native Kanuri.
Apart from the large number of people that kept trooping to the palace, there was the deployment of a large detachment of policemen, both regular and riot police, to the palace.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, in his condolence message to the governor and people of Borno State, said the deceased monarch was a devout Muslim who used his position to preach peaceful coexistence to adherents of the various religions, not only in his domain, but also in the country, generally.
Bankole, in the message signed by his media adviser, Kayode Akinmade, noted the invaluable role the late Shehu played in bringing together warring religious adherents in his domain at different times.
Regarded as the cultural and spiritual leader of the people of Borno State, El-Kanemi, popularly called Abba Mustapha, was until his death the Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt.
He was born in 1924 in Dikwa Emirate, the second emirate of the El-Kanemi dynasty, as the fourth son of the 17th Shehu, Sir Umar ibn Mohammed El-Kanemi, whose long reign of more than 50 years, spanned two generations.
He was appointed the 19th Shehu of Borno in September 1974 after the death of the 18th Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Garbai.
He attended Dikwa Elementary School and Borno Middle School between 1936- 1940.
Abba Mustapha later attended an administrative training course at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1953/54, and a Local Government Course for District Heads at Potiskum in 1969.
He commenced his career as an administrator in 1945, when he became a scribe (Executive Secretary) in the office of the Wali of Borno. He was subsequently transferred to various departments of the then Native Authority, including the police, the Central Administration, and the Veterinary Department, as Yalema, or Representative of the Shehu. During these formative years, he obtained first-hand knowledge and experience in the administration of various sectors and in different parts of Borno.
As a result of this experience, Abba Mustapha was elected member of the Northern Nigerian House of Assembly in 1956, on the platform of Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), to represent Damaturu/Bursari constituency. He was re-elected in 1959.
He was appointed the first Parliamentary Secretary (or Junior Minister) in the Ministry of Lands and Surveys, Northern Region, Kaduna, in 1961 in the First Republic.
After a valuable experience in government, Abba Mustapha returned to Maiduguri in 1966, having been reappointed to the Central Office. In 1968, he was promoted District Head of Mafa and subsequently to Nganzai District in Borno Division, in 1970. This was the post he held when in 1974 he was selected to follow the Shehu of Borno by the Majilasku Kaduwube, or Traditional Kingmakers, headed by the Waziri of Borno.
Abba Mustapha was appointed the 19th Shehu of Borno in September 1974. He was formally turbanned and received his Staff of Office from the hands of the State Governor on February 1, 1975.