Today, over thirty emirs and chiefs are gathered in Dutse, the hitherto sleepy but now rurally pulsating capital city of Jigawa State. Among them are the Sultan of Sokoto, the Shehu of Borno, the Emir of Gwandu, the Emir of Kano (who would be represented by the Wambai Kano, Abbas Sanusi), Emirs of Zazzau, Daura, Birnin Gwari, Bauchi, Dass, Zuru, Kagoro, Kanem, Jama’are, Jama, Agwam Atyap, Eze of Oweeri as well as the Sultan of Damagaran from Niger Republic, among others.
It would be difficult to recall any comparable recent gathering of royal fathers in one place and if there were one, it certainly wasn’t the case that of solidarity with fellow royal fathers on the occasion of the commissioning of the residences of Jigawa emirs in the state capital. More than anything else, it is bringing out two ironies of our time. One is the dialectics of change and continuity. This is supposed to be the modern age but it is still dominated by guardians of tradition and traditional heritage. The second is the irony of these symbolic residences having been built for the emirs by the Sule Lamido administration which was perceived to be hostile to tradition and traditional rulers.
So pervasive was this perception that it turned up a subject of disquisition during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s visit to Jigawa State in 2008. During the courtesy call on the Emir of Dutse in the course of the visit, Chief Obasanjo said Governor Lamido whispered to him in the car how he must find the time to pay a sharp courtesy call on the emir. According to Obasanjo, he wondered aloud whether Lamido is still a socialist or if there were socialists who are not hostile to traditional rulers. Speaking seriously, however, Obasanjo said he did not think there could be any North-Western Nigerian or a South-Western Nigerian who could be really against traditional rulers. According to him, traditional rulers remain the most enduring signification of these societies. He was, indirectly, making a comparison between empire minded Hausa Fulanis and Yorubas as against the rather republican Igbos. He didn’t mean that one was superior to the other but that they were merely different. What is different is not necessarily superior or inferior but just different.
In the early 1980s, a similar debate took place in one of the Government House seminars by the Rimi administration. Everyone was talking about feudal North, feudal North when Dr Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe wondered if Southern Nigeria did not have a more entrenched feudalism. He then elevated the debate to a global perspective of the rise and survival of traditional authority, “We do not deny the survival of feudalist structure and formations in Nigeria, particularly in the Northern and Western parts of the country but it is clear that 400 years after the incorporation of Nigeria within the ambience of central western capitalism, these structures and their effects no longer determine the country’s definitive mode of production and exchange. On the contrary, feudal structures have had to adapt to the new historical production relationship of capitalism beginning from British colonialism and the contemporary neo-colonialism of the Nigerian State. The residual of feudalism (Japan, Britain, Holland, Belgium and the Monarchies of Scandinavia) in the current instance is expressly understood as a feature of capitalism’s logic of uneven and combined development, both nationally and globally. Thus in the era of imperialism, with some structures of past historical epochs, whose historical development have, however, been stunted”.
In other words, traditional authority is not a relic anywhere in the world. Power in the modern bureaucratic sense may have slipped their hands as a collective group but the institution has adapted to changing times and their highnesses are still, individually and collectively, powerful actors in life’s different fields of play.
About thirty of them swooping on Dutse on the occasion of the commissioning of the residences of their Jigawa colleagues is, therefore, a statement in many ways. One is a message of their symbolic oneness, two is a message of solidarity with their Jigawa counterparts, third is a message of endorsement of the Lamido administration’s approach to inclusiveness of the traditional authority in the politics of Jigawa. As a layer of power with vast cultural, communal, religious and international interconnections and linkages, the emiral solidarity in Dutse was equally for unity and stability. For, there are no way emirs and chiefs would congregate without informally and casually contemplating Nigeria of today.
In a state capital without many of the facilities that are taken for granted in older state capitals in Nigeria, the socio-cultural and infrastructural importance of the residences of the five Jigawa first class emirs in Dutse cannot be over-emphasized. Above all, in a state in which emirate consciousness is very high, there is a case for homogenizing the traditional authority by providing same type of symbolic and concrete accommodation for them in the state capital. That is aside from the fact that the accommodation equally reifies the state capital more and more.
With the commissioning of the residences of the emirs, the political, traditional and business elite of Jigawa have been located in space near each, typical of the rich everywhere unlike the poor, each of whom inhabit his or her own world. But this will turn out an unforgettable solidarity for a long time to come!
Onoja wrote from Ibadan