27 January 2013

Nigeria: Long Live the Emir. Again!

For us in Kano, there is no break from the intonation of what Allah Himself directed us to recite during calamities (Arabic: musiba, Hausa: masifa): 'Inna lilLahi wa inna ilaiHi raji'un'! (From Allah we come, and to Him shall we return!)'.

Just three weeks ago on this page, in the piece titled LONG LIVE THE KING! (with which the Column opened the New Year 2013), we had ended that article with "Long Live the Emir!", referring to this Column's Friend No. 1, Emir of Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero. Alhmadu LilLah our prayer, together with that of many others, seems to have been answered and accepted, as just last week the Emir was saved by Allah from an assassination attempt.

May the souls of all those who lost their lives in this attack rest in perfect peace. Our hearts go to especially those young men who laid down their lives to protect their Emir. Those trusted young men who made the supreme sacrifice and paid the ultimate price with their lives for the sake of the Emir deserve all our admiration and prayers. (I knew all of them quite closely, as they had accompanied the Emir on each of his outings for A Daidaita Sahu, which I headed, when the Emir personally toured each of the state's forty four local governments over the six months from October 2005 to April 2006. Allah Ya jikansu.

In the same piece three weeks ago, we had almost at the end ominously mentioned the story of the King who was captured by cannibals who, in the end, could not kill him for a certain reason. And that King had a friend who should have been with him on that trip, as he was always with him. How almost! When one considers the kind of sacrifice these young men did for Emir Alhaji Ado Bayero last Saturday, one would not be mistaken to say that these indeed were the type of 'friends' and company anyone would need. A friend in need, they say, is a friend indeed.

Many questions are being asked about how such a brazen incident could have taken place, during midday, in one of Kano's busiest roads. And of course, questions would continue to be asked. And answers may come, and may not. But one important question many people do ask: what is it that could have made those young men so loyal, so attached to the Emir that they could lay down their lives for him. They must have known, and alas they are not with us to tell us. But others may have some answers, and we shall hope to be so educated.

But one thing is clear. Many of those close to the Emir mention his good natured-ness. His kindness. His humanity. There are so many positive apocryphal stories that abound about Emir Ado Bayero, since before he became Emir almost fifty years ago, and after. And I have heard many of them myself.

For example, it is said that in the decade before he became Emir, when Ado Beyero was Kano Chief of Police during those violent Kano politics between the Northern Peoples' Congress (NPC) and the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), some young men (who had apparently NEPU sympathies) were arrested and incarcerated in police cell prior to being arraigned in court, most likely on trumped up charges as the police were seen to be mere NPC errand boys.

It was said that on a routine visit to the cells, Chief of Police Ado Bayero saw these young men and asked what their offence was. The policemen on duty could only think of one high crime, one which they knew would appeal to the Chief's sense of personal injury. "Sun zagi Sarki (They have abused the Emir)".

"Well," the Chief of Police was reported to have retorted, the Emir happens to be my own father, and so I am the injured party, I am the one that has been wronged. But na yafe musu. (I have forgiven them)."

No wonder then that, in those heady days of NPC vs. NEPU confrontations, Ado Bayero was suspected to have had NEPU sympathies. For that, many concluded that he could not be Emir as NPC should be the party for princes. But he became Emir, and the rest is history.

Yet another story, from the decade after he became Emir, says that the Emir used to frequent a certain route on his official outings. It was said that along that route there was a certain bicycle mechanic who used to always greet the Emir as he passed, what is said in Hausa as jinjina, and the Emir would greet back. When on a few occasions the Emir was said to have noticed that the mechanic seemed not to be where he usually was, he was said to have sent to find out why. It was reported that the house owner had sacked the mechanic from in front of his house, for a reason known to them.

If the story is true, it was said that the Emir asked someone to go around the area and search for a house for sale in the vicinity, and had out-rightly bought it for the mechanic. (Some say it was the same house from which front the mechanic was sacked - that the house owner, on learning that someone wanted to buy a house, offered his own house for sale.) And the friend of the Emir returned to the Emir's route.

And yet another story. For several decades, the Emir would every Friday morning give charity to dozens of children who would throng the palace to greet him. His sons would line up with other children for the occasion. Usually, his children would be together with their friends, whom the Emir would also come to know quite closely.

On a couple of such occasions, the Emir was said to have noticed that one particular boy, a friend of one of his sons, was missing. On inquiry, the son told his father that they had had a fight with the friend, and he had told him not to come to 'their' house again. The Emir was said to have become angry. He was said to have sent for the other boy and, in front of all sons and their friends as well as the other children, announced that 'this house, this palace, belongs to all of Kano people. No one has a right to deny anyone entry to their own house. He admonished his son and told him to go and err no more.

Whether confirmed or apocryphal these stories, they go to show that there is something in Emir Ado Bayero's nature that can make such young men lay their lives for him. And may Allah rest their souls.

Meanwhile, Kano has continued to be under siege. From all measurements and estimates and forecasts and predictions, we have reached the zenith of desperation in our situation. No, it can't continue like this. Something will have to give, in sha Allah.

And Long Live the Emir, again!

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