OPINION: The significance of the traditional title of Turaki in Ilorin Emirate. By Abubakar Imam

Date: 2021-10-27

Ilorin, for more than two centuries, has been a significant segment of Northern Nigeria. While geographically it is the southernmost Emirate, it is also called the frontier Emirate of Northern Nigeria. It is, unarguably, the most heterogenous in terms of history and constituents, among all the Emirates of Northern Nigeria. It has,therefore, been a subject of debates, concerns and attractions, among all the people of Nigeria.

While in language and other great aspects of cultural peculiarities , Ilorin shares a lot of similarities with the Yoruba part of Nigeria. Ilorin, to a great extent, is also a perfect exactitude of the traditional political institutions of the Hausa-Fulani people of Nigeria. This is evident in the Emirate's political system right from its pinnacle, the Emirship and other hereditary traditional leadership institutions. This trend is equally observable in the honourary traditional titles conferred on exceptionally accomplished indigenes and selected friends of the Emirate.

The institution of honourary titles, which was formally introduced and formalised in 1955 with the conferment of the titles of Waziri and Madawaki of Ilorin on Mallam Muhammadu Ajeigbe Gobir (1900-1960) and Alhaji Yahaya Madawaki, MBE, MFR (1907-1998), respectively, by the 8th Emir of Ilorin, Shaykh Abdulkadir Shuaib Bawa(1919-1959), has come to stay as a very significant aspect of the community's sociopolitical culture. Today, close to twenty of such titles have been created by succeeding Emirs such as Shaykh Sulu-Gambari,CFR(1959-1992); Shaykh Aliyu Abdulkadir (1992-1995); and the incumbent, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, CFR,who mounted the respected stool in 1995.

Of all the titles, the office of Turaki appears to be one of the most prominent, highly coveted and greatly respected by all and sundry. This veneration may not be unconnected to its significance in the far North. It may also be informed by the calibre of those who have held the position in the prominent Emirates of Northern Nigeria, particularly since the nation became an independent country. Take for instance, the first elected President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR (1924-2018). He was the Turaki of Sokoto between 1962 and his death. Similarly, former Vice-President of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku,GCON (b.1946), held the title of Turaki of Adamawa for so many years before he was elevated to the office of Wazirin Adamawa, a few years back .There was also Alhaji Aliyu Turakin Zazzau,OBE, (1908-1974),who was the Honourable Minister of Trade and Industry and subsequently Minister of Establishment and Training; and,of course,Alhaji Maje Abdullahi,the very popular Turakin Kano,who lived between 1924 and 1975, and was a prominent figure. All these gentlemen were very visible in the sociocultural and political firmaments of Northern Nigeria and the nation at large for many decades.

In Ilorin, each of those who held the title was a very important member of the community.The first Turaki of Ilorin, Alhaji Sanni Olanrewaju Buraimo Okin(1910-1972) was appointed the Turaki of Ilorin in 1963 by the 9th Emir of Ilorin, Shaykh Sulu-Gambari,CFR. Alhaji Okin was a teacher, politician, statesman, and community leader who served the people of Ilorin creditably.He was a Court Registrar,Treasurer and a Member of the Northern House of Assembly at various times. He was also a Member of the House of Senate during the first republic. He was once a Provincial Commissioner for Kabba Province in the administration of the Northern Regional Premier, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, KBE, GCON. He held the traditional title from 1963 till 1972.

The second holder of the office was Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki (1933-2012). He was an accomplished medical doctor, foremost politician and extraordinary community leader who became the political leader of Kwara State shortly after he took the title. He was the main issue in the politics of Kwara State for four(4) eventful decades. The third Turaki of Ilorin was also regarded as "the Chief Launcher of the State" due to his deep pocket and generosity.He was a man of the people till his death. He was also the Senate Leader at the nation's Upper Legislative House during the Second Republic, between 1979 and 1983. Many people believed that his conferment and turbaning as Turaki of Ilorin on April 12,1974 was the key with which he found a space for himself in the politics of the State and the nation at large. On his elevation to the title of Waziri in 2006,late Dr Saraki was succeeded by his son, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON (b. 1962).The third Turaki of Ilorin was the Executive Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011.He was also the President of the Senate between 2015 and 2019.He was,indeed,the first Muslim to serve as the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly. In between his tenure as Governor of the "State of Harmony", he served as the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum. He was also the Chairman of the influential Nigerian Governors Forum, and became an important political force too, as his father.

Going by the pedigrees of those who held the title,some of which were stated above, it is generally assumed and accepted that the title is of high value in every Emirate of Northern Nigeria. And Ilorin,despite its peculiarities,is not an exception.This is because only first class patriots and established statesmen are appointed to hold it.

The literal meaning of the title is Business Leader.The position grants the occupant the privileges of serving as a close confidant of the Emir. It is just like the position of Senate Leader in a Senate where the holder is usually the engine-room of the parliament and a "go-between" the parliament and the executive arm of the government. In traditional politics of Northern Emirates, a Turaki is usually "the face of the Kingdom", which granted him the title. It is,therefore, a position of exceptional honour.

The seat of Turaki in a typical Hausa-Fulani entity like Zazzau( Zaria) is a position that could be traced back to the Habe regime. The office was considered exclusively a seat for princes as it was Prince Bayero, the son of Hammada, the then Emir of Zazzau, who was the first personality to ascend the seat of Turaki. He served as Turaki while his father was serving as the Emir of Zazzau.

From the slogan associated with the title of Turaki, one would appreciates the significance of the title a bit more as it goes thus:

"Turaki,the crown controller;Antihill,the center of the
entire earth; Bugau,the mediator of the palace
conflict;the fagaci of the Amir,you reserve the lord
and pass the wealth across board".

As it can be gleaned from the above, anyone who becomes the Turaki of an Emirate is usually carefully chosen as he becomes an endearment to the Emir. This means that,Turaki is trusted by the Emir to the extent that he can visit the Emir in his private room to convey his messages.

Understandably, the words of Turaki are highly and quickly translated into actions. This is because he is seen as the liaison officer who "links" the Emir with the Kingdom. On the other hand," antihill the epicenter of the earth"means he conveys all the princes' messages to the Emir.

And so,the title of Turaki is no less an important and significant one in an Emirate. As it is in Zaria,Sokoto,Kano and Adamawa,among other leading Emirates of the North,it is also so in Ilorin.Hence,the calibre of those who were chosen to hold it right from its establishment in 1963.

Just as Allah guided his father in the choices of Alhaji Sanni Okin in 1963 and Dr Abubakar Olusola Saraki in 1974, the incumbent Emir was also obviously guided in the choice of Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki in 2006.It is also clear that his decision to appoint Mallam Saliu Mustapha as the new and fourth Turaki of Ilorin is also a product of divine guidance.

This assertion is premised on the pedigrees, capacities and potentials of the new Turaki, Mallam Saliu Mustapha. He is not only young but also wealthy. The new Turaki of Ilorin is also not only resourceful but also generous. He is not only a patriot but also enterprisingly patriotic and a rising figure, bridge-builder and highly connected personality who will use the position to promote the status of Ilorin as an established force in the "politics" of the nation.

One can only wish this energetic gentleman and a truly handsome personality sound health, more wealth,greater wisdom and exciting goodwill, long life and every other requirement to discharge his responsibilities far beyond the expectations of the Emir and the good people of Ilorin Emirate and their friends.

Imam is National Publicity Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.


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