Daily Trust (Abuja)

27 January 2013

Nigeria: Unsung Heroes of Kano Emirate

Our reporters have dug into the making of palace guards of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero. They are resilient, loyal, trustworthy and lovely. Here's why.

Last week's tragedy where gunmen attacked the convoy of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, may never be forgotten easily by the people of Kano State, as it has brought the revered traditional ruler closed to a very potent danger whose magnitude sent a jolt of numbing cold into the spines of many.

It is not only the nature of the attack that may be permanently etched in the minds of the people of Kano, but also the bravery that was displayed by the emir's guards in the face of death, to protect him from being hurt.

Two of the guards laid down their lives, shielding the monarch from a barrage of bullets that rained on the 83-year-old monarch's car. Their heroic act of taking the bullets for the king has become a subject of eulogies among residents of the city.

Bayero came under attack last week Saturday as his motorcade was pulling out of Hausawa quarters after attending a Qur'anic graduation ceremony and commissioning of an Islamiyya school at Masallacin Murtala.

Traditionally, the Emir of Kano, being a religious leader is invited to grace religious activities at different parts of the state. The one he attended at Masallacin Murtala, was one of few such public functions he was physically present, after returning from medical treatment last year.

But as the convoy was driving through a street in the area, attackers who had positioned themselves for the assault opened fire at it, damaging the screens of the emir's car and other vehicles on the convoy. Six persons, including the emir's driver, two guards and a local government interim chairman were killed by the attackers. Bayero's two sons, Ciroman Kano Alhaji Sanusi Ado Bayero and Turakin Kano Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero and 12 other persons, including the emir's Babban Zagi were also injured in the attack.

Sunday Trust gathered that prior to the incident, the gunmen had massed up in streets and alleys in the area, disguising as spectators. Some accounts put their number at above 20, while another said they were over 30.

Mostly young men, the attackers were taken to the area on motorcycles and vehicles, witnesses said. A vehicle containing arms, it was gathered, was parked nearby so that as soon as they were ready to attacks, the teenagers started pulling out AK-47 from it. Some of them, however, concealed their weapons inside sacks.

Residents said the attack was preceded by an explosion, which caused significant damages to vehicles' windshields in the vicinity.

It was part of a defence strategy by his guards, popularly called Dogarai, to see the royal father off into his car after an event, and to shield him from all sides until it was on speed - Then they board their own bus.

Sunday Trust learnt that it was when the emir's car was still driving at slow pace, with some of the Dogarai by it's sides that the gunmen appeared from their lurks, on either side of the alley.

Realizing that the monarch was the apparent target of the heavily armed party that was now charging towards his car, two of the guards, Ado Bala and Ahmadu Dogari, fearlessly placed themselves on the vehicles rear doors and turned their backs.

As bullets started racing for the monarch's car from all directions, his driver Kabiru Shu'aibu got hit in the head and slumped on the emir's Shamaki, who was seated next to him at the front.

Undeterred, the two traditional guards held their positions until each of them was mowed down by avalanche of steaming bullets. Now all that was left about the emir's car, were corpses and blood - enough to give the attackers an impression of success.

Inside the vehicle was the emir, slumped in his seat and his dead driver and his Shamaki.

How Ahmadu was riddled with bullets - sister

Hajiya Aisha Abubakar is a sister to Ahmadu Dogari, who, until his death, was a guard and driver of the emir's horse-driven carriage. She narrates how the incident happened.

"Being that I reside in Sheka Quarters, which is close to the scene of the attack, I heard gunshots and when I enquired, I was told that it was the emir that was attacked," she said, adding "knowing that my younger brother was on the emir's entourage, I became worried and called his number persistently to find out what happened. I alerted my husband, who also kept calling his line but to no avail.

"When we later learnt that Ahmadu was among the victims, I went to our family house at Kurmawa, where I met a large crowd. On my way, I asked children who canfirmed to me that Ahmadu had been killed. I met his remains inside the house, with five gunshot wounds on his chest, head, belly, legs and hands.

"People that witnessed the incident said he died defending the emir. He was inside the vehicle conveying Dogarawa (traditional guards) when the shooting started and that he jumped out of it and headed to the emir's car, where he spread himself on the emir's vehicle, blocking all the bullets that were fired at the emir."

Hajiya Aisha added that her brother had left behind a wife and four children, describing him as nice to his parents.

Ado Bala's last moment, by brother

Shuaibu Bala, a younger brother of one of the emir's guards, recalled how his elder brother died.

"He was sitting at home, unaware that he was going for the event when someone came to notify him. He then quickly wore his dress which was hanging on a wall in his room and came out. I noticed he was behaving strangely as if he knew he would not return. He placed his hands on the heads of his three children, and bid them goodbye," Shuaib recalled.

At the time of the attack, the deceased, according to his brother, was seated in the vehicle which was next to that of the emir.

"Suddenly the gunmen appeared from nowhere and began to fire shots at the emir's vehicle. When my brother sensed that the monarch's life was in danger, he came out of the car and rushed towards the Emir's car. As Bala positioned himself at one of the vehicle's windows, the gunmen shot him in the upper arm, but he still resisted and continued to stay by one of the vehicle's rear windows together with the monarch's orderly to shield the bullets from reaching the Emir.

