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The Amirul Mumineen, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, LLD, CFR, mni, is the Spiritual Leader of Nigerian Muslims, 20th Sultan and Titular Ruler of Sokoto Caliphate, President-General of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, President-General of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, Chairman of Northern Nigeria Traditional Rulers’ Council, Chairman of National Council of Nigerian Traditional Rulers, Co-Chairman of Nigerian Inter-Religious Council, Member of the National Institute (mni), holder of nine Honorary Doctorate Degrees, awardee of seven Military Distinguished Service Medals, retired Brigadier General of the Nigerian Army and former Nigeria’s Defence Adviser to several foreign countries.

The Sokoto Caliphate, over which Sultan rules, is the largest Empire in Africa since the fall of Songhai Empire in 1591. At its zenith, the Caliphate stretched from Massina in modern day Mali (in the north) to Ilorin and Old Oyo in modern day Nigeria (in the south). It also stretched from Dori in modern day Burkina Faso (in the west) to Garoua in modern day Cameroon and Moundou in modern day Chad (in the east). Indeed, at the time of the 1894/95 Berlin Conference (where Colonialists partitioned Africa and Asia into their colonies) Sokoto Caliphate was the largest Empire in Africa stretching over 1,500 Km from Garoua to Dori (east to west)! It was seconded in size and bordered on the north-east by the Kanem-Borno Empire – which informs that from colonial times till today, the Sultan of Sokoto heads Nigerian Muslims and the Shehu of Borno serves as his Deputy.

This Sultan was appointed as the 20th Sultan of Sokoto on Thursday 2nd November 2006 to succeed his senior brother Sultan Muhammad Maccido who died in a plane crash at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja. Right from the day of his official installation, the Sultan had said he would a father to all Muslims and a brother to all people irrespective of their ethnic or religious leanings, or their social or economic status. His vision was for Muslims and non-Muslims to live in peace and harmony with one another for the progress and development of our dear nation in particular and the world in general; his mission is to ensure the cultivation and sustenance of his vision.

My first contact with the Sultan was in August 2007 (when he was about nine months on the throne). We were on a courtesy call of Katsina (Islamic) University led by its Board Chairman His Royal Highness Emir of Kazaure Alhaji (Dr) Najib Husaini Adamu, CON, while I was Secretary General of Katsina Islamic Foundation (founders and proprietors of Katsina Islamic University). I was asked to brief His Eminence on the University Project and on his appointment as Grand Patron of Katsina Islamic Foundation. After my briefing, the Sultan responded briefly in a calm and calculated manner, saying, interalia:

“We thank Allah (SWT) for giving us this first Islamic University in Nigeria. We must strive to make it a centre of excellence, where education coupled with morality shall be the guiding principles. We must make the University a centre of excellence from where the true teachings of Islam shall be propagated not only in Nigeria but to the whole world…”

Those brief philosophical words of wisdom kept ringing in my ears and gave me confidence that Nigerian Muslims had now got a leader who would lead them into building bridges on the unfortunate man-made gullies of religion and ethnicity that bedevilled the nation. I watched this chosen man of Allah very closely over these ten years on the throne. The Sultan is without doubt the most travelled traditional ruler contemporary Nigeria has known, and almost all his journeys have been for peace making among the diverse ethnic and religious communities of our badly battered nation.

With the fine qualities of Sultan Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, many of us knew that it was only a matter of time that this fine gentleman would be given a befitting recognition for his peace-building efforts. To our delight, it was reported that the Sultan and John Cardinal Onaiyekan, then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, were jointly nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize (“for their efforts at campaigning against the misuse of religion”) alongside former US President Bill Clinton and the European Union, which ultimately won it.

Whether it was a nomination or a proposal, the expectation of peace-loving Nigerians was high, but alas, the two highly respected men did not win the Nobel Peace Prize. But as we were lamenting that loss, the December 3, 2012 edition of one of Nigeria’s most influential newspapers, LEADERSHIP, carried the pictures of the Sultan and the Cardinal on its front page proclaiming them “PERSONS OF THE YEAR 2012”. The newspaper explained its choice:

“In a year when religious turmoil deteriorated to a frighteningly new level and a number of religious leaders lost their heads [the Sultan and the Cardinal] emerged as powerful moderating voices that fundamentally prevented the country from toppling over. By their words, actions, gestures and comportment, they reminded us of what leadership really means. For deploying their voices of restraint at crucial moments to keep the country’s fragile peace, these soldiers of faith are LEADERSHIP Persons of the Year 2012.”

As if with premonition of his future role, when the future Sultan was a soldier participant on the Senior Executive Course No. 28 at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) earlier in 2006 had written his graduating research paper on “Religious Extremism As a National Security Problem: Strategies for Sustainable Solutions”.

“The Muslim 500: The World’s Most Influential Muslims”, an  international publication produced in Jordan that assesses influential Muslims all over the world, placed our Sultan as No. 22 out of 500 World’s Most Influential Muslims. The publication says:

“[No. 22] The Sultan of Sokoto is the spiritual leader of Nigeria’s enormous Muslim community. He gains this position by lineage. Sa’ad Abubakar is the 20th heir to the two-century-old throne founded by his ancestor, Sheikh Usman Danfodio (1754-1817 CE) who was a scholar, leader of the Maliki School of Islam and the Qadiri branch of Sufism and Islamic reformer of the nineteenth century.”

May Allah elongate the life of the Sultan and continue to make him beneficial to Nigerian Muslims as well as all Nigerians. Amin!

(Culled from Dailytrust)


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