Tribute to Iyan Zazzau


By MD Umar

God only always was, God only always will be!

And, in the words of Dr Yusufu Bala Usman, I should say: the beginning and the end, of the day, and of the night, of the month and of the year, of the decade, of the century, and of the millennium, constantly pose to mankind the question of his future (the inevitability of death).

The death, on Friday, January 1, 2021, of Alhaji Muhammadu Bashari Aminu, aka Dan-Kwasau, aka Iyan Zazzau, aka Iyan Gari, aka Iya Bashar, aka Iya – (and multiplicity of names indicates profound adoring and reverence for the named) was, perhaps, the darkest side of the new year especially to the Kingdom and people of Zazzau, to his immediate family, and to many of us that lived and associated closely with him. God grant him eternal peace.

Born December 26, 1950. The son of the 17th Emir of Zazzau Muhammadu Aminu. Graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Department of Accounting at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. Fellow of the Institute of Financial Accountants (UK). Fellow of the Certified National Accountants of Nigeria (CNA). Appointed Danmadamin Zazzau and District Head of Sabon Gari in 1979 and later promoted to the important and princely title of Iyan Zazzau. He had a brief stint in the civil service. He was an accomplished businessman. He sat on the board of many private enterprises and some public institutions. He was awarded the prestigious national honour of the Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Nigerian government. He was a bureaucrat, a technocrat, and, an aristocrat!

Iya was a great man. He was a wonderful intellect, a great soul of matchless courage, and a pleasing personality. Calm, collect, and composed, he exuded an air of charisma with a mixture of aristocratic mien in conduct and appearance. He was never known to have lost his cool no matter the provocation. His sense of discipline, organization and coordination was legendary. In every sense and purpose one could count him among those you may refer to as the Salts-of-the-Earth– and yet we have no right to bow down to his memory simply because he was great. Great kings, great heroes, great people, often use their gifts for a most unholy cause. I bow to pay this tribute of love and respect to him, insufficient as it may be, because he used his matchless power and enormous riches for the good of man.

He was an exceptional character with enormous accomplishments. Those that closely related with him will testify to his equanimity and benevolence. And through all situations of his life he had preserved his equanimity, his keen interest in etiquette, and his indefatigable zeal for the instruction of others.

As a prince he had laboured all his life to maintain and preserve the Fulani caliphal aristocracy and its institutions bequeathed by his forefathers. Iya would appear erect everywhere and everywhen in the execution of his duties as a prince especially in matters relating to the integrity of the Zazzau Kingdom and the personality of the Late Emir Shehu Idris. In fact, it is sufficient to say that in these two regards he had preserved his stance and equanimity undisturbed even in the darkest hours of personal peril; and that the strict impartiality of his judgement and conduct often incurred for him alternate praise and blame from fanatics on either side.

As I watched him being laid down into his final resting place, in that darkest moment, on Saturday, the 2nd of January 2021, I felt the darkness that overshadowed the firmament over the triangle of benevolence, philanthropy and fosterhood, and everything within it. That bitter experience and the bitter reality it portrayed was one, I, personally, will live with and die with.

From that moment on, many questions kept cropping up in my mind: what becomes of the livelihood and education of multitudes of orphans being fed, sheltered and sponsored by him? What about the poor and the weak whose livelihood and happiness depend on him? What of those nephews and nieces from less privileged relatives depending on his handouts for survival? What of the absence of the enormous wealth of experience in emirate administration that the Zazzau Kingdom has lost along with his demise? As an industrialist providing employment to many, what impact his death will come to have on the economy of many households and families? What becomes of the bridge he maintained between the Kingdom of Zazzau and other kingdoms and chiefdoms; and between Kaduna state and the centre at various levels of human and national development?

On that morning of Friday the 1st of January 2021 as he took his last breath, pages containing lists of students on his scholarship were lying on his desk in his personal office awaiting his approval for payments of their school fees and stipends! Indeed the loss was colossal and far-reaching for the people, the Kingdom, the state and the nation.

As district head of Sabon Gari, he demonstrated an unmatched ability and skills in managing the affairs of this cosmopolitan, multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious district. His exceptional skill in steering the affairs of this district for 39 years was remarkable. Under the tutelage of the Late Iya Sa’idu Zango he acquired those qualities of leadership necessary for managing people in a post colonial emirate administration. Not only that, he learnt from Iya Sa’idu the nature and dynamics of emirate political system as well as the intricacies of networks of political relations and political alignments controlling all developments in the traditional emirate system of northern Nigeria.

