Sultan, Kukah and the American Election



It is November 2016, President Olusegun Obasanjo took over the internet. Not for his usual letter writing antics. Not for his idiosyncratic attacks on friends. Not even for his surprise pulling off the carpet below the feet of his foes. Neither for uncanny expose of family secret. But for donning the turban, albeit an over-size one and struggling with the windymosphere of Kangiwa Square, Sokoto in the name of Yanlabain Sokoto.

Rochas Okorocha, the oratorical Governor of the State of Imo has no genetic ties with Caliphate. Neither his maternal nor paternal ancestors ever fraternise with Uthman Danfodio. In fact, Okorocha’s closest fraternity with Sokoto is his upbringing in the capital of the state of Plateau; Jos, a place where the flag of the caliphate refused to fly in the days of Danfodio. But at Kangiwa Square, he was known as Danjikan Sokoto, with multicolored turban to match the title.

But if the two above and their appearances wowed the crowd, a cassock spread on the horse, a cassock dancing to the tune of the windy Kangiwa Square, a cassock moving in tandem with the galloping stomp of the horse as against the tunes of Hail Mary, against the scent of the perfumed smoke in the alter or tune of the steps of those on their knees receiving holy communion raises chins with sight focus on a man strangely riding a horse.

It was a cassock of a Bishop astride a bedecked horse, a Bishop whose trouser ordinarily you would not see because the cassock covers it to the edge of the shoes. But here was a Bishop whose trouser you could see almost to the waist level as his legs wallow up and down in rhythm with the foot of the galloping horse. Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese on a horse at Kangiwa Square.

Welcome to Sokoto. Precisely to Kangiwa Square where the high and mighty gather to mark a decade anniversary of Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III on the throne of the caliphate.

 It was November, 2008 and Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III was marking his second year anniversary as the Sultan. My editor then at New Nigerian Weekly, Alhaji Shittu  Obasa, now of News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, assigned me to do a special report on the event.

Two clergies were identified to be interviewed; Sheikh Isah  Musa, the Chief Imam of Waff Road Mosque, Kaduna and Rev  Father Mathew Hassan Kukah. Both men have close affinity with the Sultan. While I have interviewed Sheikh Musa a number of times on varied issues before then, not so Father Kukah.

This was a time the whole world nay black nations were celebrating the emergence of Barrack Hussein Obama as the first elected black President of the Unites States of America.

Father Kukah gave an appointment for 2o’clock at the Catholic Social Centre, Independence Way,  Kaduna. Few minutes before the time, I walked into the place to the waiting eyes of the Father. Having done on my mission, usual of a journalist not to let waste any opportunity, I took Kukah on the emergence of Obama and what that portends for the black nations, especially the most populous one; Nigeria.

Kukah was quick to dismiss or dash the hope and expectations of those who saw the emergence of Obama as utopia or eldorado for the black world. Though a good omen for the struggle of African American heroes past, a turning point in the history of USA politics, Kukah said nothing would change about US policies and diplomacy. He averred that in a clime like USA, the hood actually makes the monk and not the monk making the hood. He went ahead to talk about the inbuilt mechanisms that serve as check and balance on any individual or group. The establishment he added, makes the President and not the other way round. Yes, celebrate the emergence of a fellow black man as the President of the most powerful nation on earth, the self appointed global police against all odds, but it goes less beyond that he added.

Done, Kukah drove me in his Peugeot 406 from Independence Way to Ahmadu Bello Way right in front of New Nigerian Newspapers. In between, I took him up on his not so frosty relationship with the veteran Journalist and former Managing Director of New Nigerian Newspapers; Muhammed Haruna. I said it seemed they play to the gallery in public but were best of friends in private.

His countenance changed and he asked me what I mean by playing to the gallery. I explained and he gave me his explanation. He told me they remain pals, they exchange SMS regularly and keep in touch. But Muhammed Haruna thinks he can defend the good old north. He said most have moved on and Mallam Haruna was yet to understand that. Hmm, I just shook my head.

