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‘I grew up with the mindset of a royalist’

There was an election. By tradition, the emir is determined through selection by kingmakers. They are five in number. They will assemble themselves and then…

There was an election. By tradition, the emir is determined through selection by kingmakers. They are five in number. They will assemble themselves and then decide who will be the next emir by voting. Here in Lafia, we have two prominent ruling houses: Dala ruling house and Ari ruling house. The last emir was from Dala Dunama ruling house while I am from Ari Dunama ruling house. So, after me, the next emir will come from the other ruling house. It is rotational. It is not thrown open for anybody to compete.  

WT: The emir is a traditional ruler and equally a spiritual one. What roles do you play in the lives of your subjects?

It is difficult for me to enumerate what I have done in the lives of the people of Lafia, but I will say specifically that I have played many successful roles. I am the Vice Present General of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, Vice President, Jama’atul Nasril Islam and chairman, Jama’atul Nasril Islam, Nasarawa State chapter. Like I said earlier, I don’t feel willing to blow my own trumpet.

WT: At what age did you become emir of Lafia and can you recollect the occasion of your coronation?

I was selected when I was 39. The occasion was very elaborate. There where thousands of dignitaries from across the country who attended the occasion. General T.Y. Danjuma, who was my schoolmate at Katsina-Ala and many others graced the occasion. That was in 1974.

WT: You went to school in Kastina-Ala. How was it like in those days?

It was fun. We had good times. We had role models we wanted to grow up to be like. I think children growing up now have missed a swell time. My playmates in the school also include former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav. They were many. We had a good time, facing our studies to become who we are today. Honestly, let me tell you, it was very lively and we enjoyed our lives very much.

WT: Can you tell us a little about the man who gave birth to the Emir of Lafia?

My father was one of the children of the late Emir of Lafia who reigned between 1881 and 1903. He is called Mustapha. He was the son of Emir of Lafia Mohammadu Agwai who reigned between 1881 and 1903. He happens to be one of the sons of that great emir.  

WT: Is there anything you learnt from him?

I was young and the only thing I will tell you that I learnt from him is that he happened to be a royalist and I am also a royal member of that family. A royal member does not have to be taught how to live a quality and virtuous life. I possessed the qualities right from childhood, got the mindset from way back.

What you inherited 36 years ago as a Lafia community has grown into not only a heterogeneous town, but the capital city of Nasarawa state with many people from different parts of the world as residents. It is a kind of melting pot in this part of the country.

WT: What roles do you play now to ensure that there is peaceful co-existence among these people of various backgrounds?

I am a father to all who are here in Lafia. I do not select my children. My role remains that of a father, to all whom I must be fair.

WT:  Are there some highpoints and maybe low points too in your 36 years on the throne as the Emir of Lafia?

I can say that I have been able to foster unity and sanity among all the ethnic groups in the former Lafia division, I am talking of the people of Lafia, Doma, Awe and Keana. They were not seeing each other eye-to-eye. They were bitter enemies, but I have succeeded in bringing them back under one umbrella. We are now living peacefully.

WT: Can you give us a brief biography of yourself?

I was born in 1935, and having completed my primary education, I got admission into Kastina-Ala Middle School. That was in 1951. I passed out of that school in 1957. When I came back to Lafia, the then Native Authority offered me an appointment as an accountant in the Native Authority Treasury. I served in that capacity for 7 years, from 1958 to 1963. In 1963, I got an appointment as a District Head of the then Obi district, the largest district in the defunct Lafia Native Authority, which presently consists of Obi Local Government, Jankwe Development Area and part of Gizza Development Area. When I was on that position in 1963 to 1974, I was made the Emir of Lafia and I have been on this throne for 36 years now. As emir, I was appointed the first Chancellor of Abubakar Tafawa Belewa University in 1989. I served in that capacity for 12 years, up to 2001. Later on, I got another appointment of the Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, a position I am still holding. Beside these two important positions, I am a holder of numerous titles.

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