On April 20, 1996, a small chartered aircraft carrying some key Sokoto figures landed on the tarmac of Sultan Sadiq Abubakar III Airport, Sokoto.
Aboard the aircraft on that Saturday afternoon were Sarkin Sudan Shehu Malami, the late Ibrahim Gusau, and a former governor of Sokoto State and Abacha ally, Attahiru Bafarawa.
Shortly after the arrival of the aircraft, the then governor of Sokoto State, Col. Yakubu Muazu, clearly acting on a script, summoned Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki, alongside the commissioner of police and director of SSS, to an “emergency meeting” in the Government House.
Moments after Sultan left his palace to attend the “emergency meeting”, with a coterie of aides and array of palace courtiers, a detachment of mobile policemen took over the palace.
On reaching the military administor’s office, all the aides were waylaid and locked in a hall, while the Sultan’s briefcase (containing his hypertension drugs) was seized, and his flowing coat (alkyabba) stripped.
Before he could protest, the bewildered Sultan, then 70, was led into the military administrator’s office.
After a brief meeting, which saw to the end of his eight-year rule, the Sultan was ushered out of the governor’s office by the then Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav and led by armed policemen into a waiting grey-coloured Peugeot 505.
The vehicle zoomed off toward the airport around 1:30pm, from where he was taken to Yola, and later on to Zing in Taraba State.
Dasuki was subsequently accused by the military government of unauthorised travels, interference in government affairs, invitation of foreign dignitaries without permission, the lack of respect for government, misappropriation of funds, among others.
There have been different accounts on why the late Sultan was deposed by the Abacha regime. While some attributed his ouster to the implication of some of his companies in the fraud unraveled in the financial sector by Abacha’s Failed Banks Tribunal, others believed Dasuki’s alleged “interference and lack of respect for Abacha” cost him the most influential throne in Northern Nigeria.
But an equally deposed traditional ruler, the Emir of Gwandu, Mustapha Jokolo, had a different belief expressed in a 2006 interview with the Sun newspaper.
“Aliyu Dasuki, his (the late Sultan Dasuki’s) nephew and son-in-law who is married to his daughter was classmate to General Abacha in Kano,” Jokolo said.
“I don’t know whether primary or secondary. They were classmates and friends. It was Abacha who introduced Aliyu to General Babangida. And through him, Aliyu was getting contracts, military contracts. He was a businessman. Now, Aliyu was very close to Abacha.
“Only God knows what went on between the two of them. So, any business that was going on, Aliyu was the front. So, Aliyu became sick, terminal illness, he eventually died. Abacha came to claim that there was some money that Aliyu was keeping for him in a Swiss account. Sultan Dasuki was then the Sultan of Sokoto. Sultan Dasuki told him that if it was true that he had any money with Aliyu, he should swear to an oath, then he would arrange for them to get the money. That is the Qu’aranic injunction, that if a person dies and you want to make any claim out of his possession, you have to swear an oath. Sultan Dasuki was justified in that.
“But Abacha felt this was business between two friends which was an illegal business which did not require oath. They did not swear to any oath because it violates the Qu’aranic injunction. If you did business, you should record it in writing, but they did not. There was no evidence for Sultan Dasuki to give this money to Abacha.”
After his banishment to Zing in Taraba State, the late Sultan was kept incommunicado in a three bedroom bungalow for months without access to his family. He remained there until the military regime of Abdulsalami Abubakar set him free after the death of Abacha.
Born on December 31, 1923, in Dogon Daji village of Sokoto, Dasuki had early Quranic and elementary school education in this village. He rose to become the private secretary to the late Premier Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Resident Officer of Jos Province, a diplomat, permanent secretary and later after retirement, a business tycoon with a wide network of friends within and outside the country.
The emergence of Dasuki as the 18th Sultan of Sokoto after the death of Sultan Abubakar III on November 1, 1988 came as a rude shock to the people of Sokoto State and sparked violent riots in the seat of the caliphate. This, perhaps, was largely because his predecessor had many brothers, 52 children, and dozens of direct cousins who were closer to the succession line than he was.
According to a chapter dedicated to Sultan Dasuki in a book titled Sultans of Sokoto: Biographical History Since 1804, the succession battle was largely fought among six contenders, although over 20 princes qualified to vie for the throne. Late Dasuki emerged the favoured, beating Almustafa Attahiru, Muazu Lamido, Muhammadu Maccido, Muhammadu Zayyanu and Shehu Malami.
After the tension that greeted his ascension died down and several peace meetings with the ruling houses of Abdullahi and Aliyu, Dasuki’s coronation ceremony took place on March 15, 1990.
Dasuki’s reign from 1988 to 1996, saw to sweeping changes and remodelling of the architectural design of the Sultanate. Perhaps because of his wealth and influence, Dasuki rose from a relatively obscure ruling house of Buhari to become one of the most powerful Sultans in the history of Sokoto Caliphate.
Aged 93, Dasuki died on Monday in Abuja after a protracted illness.
- Written by Jaafar Jaafar, a public affairs analyst and media practitioner, from Abuja.