Kabawa community in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, is accorded a lot of significance given that it is the traditional home of mostly, the indigenous people of Lokoja. It is the traditional seat of power of the Lokoja people.
The Maigari of Lokoja and other prominent indigenes of Lokoja live within and around this ancient community. Colonial relics and ancient structures still dot this traditional community as one saunters through.
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But beyond its significance of being home to the indigenous people of Lokoja, Kabawa is a Mecca of sorts as it also serves as the permanent resting place of six prominent northern emirs who were deposed by the colonial authorities and banished to the area where they eventually died and were buried.
The six deposed emirs who are resting in Kabawa include the late Emir of Kano – Malam Aliyu Abdullahi (Maisango); the late Emir of Bida – Malam Abubakar; the late Emir of Zazzau – Malam Aliyu Dansidi; the late Emir of Gwandu – Malam Muhammadu Aliyu; the late Emir of Zazzau – Malam Muhammadu Lawal Kwasau and the late Emir of Gumel – Sarki Abubakar.
Late Emir of Gumel’s tomb in deplorable condition
Of the tombs of the six deposed Emirs in Lokoja, that of the Emir of Gumel, Sarki Abubakar, is the most neglected and terribly in a deplorable state.
A visit to the place shows that the tomb is unkempt because, as it was gathered, unlike the other tombs which have custodians and caretakers, that of the Emir of Gumel has nobody taking care of it.
Apart from people in the neighbourhood who, out of goodwill, try to maintain the tomb once in a while, the place is usually left in a decrepit condition.
It was also learnt that while government and emirate council officials, as well as relatives of the deposed emirs usually come from Zaria, Kano, Bida and Gwandu to Lokoja from time to time to pay respect to their late emirs, there were hardly any of such visits from the Gumel Emirate Council.
“The Jigawa State government and the Gumel Emirate Council need to do something urgently to give the tomb of their late emir a facelift.
“As you can observe, all the other tombs have bold inscriptions indicating the names of the deposed emirs and the year they died.
“It is only that of Gumel that doesn’t have such,” a resident of the area said.
Late Emir of Kano resting amidst overgrown shrubs, grasses
Malam Aliyu Abdullahi (Maisango), who died in 1924, was the grandfather of the present emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero.
The tomb of the late deposed emir is situated within the premises of the Lokoja Local Education Authority Primary School in Kabawa.
The grave is within an enclosed building with perimeter fencing and a gate constructed by the administration of former Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau to prevent intrusion.
Our correspondent reports that two blocks of classrooms were built within the tomb site by the Kano State government to be used as an Islamic school which have not been put to use.
However, a recent visit to the tomb of the emir revealed a state of neglect and abandonment as the environment is unkempt.
Sunday Magazine observed that overgrown grasses and shrubs have taken over the site of the emir’s resting place.
The custodian of the tomb, Ibrahim Mohammed Yanda, who is a security guard with the Lokoja Primary School, said he had been looking after the grave site for over 25 years.
According to him, some officials from the Kano State Government and the Kano Emirate Council who came on a visit to the tomb site many years ago asked him to be taking care of the place with the promise that they would be paying him some stipends for upkeep.
He said that he had been faithfully watching over the gravesite and clearing it for many years; he however lamented that despite all his efforts, he was yet to get any form of support from the Kano State government and the Kano Emirate Council as promised.
Yanda, who said he was fed up with empty promises, said he could no longer continue to be expending his energy and lean resources in taking care of the place without any form of support or encouragement from the authorities in Kano.
“I use my money to buy cutlass and other tools to clear the grave site. I also use my money to buy torchlight and batteries to monitor the place at night to ensure people don’t enter to defecate or carry out nefarious activities.
“I use my money to buy padlocks. As I speak to you, there’s no padlock presently on the entrance gate because the one I bought earlier is now bad,” he said.
He appealed to the Kano State government and the Kano Emirate Council to provide him the needed support that would enable him keep the emir’s grave tidy at all times.
“I am old now but I am still trying my best to maintain the place because of the trust placed on me. This is a prominent emir with rich historical background and they cannot afford to treat his grave site with disdain,” he said.
According to his biography published on Wikipedia, Sarkin Kano Alu Maisango was born in 1864 at the Royal Palace of Kano during the reign of his father Amir Abdullahi Maje Karofi.
He was named after his maternal grandfather, Caliph Aliyu Babba, hence he was popularly referred to as ‘Malam Babba’.
The late emir was a learned Muslim scholar and one of the charismatic leaders amongst the sons of Amir Maje Karofi.
“History shows that he was a deeply learned Muslim scholar who strongly adhered to Islamic injunctions. He had been exceedingly close to ex-Galadima Yusuf and served as his Waziri,” part of the biography said.
The late emir, who was adjudged to be a fearless warrior and military commander, embarked on several wars and came out triumphantly.
“The reign of Amir Aliyu Babba was brought to an end by the colonial invasion after strong resistance by the Kano force on February 3, 1903. The colonial forces crushed the brave opposition mounted by towns and villages on their way to Kano from Zaria.
According to Wikipedia, the Emir was captured by the colonialists while on his way to Kano and exiled to Lokoja where he died in 1924.
Late Emir of Bida resting in decent abode
The late deposed Emir of Bida, Malam Abubakar, was the grandfather of the present Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar.
He was said to be the first among the exiled emirs who moved down to Kabawa to settle after he was deposed by the British authorities in 1906.
He died while in exile and was buried within his palace at Kabawa in the early 1920s. The tomb of the Emir of Bida which is within an enclosed structure is in good condition because it is being taken care of by his great grandchildren.
