The clash between the Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III and Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El-Rufa’i over 2019 was the reason behind the boycott of the Kaduna Centenary celebration by northern governors and some prominent traditional rulers, this newspaper reliably gathered.
Multiple sources at the Kaduna Centenary secretariat told our correspondents that the anniversary was almost sabotaged by the Sokoto monarch, who is the spiritual head of Nigerian Muslims over irreconcilable differences with the Kaduna state governor over 2019 presidential elections.
“The fact remains that the northern traditional rulers, the state governors are sharply divided over the 2019 presidential elections. That ugly incident vividly played out at the Kaduna centenary celebration. Some of the governors and traditional rulers are not even on speaking terms,” the source at the Kaduna centenary secretariat confided in this newspaper.
One of the sources narrated how the incident played out culminating in the Sultan mobilizing some state governors and traditional rulers to stay away from the event at the last minute.
Governor El-Rufai, it was gathered, first announced during a Northern Governors Forum (NGF) meeting that his administration was organising a one hundred years anniversary of Kaduna as the defunct capital of Northern Nigeria. British colonial master Sir Frederick Lord Lugard moved the northern capital from Zungeru in present Niger State to Kaduna in 1916.
At the meeting, El-Rufa’i rolled out the events scheduled at the centenary that included a colloquium, musical events, workshops, among others. But the Sultan observed that a durbar was missing on the list. He said excluding the durbar means excluding the traditional institutions from the important event.
“It was therefore agreed at the meeting that a durbar should be part of the event and a committee was established purposely to coordinate it. And the Sultan appointed former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie (Sardaunan Katsina) as chairman of the durbar committee. Coomassie was to work with a larger centenary committee, which the membership of all northern states Secretaries to the State Governments (SSGs),” the insider said.
Some weeks to the event, the Kaduna state government sent money to the traditional rulers scheduled to participate at the event “for logistic support.” It was at that stage that some northern state governors who are nursing presidential ambition felt that El-Rufa’i was trying to use the durbar “to kickstart Buhari’s 2019 presidential campaign; and therefore, vowed to scuttle it,” another source said.
The insider said “The Sultan and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state felt that the durbar was going to be used as a campaign platform for the president and thus decided to boycott it, having earlier agreed to attend and contribute funds for it during the NGF meeting. They believed that the durbar was being organised by El-Rufa’i as a launching pad for Buhari’s presidential campaign.”
On the other hand, the Sultan started mobilizing leading northern emirs, asking them to stay away from the event. “The Sultan called Emir of Katsina Abdulmuminu Usman, Emir of Gwandu Muhammadu Iliyasu, Emir of Daura Umaru Faruk, Emir of Argungu Muhammad Sama’ila Mera, Emir of Gusau Ibrahim Aliyu, Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar, and Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II, asking them to stay away from the centenary durbar,” the source inside the centenary secretariat said.
On his part, after sensing the eminent boycott, Governor El-Rufa’i chartered an aircraft and flew to Sokoto on that fateful Friday to “beg the Sultan.” But on his arrival, the Sultan refused to take his phone calls. “Governor Tambuwal had to meet him at the guest house where he lodged. Tambuwal used his mobile to call the Sultan. When the Sultan picked, he handed the phone to El-Rufa’i but the Sultan dropped the call when he heard El-Rufa’i’s voice,” the source privy to the incident said.
While most of the leading emirs obliged the Sultan’s request, those of Kano, Zazzau, Hadejia, Gombe, and Shehu of Borno, clearly “revolted” and ignored the Sultan’s order by attending the durbar. Another source said Emir Sanusi told Governor Ganduje that he won’t stay away from the durbar because “Nasiru (El-Rufa’i) is his bosom friend.”
While the Emir of Gusau almost “ran into trouble with Governor Abdulaziz Yari because he acceded to the Sultan’s request. The emir collected the El-Rufai’s money for logistic support and the Zamfara state government gave him money as well. So, there was serious confusion when he finally said he wouldn’t attend,” our insider said.
Shehu of Borno Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi and Emir of Zazzau Shehu Idris also defied the Sultan and attended the durbar. “Shehu Borno said his kingdom isn’t part of the Sokoto Caliphate to be dictated to, by the Sultan. While Emir of Zazzau said the centenary durbar is an opportunity for the traditional rulers to converge and showcase their cultural regalia,” the source said.
In the case of Etsu Nupe, his entourage was already in Kaduna for the event when the Sultan asked him to back out. “The Etsu Nupe was in his guest house in Kaduna and his horses were even at the venue. But he still stayed away because of the Sultan,” the source said. dent told this newspaper.
Sources told this newspaper that the crack in the northern governors’ rank may continue to deepen as 2019 elections draw nearer. “Some northern governors like Tambuwal are nursing presidential ambition. They are, therefore, not happy with President Buhari’s overbearing alliance with El-Rufa’i,” another source said.
El-Rufa’i may have also coveted for himself the wrath of the Tambuwal and Sultan’s camp when he recently mobilised governors to perform series of “visitations of allegiance” to the President – all for 2019 presidential elections.
This newspaper further learned that it was in protest of the Kaduna incident that the Sultan took the 9th General Assembly of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria to Rivers state, controlled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by Governor Nyesom Wike.
The traditional rulers’ security summit in Port Harcourt, according to insiders, may not be unconnected with a 2019 project where Tambuwal is contemplating pairing with Wike in a presidential ticket, another source said.
Insiders said both the northern traditional rulers and the governors are sharply divided over 2019, “with most of the governors such as Tambuwal, working with some eminent traditional rulers, looking for alliances and political platforms outside the APC, and beyond the shores of the north.”
The Sultan, another insider said, whose relationship with President Buhari is at its lowest ebb, may likely be working on the same wavelength with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s coalition movement. “It’s an open secret that there is no love lost between the Sultan and Buhari’s administration. He never hides his disdain for Buhari’s presidential ambition long before now. And Buhari’s ineptitude and glaring inefficiency have so far provided him with enough reasons to work against him in 2019.”
His romance with Governor Tambuwal is becoming stronger and bonding by the day which “explains Tambuwal generosity towards him. This is evident by the Sokoto state government’s controversial purchase of the N700 million guest house in Abuja for the Sultan, as well as appointing him to chair the heavily budgeted Education Revitalisation and Strengthening Committee in the state.”