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LEADERSHIP, ACCORDING TO THE SOKOTO SCHOLARS

To help answer this important question of leadership, a recent publication, PRINCIPLES OF LEADERSHIP (ACCORDING TO THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE SOKOTO CALIPHATE) has just…

To help answer this important question of leadership, a recent publication, PRINCIPLES OF LEADERSHIP (ACCORDING TO THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE SOKOTO CALIPHATE) has just been released. Collated and edited by our brother and senior academic colleague Dr. Hamid Bobboyi (past Director of Arewa House, Kaduna, the research centre of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and now Director of the Centre for Regional Integration and Development, CRID, in Abuja), the publication (dated 2011 but only just started circulating), was facilitated by His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar.
The founding fathers of the Sokoto Caliphate are, of course, Shaykh Uthman ibn Foduye (Usman Danfodio), Shaykh Abdullah ibn Foduye (Mallam Abdullahi Danfodio) and Shaykh Muhammad Bello ibn Uthman ibn Foduye (Sarkin Musulmi Bello, or simply Sultan Bello).
The book is divided into five chapters: Chapter One on the Foundations of Leadership; Chapter Two on Qualities of Leadership; Chapter Three on Leadership and Good Governance; Chapter Four on Leadership and the Management of Public Affairs; and Chapter Five on Leadership and the Struggle Against Corruption. There is also an extensive Bibliography and List of Selected Writings by these scholars in this highly readable 103-page book.
As we can see from the chapter titles, it is no coincidence that this publication would emerge in the Nigeria of today, and Brother Hamid has done a great job in researching, collating and editing this very useful tome, as the Sultan has done in facilitating its publication.
In his Foreword to the book, the Sultan states, among other things, that “These ideas [topics covered in the chapters] were relevant then as they are patently relevant today, to enable us fathom the responsibilities of leadership…I strongly recommend Principles of Leadership to all those charged with authority at all levels of state and society and indeed to all others, in public and private life, who nurture the noble dream of building a better society.”
The relevance is more than striking: for example, in Chapter Two ‘Qualities of Leadership’ (Shunning the Love of Power, at page 16), one of the writers says, “Know…that most of the evil that befalls the state comes from the appointment of officers who are anxious to have the appointment; because none would be keen on such but a thief in the garb of a hermit, and a fox in the guise of a pious worshipper, someone who is keen in the collection of money, sacrificing for such his religion and integrity…”
Doesn’t this sound so familiar? Yet this was penned by Sultan Bello 200 years ago in his ‘Ghayth al-Shu’bub.’ And woe unto us if what the Caliph said two centuries ago would ring so true today.
Further, at page 17 which discusses Personal Qualities Required of a Leader, Bello’s father, the Shehu, lists many, including Wisdom: “A wise man is guided aright by his wisdom and fortified by his sound judgement, so what he says is sound and what he does is commendable, while an ignorant man is caused to go astray as a result of his ignorance; so what he says is unsound and what he does is objectionable…(‘Bayan Wujub al Hijra’)
Do we wonder why we are so afflicted with the leaders that we have? Listen to what Mallam Abdullahi states in in ‘Diya’ al-Siyasat’ (quoted in Chapter Three of the Principles under Knowledge and Governance at page 50): “The advocate of truth is nowadays exposed to danger because of the extinction of the learned and the triumph of ignorance…knowledge survives only on paper but is absent from the hearts of men. [Hence] the ignorant are allowed to rule…”
Again, but for the Shehu and his brother and son, all those busybodies who claim the moral high ground on the rights of women would continue strutting their stuff, claiming to be ‘Liberators’ of our women. Fie!
Under safeguarding the Rights of Women at page 54 of the Principles (culled from ‘Nurul Albab’), the Shehu states: “One of the great calamities which has afflicted Hausaland is the practice of many of its scholars in abandoning their wives, daughters and servants in a state of ignorance. They are left like animals without any effort to teach them what Allah has made obligatory on them…This is a grievous mistake because the education of wives, daughters and servants is mandatory…O Muslim women! Do not heed the calls of those misguided folk who deceive you into obeying your husbands without ordaining you to obey Allah and His Messenger…”
The Shehu calls Consultation, forbear of Congress or National Assembly “The Second Principle [of Governance]” in his discussion of The Imperative of Mutual Consultation in ‘Bayan Wujub’ at page 50, while Mallam Abdullahi says in ‘Diya al-Hukkam’ that: “The judicial function is a collective obligation which is binding on any individual person who is fully qualified for it…The wisdom behind the formation of a judiciary lies with its usefulness in serving as a deterrent to quarrels and assaults. It suppresses the unjust, and helps the oppressed. It helps to end disputes…Injustice and submitting to one’s whims in judicial matters is one of the gravest sins…(Principles, page 76).
Still in ‘Bayan Wujub’ (at page 27 in Principles), while describing The Animal in Us, the Shehu says “God has confirmed the similarity between us and all other creatures…in behaviour…So when you find someone departing from normal human behaviour, see which animal resembles him in this and class him with it…The Monkey (when you find a man with a tendency to steal furtively, class him with the monkey…); The Fly (When you find a man hunting for other people’s faults, class him with the family of flies)…
In discussing Diseases of the Heart, Mallam Abdullahi (in ‘Masalih al-Insan’ quoted at page 39 here) lists “Pride, Arrogance, Anger, Envy, Hope for Longer Life, Meanness and Eye-Service.” Eye-Service was there two centuries ago. Alas! It is still here with us!
Again, on the matter of Assets Declaration (which advocates of modern good governance would claim ownership), Mallam Abdullahi, in his ‘Diya al-Hukkam’ of 200 years ago (quoted in Principles at page 91) stats that: “[The leader] must be motivated by his desire to find out the true state of affairs on the basis of piety, and not by malice and greed. This applies to matters connected with his employees, by seeking to know about them, by counting their wealth before their appointment, and by looking from time to time into their works. He shall rebuke anyone who fails in his duty; dismiss those who transgress; and replace any person against whom many complaints were made. Whoever is found to have wealth above what he earns from his work, the leader shall confiscate and restore it to the treasury…”
(And as this Column always advocates a Final Solution to Nigerian corruption, after ‘confiscate and restore to treasury’, the 21st Century leader should borrow from China “and have such a thief be executed.”) Period.
May Allah reward the Sokoto Scholars for writing, the Sultan for facilitating and Brother Hamid for collating and editing. Amin.

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