Emir of Zazzau: A clash between vested rights and vested interests, by Abdulhaleem Ringim

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

“Due process is a growth too sturdy to succumb to the infection of the least ingredient of error” ~ Benjamin Cardozo It has been almost 5 decades since the people of Zaria (Zazzau Emirate) last witnessed the death of an emir. And so the agony that comes along with such a tremendous loss and the tension that ensues as a result of the waiting for a new emir to be appointed seem to be immensely overwhelming the good people of Zaria. On 20th September, 2020, we lost our revered and venerable emir, Alhaji Shehu Idris Auta Sambo. Even without reading any eulogy written in his favor, one could understand the extent to which he was loved and respected by his subjects by merely looking at the number of people that stormed the streets of Zaria for his funeral prayer. What a historic moment! Read Also: BREAKING: Emir of Zazzau is dead Since after the 3rd day of mourning, the people of Zaria have been expecting with great deal of anxiousness the conclusion of the selection process and announcement of the new Emir of Zazzau. And for the fact that it took 4 days to appoint the late Sarki Shehu Idris after the death of Sarki Muhammadu Aminu in 1975, it seems as though Zaria is experiencing the longest time without an emir in recent history, for today marks 15 days. The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai in his condolence message on the third day of mourning expressed how emotionally destabilized he was by the death and also prayed to Allah to grant the kingmakers the ability to choose for the Emirate an emir that would emulate the good works and exemplary leadership of Sarkin Zazzau Alhaji Shehu Idris. He also enjoined them to be just and fair. The selection process was said to have started soon after with 11 contestants among which is Alhaji Ahmad Nuhu Bamalli, the Magajin Garin Zazzau who coincidentally happens to be the governor’s friend and ally. Few days after, some reputable news outlets started dishing out reports that the kingmakers have completed the selection process and have submitted a list of candidates who were said to have successfully fulfilled all criteria as stipulated by the government themselves through a process that was witnessed by senior government officials. The leaked report however suggested that the Magajin Garin Zazzau did not make it to the final list of recommended princes for possible appointment by the governor. The governor disputed this claim and instead embarked on a journey to re-read some historical and philosophical texts in search for wisdom. A large number of people in Zaria hold the opinion that the reading exercise the governor embarked on was just an attempt to distract the people and use the time to work the process in favor of his friend and ally. Also, the recent regular visits of the former Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II who happens to be a mutual friend of the duo (I.e Mallam El-Rufai and Magajin Garin Zazzau) to Kaduna seems to have further affirmed to the people that hold the above mentioned intuition that the their friends are trying to protect a “VESTED INTEREST”. The governor read 3 books in 3 days and the masses followed suit in reading those books, especially the first one titled “Government in Zazzau 1800-1950” by M. G Smith. If there was one thing the masses learnt from those books, especially the first one, it would be the fact that The governor holds the prerogative to appoint an emir even if he happens not to be part of the kingmakers’ recommendation. This understanding was deduced from the supposed events that took place in 1937 with regards to the appointment of Sarki Jaafaru Dan Isyaku, the 14th Emir of Zazzau. M.G. Smith reported that Sir Sharwood Smith who was the District Officer of Zaria appointed Sarki Jaafaru as Emir of Zazzau despite not being among the kingmaker’s recommendation.

