By Olakunle Olafioye
Residents of McCullum Street, off Herbert Macaulay Way, Ebutte Metta, Lagos, woke up to a very disturbing sight on Sunday, January 3. A detachment of operatives of the Nigeria Police from the State Command, had arrived at the street early in the day.
But the reality of the confusion ahead of the day did not dawn on the majority of the people until news filtered in that the police had a strange mission. The day was billed for the Fidau Prayers for the late Sarkin Hausawa of Lagos, Alhaji Sanni Kabiru, who passed away a week earlier.
Not a few who saw the deployment of police in the area initially thought that it was part of the security arrangements put in place by the organizers of the prayers to safeguard lives and property during the programme until another report filtered in that the police team was given a mandate to ensure that the prayers never held.
As the day wore on and with guests being turned back, a fresh report came in that a petition had been written against the organizers of the event claiming that the Fidau Prayers was surreptitiously packaged to cause mayhem in the community, with accusing finger pointing at an opposing camp which is also laying claim to the leadership of Hausa community in the state.
The demise of the late Sarkin Hausa in the week preceding the botched Fidau prayers had given rise to speculation that the over three decade-long leadership crisis which had torn the Hausa Community in Lagos into two halves would soon become a thing of the past.
But that was not to be. Since 1988, the late Sanni Kabiru had rivaled another Hausa leader, Alhaji Yaro Dogara, also deceased, as the head of Hausa Community in the state. The rivalry between the two leaders, Sunday Sun, gathered was said to have polarized the Arewa community in the state with the attendant fallouts of mutual suspicion, hostility, threat and occasional fracas between the followers of the two leaders. An Hausa youth, Yusuf Baba told Sunday Sun that division within the community was so obvious that people often warn their new relations who come into the state not to go beyond certain boundaries.
“When I got to Lagos in 2001, my brother took his time to explain the severity of the crisis within the (Hausa) community and warned me about the need to steer clear of our people who were loyal to the other group to avoid running into trouble with them,”
Sunday Sun learned that although the leadership tussle had lingered for 32 unbroken years, the maturity of the late Yaro Dogara and the late Sanni Kabiru who had both laid claim to the position of Sakin Hausawa of Lagos since 1988 helped to rein in their exuberant and belligerent followers and prevented major confrontations between them. However, with the death of Alhaji Yaro Dogara in 2007 and the penultimate week’s demise of his rival, Sanni Kabiru, there is mounting apprehension that the well-managed three-decade leadership tussle might snowballed into a major crisis in the community, except urgent steps are taken to douse the crisis before it degenerates further.
Signs of further degeneration of the crisis had multiplied in the last two weeks. Following the death of Alhaji Sanni Kabiru a fortnight ago, kingmakers loyal to the house of the deceased Hausa leader turbaned Alhaji Ali Kabiru, another member of the late leader’s family as the new Sarkin Hausa Lagos. This, however did not go down well with the followers of the opposing Dogara Ruling House, who sources claimed had nursed the hope that the demise of Alhaji Sanni Kabiru would end the rivalry over the stool of the Sarkin Hausawa of Lagos. Meanwhile, a similar scenario had played out in 2007 following the death of Alhaji Yaro Dogara. Another member of the late Yaro, Alhaji Aminu Idris Yaro, had emerged as the new factional Hausa leader, to the consternation of the raval ruling house.
The installation of Alhaji Ali Kabiru as the new Sarkin Hausawa of Lagos, Sunday Sun, gathered was said to have been given what some analysts termed as ‘Lagos State government’s backing” following the alleged presence of the Lagos State Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Arc Ahmed Kabiru at the event.
Ostensibly piqued by the development, the Dogara ruling house with the support of Ahmed Yerima, the controversial President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, and another group, Arewa Council of Chiefs, in separate statements called on Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to call the Commissioner to order over what they described as an attempt to cause disunity within the Hausa Community in the state.
A statement by Shettima reads in part: “The AYCF condemns in the strongest terms this conspiracy to create bad blood and destabilize the Arewa Community by creating wrong impression about Arewa Council of Chiefs’ established succession process.
“We cannot fathom what the business of a Waterfront Commissioner is with recognition and respect of the monarchs in the Arewa Community in Lagos. It is evident that the Arewa Community has no business with a Waterfront Commissioner who means nothing to our people and even less relevant to Lagos itself. We take exception to the meddlesomeness of a Commissioner who is always anxious in crossing the lines on matters affecting the Arewa Community. However, he is free to seek relevance elsewhere, since it is obvious his office has no project ideas and he is desperate for relevance.”