That was the time Kukah and Haruna barely spared each other on the pages of the newspaper or on any podium mostly on national debates. For some who don’t know, Mallam Haruna gave Bishop Kukah his first newspaper column; The Mustard Seed(?) in New Nigerian Newspapers in his days as Managing Director.

Eight years after, as the Sultan marks his ten years anniversary, seeing Bishop Kukah galloping on a horse in Sokoto, watching, hearing and reading the hoopla about Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump on the same US election, my mind went to eight years back and Kukah’s comment on US policy.

The greater of the global populace prefers Clinton to Trump. In fact, the majority of Americans also prefer and through Universal suffrage, voted Clinton against Trump for the number one position. But the majority of the minority electoral college prefers Trump to Clinton. This angered majority of the global populace and they demonstrated it in words and in action. But what come to my mind was, Clinton or Trump, the USA remains USA. You may have a slight policy changes along Democrat and Republican political difference, but after all said and done, Americans are Americans first and foremost, and, last and ‘lastmost’.

So, I never cared who emerges the President of USA between Trump and Clinton. If you say Kukah’s warning eight years still ring bell, you may be right. Check Libya, Iraq, Palestine, and worst of all Syria, at the assumption of Obama eight years ago, you would have imagined otherwise. Today, Obama prepares to vacate the White House and greater global political stage, and the story isn’t any better or much different.

Back to Sultan Sa’ad. Here is one Sultan that says it as it is. He tells truth to power without mincing words. He stares men of authority straight in the face and tell them his mind without biting his tongue. He is not known for double speak, or speaking from both sides of the mouth, nor speaking tongue-in-cheek.

Many had the fears that such a stand would set him against the powers that be. But so far, he has muddle through the troubled waters and sail ashore effortlessly. Pre-2011 elections, the Sultan hosted President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Muhammed Namadi Sambo to a meeting at Jama’atul Nasril Islam,  JNI headquarters in Kaduna. Sultan pointblank told the President that as custodians of their forefathers heritage and first line of authority to the people, they were not bothered about the elections, but more concerned about the post election.

He cautioned that the government must do everything within its power to nip in the bud post election crisis. Did the Sultan have the power of clairvoyancy! Or he used his knowledge of military strategy and intelligence! Was that advice adhered to! The crisis of post 2011 elections still leave scars yet to heal on our polity.

The case of late Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa “Christianising Kaduna” and the quick intervention of the Sultan still rings bell. And of recent, the Sultan’s warning to governors living in affluence while owing workers months of outstanding salaries still re-echoes in our heads. Not to talk of his criss crossing the nation to allay the fears of Nigerians on ethno-religious upheavals at the time politicians were busy beating the drums of discords for selfish political reasons.

Need we recall his role in interreligious harmony along with Cardinal Onaiyekan when the latter was the President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN. A feat that suffered great set back with the emergence and tenure of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor with politico-pseudo-religious acts in the days of the immediate past government.

As for Kukah, he has moved on from the Father we all called him eight years ago in Kaduna, to Bishop Kukah of the Caliphate Diocese, Sokoto. Riding horses not for evangelism as Christ (AS) did, but to celebrate the tenth anniversary of a friend and partner indeed. Kukah has moved on from lesser “controversy” to greater ruffling of feathers by calling a Spade a Spade and not working implement sans diplomacy, even if it means to defend an interest or group interest. Kukah has moved on to join the elite who ride horses for pleasure with cassock flying in the wind and later smelling of the horse skin instead of the holly scent of the alter after holy communion. Yet, he remains the same old Kukah.

So, between Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III and the American election, the story remains almost same and nothing has changed much despite our preferences. The world moves on as they too move on, eight years down the road as Obama walks down the White House into another prefix or suffix of former President. By the way, we are all are or would be former sooner or later.


  1. The piece; Sultan, Kukah and the American Election by Abdulkadir is a good read and a masterpiece.
    I love it.
    Kudos my brother!


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