However, other closer and more indigenous sources including the “The British in Northern Nigeria by Robert Heussler” and the Hausa historical text titled “Tarihin Sarkin Zazzau Mallam Jaafaru by Usman Dalhatu” contradicts M. G Smith’s reportage of the event and confirms that Sarki Jaafaru was indeed part of the recommendation and was reported to have been one of the top 2 candidates based on the criteria stipulated by Sharwood. This therefore demolishes the belief that there was a historical precedence as to the appointment of an Emir despite not being among the kingmakers recommendation, hence, implementing such would amount to gaining an unprecedented status; one with the potential of generating controversies and possible litigations on the grounds of not adhering to the customs and traditions of the people of Zazzau and the laws governing the appointment of chiefs. Few days ago, the governor announced the cancellation of the initial selection process which saw to the selection of 3 princes as the final recommendation of the kingmakers and ordered for the start of a fresh selection process. While the major justification given for such cancellation was the exclusion of 2 interested applicants from the process, a large number of people in Zaria still hold the believe that the cancellation is yet another move to include Magajin Zazzau Alhaji Ahmad Nuhu Bamalli in the selection process yet again. However, some news outlets reported that the kingmakers protested against this new directive and complained that the cancellations was not communicated officially to them. The report also stated that the kingmakers rejected Muhammadu Sanusi II’s plea in favor of Magajin Garin Zazzau. They therefore stood by the cancelled process and only filled out assessment forms for the 2 excluded candidates. It was gathered that they did not vote again. These events have raised some questions in the public domain; 1. Can the governor appoint, as Emir of Zazzau a candidate not among the kingmakers’ recommendation? 2. What is the fate of the initial selection process? Does it stand nullified as the governor mentioned or valid as the kingmakers said according to several media reports? To answer this questions, one would have to revert back to the Chiefs (Appointment and Deposition) Law CAP. 25 Laws of Kaduna State 1991. Section 4(2) stipulates that “Upon the death, resignation or deposition of any chief or head chief of a kind described in subsection (1) above, the Governor may appoint any person SELECTED IN THAT BEHALF BY THOSE ENTITLED TO SELECT in accordance with the provisions of any order made by the Governor prescribing the method appointment of such a chief or head chief.” According to this subsection, there must be a selection process (in accordance with the guidelines given in the Governor’s order) by those entitled to select (the kingmakers) and only then can the Governor appoint from the selected candidate(s). Except in cases of dispute where Section 4(4) of the same law stipulates that “In any case of dispute the Governor, after DUE INQUIRY AND CONSULTATION WITH PERSONS CONCERNED IN THE SELECTION, shall have the final say as to whether the appointment of any chief or head chief has been in accordance with the provisions of any order made by the Governor.” On the fate of the initial selection process that the Governor annulled, it is reported that the kingmakers were not officially notified of such annulment and hence have decided to stand their grounds with regards to the validity of the initial process. For this, there is a legal precedence as in the case of Ojo v Governor of Oyo State (1989) 1 NWLR (Part 95) 1, Afolabi v Governor of Oyo State (1985) 2 NWLR (Part 9) 734 and most recently JIKANTORO AND 6 OTHERS V. DANTORO AND 6 OTHERS (SC 186/2002) [2004] 25. In the case of JIKANTORO AND 6 OTHERS V. DANTORO AND 6 OTHERS (SC 186/2002) [2004] 25 for example, the facts were presented as follows: “The first appellant(Jikantoro) and the first respondent(Dantoro) were the main contenders to the vacant stool of the Emir of Borgu following the demise of the last incumbent on February 3, 2000. On February 7, 2000 the Governor of Niger State, through the Commissioner for Local Government, wrote to the Chairman of Borgu Local Government to set the machinery in motion for the selection of a successor. On February 9, 2000 the surviving three kingmakers, out of a total of five kingmakers two of whom had passed away, appointed the first respondent to succeed the demised Emir. The Governor of Niger State was unhappy with this decision and, having enlarged the Council of Borgu Kingmakers by the appointment of two additional kingmakers, ordered a re-election scheduled for 12 February. In doing so, the Governor relied upon the provisions of the Chiefs (Appointment and Deposition) Law Cap. 19, Law of Niger State, 1989 and issued the aforesaid order on 10 February. Aggrieved by this decision by the Governor, the first respondent(Dantoro) sought (ex parte) and obtained an injunction on 11 February, but despite the injunction, the meeting took place and the first appellant emerged victorious.

The first respondent (Dantoro), joined by the other respondents in this appeal, thereupon instituted action in the High Court, Suleja, for declarations that the first respondent’s selection on 9 February had been proper and valid; that a Chief Executive of the State (such as the third appellant, the Governor of the State) could not award the stool of Emir as political patronage, contrary to the customs of the Borgu people; that the Governor lacked the power to constitute a fresh electoral college in the manner he did; that the order of 10 February was null and void for various reasons; that the appointment of the additional kingmakers was void because they were not related to any of the families of Borgu’s traditional kingmakers and that the meeting of 12 February had been in contempt of an Order of Court and thus null and void. The respondents further sought Orders to set aside the third appellant’s Order of 10 February (and all processes conducted in pursuance thereof) and to command the Governor of Niger State to approve the first respondent’s selection. Additionally, and finally, the respondents claimed Orders for various perpetual injunctions in respect of the recognition of the first respondent (and non-recognition of the first appellant) as the Emir of Borgu. On 11 September 2000, the trial court found in the respondents’ favour and following an appeal against that decision the Court of Appeal on 26 April 2002 delivered a judgment unanimously confirming the finding made by the trial court.”

At the final appeal, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Respondents(Dantoro and 6 others) and affirmed the ruling of the trial and appeal courts. Edozie, JSC who delivered the leading judgement held that “The first respondent having been duly and validly selected as the Emir as earlier noted and the Council of Chiefs not having advised against the approval of that selection, had acquired an interest or a vested right enforceable at law to restrain the conduct of another selection exercise.


The Governor of Niger State, third respondent, cannot, in my view, arbitrarily jettison that selection and direct another selection exercise to secure the appointment of a candidate of his own choice. I am reinforced in this view by the decision of this Court in the case of Ojo v Governor of Oyo State (1989) 1 NWLR (Part 95) 1 at 22 cited by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN in his brief. In that case, this Court held that kingmakers have a VESTED RIGHT in a chieftaincy stool as each of them has a constitutional right to take part in the selection or appointment of Baale of Ilara-elect in the event of a vacancy in that stool and that no amendment to the chieftaincy declaration could be made to abrogate that right after it had accrued. Similar conclusion was reached in the case of Afolabi v Governor of Oyo State (1985) 2 NWLR (Part 9) 734. If kingmakers can acquire VESTED RIGHT in a chieftaincy stool, a fortiori a person validly selected to the chieftaincy stool.” From the above, one could easily deduce that the Kingmakers can actually make bold to stand by the decision they reached during the initial selection process. At this point, it is not simple nor is it all about (The Governor’s) interest”, it is a test of his leadership and ethics. This will be a defining moment in his history, and will also serve as a reference point whenever the table turns and becomes the people’s turn to make a decision on him.

Hence, we urge his legal advisers to counsel him appropriately while ultimately, we pray to Allah (SWT) to guide him and bestow upon him wisdom as he makes such a tremendous decision. In a clash that seems to be between VESTED INTERESTS AND VESTED RIGHTS, May Due Process prevail!

Abdulhaleem Ishaq Ringim writes from Zaria


Pulished on Daily Nigeria on 5/10/2020



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