In its own statement, the Arewa Council of Chiefs maintained that the installation of Alhaji Ali Kabir by the Lagos State Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development was illegal and capable of causing crisis within the community.
According to the statement signed by the group’s secretary, Sulaiman Bala Abdullahi, “the Lagos State Arewa Council of Chiefs unanimously disregards and condemns the illegal installation of Alhaji Ali Kabir Garba. Alhaji Kabir Garba, was imposed by Arc. Ahmed Kabir. This act is illegal and condemnable as the Arewa Community has an existing Sarkin Hausawa of Lagos in the person of HRH Alhaji Aminu Idris Yaro.
“Historically the father of Ali Kabir, Alhaji Kabiru Garba was installed as Sarkin Hausawa of Ebute Meta by Late HRH Alhaji Yaro Dogara (the then Sarkin Hausawa of Lagos) in 1988 and his elder brother late Sani Kabir who died recently was installed by Oloto of Oto as Sarkin Hausawa of Ebute Meta.
“HRH Oba Adesanya in 2008 installed Sani Kabir as Sarkin Hausawa of Ebute Meta, hence the Commissioner of waterfront has no any jurisdiction to install someone as Sarkin Hausawa of Lagos while the Hausa Community has already existing Sarkin Hausawa of Lagos in person of Alhaji Aminu Idris Yaro.
“The Hausa in Lagos are peace loving people, but this installation will cause crisis within the ommunity in Lagos and its environ.
“We therefore urge the Lagos State Government to call the Commissioner of Waterfront, Ahmed Kabir who claimed to represent his Excellency, the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and involved himself into illegal installation of Sarki in the Arewa Community to order ” the statement read.
But reacting to the claims by Yerima and the Arewa Council of Chiefs, an Arewa leader and National President Arewa United Consultative Forum, Alhaji Shuaib Ado Dansudu, appealed to the Lagos State government and well meaning Nigerians to caution Yerima and the Arewa Council of Chiefs, over their claims concerning the controversy trailing the position of Sarkin Hausa in Lagos.
Dansudu noted that the division within the Hausa community in Lagos predated the current administration in the state and described the claims by Shettima and the Council of Chiefs as total false.
According to him, “everybody knows that the Hausa community in Lagos had long been divided over the stool of Sarkin Hausa of Lagos since the era of the late Sarkin Kabiru Garuba and the late Sarkin Yaro Dogara, who both lay claim to the position. Both leaders had their followers then and existed side by side. Therefore, it is wrong for anyone to claim that the house of the late Sarkin Kabiru is not entitled to occupy the position now. Moreover, the issue at hand is purely an affair of Hausa community; it is not a Hausa-Fulani affair neither is it an Itsekiri or Ijaw affair”.
Dansudu also said it was wrong for anyone to accuse the Lagos State Commissioner for Waterfront of plotting to cause disunity within the Hausa community because of his presence as the representative of the government at the event where Alhaji Ali Kabiru was turbaned as the new Sarkin Hausa Lagos.
“The Commissioner was in attendance when the three Sarkins turbaned the new Sarkin Hausa, Alhaji Ali Kabiru. As a member of the cabinet in the state, he was a representative of the state government at the event.
“The problem is that those claiming that the late Sarkin Hausawa of Lagos, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanni Kabiru, was not the Sarkin Hausa of Lagos, are making a big mistake. If they were good students of history they would be able to recall, or perhaps they should ask those who know, that during last electioneering in the state, the current state governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Femi Hamzat were turbaned as Tapidan Hausawa of Lagos and Turaki Hausawa of Lagos respectively in the house of the late Sarkin Sanni Kabiru in the full glare of the world. So, it is totally wrong to say he was never Sarkin Hausa of Lagos.
“The division within the community has been there for years. Also no one can deny the fact that the house of Sarkin Yaro Dogara is not entitled to the position but the truth is that the majority carries the votes and it is a well established fact that Sarkin Kabiru has the majority,”he said.
Dansudu also condemned the role played by the police in the botched Fidaus Prayers of the late Sanni Kabiru last Sunday, saying the police allowed itself to be used by a factional ruling house against its perceived opponent. “How on earth is it possible for the family organizing prayers for their departed loved one to use the same event to launch violence and cause mayhem? It is not possible. A more neutral role should have been played by the police.” he pointed out.