At the peak of the tussle that ensued after the demise of His Highness, Alhaji Shehu Idris, the late Emir of Zazzau, I found myself in an unusual difficult situation.
I have good relationship with almost all the major contenders of the throne. Therefore, all eyes of those who know this hidden secret were on me to see who will be my preferred candidate. They expected to see that in the way I wrote my reports for the Daily Trust newspaper on the intrigues that shrouded the selection process.
These Sa’idawa (faultfinders) were however disappointed that I did not sacrifice professionalism for personal relationship.
I was elated, particularly, by the comments of my editors, friends and relatives. They had cause to shower encomiums on what they called my “balanced and professional” coverage of the tussle.
One of the editors, specifically said: “nobody can know who your preferred candidate is through your reports, and I know you have one.”
One of the top contenders then is my in-law, being my Bamalliyya Uwargida (first wife) his “younger sister”, while two of them are my “fathers”, in the Hausa sense of it. Iyan Zazzau, Alhaji Bashar Aminu, is one of these two.
We attended the same primary and secondary schools with two of his sons at Sabon Gari LEA Primary School, which was later renamed after the late Iya many years ago, and Government Commercial College, Zaria, respectively. Sabon Gari LEA Primary School is now known as Bashar Aminu LEA Primary school. The late Iya also had his primary education at the school.
Apart from that, I was born and bred in Chikaji, Sabon Gari, Zaria and people of my age grew up to see the late Iyan Zazzau as our Hakimi (District Head).
Again, my father, late Malam Sa’idu Alhassan, was once a member of the Hakimi’s larger council. My father, before his demise, was the Limamin Chikaji, literally translated Chief Cleric of Chikaji.
At that time, part of the responsibilities of my father was to keep record of all new births and deaths in the Chikaji area, which used to be transmitted to the Iya’s office through the Mai Anguwa (ward head).
It is obvious from the foregoing that to be emotionally neutral to the cause of the Iyan Zazzau by someone like me would be a daunting task. I had to struggle and brave all odds to turn out unbiased reports on the selection process of the new emir of Zazzau, which late Iya was an interested party.
When the news of the death of Iyan Zazzau sauntered into the Sabon Gari area, many residents, including myself, dismissed it as one of such social media misinformation.
I did not bother to investigate further, because I know I should be one of the few people to know exclusively. I however turned out a disappointed person, as the death had traumatised all my exclusive sources, hence could not inform me until the morning of Friday, January 1, 2021, when my younger brother called to confirm to me that indeed Iyan Zazzau was no more.
Therefore, the demise of this gorgeous and brave person shocked many of us to no measure. Iya’s humility made him dear to many residents of Sabon Gari, and Zaria as a whole.
I do not need much energy to buttress this fact taking into cognisance his decision to allow his sons attend the same primary and secondary schools with the children of the have-nots like us.
The death of Iyan Zazzau really turned the whole Sabon Gari area into a mourning zone on the first day of a new year. This manifested during the day’s Friday prayer. The thousands of people that made up the day’s congregations at different Juma’at mosques in the area were in palpable mourning mood throughout the duration the prayers lasted.
The request by the Mu’azzin (person calling prayer) for the congregation at the Kwata Juma’at mosque to seek for Allah’s forgiveness for the late prince immediately after the prayers made the atmosphere more solemn, especially at the time information that the late Iya was assassinated was not only ripe, but spreading like wildfire.
It is not out of nothing that the residents of Sabon Gari loved Iya. He was such a person whose royalty background did not stop him from personally attending ceremonies organised by his people.
When one of his masons died, the “powerful prince” personally attended the funeral prayer and I witnessed that. This was how humble the late Iya was.
Sabon Gari is seen by many as a kind of mini Nigeria, because of its heterogeneous and cosmopolitan nature. Iya, however, successfully managed this complex district for decades.
During Sallah Durbars, Iya’s entourage used to be unique. It used to be the only procession that would comprise the likes of Sarkin Yarbawa (king of the Yorubas), Sarkin Inyamire (king of the Igbos), Sarkin Ivra (king of the Ivras), among many other leaders of tribes from different parts of Nigeria who made Sabon Gari their homes for many decades.
As the saying of an Hausa adage goes – Mutuwa mai tonan asiri (death is the revealer of all hidden secrets), the death of Iyan Zazzau has, indeed, brought out many hidden secrets.
His death brought together many residents that he sponsored their education from primary to university. The death also brought together the persons he used his influence to secure employment for them; some of them at “juicy” ministries, government agencies and corporate organisations.
The orphans and children from the less-privileged homes that are presently under his scholarship also came to the fore. This is aside many mosques and Islamiyya projects he has been sponsoring, just to mention but a few.
The kindhearted and humane nature of the late Iya did not, in any way, affect his bravery, grit and tenacity throughout his lifetime. His firmness on perception of issues, administrative skills and intelligence stood him out to emerge as the most “powerful prince” of the Zazzau emirate during his lifetime.
The thousands of people that attended his funeral prayer on Saturday, January 2, 2021, at the Kwata Juma’at mosque, Sabon Gari, Zaria has become an indication of a life well spent.
Iya’s status in the Zazzau emirate and his ability to effectively manage one of the most complex, cosmopolitan and heterogeneous cities in Nigeria earned him one of his songs of praises – Iya mai jama’a, mai Yarbawa, mai Inyamire, zaki dan Aminu (Iya, man of the people. Yorubas, Igbos et cetera are all yours, the lion son of late Emir Aminu).
May his soul continue to rest in perfect peace.
Sa’idu wrote this from the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria