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Religion Remains Central to Traditional Rule in Northern Nigeria

  • Isiyaku Ahmed

The hakimi of Makoda holds traditional and financial responsibilities given by the Emir of Kano. (Photo Courtesy of Makoda District)

The hakimi of Makoda holds traditional and financial responsibilities given by the Emir of Kano. (Photo Courtesy of Makoda District)

Africa's long history is filled with narratives of powerful chiefs who ruled large and small kingdoms. Many traditions of power remain, though they are somewhat reduced in the evolving politics of nation states. In northern Nigeria where powerful caliphs once ruled, there is a network of traditional governance.

Here is one in a series of articles about some of modern Africa's traditional rulers.

The Emir of Kano, a Nigerian considered the second-highest religious figure in all of Nigeria, selected Alhaji Dr. Wada Warizi Ibrahim as Sa’in of all of Kano State. The emir later appointed him as hakimi or district head Makoda.

While Dr. Wada Warizi has daily duties as the Makoda district head, the job of sa’in is different: He is charged with the responsibility of collecting zaka’at from wealthy Muslims and distributing it to the less privileged or people in needy in the society.

An audience with the Sa’in

Today, the Sa’in Kano is seated and ready for official tasks of the day. The palace has two large sitting rooms and an office. The Sa’in Kano sits on a large leather sofa with more chairs on both sides in the first room which; adjacent to the right and left, are three lounge sofas for visitors. The wall is colorfully decorated and has photographs of the late emir, the state governor and that of the hakimi himself.

As hakimi, he must settle domestic disputes and make judgments in contests over land and business deals. It is also his duty to propose and implement developmental projects in the community. He works in concert with those elected officials who take care of government affairs in Makoda.

There are 22 villages scattered among the 410 square kilometers of northern Nigeria’s Makoda Local Government Area. The headquarters for the local government is in Koguna, a town filled with farmers, weavers, dyers of fabric, potters, small businessmen.

The town boasts a busy Sabon Ruwa central market, a vocational institute that teaches how to raise poultry, an agricultural institute and the Makoda local government secretariat.

Today, however, there are no cases to attend to, save for the normal day-to-day office work at the palace.

So, the hakimi explains to his visitor how, when and why he was appointed.

“The late Emir of Kano was very keen in appointing people that have a lot of development plan in mind and that have served the people in whatever capacity,” he said. “That is the main reason why he selected me to be one of his district heads.”

One of those criteria that impressed the emir and led to Dr. Wada Warizi’s appointment - was his family background; he is from the ruling house of Dambatta Local Government Area.

When Dr. Wada Warizi took office, Makoda was a little rural town.

Before, there was only the local government secretariat, dispensary and medical center and no more. Now, we have a lot houses, modern buildings, a lot of business establishments in the local government.

In the last six years, he has watched the town grow with better roads, more schools, a hospital, a modernized market and dependable electricity.

“You can see what it has turned out to be in these six years,” he tells his visitor. “And I am sure in the next 10 years it will be a wonder.”

Leading Makoda’s development

I tried the best I could in assisting the local government to be developed.

“There were no much educated children in the local government before I was there, now I have attracted their attention to give education a priority and they have very much improved now.

“There are more good schools,” he said with pride.

When the Emir of Kano appointed him, Dr. Wada Warizi was active in local politics and a progressive who sought to improve public services to the people. In 1965 under Mallam Aminu, he was an active member of the North Elements Progressive Union. Years later as a member of the People’s Democratic Party he served as director general of special duties. But when he became Hakimin Makoda and Sa’in Kano, he gave up politics. As a traditional leader, the sa’in makes no declaration of affiliation with any political group or government within the state or nation.

His religious beliefs, however, became central to his office. The Sa’in Kano has tried to influence the future of the small town with his background in Islamic and western education.

The Sa’in Kano has no formal Quranic education but he started learning to read and rehearse the Quran at five years old. Today he has mastered both the Quran and Hadiths and can recite the Quran by heart.

He has made residents see a good reason for accepting western education as a tool for self-development and building the community.

In the past, parents withdrew their children from school as soon as they get to primary five, but this has changed now. Most children these days finish their primary and secondary education before looking for jobs or leaving to get more education.

Development has come very fast, he says.

The speed of change

The sa’in believes his town shows great economic potential.

Makoda local government has rich mineral and agricultural resources. The existence of abundant silica is an opportunity for investment in mining and establishment of glass industry, there is also cassava, tomatoes, maize, mango, cashew and sugar cane in large quantity for both local consumption and export.

“The future will be very, very bright, because I believe they have started to understand issues of development…and it is so quick.

Dr. Musa Tukur Yakasai is Associate professor of Agric Economics and provost, Audu Bako College of Agriculture, Dambatta in Makoda Local Government Area.

“We are doing all these developmental works courtesy support and guidance from the hakimi,” says Dr.Yakasai. “He is a father, guidance, a mentor; he is all the times with us trying to give us the necessary things needed to forge ahead.”

He also says the hakimi has a unique style of leadership that his followers cherish.

For instance, he goes to the people when they are in need of his support. He treats everybody equal regardless of class or learning. He is always punctual on appointments.

When pushing for development, he carries the community members along on the proposed idea; be it education, health or other development initiative, he is in constant consultation with his people.