Opportunities to serve in the military have not only been associated with rare privileges, discipline and professionalism, but have always created more openings for one to rise to prominence in politics, various institutions and industries outside the military sphere. In Nigeria, some former military officers are making waves in their new positions as royal fathers.
Traditional institutions have always had a challenging demand of authority, quality leadership, discipline and ability to command influence and followership. It, therefore, becomes imperative that those who occupy this sacred institution as traditional rulers must not only be acceptable to the people but also have the ability to conduct the affairs of their kingdoms in a manner that appeals to their subjects. The demand for discipline, perhaps, has a role in people’s choice for retired military officers to sit at the helm of affairs as paramount rulers in their communities since discipline is an essential part of the military. Some of the former military officers now sitting as traditional rulers include;
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, is the 20th Sultan of Sokoto Caliphate. He was born on August 24, 1956 when his father, Sultan Abubakar Sadiq III was on the throne as the Sultan from 1938 to 1988. However, what people may not know is that before his enthronement, Sultan Sa’ad had sojourned in military service.
Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar began his civil education in Sultan’s Ward Primary School, Sokoto. He later attended the popular Barewa College, Zaria, before joining the Nigerian Army where he had an accomplished military career before retirement as a Brigadier General. He enlisted into the army in June, 1975 at the age of 19. Sultan Abubakar was a member of the Royal Course 18 of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, where he trained alongside other fellow course mates.
On December 17, 1977, he was commissioned into the Nigerian Army Corps as a Second Lieutenant. Sultan Abubakar later went to India for T55 Armament Instructor Course. Back home, he attended a Junior Division Course in Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, Kaduna State. In line with military tradition of regular training of personnel to enhance professional and operational expertise, he further attended Land Force Command and Staff College, Canada; Senior Executive Course 28, National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Kuru, near Jos, Plateau State; United Nations Training Assistance Team Seminar on Peacekeeping, Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration in Accra, Ghana and Conference on Sub-regional Security Protocols and Demilitarisation in Africa.
Other trainings he attended in the course of his military career include ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security at Banjul, The Gambia and All Central Organ Chiefs of Defense Staff on Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution at African Union Headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
During his military career, Sultan Abubakar held several appointments. From 1981 to 1982, he served in 245 Recce Battalion for OAU Peacekeeping Force in Chad Republic. Similarly, from 1987 to 1988, he was Second-in-Command, Corps Headquarters (Presidential Security Unit) and in 1993, assumed Commanding Officer position, 241 Recce Battalion, Kaduna. From 1995 to 1999, he was ECOWAS military liaison officer and Commanding Officer, 231 Tank Battalion (ECOMOG Operations) in the war-shattered Sierra Leone from 1999 to 2000. That was not all. From 2003 to 2006, he served as Defence Attaché to Pakistan and was at the same time, accredited to serve in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan before his retirement.
After his military career, he became the Sultan of Sokoto on November 2, 2006 following the death of his elder brother, Sultan Muhammad Maccido, in a plane crash involving ADC Airline Flight 53. As the Sultan, he is also the Amir al-Muminin (Commander of the Faithful) and spiritual leader of Muslims in Nigeria. He is also the president-general of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) and president-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA).
Alhaji Mohammed Sani Sami, Emir of Zuru
Another retired military officer, whose service in life has traversed the military circle, is the incumbent Emir of Zuru, Kebbi State, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Sami who retired from military service as a Major General after a fulfilling and successful career. He joined the army on December 10, 1962. Sami attended the Mons Officers Cadet School, Aldershot, United Kingdom, and was commissioned on July 25, 1963 (exactly 52 years tomorrow). He was later saddled with a new responsibility by former head of state, General Murtala Muhammad, who appointed the then young Lt Col Sani Sami as Commander of Brigade Guards.
Following the December 31, 1983 coup which ousted President Shehu Shagari’s government and brought General Muhammadu Buhari to power, Sami was appointed military governor of Bauchi State. He held the office as governor of the state until August, 1985 when General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew the Buhari regime.
Sami pulled out of military service on September 3, 1990. However, another royal crown with its royal feather was waiting for him after he had hung his Khaki military uniform. That was the crown of the throne of Emir of Zuru, Kebbi State. He is the Emir of Zuru, one of the highly respected emirates in northern Nigeria.
HRH Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, Etsu Nupe
Another traditional ruler who took early sojourn in the military circle before rising to royalty as traditional ruler is HRH Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, the current Etsu Nupe. Born in 1952 in Bida, present-day Niger State, to the family of late Alhaji Abubakar Saganuwa Nakordi Nupe, he grew up as a member of the ruling house of Bida Emirate.
