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10 prominent traditional rulers whose deaths shook Nigeria in 2020

The exit of a respected and loved monarch normally leaves a vacuum among the traditional institution in his domain which needs to be filled with…

The exit of a respected and loved monarch normally leaves a vacuum among the traditional institution in his domain which needs to be filled with time and careful planning.

Since the beginning of the year, a number of prominent traditional rulers in the country have passed on.

Our correspondents here recall some and how the monarchs impacted on the lives of their subjects.

In May 2020, the Emir of Kaura Namoda, Alhaji Ahmad Muhammad Asha, otherwise known as Sarkin Kiyawan  Kaura Namoda in Zamfara State, died at the age of 71.

He had battled diabetes and hypertension for a long time.

Alhaji Ahmad Muhammad Asha had worked as the director of finance and treasurer in many local government areas of the state including Kaura Namoda, Gusau and Maru before he was appointed emir in 2004.

Alhaji Ahmad Muhammad Asha

He is survived by three wives and 11 children including Alhaji Sanusi Muhammad Asha who succeeded his father shortly afterwards.

The late emir was described as a good leader, very resourceful, jovial and generous.

Analysts said the state lost a man whose fatherly role and advice were taken dearly by many people.

In 2016, he played a vital role in the peace dialogue between armed bandits and local vigilantes known as Yan Sakai.

Series of peace meetings were held at his palace, and the warring factions agreed to sheathe their swords under his mediation.

He was able to help bring notorious armed men like Ardo Nashawari, Alhaji Bagiwaye and prominent leaders of the Yan Sakai to the negotiation table where peace pacts were reached.

His efforts at peace building during saw to the restoration of relative peace and tranquility especially in his domain.

Many local markets that were closed due to conflicts were reopened for business.

He tried hard to bring back law and order.

“His death had left behind a huge gap.

“He was a symbol of unity among his subjects.

“He used his vast experience in the civil service and brought about rapid development to his domain,” a member of the emirate council told our correspondent.

Alhaji Shehu Idris of Zazzau

Alhaji Shehu Idris

For the first time in 45 years, citizens of the Zazzau emirate witnessed the demise of an emir on Sunday, September 20, 2020.

The news of the demise filtered into the ancient city of Zaria minutes after noon on Sunday.

It started as a rumour until the Wazirin Zazzau, Alhaji Ibrahim Aminu, confirmed it to journalists that gathered at the palace.

The emir died at the age of 84 in the Army Reference Hospital, Kaduna.

Alhaji Idris was born to the family of Malam Idrisu Auta on February 20, 1936.

The late emir was one of the most revered traditional rulers in the North.

Therefore, his demise has created a wide vacuum that would take years to be filled, according to many princes, residents and other stakeholders.

During his reign, the late emir worked with 20 civilian and military governors, including the incumbent, Nasir El-Rufa’i, making him one of the most experienced among his peers.

The first impact of his death therefore is how to get someone that would be able to “effectively continue from where the late emir stopped in the area of ensuring unity of the palace, princes and the entire emirate,” a prince, who doesn’t want to be named, said.

He added: “If care is not taken, the next emir may not command the respect that he desires to effectively run the affairs of the palace, May Allah forbid.

“On the other hand, His Highness used to be a cool-headed person, therefore he has never had known quarrel with all the governors he worked with.

“Would the next emir be the same or are we likely to have a situation where emir of Zazzau is having sore relationship with the state authorities?

“This is also vital to the life of the state.

“The other area is his concern for the wellbeing of his subjects.

“Uncountable number got assistance in different areas; health, education, infrastructure, employment et cetera.

“All these would be missing.”

The other impact of the late emir’s death is at the national level.

On many occasions, the late emir helped to bring about peace in many parts of Nigeria that were engulfed in crises.

One of such occasions was the Jos, Plateau State crisis of the early 2000s.

This role was attested to by former President Olusegun Obasanjo during a condolence visit to the palace.

Obasanjo also confirmed that he used to contact the emir for advice during his days as military and civilian Head State.

Michael Ameh Oboni II of Igala

Michael Ameh Oboni II

The many rituals leading to the interment of the Attah Igala and chairman of the Kogi State Council of Traditional Rulers, His Majesty, Michael Ameh Oboni II, have been on since his demise in August.

