And that is the biggest question facing it today; and when it does finally wake up, it must go back to origin and begin a candid reflection on its meaning and identity as a supposedly religious institution and a cultural construct—and finally define its relationship with the people who are supposed to be subject to it.
In a bid to survive, Sarauta had in the past made common cause with colonial enterprise in its own bid to fight, weaken and contain the anti-colonial radicals of the Northern Elements Progressive Union, NEPU. Today, it is making the same mistake of making common cause with the leadership of the ruling party, but in a context that is so different and much more indefensible. While the earlier alliance might have ensured the survival of and preservation of aspects of its ethos, the current process might well end up sacrificing whatever claim Sarauta might have had to real populism and public spiritedness.
So far, nothing has led to its most blatant loss of credibility with the public than this covert, anti-popular involvement of its leadership with partisan politics. Instead of ensuring its survival, this move may ensure and hasten its demise today.
No one—not even the most bigoted antiroyalist—can deny the glory of the past role played by the early leaders of Sarauta in providing religious leadership, moral authority, ethical example and the defence of values; though no one can deny its occasional historical excesses. But these are what have created and validated its claim to a role today.
But like everything else, this role is supposed to be dynamic, but Sarauta has often proved too conservative to change even for its own good. It will not look at the new moon out of respect for that ancient institution—the old one! Its higher echelon is often without the vision to foresee and accept the necessity for change; while its lower mainstream is hampered by strictness of hierarchy, and is too frightened to initiate any kind of change. But change will always come whether Sarauta is ready for it or not. Clearly, the earlier it makes its choice and makes all conscious effort to adapt to changing circumstances, the better for it; because it will otherwise be trampled underfoot by the inexorable march of time. And the only way to adapt itself is to make itself more relevant to people’s needs.
Perhaps here the real sentry it needs to help it find its relevance is an in-house think tank that helps it fashion out a new purpose or rediscover and restate the unchanging role, a think tank to frame an agenda for it that puts it onto the path and into the process of thinking, visioning, planning and acting. It should help answer some of the fundamental questions facing it: What is Sarauta’s real place in the scheme of leadership? What should be its specific role in a democratic setup? How can it reform itself? How can it get back and keep people’s loyalty and allegiance? What will—and should—Sarauta look like in 2104, after the third century of its existence?
But, meanwhile, shouldn’t Sarauta begin by rediscovering and role-replaying the three crucial roles that forebears played—as mobilisers of the people, as custodians of their values, and as their armour against insecurity?
As mobilisers, Emirs had in the past led highly successful campaigns for education, for tree-planting and for the cultivation of specific cash crops. Even today the campaigns must remain the same because the problems have remained unchanged—and they are: backwardness in education, desertification and indolence.
In the beginning, Sarauta played a very crucial role in the acceptance and advancement of education in the North, even though it was a very difficult—participate or perish—process. There was a gap between the North and South to close or be swallowed by; and there was stiff competition between them to win or be crushed by; but there was also the law of self-preservation, which negated all this, to have to obey or vanish. Sarauta was put in the unenviable position of helping to promote, but at the same time doing everything it could to control, the spread of education; and, in the process, it committed the greatest mistake against it own long-term interest.
When the Kaduna College was established, the North could afford to set up a college like it in each of the 13 provinces; and, had it done so, the gap between the North and the South would have been bridged by the time of independence. But Sarauta feared that with the spread of Western education, it would lose people’s allegiance. Meanwhile, the central revenues, to which the North was contributing more than the entire South, were used to pay for the grammar schools of the South, thereby making the gap between them even wider.
But the logic of losing allegiance was really flawed, because the South that embraced education didn’t reject tradition in the manner Sarauta feared. Today, one of the most educationally advanced states—or, more correctly, that one with the higher rates of passes in national examinations—is Edo State. Yet the Bini pay even more homage and pledge greater allegiance to their Oba than the Hausa-Fulani pay to their Emir. Part of the reason may be that, faced with the need to defend his people’s interest, the Oba can snub a president while the Emir cannot. But this is something that the Emir had better learn to begin to do today; and, in return, his people may show him the level of support that will persuade the governor not to touch him with impunity.
