Abdullahi Hassan, Zaria
There is an atmosphere of bereavement and suspense in the northern city of Zazau, (Zaria), Kaduna State, following the demise of the Emir, Alhaji Shehu Idris, after 45 years on the throne.
While a number of the subjects is mourning the passage of the monarch, a greater majority of the same subjects is waiting anxiously, looking onto government for the announcement of a successor to the throne.
The anxiety as well as the intrigues among the aspirants is bound to spike in the coming days given that any moment soon, the state government would announce the new emir.
But for Governor Nasir El-Rufai to exercise this unique function, there are traditions and precedence that call on him to pick his choice from among the three shortlisted names to be presented to him by the kingmakers.
Traditionally in Zazzau Emirate, there are five high chiefs who, after extensive consultations with all legitimate stakeholders, are to come up with the names of the three most suitable candidates for the vacant throne.
“It is among them, as par modern practice, that the governor would pick from in the days to come,” said Alhaji Abubakar Ahmed, a historian in the politics of the traditional stool.
But is the race going to be any less pulsating? No way! As of today, the battle is set and the clash is simply titanic and consuming. It is for men with impeccable records of achievements and service to the people of the emirate, the state, Nigeria and humanity in general.
The princes include Alhaji Mannir Jafaru, Yariman Zazzau from Bare-Bari royal house; Ambassador Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli from Mallawa royal house and Alhaji Aminu Shehu Idris from Katsinawa royal house.
Jafaru is one of the surviving sons of the one-time Emir of Zazzau, Malam Jafaru Dan Isiaku. He is a lawyer and former Secretary of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC). He is also former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Authority; Chairman, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Chairman and captain of many government and private organizations. He was also one-time Commissioner for Agriculture and a teacher like the late emir.
Jafaru is popular among the residents of Zazzau and well spoken of. He has never missed a Sallah celebration procession or Durbar for the last 20 years. He is said to be the closest of the contestants to President Muhammadu Buhari. He is well respected in the emirate because of his father’s contributions to the Fulani dynasty.
Another front-runner in the race is Bamalli, the Magajin Garin Zazzau. He is the son of the First Republic Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alhaji Nuhu Bamalli, who was a grandson of Aliyu Dansidi, a one time Emir of Zazzau. He is a lawyer, former Assistant Director, Nigeria Minting and Printing Company, former Special Assistant to the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), El-Rufai. He is currently Nigeria’s Ambassador to South Korea.
Bamalli’s major point is his closeness to El-Rufai. Sources hinted that the two, El- Rufai and Bamalli, are from the same family lineage. He is 55 years old, considerably younger than Jafaru. It is believed that almost all the higher positions he had occupied or attained, including his current position, were influenced by El-Rufai.
The third contestant is one of the sons of the late emir. Idris is the Turakin Zazzau and an accountant with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC). His strongest points are his age and his network of contacts with other members of the royal houses. He is 45 and in good relationship with most of the influential members of the three royal houses.
Scholars in the North said the position of an Emir is considered the most prestigious a prince could ever aspire to in his lifetime. That is why the contestants are making frantic last-minute efforts to win the day, fueling their networks within and outside Zazzau and working hard to be announced the next emir.