Nigeria: Tension, Speculations As El-Rufai Stalls On New Zazzau Emir

Gate to the palace of the Emir of Zazzau.
30 September 2020

The delay is unusual for succession to the throne.

There is tension in Zaria, the seat of the ancient Zazzau emirate, as residents anxiously await government announcement of a new Emir of Zazzau.

The tension is escalated by the long, unusual delay in naming a new emir.

Scholars and palace insiders interviewed said a new emir is typically appointed within three days of vacancy of the stool.

The throne became vacant on September 20 with the death of the 17th Fulani emir of Zazzau, Shehu Idris.

Mr Idris, 84, who was from the Katsinawa ruling house, reigned for 45 years.

PREMIUM TIMES reported that four princes from three of the four ruling houses are in the forefront in the race for the coveted throne.

Those said to be in the frontline are Iyan Zazzau, Bashir Aminu; Magajin Garin Zazzau, Ahmed Bamalli; Yeriman Zazzau, Munir Ja'afaru and the Turakin Zazzau, Aminu Idris.

However, as reported by PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, the Zazzau emirate kingmakers had recommended three of the contenders based on a grading and voting system agreed and executed by the five kingmakers.

Mr Aminu was graded highest by the kingmakers with 89 per cent grade and 3 votes while Mr Ja'afaru came second with 87 per cent and one vote.

The son of the late Emir Idris, Aminu Idris, was graded 53 perfect with one vote, putting him in the third position. Mr Bamalli was eliminated from the contest.

But the state government later decided to jettison the report of the kingmakers on allegation that the selection processes were tainted by bribery.

The government's decision brought back to the race Ahmed Bamalli, a man believed to be Governor El-Rufai's favorite of the contenders.

Mr Bamali was not recommended by the kingmakers because he was not among the three top scorers.

Tension, rumours in Zaria

The long wait has heightened tension with expectant residents circulating rumours around the decision.

The announcement of a new emir was expected on Monday. Rumours went round on Sunday with supporters of two leading contenders announcing their favourite as the successful pick.

Pictures of Mr Bamalli in turban and a royal walking stick were widely shared on with his supporters proclaiming him as the Emir Idris' successor.

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Also a message was circulated on WhatsApp announcing a purported government's decision to appoint Mr Bamalli.

Around the same time, a video emerged with fans congratulating Mr Ja'afaru on his purported appointment to the throne.

Another video purportedly captured a convoy entering the residence of Mr Ja'afaru with a voice describing the convoy as that of Governor El-Rufai.

The speculations led to a video message by a close associate of Mr Ja'afaru, denying the rumours and calling for calm.

How the new emir will emerge -- Official

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that the state government has decided to give consideration to all eligible persons.

Already, the government has forwarded the names of all the princes who indicated interest, 11 in total, to security agencies in the state for screening.

"The Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters is also writing confidential report on all the 11 persons. This would be attached to the security report and submitted to the governor for his decision," an insider familiar with the process told this newspaper late Saturday.

Mr El-Rufai, writing on his social media platforms, confirmed this process, saying the government was awaiting security report and confidential briefing from the Ministry of Local Governments.

"The recommendations of the Ministry & security reports on the aspirants will then be sent to me for final decision," Mr El-Rufai wrote on Thursday.

Fears over outcome

Security has since been beefed up in major junctions in Zaria and environs to curtail possible riots resulting from the announcement.

PREMIUM TIMES recalls that riots broke out in Kano when Lamido Sanusi was announced to replace late Emir Ado Bayero.

In two different tweets, a Zaria native and public commentator, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed , raised concerns about the danger of delaying in announcing a new emir.

"It will now be irresponsible not to advise KDS Gov that further delay in announcing decision on Zazzau Emir and silence over reasons for the delay are capable of discrediting the entire process and could threaten the peace. It is being interpreted as undue political interference," he wrote on Sunday.

In an earlier tweet, Mr Baba-Ahmed said delay in picking the new emir would lend credence to the rumour that "the government is looking for its own emir, not emir of Zazzau."

Asides the tension, some candidates are said to to be weighing options ahead of the appointment.

One of the contenders is said to be preparing to go to court in case the government announces anybody other than him.

The spokesperson for the Kaduna Government, Muyiwa Adekeye, did not respond to request for comments on this story.

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