New Emir Of Zazzau And The Burden Of Leadership

October 9, 2020
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By Salihu Moh. Lukman

Ultimately, the 19th Emir of Zazzau has emerged, in the person of His Royal Highness, Alhaji Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli. Like I stated elsewhere, ordinarily, someone like me should be indifferent to who emerges as emir. Partly because our traditional institutions and leaders are not discharging their responsibilities properly in accordance with their founding requirements, the question of who emerges as the new emir became a contestable subject before ordinary citizens. Many ordinary citizens misleadingly assume that their opinion matters. In the same vein, expectations of citizens as to what should be the priorities of the new emir get exaggerated with hardly any content.

Given that our traditional institutions are supposed to be managed based on moral authority founded on truth, respect and recognition are expected to be natural. This is largely because our traditional leaders should themselves be a strong source of inspiration for leadership by example. The whole process of the emergence of the 19th Emir becomes a contestable subject because of the crisis of confidence on our traditional institutions as the harbinger of morality and truth.

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It will be deceptive to attempt to argue that leadership by example can be associated with our traditional institutions today. In fact, if moral authority is the operative framework of our traditional institutions, especially in Zazzau Emirate, events of the last few weeks around the selection of the 19th Emir would not have happened. The conduct of the selection process would have been completely different and ordinary citizens like me will have no option but to respect the process. Similarly, such respect would naturally be extended to not just the new emir but all those who aspired to the throne.

Sadly, since the announcement of the appointment of the new emir, the so-called supporters of aspirants to the Zazzau throne have been sending messages of alleged injustices on the social media notwithstanding that the aspirants themselves have declared loyalty to the new emir. Somehow, this is a reminder that in truth, we, as citizens, are part of the crisis of leadership at all levels. Our level of intolerance is such that push our leaders to develop a mindset of “now or never” in any contest for leadership. When our candidates lose, the process must have been unjust even when candidates who we supported attempted to bribe their way. We simply just blindfold ourselves into supporting our candidates with all the baggage they desperately dumped on our heads.

Who is unjust to who? The process or our candidates? The issue of justice is far broader than personal choices. I can argue that in relation to our traditional institutions, especially in the North, most of the challenges are self-inflicted based on which ordinary citizens end up carrying collateral shame and liabilities. As things are, our traditional institutions can be said to be only ghost of their history and completely distanced from the values of moral leadership, which is the source of their legitimacy. This is fundamentally the reason why citizens have shifted respect away from the institution to personal allegiances, which is hardly about the agenda or priorities of the new emir.

The burden of leadership confronting the new emir is the agenda question. What will be his agenda? Will the agenda prioritise the issue of reforming the emirate to return to its original leadership founded on the principle of leading by example based on capacity to uphold the truth? How will the new emir approach the task of re-orienting functionaries of the emirate to be able to lead by example? And how will he approach the responsibility of mobilising all those who aspired to the throne with him? Similarly, what steps is he going to take to carry all other traditional leaders and citizens to rise above personal interests so that the citizens are able to become the moral compass for leadership?

These are not easy questions for any leader to be able to respond to. Above all, I don’t think any of those who aspired for the position, including our new emir can claim to have any response that can unite the emirate and our citizens without the distractive and divisive conducts of citizens, including the so-called supporters and opponents. Part of the challenge before the new emir is how he can initiate actions that are respected by even those that opposed his emergence in the first place.

At another level, there is the question of relationship between the Emirate Council and the Kaduna State government. This is an area that is throwing up all manner of analogies, including possible dethronement by another government. The dominant belief is that the choice of the new emir is influenced by the personal choice of the governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. I will be quick to point out that it wouldn’t have been otherwise. In fact, for anyone within the emirate, including the kingmakers to imagine that the personal choice of the governor is inconsequential confirms how distanced our traditional institutions are from the truth. It will be sheer arrogance and lack of humility to imagine that anyone with the authority of a governor will simply work with instructions or recommendations from anybody, no matter his/her standing in society.

Without bearing off into the issue of evaluating the process around the selection of the new emir, I will argue that vital opportunities were lost in terms of ensuring that the process of selecting the new emir is used to negotiate new and better relationship between the state government and the Zazzau Emirate Council. This would have been used to begin to influence the kind of reform priorities our new emir will consider. Part of the problem is that we hardly recognise that processes of leadership formation always impose some reform agenda. The question is, are we interested in influencing the orientation of the reform agenda to come with the new leadership? Or, we just want to adopt a blind trust on whoever emerges to initiate the reform, trusting that our expectations will be met?

Regrettably, the latter is the operative and overriding consideration. This is largely responsible for why honeymoon between leaders and supporters/followers is very short in this country. Interestingly, the dynamic is such that most time those who opposed leaders at the point of contest end up becoming diehard supporters and supporters becoming enemies. Reasons for that are mostly around access to opportunities controlled by leaders. Often, the drive to win the support of the opponents makes leaders to offer concessions, which potentially alters the configuration of citizens’ support. Again, this is possible because at all levels, leadership is distanced from the operative framework of being moral torchbearers based on which it is able to administer opportunities judiciously without fear or favour.

This creates the problem of managing external relations. As a result, both within the Emirate and outside, self-centred approaches to challenges of access to opportunities become the main attribute. Pride then become the only binding force, artificially bringing leaders and citizens together. Consequently, petty demand for patronage from partners, stakeholders and all associates take centre stage in the conduct of our traditional leaders. Unless citizens have some close relationship with our traditional rulers, they can hardly be candidates to be promoted by our traditional leaders, especially when it borders on access to opportunities anywhere. This is responsible for situations whereby our traditional institutions and leaders play almost zero roles in any form to support citizens when they aspire to access opportunities. Yet, our traditional institutions and leaders are always the first to make ownership claims on successful individuals, often rewarding such successes with traditional titles.

To what extent can any reform change all these to the advantage of the citizens? We can wish away all these and reduce the debate to individual allegiances. It will hardly redress the problem of weak moral leadership or absence of it in our traditional institutions and leaders. What is required is a conscious, deliberate and well-planned reform agenda to be driven by our new emir with the support of our state government. Integral to the reform should be a good strategy to win the support of the citizens and once the conducts of our traditional leaders is oriented to uphold the truth based on the need to serve, the emirate can then gradually begin to regain its respect, win the support of those who opposed the emergence of the new emir and consolidate old support base.

Whether our new emir, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Ahmed Nuhu Bamalli will recognise all the burden of leadership and take steps to act decisively to address them, is completely another matter. Our responsibility as citizens is to highlight it in the hope that they will merit his attention and consideration. I am convinced that the emergence of the new emir presents an opportunity for engagement with our traditional institutions, leaders, stakeholders, partners, associates and all citizens. Such opportunities will be mismanaged if they are reduced to personal allegiances to those who aspired to the throne. It is my prayer that Allah will guide our new emir, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Bamalli to act in the best interests of all citizens.

–Lukman can be reached on smlukman@gmail.com

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