He was to display his mastery of the emirate system when after the death of Emir Shehu Idris, the throne became vacant and princes began to jostle to occupy it. Given the circumstances in which the contest for the throne began he stayed away from contesting, declining to yield to pressure to contest from many quarters including from key figures in the emirate. But when he had reasons to believe that the sanctity of the institution and its traditions and practices were at stake and someone from the old guards was needed to the rescue, he caved in and put himself on the contest. And when he believed that the process for the selection and appointment of the new emir was faulty, he sought for redress in the court of law in his unflinching trust in the rule of law. But however much he disagreed with the process of the selection and appointment of the new emir, yet, to preserve the integrity of the throne and the institution it represents, he asked his sons and relatives to pay allegiance to the new occupant so long as he sits on the throne. Of course he recused himself personally from paying allegiance to avoid a conflict of interest having resolved to challenge the matter in court.

Iya was always busy- a man in constant motion, crisscrossing the globe in pursuit of legitimate earnings. He never got lazy as to sit back and enjoy the grabs accessible to him through the rentier capitalist system placed at his disposal by the privileges of his royalty and connections.

To his children he was not only a loving father. He was also a mentor. He got so deeply into their psyche so much that they mimic his demeanour in conducts, in dressings and in appearance. Meet any of them and you would not fail to behold the trajectories of his characteristic mien, of his throaty voice, of his deliberate drawling and choice of words, and of his mannerisms. If you have had dealings with any of them you would have noticed that royal instinct of accommodation, generous disposition and indulgence that were native to him.

Throughout his life his principles guided his conducts in his public and private affairs. These principles he had always sought to transmitt to those who associatd closely with him. His friend, Late DIG Labaran Wurno once described him as a compendium of wisdom saying that each time he met the Iya he would always leave with take-aways of wisdom needed to navigate the turbulent waters of life.

To the younger ones, Iya would share his wisdom in a way that risks being misunderstood as punitive. It mostly would come as a reproach. I still could feel the reverberation of an unmistakable instruction he once snapped at me, when I was explaining to him the method I used in handling a matter I earlier complained to him about: “be wise beyond your age, the world is too complex for your methods” he interjected with a resounding tune.

From the elite’ cicle down to the ranks of the ordinary, Iya was largely misunderstood and he seemed to enjoy the ambiguity of his methodologies. One thing that many who misunderstood his methods found disgusting about him was his hesitant attitude about almost everything. Of course, Iya rushes nothing and nothing rushes him. You have got something to do with him? You have just got to have to be on the queue. You have got to have to wait!

But I had always thought that I understood the Iya to an extent until one fascinating moment when he proved me wrong. When I was the editor of the Analysis Magazine in which the Dr Yusufu Bala Usman was a leading contributor back in early 2000s, I ensured that I took a complimentary copy of every edition to the Iya. One day as I was leaving his office after delivering a copy to him he said to me “you know, Dr Usman is my model”. I was completely baffled sending back at him some perplexing looks as I figured out the obvious contradistinction between the two men. But I dared not say a word. It was the Iya talking! Noticing my disposition, he offered “I cherish his courage, his consistency, his scholarship, his pursuit of truth even at the risk of being misunderstood”. And, finally, he said “well Bala is a great man”. I thanked and bed him goodbye.

But even in death, Hakimi (as we fondly call him) left many of us confused about his demise. The same ambiguity that defined his life still trails his departure. May the brilliance and beauty of his life never be defined by his death. May God cool his resting place and increase His grace and blessings upon him.

But if the only thing that could have kept him alive was love, he would have lived for a very long time, much longer than he did. He was loved and revered by many. Some out of the benefits they derive from his largesse, some because of his fame, some for what he stood for and represented.

But what he stood for and represented was attainable. His methodologies were tenable. Perhaps the only obstacles were time and space. These two happened to be too limited as to guarantee the attainment of his mission and goals. May God forgive his sins and correct his mistakes. May God establish a host for the successes of his offspring.

Indeed, it was B.C Ingersoll who said, “it is with the human thing as it is with the great icebergs that drift out of the frozen seas. They swim two-third under water and one-third above. And so long as this equilibrium is maintained you will think they were as stable as the rocks. But the sea water is warmer than the air. Hundreds of feet down, the slightly warm current washes the base of the bergs. And, silently, in those far deeps, the centre of gravity is changed. And in a moment, with one vast roll, the enormous mass of the icebergs heaves over, and the crystal peaks of the icebergs which had been glittering, so proudly under the sun are buried into the ocean forever”.

It may be that the Iya was a sailor, sailing but then got blocked by the icebergs. But when these icebergs are heaved over by the actions of natural laws, someone from amongst his crew may rise to direct the sails into the waters where once there were bergs!

May Allah admit him and us and reunite us with him at the Court of the Seal-of-Prophethood on the valley of Al-Kauthar.

Adieu, Hakimi. Adieu!

 MD Umar, Department of Business Administration, Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic Zaria

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily


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