On April 20, 1996, the eight-year reign of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, one of the greatest Sultans of Sokoto since the dawn of the federation came to a sudden end. Summoned to an urgent invitation to see the state’s military administrator, Colonel Yakubu Mu’azu, in his office. The sultan responded and as tradition entailed, was chauffeur-driven to the Sokoto Government House in a long convoy and with a retinue of palace officials. But certain things happened at that moment that shocked him. On getting to the state house, the military administrator did not come out to receive him as was the practice. Then, he was also surprised at the unusually high number of armed military guards at the government house. Also, as he made to enter the administrator’s inner office, Dasuki’s palace officials were denied entry with him. Since that was not the practice, the Sultan protested but he was curtly told that the administrator wanted to meet with him alone. At that stage, the monarch began to sense trouble.
At the administrator’s office was also the Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav, and the state director of the State Security Service, SSS, Alhaji Aboki. To the sultan’s amazement, the administrator told him that he (the Sultan) had committed unpardonable offences against the people, Islam and the state. He added that after due consultation with the kingmakers, the sultan had been deposed and banished from Sokoto. To the monarch, it was like a bad dream as he could not believe his ears. He began to shiver while a letter of sack given to him by the administrator fell off his clasped hands. But Tsav, the commissioner of police, picked it up and tucked it into his hands. Dasuki at first was short of words as he quivered in disbelief. But at a stage, he found his voice and looked up straight at the administrator, “Why would you disgrace the family of Uthman Dan Fodio ?” But Mu’azu, the military administrator, having performed his brief, simply walked out of his office. This was during the rule of military Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
Journey to exile
Immediately after the tension-soaked session at the administrator’s office, Tsav told Dasuki that he was under arrest. While the royal father’s palace officials and other aides were still waiting for him in an inner room in the governor’s office complex, the sultan had been briskly herded out through another route and driven straight to the Sokoto airport by Tsav and his team. Dasuki requested to be allowed to go to his palace to take his drugs but the police personnel turned down the request. He also asked for where they were taking him but the police officers replied, “We don’t know.” In the real sense of it, they did not know as they only got a clear instruction to drive him down to the airport.
While on their way to the airport, there was a signal that the place had been taken over by intending pilgrims, which could pose a challenge. This did not pose much problem to the police anyway, as they simply chased the intending pilgrims away from the tarmac, before the arrival of the deposed Sultan.
At the airport, a plane had been waiting to take the sultan away. He, at this stage, resisted the arrest, saying he would rather die than enter the aircraft that was to take him on the journey to exile. His words: “This is a coup against the sultanate and as a leader, I should die fighting; I won’t enter any aircraft unless you kill me.”
But the leader of the security team detailed to take him in the flight quietly replied, “We have no instruction to kill anybody.” Again, when the sultan reminded them of the need for him to have with him his anti-hypertension drugs, the security personnel promptly assured him that they would buy them for him when they reached their destination. But where? Nobody was willing to say.
While the Sultan still stuck to his gun that he would not enter the plane, he was firmly reminded of the indignity in a Sultan being dragged into the plane. Again, they told him that they were going on a long journey and that if he chose to go by road, he was free, provided he could endure the rigour.
At that stage, the Sultan agreed to enter the plane. Inside the plane, reports said he kept telling the security personnel that “you know today but you don’t know tomorrow.” He also blamed his plight on his political enemies who were bent on destroying the “Buhari royal family.”
The plane then landed at Yola, Adamawa State and the deposed Sultan was driven straight to one of the government guest houses. Sources said throughout the night, Dasuki was wide awake, and at about 4 a. m. the following day, he was taken out and driven to Jalingo in now Jigawa State, where he began a new life in exile.
In Sokoto, government promptly beefed up security following the Sultan’s removal, especially at the palace and at the ex-Sultan’s private residence along the University of Sokoto’s temporary site. Also, Dasuki’s family members, upon hearing of his dethronement, started moving out of the palace despite assurances from government officials that they could remain in the palace for as long as it would take them to get comfortable accommodation. It would seem that the state government had anticipated wild protests or riots with the level of tightened security following the removal. But the opposite was the case as most residents, though surprised, simply went about their normal business.
Government justifies removal
Colonel Mu’azu invited the Sokoto kingmakers to the government house where he officially informed them that the Sultan had been deposed and banished. He asked them to set in motion the process for the emergence of a new sultan. He also told them the series of offences committed by the dethroned monarch. Also in a broadcast to the state, the administrator pilloried Dasuki for how he conducted his affairs as sultan. His words:
“The leadership role for which the state is known in the arena of politics and religion is fast slipping out of our grip as a result of lack of honest and sincere leadership.”
He said since Dasuki became the sultan, many things went wrong,“which are of serious consequences.” He specifically listed Dasuki’s offences to include causing feud and enmity among the people and among the ruling houses, ignoring government directives and suggestions made to him, using government facilities and personnel without seeking permission, and inviting foreigners, especially diplomats, without notifying the government of Sokoto State. He further accused Dasuki of travelling outside his domain without the approval or notice of the government, and that he spent money on capital projects independent of government’s approval. Such acts, Mu’azu said, easily ridiculed both the palace and the government.
Furthermore, the military administrator reeled out other offences of the deposed Sultan to include acts that brought negative consequences to the religion of Islam. “He is self-centred…and unable to account for all the donations and fund given by individuals or organisations for the construction of mosques and religious activities.” According to him, the deposed sultan is likely to appear before the failed banks tribunal. “It is shameful to see a Sultan in a witness box to answer some charges. This ugly development is totally unbecoming of either the Sultan or the revered Sokoto caliphate,” he explained.
Appointment of Sultan Maccido
On Sunday April 21, a day after Dasuki was dethroned by the military government and after the kingmakers had been briefed on the urgent need for the selection of another sultan, 69-year-old Mohammadu Maccido was named as the new sultan. In a twist of fate, it was Maccido who keenly contested with Dasuki for the coveted turban of the sultanate, eight years earlier. Then his late father, Sultan Abubakar Saddiq 111 had died and Maccido was reportedly favoured by the kingmakers to succeed him at first but at the last minute, the indices changed in favour of Dasuki. However, the announcement of Maccido elicited widespread jubilations in the streets as the locals poured into the streets, shouting ‘Sai Maccido’. The new sultan was an American-trained agriculturist who studied public administration at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State and in the United Kingdom. Until his appointment, he was the Sarkin Kundun of Sokoto.
Possible reasons for Dasuki’s removal
Beyond the façade of the official reasons given for the sudden dethronement of Dasuki, observers believed that his sack by the military administration of General Abacha was to settle old scores. According to this school of thought, Dasuki’s insistence during the interim national government of Ernest Shonekan, in the wake of the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola, that there should be no more military take-over, might have been his Achilles’ heels. He reportedly advised then that Shonekan should be allowed to rule and handover to a democratically elected government, a proposition said to have hit Abacha below the belt, as he still wanted to rule as Head of State. For this, the Sultan was not forgiven.
Again, the gulf between Aso Rock and the Sultan’s palace was further widened when the Sultan’s son, Sambo Dasuki, a lieutenant colonel and the present National Security Adviser, was named in an alleged coup plot involving former head of state, General Olusegun Obasanjo, and 39 others. As a way of humiliating the Sultan, the Federal Government started assigning functions meant for the Sultan to other emirs who were junior to him. Besides, Aso Rock started playing host to perceived enemies of the Sultan within the sultanate, who then included Maccido. Also, when Abacha visited Sokoto, he snubbed Sultan Dasuki.