The death of the royal father in a private hospital in Abuja after just seven years on the throne threw the Igala kingdom and the state at large into mourning.

At the Attah’s palace, the roof of ‘Odogo’, an ancient square-shaped one-storey building, has been turned upside down since information on his passing filtered in.

The upturning of the roof of Odogo is the symbolic public announcement of the demise of an Attah after which all funeral rites are to begin.

Also, the Ekwe masquerade, an embodiment of the Attah himself, has been on symbolic visitations since his demise as a significant part of the rituals.

According to tradition, the Attah and Ekwe enjoy equal dues as rulers and are at all times expected to care for each other.

Once an Attah passes on, the Ekwe would commence the symbolic visits to the palace in the hope of seeing his unlikely return.

“When Ekwe arrives the palace, there would be no Atta to attend to him, there would be no praise singer and no trumpeter.

“A disappointed Ekwe would return to his palace at Okete Enefola, only to return to the palace after a few days to see if Atta has returned.

“This visit would continue until the Ekwe decides to report the disappearance of the Atta to Inikpi, the goddess.

“This would certainly be on an Ega market day and the Ekwe would thrill traders,” Mr. Ayegba Abdullahi, an expert on Igala history, said.

As the funeral rites continue, the kingmakers are also strategizing on how to wade through the impending succession crisis the death of royal father throws up.

Daily Trust Saturday learnt that the succession had been based on a zoning formula which rotates the throne among ruling houses of Akumabi, Akogu and Ohiemi Obogo after the first generation of Ayegba Om’Idoko.

Years later, the flow was altered leading to a re-arranged order of ascendancy which increased the number of the ruling houses to four with the Akumabi producing two.

The order was disrupted again in 1956 following the death of Ameh Oboni, the father of Michael Oboni II, when the colonial administration insisted that only literate members of the ruling house could ascend the throne ostensibly in order to provide good governance to the people.

The statement to that effect, as quoted by P.E. Ocholi in his book, The History of the Fifty Years Reign of the Attah Igala, Alhaji Aliyu Ocheja Obaje (1956-2006), said, “Any person wishing to take the office of the Atta Igala must belong to the Atta Igala ruling family and must be literate so as to give his people good leadership in this modern era.”

According to the statement, the policy disqualified most people from the Attah Igala ruling family because at that point, most of them were not literate.

As a result, there was confusion and tension in Idah town among the Atta Igala ruling families.

The statement or policy opened the way to some literate, well-educated, powerful Igala politicians in Kaduna to contest for the office of Attah Igala.

All of them were not from Attah Igala’s ruling families, but they re-structured their family genealogical trees to link up with Atta Igala’s ruling family founder, His Royal Majesty, Atta Ayegba Om’Idoko.

But their plans failed and they withdrew from the race.

So, the late Dr Aliyu Obaje emerged as a result of the arrangement from the Aj’Akwu clan.

The distortion of the succession order according a palace source, exacerbated tension following the demise of Attah Obaje with many interested parties working to undo themselves in the race for the throne in 2013.

Contenders emerged from the ruling houses of Aj’Ocholi (where Am’Oboni who died in 1956 emerged from) and Aj’Akwu (of the immediate past Attah, Dr Obaje).

There were two main contenders from the Aj’Ocholi ruling house–the direct sons of Am’Oboni.

They include the immediate past Attah, Michael Idakwo Ameh and Prince Arome Ameh.

From the Aj’Akwu ruling house, there were Prince Alex Adejoh Obaje and Prince Abdulkadir (Kabbah) Aliyu Obaje and going by the rotation tradition in choosing the Attah Igala and the demand that only a direct son of an Attah can ascend the throne, only two clans qualified then.

So the immediate past Attah later emerged amid complaints of marginalisation by the other houses.

However, the intervention by the former Governor Idris Wada following the discontent that trailed the process has provided the leeway for the other houses to also participate as the kingmakers settle down to work.

Wada had set up a committee to look into the procedures for accession to the throne, in order to give room for other ruling houses to vie for the position.

“It is the responsibility of government to ensure healthy selection and appointment of the Attah Igala among the four ruling houses of the stool in the order of rotation,” he had pointed out.

