Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki’s legacy in echoes (1), By Abdussamad Dasuki

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Nearly half a century ago, my father, Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki of blessed memory, headed a committee which proposed lasting solutions to the dysfunctions within our local government system. The ongoing conversation about restructuring local government councils to enhance their effectiveness as the third tier of government echoes his memory. He led a committee that proposed solutions to this enduring threat to our federalism, yet those recommendations were not fully adopted, and this generation continues to pay the price.

Known widely as the Dasuki Reform, it aimed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our local government structure. The key recommendations included: reducing the number of local governments to streamline administration, enhancing financial autonomy for them, and emphasising grassroots development through increased community participation in decision-making. The reform also aimed to ensure accountability, transparency, and proper resource allocation within the local government system.

Remarkably, in 2020, four years after his passing, His Royal Highness Maigari of Lokoja, Muhammed Makarfi II, remembered and urged the nation to revisit and implement the 1976 Dasuki Local Government Reform report, asserting it as the most practical solution to the challenges facing the third tier of government.

Sultan Dasuki’s influence extended far beyond his region, earning him respect and admiration from those who upheld high moral principles. His wisdom in governance, spirituality, and national cohesion resonated widely, leaving an indelible mark on a nation that still finds relevance in his legacy, seven years after his passing at age 93.

The late Sultan’s examples remain a reference point for current Nigerian leaders, with one recurring aspect being his call for a 

revolution of the mind

. He believed that Nigeria needed more than a change of political systems but also a mindset inspiring a new approach to leadership and strategies to tackle the myriad challenges undermining the nation.

Ironically, we are yet to achieve the level of diversity management Sultan Dasuki aimed for. He remained dedicated to improving inter-faith relations in our unstable environment by creating the Peaceful Coexistence Committee (PCC) to address religious conflicts and community disruptions. As a prominent figure in Islam, he demonstrated the religion’s promotion of peace and its embrace of other beliefs and traditions.

As we commemorate Sultan Dasuki, we pay homage to a luminary whose footsteps in history remain etched in the hearts of many. He belonged to a generation whose leadership values are still considered models and inspiration. He served as a private secretary to the great premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, during a critical phase of our history, before assuming leadership roles in strategic organisations during his public service and retirement. These experiences shaped his philosophy and work ethic as he transitioned through various careers and roles, including chairing the board of the African International Bank (AIB), before his eventual coronation as the 18th Sultan of Sokoto.

Sultan Dasuki, a cornerstone of Northern Nigeria’s traditional establishments, possessed a global perspective influenced by his diplomatic travels. His experience included service at the Nigerian Embassy in Sudan, building on a prior career stint established when he was stationed in Saudi Arabia as Pilgrim’s Officer. Notably, he is remembered for diplomatically safeguarding Nigerians’ interests in the holy land, aiding those facing issues with local authorities, and even ending up in jail. Progressing in his career, he eventually became the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Nigerian Ministry for Local Government until his retirement.

I find it challenging to reconcile the ideals my father advocated with the current state of our country. It is alarming to witness how Northern Nigeria has fragmented into hostile groups, a stark contrast to when the region interacted with other parts of the country and the world as a unified people, despite differences in religion and ethnicity. This is why, as Sultan, he practiced what he preached and dedicated his life to promoting peace and unity.

There has never been a time that challenges us more to reflect on our institutional, societal, and moral decline than now. There has never been a time that urges us more to draw upon the ideas and lessons of that generation in which Sultan Dasuki was a shining example, especially in the North, where poverty has almost doubled in recent years, with over 80 per cent of the poverty burden in Nigeria stemming from the region.

It’s haunting to acknowledge that the previous generation of Northern leaders built the largest university and polytechnic in Sub-Saharan Africa in an agrarian economy. They also established the largest black-owned conglomerate of their time, the Northern Regional Production Development Board (NRPDB), which evolved into the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) in the 1970s. They had the foresight to import Neem trees from India and line them along the streets of desert towns like Sokoto to combat climate change. All of these were done altruistically.

I often reflect on my father as a mirror to discern the gap between the past and the present. Each time, it becomes clear that the challenges ahead can only be overcome by us and no one else. However, we can’t find our direction unless we retrace our steps back to our past heroes and learn from their successes. Clearly, we do not suffer from the lack of blueprints and policies, as always the devil is in the execution.

Despite the injustices faced by Sultan Dasuki, he left this world as a believer in Nigeria. He remained fiercely optimistic about the nation’s future. Even when his emergence as Sultan was politicised in 1988, he upheld an uncompromising belief in Allah. “It is my firm belief that Allah can make you a ruler at the time He wants you to be, and remove you at the time He wants,” he said in response to the antagonism from those aspiring to be Sultan. He extended his hand of brotherhood to all those who aspired to the Sultan position. It’s been 35 years, and this fatalistic belief still resonates, in a world in search of principled role models.

The legacy of Sultan Dasuki remains a guiding light, casting shadows on the paths of governance, leadership, and national unity. His faith in Nigeria’s vast potential echoes through the corridors of time. As a policymaker who has had the privilege of serving in executive and legislative roles, I recognise the enormity of the shoes he left behind for a generation in search of models. We must keep on striving to follow in their footsteps. May Allah continue to repose his soul, and may his principles continue to illuminate the way for a Nigeria he fervently believed in. 

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