And then he will have the time to campaign even more vigorously for boy-child and girl-child enrolment into schools, hit the road in campaign for the reintroduction of Yaki-da-Jahilci in both Western and Eastern scripts; because is it the duty of this generation of Emirs to launch the rebirth of Ajami as a path to culturally integrative literacy.
After this, the Emir may realize the need to mobilize his people to take a more active interest in their environment and the degradation that threatens it. Today, desert and the menace of Leda—those biodegradable-resistant plastic bags that litter suburban, rural and urban landscapes—have taken over the Northern environment. In the past, Emirs did a lot to slow down the rate of the encroachment of the Sahara Desert; and, given the chance, they could do it again, perhaps more effectively than any government agency, provided our visionless state governments could be persuaded to create and sustain plant nurseries and provide all the necessary logistics. If today every Emir calls on his people to each bring ten leda bags to the palace every Saturday morning, they will do it without fail. And every week, at least 500 million pieces of these unsightly pollutants will be collected for incineration; and within a month, the entire region will be free of plastic pollution, and this can be sustained if alternative disposal methods are provided.
In the area of the promotion of values, perhaps Emirs can only be proper custodians if they themselves project them; but on the issue of attitude change, they can still be effective even if they don’t. Here Emirs must deploy and bring to bear their enormous influence in those areas in which paradigm shift is needed—Almajirci, Bara, and Raraka, that incapacitating indolence endemic in the average Hausa-Fulani Northern Muslim psyche. They must initiate, lead and manage change in our society so that this region begins to regard knowledge as a value with which to shape attitude and perfect character; and learn to take power not as an end in itself but as a tool with which to remake our world.
But the most important of the values they must at all time uphold id justice and the need for fair play. If post-independence Northern Region, the base of the Caliphate, could accurately be called a Hausa-Fulani enterprise, it was not because it was an affair of Hausas and Fulbe; it was because it was not. And if, as an enterprise, it had succeeded and endured, more of the credit must go to Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a Bageri; to Alhaji Sir Kashim Ibrahim, a Babarbare; to Alhaji Aliyu Makaman Bida, a Banupe; to Chief Michael Audu Buba,
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an Ankwai; to M. Liman Ciroma, a Babole; to Chief Sunday Awoniyi, a Yorubaman; to Alhaji Adamu Fika, a Bakarkare; to General Yakubu Gowon, an Angas; to General Martin Adamu, an Ankwai; to General TY Danjuma, a Bajukune; and to the few Hausa-Fulani sprinkled around Sir Ahmadu Bello, since the majority of them were ensconced within M. Aminu Kano’s NEPU in creative and liberationist opposition to the enterprise.
So, what really is this Hausa-Fulani fiction that is being promoted by those who hope to profit from its spectre and opposed by those who imagine themselves victims of its sceptre? Hausa-Fulani is not a linguistic term; it is at best a cultural expression that should have retained its all-embracing inclusiveness, from which others were thrown out by an astonishing exclusivity promoted by some self-proclaimed, self-serving, temporary political leaders in the North. Here, Sarauta—emirate and chiefdom—should have played a moderating, integrative role but in this, it failed.
In the end, however, whatever happens, Sarauta must survive; but, first, it must be saved from its many enemies as well as its even more numerous visionless friends. Yet even if it survives, how can its future be assured? Is it going to struggle for a constitutional role? Given its current circumstances, can it? If it can, should it? Or, should it try to get a supra-constitutional role in which the people impose a Culture Tax on themselves and run it as an entirely different system of governance that is parallel to, and not necessarily antagonistic, towards the existing three tiers of government; but is above them in moral authority and can even act as a check and balance on their exercise of public power?
If, in the aftermath on the attack on San Kano, Sarauta manages to answer these and related questions, then the suffering of His Highness will not have been in vain. But so long as there are and continue to be in its leadership people who believe the mere act of succeeding predecessors is all there is to Sarauta, who will seek to exercise power without feeling responsibility to God and to people, without a plan or concern for the future of their own enterprise, the institution will face even bitterer days ahead.