The present custodian of the grave, Abdullahi Ibrahim (Tazarce), who is a great-grand child of the Emir, said he took over the responsibility from his father who died about nine months ago.
“It was my father, Aliyu Tunde (Maiyaki-Ara of Nupe) who has been taking care of the grave for many decades before his demise about nine months ago. We are happy to be part of the late emir’s family because we are his great grandchildren.
“Actually, when the late emir was migrating to Lokoja, he came along with his palace cabinet.
“My father was a member of his cabinet. He settled here with all his cabinet members.
“It was a large compound. I am one of the eldest sons here. We still trace our roots back to Bida but we find here more as our home.
“From time to time, we still go to our family house in Bida.
“We were well received by the people of Lokoja. As you can see, we have become indigenes of Lokoja.
“This place (Kabawa) is one of the traditional areas of Lokoja. We are proud of being here. Some of my younger ones don’t even know Bida.
“It will be good if the Bida Emirate Council, Niger and Kogi state governments can give a facelift to this historic site and make it a destination for tourists, researchers and historians who would like to visit. They can make it a museum.
“For instance, the palace of the emir can be given a facelift with fine architectural designs and paintings to depict royalty of the late emir so that it can attract more people.
“Some people only read the story in history books but this would be practical experience for them.
“We want government to work on the road leading to this place. People who usually come around on excursions and for tourism purposes sometimes get discouraged when they see the unattractive nature of the environment,” he said.
He said the current Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, usually visits the place to pay respect and pray for his late grandfather.
Our correspondent observed that the ancient palace and room used by the late emir are still intact.
Late Emir of Zazzau resting in well maintained tomb
The late deposed Emir of Zazzau, Malam Aliyu Dansidi, was grandfather to the present Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Nuhu Bamalli. He died in 1924.
According to his biography on Wikipedia, Aliyu Dansidi was a great grandson of the first Fulani Emir of Zazzau, Malam Musa Bamalli.
The late Emir Aliyu was under the tutelage of his teacher, Malam Abubakar Limamin Durum, from age 5 and eventually became the Emir of Zazzau at the age of 62.
“He reigned for 18 years before his dethronement in 1921. He was taken to Ankpa and later Lokoja on exile just like his predecessor Muhammadu Kwasau.
“Aliyu contributed immensely to the development of Zazzau Emirate from all accounts,” part of his biography said.
The tomb of the emir in Kabawa area of Lokoja is well maintained and fenced with iron barricades with a beautiful inscription of the “Arewa” logo.
The present custodian of the tomb, 80-year-old Fatima Ajuji Ahmadu, said her late husband had been the one looking after the grave for many decades, adding that upon his death some years ago, she assumed the responsibility of sweeping the tomb each time it was dirty.
“Before my husband died, he told me that I should be taking care of the grave. Each time the place is dirty, I will open it and clean it up and then lock it back.”
Mama, who agreed that age was now telling on her, said her son, Baba Lokoja, usually helped out in cleaning the place.
She said her family had been taking good care of the tomb for many decades free of charge because of the respect and love they hag for the late emir.
According to her, when the late emir arrived Lokoja from Zaria, he was received by the first Maigari of Lokoja, Muhammadu Maikarfi I who urged the emir to live with him.
“He (late emir) turned down the offer to stay with the Maigari saying he would like to stay where he would be facing the river.
“That was how he moved over to this place (Yusuf Aworo’s house). He stayed here till he died. He said when he died, he should be buried here. That was why he was buried here.
“I am very happy to be taking care of the grave of such an important personality because I believe in the blessings of Allah,” she said.
She said the grandchildren of the late emir and other officials from the Zazzau Emirate usually came to the grave to pay their respect.
According to her, late Sir Ahmadu Bello and other top Northern personalities had visited the tomb in time past.
Mama Ajuji said her family had been taking care of the grave for many decades and appealed that the government and spirited personalities from the Zazzau Emirate should offer employment opportunity to her son, Baba Lokoja.
She said she was originally from Loko in Nasarawa State but it was marriage that brought her to Lokoja.
Deposed emirs of Gwandu and Zazzau ‘resting together’
One interesting and unique story in the course of the tour to the deposed emirs’ tombs is that of the late Emir of Gwandu – Malam Muhammadu Aliyu and late Emir of Zazzau – Malam Muhammadu Lawal Kwasau, who were buried side by side.
The graves of the two emirs are well maintained and within an enclosed structure, facing each other.
Our correspondent could not locate the custodian and caretaker of the ‘twin tombs’ to throw more light on why the two deposed emirs who hailed from different emirates (Gwandu and Zazzau) were buried on the same spot.
Tourism potential of deposed emirs’ tombs unharnessed
The tombs of the deposed emirs are important historical relics that would be of interests to tourists, historians and researchers.
However, these relics are yet to be developed by the authorities to make them tourist attractions.
There are lots of things the government needs to do in terms of creating access roads to the tomb sites and giving them the needed facelift to make them attractive.
Speaking on the tourism potential of the tombs, the Special Adviser to the Kogi State governor on Culture and Tourism, Femi Bolaji, said the government was aware of the rich tourism potential that abound in them as well as other historical sites and would do everything to revamp them to boost tourism in the state.
He said the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello had been carrying out a lot of interventions and renovations in the culture and tourism sector, particularly the reinvigoration of cultural relics, monuments and heritage sites in Lokoja.
“We have three key cemeteries in Kogi State. These cemeteries are major revenue earners. The first one is the deposed northern emirs.
“We have about six of them that are interred there. Their descendants and offspring still come around to pay homage.
“We have these tombs and individuals have been preserving even though we need to do more,” he said.
He said the governor has mandated the ministry of culture and tourism to harness and give exposure to all the cultural and tourism potential that abound in the state.