The committee in its report, recommended for a working document that would serve as a modification for the existing chieftaincy declaration which would regulate the selection of a person to the stool of Attah Igala be provided by government.

This is to allay the fears of marginalization and gradual extinction of some ruling houses in the arrangement.

The white paper on the report which has since been gazetted would go a long way in assisting the kingmakers in their task of selecting a successor.

As the kingdom awaits the emergence of the new Attah, the Atebo, that is the head priest, is expected to take over the daily spiritual activities on behalf of the Attah throughout the period of the interregnum.

Emir Tafida Abubakar Ila II of Rano

Tafida Abubakar Ila II

In Kano State, the Emir of Rano, Dr Tafida Abubakar Ila II, one of the four emirs recently appointed by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, died on May 2, 2020 at the Nasarawa Specialist Hospital at the age of 74.

He is survived by two wives and 17 children and many grand children.

Late Tafida was turbaned on May 9 last year following his appointment as a first class emir alongside the present emir of Kano who was then in charge of Bichi, Aminu Ado Bayero, the Emir of Karaye Ibrahim Abubakar and Gaya- Abirahim abdulkadir.

He was buried at the cemetery inside the famous Rano palace, which is highly revered as one of the historical places in the emirate.

The secretary of Rano Emirate, Sani Haruna, said the emirate at present has two ruling families of Illawa and Yusufawa with 10 local government areas.

On why the emir of Rano is addressed as Autan Bawo, Haruna explained that being one of the seven Hausa states (Hausa Bakwai) following the Bayajidda legend that sent out his children to the then towns and states, his youngest son, Autan Bawo, was sent to the emirate then, which is why till date, the title is being adopted.

He said the emirate since its creation had brought development and infrastructure and a sense of belonging and pride to its people.

He described the late Tafida as a humble, generous and kind leader who every community would love to have, adding that he was a leader that carried his subjects along and sacrificed his comfort for their benefits.

Kyari Ibn Umar Elkanemi

Kyari Ibn Umar Elkanemi

In Borno, the late Shehu of Bama, Kyari Ibn Umar Elkanemi, died on April 27, 2020.

He was said to have been a stabilizing factor for traditional authorities in the area, particularly in 2010 when the Dikwa Emirate was split into two-Dikwa and Bama emirates.

The old Dikwa Emirate included Bama, Dikwa, Ngala and Kala Balge local government areas.

The late shehu had worked to ensure that district, ward and village heads were upholders of traditional values and that the respect accorded to them by people was unbroken.

His death according to a palace source may lead to the collapse of moral values if his “successor does not follow his footsteps.”

Meanwhile,  shortly after the appointment of a new emir,  Governor Babagana Umara Zulum  asked him to ‘exhibit a high sense of justice, equity and fairness’ to the people as well remain in Bama town whose people recently returned to their ancestral  homes after they were forced out by insurgents.

Mohammed Musa lives in Bama with his family and said even though the new emir had returned to the town and had been addressing societal needs and challenges, there was the need for the traditional institution to keep its values intact by working with public authorities to ensure the provision of social services particularly electricity supply and rebuilding the houses destroyed by insurgents who seized the town for seven months as well as supply of foodstuff at affordable prices.

Alhaji Umar Mustapha Aliyu

Alhaji Umar Mustapha Aliyu

Still in Borno, the late Emir of Biu, Alhaji Umar Mustapha Aliyu, died at the age of 80 years on September 15, 2020 after spending 31 years on the throne.

The former emir was said to have preserved the values of the institution by creating additional districts including Shafa, Gunda, Kwaya-Bura, Sabon Kasuwa and Buratai.

This had boosted the morale of the natives of the multi-religious emirate and enhanced peaceful coexistence.

There were also new traditional titles created for the additional districts, some of which were said to have been in other emirates, sources  said, adding that the successor to the late emir who is also his eldest son, Alhaji Mustapha Umar Mustapha, served as Maidala (Crown Prince) the district head of newly created Biu East.

To further preserve traditional values of the emirate and promote peace among his subjects, the new emir is expected to work closely with his council members, especially the contenders to the throne.

Sources said the late emir commanded respect because of his strong values and high integrity which improved his relations with public authorities.

His goodwill had attracted development projects to the emirate in the 31 years of his reign, especially in urban renewal.