Then, Abubakar attended Government College, Sokoto. He later went to Commercial College, Kano between 1967and 1971. It was after his education in Commercial College, Kano that he enrolled into the NDA. During his military career, he held several appointments, including the position of director of foreign operations at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja. This was, however, his last appointment before his retirement in September 2003 at the rank of Brigadier General.
After his service in the army, his community found him deserving to serve in a more exalted seat as the Etsu Nupe. He was, therefore, appointed as the 13th Etsu Nupe on September 11, 2003, a position which places him as the ruler of all Nupe-speaking people. He succeeded his uncle who was the 12th Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Umar Sanda Ndayako following the latter’s death. As the 13thEtsu Nupe, Abubakar also doubles as the chairman of Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers.
HRM Capt Alfred Diete-Spiff, King of Brass
The present King (Amayanabo) of Twon-Brass of Bayelsa State, His Royal Majesty Alfred Diete-Spiff, cannot be forgotten when military officers who have traversed from military service to royalty are being discussed. The Brass king, who was born on Friday, July 30, 1942 at Nembe, attended Government School, Buea, Cameroon, for his primary education in 1947 and St Joseph’s Secondary School, Sasse, Western Cameroon.
He later joined the Nigerian Navy. His journey into the naval service started in 1961 when he joined what was known as the Merchant Navy. He had a good performance record there which prompted the Nigerian Navy to demand that he be transferred to it in 1962 for further training.
As he towered in his military career, Diete-Spiff later became the first military governor of Rivers State after it was created out of the defunct Eastern Region. As the governor of the then new state, he held office from May 28, 1967 to July, 1975 during the era of General Yakubu Gowon-led military junta. Diete-Spiff became governor at the age of 25 when he was a Naval Lieutenant Commander. This was probably when he started making striking records in history to have been appointed a state governor at such an early age in life. He retired as a Navy Captain.
Just like Diete-Spiff, his father, was a notable civil servant who worked as a postmaster and later became the traditional ruler of the Amangi people. In his case, Diete-Spiff became king of Brass in 1966.
HRH Oba Michael Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo III, Alake of Egbaland
Just like his counterparts who have excelled in the military and dominated in the traditional institution, His Royal Highness, Oba Michael Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, the Alake of Egbaland ascended the throne after a successful military career. He retired from the army as a colonel.
Born on September 14, 1943, into the Laarun ruling house, he attended Baptist Boy’s High School, Abeokuta. He later went to University of Ibadan in 1965 where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969. He soon joined the army the same year.
During his career in the army, Gbadebo attended Command and Staff College (CSC), as it was called then, Jaji, from September, 1978 to August, 1979. From January, 1984 to September, 1985, he served as principal staff officer to Major General Tunde Idiagbon who was then the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Dodan Barracks.
After his military service, Gbadebo’s community desired his service at home. He was therefore, installed as the Alake of Egbaland following the death of Oba Oyebade Lipede. He was enthroned as Alake, six months after the death of Lipede on February 3, 2005. Gbadebo was voted by 15 out of 23 Egba kingmakers who had assembled to elect a ruler for the throne. He therefore, became the Alake of Egbaland on August 2, 2005.
Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo, Emir of Gwandu
The Emir of Gwandu, Kebbi State, Alhaji Mustapha Jokolo, did not only rise in the military; he has towered in fame and prominence in the traditional institution more than he did in the military. His enthronement, later deposition and final reinstatement have all combined to make him the more prominent as one of Nigeria’s former military officers who now command respect in royal regalia.
Jokolo retired from the army as a Major. During his military service, he was the Aide de Camp (ADC) to Major General Muhammadu Buhari when the latter was the nation’s head of state.
After retiring as a soldier, he rose to the throne as the 19th Emir of Gwandu in 1995 following the death of his father, Alhaji Haruna Rasheed. However, he did not find it all rosy as the Emir as he had to face a trembling controversy in connection with the then government of Kebbi State. The Kebbi State government under former Governor, Adamu Aliero dethroned Jokolo on June 3, 2005. For the deposition, the Kebbi State government accused him of making reckless statements that may threaten national security. He was also accused of not having a good relationship with other traditional rulers in the state and of leaving his throne for Kaduna.
However, the deposed traditional ruler was not daunted but rather contested the decision of the state government through a legal action instituted against the state government. In 2014, Kebbi State High Court six, presided over by Justice Abbas Ahman decided the case in favour of Jokolo. The judge ruled that the deposition was contrary to the law and that due process was not followed. He was therefore reinstated as demanded by the court while the 20th Emir who had already been appointed in his place was removed.
Aside from the six prominent royal fathers mentioned above, there are several other monarchs who have also had a stint in other para-military institutions like the Customs as well as the police.
The fact remains that they have all continue to be a good role model for the military institution they had earlier served.