Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar: 18 Years of Purposeful Kingship
As far as traditional rulership in Nigeria is concerned, the Etsu Nupe and paramount ruler of the Nupe nation, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Dr. Yahaya Abubakar, CFR ranks amongst the most outstanding; not only because of his privileged position in the order of protocol of emirs and chiefs in the North but also going by how he is revered by his subjects and respected across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
Traditional rulers, by convention, should be seen hard at work building bridges and serving as forces of conciliation, helping to bring people together, irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political differences or whether or not they belong in the so-called political mainstream or in the opposition. This role, the Etsu Nupe has continued to play excellently well, serving as a father to all.
For a good measure, the Etsu Nupe fits neatly into the above job description of a traditional ruler. Since his ascension to the throne of his forebears as the 13th Etsu Nupe on September 11th, 2003, he has completely transformed the Bida Emirate and indeed the entire KinNupe into arguably the most efficiently run kingdom in the country.
Testimonies to that effect abound. In the last 18 years that he has been on the throne, there has been no reported case of any violence, whether sectarian or otherwise in his domain, where Christians, Muslims and people from diverse backgrounds co-habit in peace, thanks to the fatherly role of the Etsu Nupe.
Beyond sustaining the rich and proud legacy of his forebears, Dr Yahaya Abubakar has served as the permanent Chairman of the Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers with uncommon humility and carriage. He is also an effective chairman of the National Mosque, Abuja, maintaining and sustaining it as an architectural landmark and a leading centre of religious and intellectual activities in the country’s federal capital. He has also served as the National Amirul Hajj and a strong voice in the Nigeria Interreligious Council (NIREC).
Furthermore, he has brought to bear his wealth of experience to the new found peace at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile- Ife where he has been Chancellor for the past few years. Also, as the Chairman, Coordinating Committee, National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria, he has been a beacon of service with his legendary leadership skills and patriotism to the admiration of his colleagues across the country who have continued to drink from his cup of wisdom.
However, those who know him up close are not surprised at the quality of leadership that Etsu Nupe has been providing to his people, the good people of Niger State and even beyond. The royal father came to the throne well prepared after a distinguished career in the Army, rising to the enviable rank of Brigadier General. Having gone through the mill, the soldier-statesman is not new to discharge of duties in accordance with laid down procedures as well as putting square pegs in square holes.
This is why many have attributed the successes recorded by the Etsu Nupe to his ability to choose good councilors and advisers. It is now common knowledge that Etsu Yahaya recognizes excellence when he sees it. He has consistently chosen tried and tested persons to assist him in building a 21st Century Nupe Kingdom that all of us will be proud of. This approach to governance led to many achievements that are difficult to ignore.
But perhaps, the most significant of Etsu Nupe’s achievements in the past 18 years is how he has forged unity and cooperation amongst the Nupe people of Niger, Kwara and Kogi States. Keen watchers of developments in Nupe kingdom in the last two decades can attest to the fact that in spite of the continuous effort to obliterate African cultural practices by agents of western civilization, the Nupes are enjoying a renaissance.
The Etsu has made this possible through the symbolic celebration of the Annual Nupe National Day in Bida, the headquarter of the Nupes. During the annual event which takes place on the 26th day of June every year, the Etsu Nupe with the support of his colleague-Etsus of Patigi, Agaie, Lafiagi, Lapai, Tsaragi, Tsonga, Kupa-Abugi and Bassa-Nge superintend symbolic exhibition of culture and reliving of age long traditions.
The 26th day of June marks the day when the British Army was defeated by Nupe warriors led by the then Etsu Nupe Abubakar on the 26th day of June 1896. The British Protectorate in Lokoja had approached the Bida Military camp at Ogidi of present Kogi State resulting in the defeat of British Constabulary and the Union Jack was seized by the Nupe Cavalry.
Every year, the festival starts with prayers in both mosques and churches, respectively on Friday and Sunday in the first and last day of the event, and the Etsu Nupe then leads the event to discuss the rich cultural heritage of his people. Other programmes usually lined up to mark the day include lectures on issues concerning Nupe’s history, background, culture and development, at the end of which merit awards and traditional titles and other forms of recognitions are given to deserving sons and daughters of Nupeland.
Significantly, the cultural values being revived include the Patigi Regata – a colourful boat racing festival on River Niger in Patigi and Bariki celebrations in Bida which is usually held on the fifth day of Sallah festivals both Id-el fitr and Id-el Kabir celebrations in Bida. Each of these celebrations lasts five days. The fifth day is marked with fan-fare, where the Etsu Nupe rides on a horse-back with his subjects positioned at strategic locations to catch a glimpse of and pay respects to the Etsu-Nupe and his beautiful procession of horses. People visit Bida from far and wide to watch this colourful event. Also, being revived is the Gani Festival in Kutigi.
The Gani is an annual traditional wrestling festival where men display their strengths. A strong confident person comes out and challengers file out and he chooses who he feels like taking on. It normally attracts large crowds from different parts of Nupe land and beyond.
The Kingdom’s rich tourist attractions are also being further projected to the world in the renewed efforts to revive the Nupe culture. Tourist attractions of note are the confluence of River Niger and Kaduna, which shows a clear distinction with marked differences between River Kaduna, whitish in colour and River Niger greenish in colour. The two never mix as the confluence progresses down until after several kilometers where the influence of the other smaller tributaries alter the natural process.
The Masaga glass work in Bida is also a wonderful tourist resort. The glasswork involves melting of present-day bottles as raw materials. The broken bottles are placed on fire and allowed to melt into liquid product that is used to make different types of ornaments such as bangles, bracelets, beads, snake-like toys etc. other tourist attractions include Kanji Lake National Park and the Cenotaphs of Mungo Park and Lander Brothers in Jebba, Kainji and Jebba Hydro Electricity Dams sites.
Embedded in the cultural revival effort by the Etsu Nupe includes the effort by the Etsu’s council to educate the world through the media on the key social and mystical powers of Nupes that have made the people very popular, especially the Ndakogboya Masquerades. Not to be missed is the traditional horse racing competition which now holds annually in Bida.
Wholly taken, it is easy to see that Etsu Nupe Yahaya has put his people on the world map through the projection of the virtues of hospitality, respect for others and integrity that Nupe sons and daughters are known for worldwide.
Yahaya, a Professor of Agricultural Extension and Development Communication at the University of Ibadan is the Magatakarda Nupe and the author of “The Nupe People of Nigeria”