Northern Nigeria and Nigeria generally lost one of its oldest surviving monarchs with the death on Thursday last week, January 10, of Alhaji Isah Mustapha Agwai 1, Emir of Lafia and Chairman of the Nasarawa State Council of Chiefs. He died at Abuja’s Nizamye Hospital at the age of 84.
A member of Aliyu Ari royal house, Agwai became the 16th Emir of Lafia in 1974. He spent 44 years on the throne, during which time his domain underwent considerable political and socio-economic changes. The late emir was born on February 15, 1935 at Kofar Kaura in Lafia town to the family of Muhammad Al-Mustapha Marafa and Hajiya Halimatu. He was enrolled early in life into a Quranic school in Kofar Kaura, Lafia, after which he enrolled into Lafia Elementary School in 1943.
After obtaining his first school leaving certificate in 1951, Isa Mustapha Agwai was admitted into Benue Provincial Middle School, Katsina-Ala, present day Benue State. After completing his secondary education in 1958, Isa Mustapha Agwai registered at the Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 1958 and obtained his Diploma in Accountancy 1959. He joined the services of Lafia Native Authority where he served as assistant treasurer, revenue officer and later pay-master in charge of the Lafia Native Authority’s [NA] markets.
Isa Mustapha Agwai, apart from holding several government positions, held the traditional title of Dan Galadiman Lafia and District Head of Obi. In that capacity he was a full-time member of Lafia Native Authority Council. The late emir, whom palace jesters fondly referred to as Isa Dan-Halima, was a former Chancellor of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi [ATBU] and until his passing was the Chancellor of Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State. He was also a National Vice Chairman of Jama’atu Nastril Islam [JNI], chairman of JNI in Nasarawa State and National Vice Chairman of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, NSCIA.
President Muhammadu Buhari said he received with profound sadness the news of the royal father’s passing. He extended his heartfelt condolences to Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, Lafia Emirate Council, the people of Lafia and of Nasarawa State on the death of the Emir, describing the deceased as a highly respected monarch. The president assured them of the fullest sympathy of the federal government as they mourn the chairman of the Nasarawa State Council of Emirs and Chiefs and state chairman of JNI, who will be fondly remembered for his exemplary leadership and tireless efforts at improving the lives of his people.
The loss of Alhaji Isa Mustafa Agwai has robbed the country as a whole, not to mention his emirate and Nasarawa State, of a treasure house of experience, wise counsel, repository of culture and tradition, and wisdom. When he became emir in 1974, his domain was in Benue Plateau State. He was on the throne when the state was split into Benue and Plateau states in 1976. Lafia Emirate was part of what was then known as Lower Plateau, an area that became associated with political upheaval during the Second Republic years, 1979-83. If not for the wisdom of men such as Emir Isa Agwai, the conflict between NPP and NPN which roughly followed the lines of Upper and Lower Plateau would have resulted in bloodshed.
Alhaji Isa also lived to witness the creation of Nasarawa State out of Plateau State in 1996 and his capital town of Lafia became the state capital. Although the new state had many important traditional rulers, the Emir of Lafia became the Chairman of the State Council of Emirs and Chiefs. In that capacity since 1996, successive governments in the state benefitted immensely from the late emir’s store of wisdom and experience. He lived peacefully with the three men who have been governors of Nasarawa State since 1999 and he worked tirelessly to maintain peace in his domain during tense times. May Allah grant him eternal repose in Aljannat.