To safeguard the values and integrity of the institution, the sources said, the new emir must know how to listen and take inputs into consideration.


Honest Stephen Irmiya

Honest Irmiya Stephen, the 28th ruler of the Bachama Kingdom comprising of communities in Numan and Lamurde local government areas in Adamawa State, died on June 27, 2020 at the age of 66, leaving behind some unforgettable legacies in the hearts of his people.

Since his selection to succeed Homun Asaph Zadok in 2012, the retired army officer enjoyed widespread acceptance among  commoners and the elite in his kingdom.

He was believed to have the exposure and outlook to bring lasting peace to the chiefdom that bled from ethno-religious conflicts.

He was crowned Hama Bachama following a heated contest between princess from the six royal houses of Impang, Waduku, Kowo, Magbularon, Nokodomun, and Nomupo.

He was from the Nomupo royal clan.

Stephen was presented the official staff of office on December 7, 2013 by the then  governor of Adamawa State,  retired Admiral Murtala Nyako.

The presence of the Sultan of Sokoto at his coronation spoke on his relationship with other chiefdoms and represented an important diplomatic landmark in the history of the Bachama and  Sokoto, being  the first time in history the kingdom hosted a ruler from the Sokoto caliphate.

He believed that cross-fertilization of ideas and social experiences were vital in creating understanding, social harmony and economic relationships.

The spokesman of the palace, Chief Timawus Mathias, described the late ruler as a peace maker and a progressive leader, saying he  would also be remembered for his physical transformation of the palace.

“He built the museum of Bachama artifacts and historical relics and recruited a curator to manage it.

“Honest Irmiya through eight years built and modernized the palaces in Numan and Lamurde.

“With deep affection, he united the hitherto quarrelsome royal clans and ruled in peace for the eight years.

“Upon ascension of the throne, Homun Stephen immediately engaged architects and civil engineers to redesign the palace complex, erecting new facilities including a conference hall, sports complex, office blocks and a museum.

“He was a most colourful monarch, endowed with brilliance, immense knowledge, and a scholar.

“With a first degree in Sociology, a Masters Degree in Criminology and was an accomplished combatant soldier, a veteran of the Angolan civil war and also before that, the Congo war.

“He commanded the Ikeja Cantonment in Lagos and was the architect of Operation Sweep in Lagos, which rid the capital of violent criminals,” he said.

Some residents of Numan said the late ruler had tried to build on the peacemaking efforts of his predecessor, Homun Asap Zadok  and achieved a lot in the beginning but the situation later went out of hand following the escalation of herder-farmer conflicts in the area but the security situation improved towards the end of his rule.

The residents said he played a role in restoring peace.


Oba Idowu Oniru

The 14th Oniru of Lagos, Oba Idowu Oniru, died on September 23, 2019 at the age of 82.

There are three ruling houses including Ogunyemi, Abisogun and Akiogun families identified and approved by Governor Michael Otedola on 14 September, 1993, in accordance with Section 9 (1) of the Lagos State Obas and Chiefs Laws of 1981.

Abdul-Wasiu Omogbolahan Lawal, a former Commissioner for Agriculture, has been named the new Oniru.

In his acceptance speech, Oba Lawal noted that his ascension to the throne was an icing on his public service career and came 85 years after any member of the Abisogun ruling house ascended the throne.


Oba Lamidi Oke

In Osun State, the Alayegun of Odeomu, an ancient town in Ayedaade Local Government Area, died on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 after a brief illness.

The National Secretary of the Odeomu Development Union, Mr. Femi Adetunji announced the death.

The traditional ruler who ascended the throne in 2012 died at the age of 95.


Oba Samuel Kolapo Adegbite-Adedoyin

Also in Ondo State, the Owa-Ale of Ikareland, Akoko North-east Local Government Area, Oba Samuel Kolapo Adegbite-Adedoyin, died at the age of 85 after 48 years on the throne.

Until his death, Oba Adegbite-Adedoyin was the president of the “130 Krown Obas” in the state.

The late monarch was one of the state’s prominent indigenes who led the struggle for the creation of the state in 1976.

During his reign, he facilitated the establishment of more than eight secondary schools in the town between 1978 and 1982.

After the monarch’s death, his eldest daughter, Princess Aderinsola Olabisi Adedoyin, was named the regent.

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