"But the gunmen continued to fire at the Emir's car, killing his driver instantly. They then turned to my brother and fired four shots that hit him in the head, chest and the left side of his stomach. The Emir's personal guard was equally fatally shot at that moment. Both of them died on the spot", Bala narrated.

He continued: "When the assailants noticed that everyone in the car was not moving, they turned to leave, saying they were certain that they had killed the Emir who ducked in the car with his clothes all stained by the blood of his aides."

Shuaib said the deceased's wife was so distraught by the attack that she had to be hospitalized.

"All the deceased's three children were less than ten years old," he said.

Loyalty, love and trust

From the reign of the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Rumfa, who it was reported, first introduced the Dogari system, people charged with the task of protecting and defending the emir are recruited from amongst his exceptionally loyal slaves, whose love for the emir is unparalleled and in whom the monarch has trust.

Other than loyalty and love, before a person can be appointed as a Dogari, he must be strong. Moreso, experts say in most cases the job of Dogari is passed from slaves parents to offsprings.

However, other individuals are chosen to do the job based on acts of uncommon bravery and heroism they had exhibited, even if they are not among the emir's slaves.

Most of the emir's guards are quartered with their families in the emir's palace, while others live inside the city.

Historically, the Dogaris receive no training on their duties, but because most of them have been brought up in the palace, they internalize its requirements right from childhood. They are, however, believed to use charms that give them mystical powers for the protection of the emir.

One of the famous Sarkin Dogarais of Kano State, the late Hassan Sarkin Dogarai, was known never to put on footwear and he would boast about it, saying: "You wear shoes to protect your feet from bottles and other objects. I don't need shoes because none of those things can penetrate me."

His other reason for not wearing shoes, he said, was because his king also wore them. "It is unimaginable for me to wear shoes when the emir also wears shoes," he told a biographer.

Some years back, Sunday Trust gathered, some Dogaris were so powerful that after arresting a thief, they would instruct their horse to accompany him to the palace.

Researchers of the Kano Emirate Council agreed that the Dogaris, despite being slaves and servants of the emirs, exert certain influences on the monarch especially as it affects enforcement of traditions.

They do this through subtle opposition to acts by the emir, which they regard as being contrary to the norms and culture of the traditional institution. When, for instance, an emir becomes emotionally touched over an issue to a point of shedding tears in public, they will quickly admonish him saying this was not the way of your fathers.

For their discipline, Dogaris can be assigned the task of punishing erring princes and other members of the palace.

For them, the emir is the society's symbol of courage and should therefore not to be seen indulged in activities that capable of lowering his esteem and his office in the eyes of his servants.

Dogaris can lay down their lives than allow a stranger come near the emir especially in public, because of the belief that his enemies may harm him if allowed to come close.

Similarly, in order not to take any chances, whenever the monarch is to attend an event, an advanced party of the guards is dispatched to secure the venue on the eve of the event. They will sleep there to ensure nobody come to harm him.

Hassan Sarkin Dogarai

The late Hassan Adamu was the 3rd Sarkin Dogarai in the history of Kano emirate. He was appointed in the year 1990 by the present Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, after the demise of second Sarkin Dogarai, Muhammadu Dan Wudil.

Hassan was the first son of the first Sarkin Dogarai of Kano, Malam Adamu. He was born in the year 1925 in Yakasai quarters of Kano. He attended Islamic school for his Islamic education in the same area. Hassan ventured into farming before dumping it for driving. He was a driver for a Lebanese for 40 years, before taking the job of Dogari.

He was appointed as Sarkin Dogarai in 1990 by the present Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, after the demise of the second Sarkin Dogarai, Muhammadu Dan Wudil.

He was nicknamed 'Bishiya' (tree) because of his height and body build. He became prominent for his fearlessness, courage, charisma, strength and his uncompromised loyalty to the emir. He served as Sarkin Dogarai for 17 years.

Late Hassan married 3 wives, Malama Halima (separated), Malama Hauwa and Malama Rakiya. He has 14 children and many grand children. He died in April 2007.

Historians said he was famous for performing heroic acts like singlehandedly wrenching a horse from inside a well and using his bare hands to suppress and rein in on stubborn horses.

In an interview published in his 2007 biography in Hausa, entitled Hassan Sarkin Dogarai by Abdullah El-Amin, he was quoted as saying: "If the Emir is present, I don't get hungry. What food! Let me tell you who is interviewing me that you will not understand me anymore should the emir appear...I would prefer to be stung by a scorpion than for the emir to be bitten by an ant."

Aminu Hassan (Sarkin Yakin Dogarai)

Malam Aminu Hassan is the fifth child to the late Hassan Sarkin Dogarai. He has since inherited the job of Dogari.

He attended his primary and secondary education in Kano, before he proceeded to Aminu Kano College of Islamic and Legal Studies where he bagged a Diploma in English and Islamic Education.

Aminu, a staff of Kano State Ministry of Education is married to a wife and has three children. He is holding the title of Sarkin Yakin Dogarai.

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