OPINION: The Significance and Track Records of Holders Of The Title of Mutawali in Emirates of Northern Nigeria. By Abubakar Imam

Date: 2022-03-17

No society or community exists without one form of leadership or the other. Each community, whether advanced or developing, big or small, modern or ancient, stable or threatened, has its leadership structures in place.

This time-tested political or administrative hierarchical structure called organogram in modern administration,spells out the duties of each of those who constitute its leadership. As it is in contemporary time, so it has been in traditional polities, particularly emirates of Northern Nigeria.

These positions are now called traditional titles and the holders are appointed by the Emir at his discretion. The titles are as many and varied as the emirates.

Of these, the title of Mutawali or Mutawalle is one of the most prominent. Its prominence can be seen in the fact that it exists in almost all the emirates of Northern Nigeria. Its importance can also be seen in the high caliber of individuals who hold it across the emirates. One other fact that underscores its preeminence is that, despite its present honorary status in contemporary times, the title is still conferred on indigenes of the concerned emirates.

What does the title mean? What are its genesis and essence?The word"mutawalli,is rooted in Arabic. It is religiously inclined and it is usually given to anyone who can be trusted with the resources of the community. It means the trustee of an investment. It also means an Exchequer of the community or equivalent of the Governor of the Central Bank of a country or a Chief Economic Adviser to the ruler of a place. It may also mean the holder or possessor of the key to the treasury.

The duties of a Mutawali are quite many. These include carrying out the directives of the Emir as regards the trade and economy of the Emirate. A Mutawali is also expected to furnish the Emir with information needed to provide direction for the economy of the Emirate. One other function is to facilitate the inspection of properties, documents and records of the Emirate.

Going by these functions and the importance of economy as the bedrock of any society, the calibre of those appointed to hold the title has always been exceptional. This is why the generality of the people, residents and friends of Ilorin Emirate were not surprised with the appointment of Dr. Muhammed Alimi AbdulRazaq as the new Mutawali of Ilorin. This is because his track record speaks volume and perfectly befits the title.

Although, Dr AbdulRazaq replaces his father who held the title for almost six decades, his appointment to the same office is not mandatory by any law, custom or tradition. He was appointed because he possesses all the qualities expected of its holder. Hence, his appointment as made by the Emir of Ilorin; Alhaji (Dr.) Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari,CFR; on Thursday, July 22,2021.

Some Holders Of The Title In Prominent Emirates Of Northern Nigeria

Alhaji AbdulGaniyu Folorunsho AbdulRazaq, SAN,OFR, (1927-2020) was arguably the longest serving holder of the title of Mutawali in the recent history of the title in Northern Nigeria. He was appointed as the Mutawali of Ilorin in 1962 by the 9th Emir of Ilorin and father of the current Emir, Alhaji Sulu-Gambari, CFR (1914-1992) in appreciation of his enormous contributions to the stability and progress of Ilorin,the frontier emirate of the caliphate. Alhaji AbdulRazaq, who was the third elite to be given such a title in Ilorin and the first to be so honoured by the then Emir, held the title till his death. His tenure lasted an unprecedented 58 years. He proudly held the prestigious title under three successive Emirs of Ilorin. He was the longest serving honorary traditional title holder in the history of Ilorin Emirate.

In Sokoto, the seat of the caliphate and headquarters of one of African most respected traditional political entities,which is presided-over by a Sultan, the present holder of the title of Mutawali is the current Governor of Sokoto State, His Excellency, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. He, like the new Mutawali of Ilorin and the latter's predecessor and father, is a lawyer, politician and administrator. He was born in 1966.He was the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between 2011 and 2015. He holds the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR). He is currently serving his second term as the number one citizen of Sokoto State,the spiritual heart of the caliphate. He is also the Deputy Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and Chairman, PDP Governors Forum.

Borno Emirate, arguably the most enduring traditional political institution in Sub-Sahara Africa, and a very prestigious Emirate in Northern Nigeria, which is presided-over by the Shehu of Bornu, also parades a Mutawali of high repute. The current holder of the title is Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim-Imam(b. 1962). Alhaji Ibrahim-Imam, who is an outstanding politician and technocrat, is currently the Chairman of the Board of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). He shares so many things in common with the Mutawali of Ilorin. His father, Alhaji Ibrahim Imam (1916-1980), was a colleague of the father of the new Mutawali of Ilorin. The two were politicians and nationalists during the first republic. They were also members of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) during the first republic. Just like the Mutawali of Ilorin who was given the name of his father's role-model, Shehu Alimi,the progenitor of the Ilorin ruling family; the Mutawali of Borno was also given the name of his father's mentor and the first indigenous Governor of the old Northern Region, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, GCON, MBE, CBE (1910-1990), who was the Waziri of Borno. Alhaji Ibrahim-Imam was preceded in office by Alhaji Kachalla Barko(1934-1998) who was a Presidential Liaison Officer to President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari,GCFR(1924-2018) in-charge of Borno State between 1979 and 1983.

Hierarchically, Gwandu Emirate, which was founded by the younger brother of Shaykh Usman Dan Fodiyo (1744-1817), Shaykh Abdullahi Fodiyo (1756-1828), is the second most important emirate in the Sokoto caliphate. It also has the title of Mutawalle as one of its most respected traditional titles. The current holder of the title is the Governor of Kebbi State, His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Bagudu(b. 1961).The Mutawallen Gwandu is currently serving his second term as the Governor of Kebbi State having been first elected in 2015. He is also the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum(PGF), comprising all Governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).The Governor is the fourth holder of the title in Gwandu. His predecessors were Alhaji Garba Mutawalle, Alhaji Muhammadu Giro and Alhaji Umaru Illalu.

Kano,the emporium of Northern Nigeria and the commercial capital of the Sokoto caliphate, also has the prestigious title of Mutawali among several other traditional leadership positions. The title was created by the penultimate Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero,CFR;who reigned between 1963 and 2014. The current Mutawali of Kano is Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Aliyu. Like the Mutawali of Ilorin, the Mutawlin Kano is also a renowned lawyer who served at the top most level of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The Mutawali Kano,apart from being a lawyer like Dr. AbdulRazaq,was also his course mate at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Zauzau, the renowned centre of learning, otherwise known as Zaria, and one of the foremost emirates, also parades its Mutawali. He is an accomplished scholar, academic and administrator, Prof. Ladan Aminu Sharehu,OON.(b. 1962). He was formerly the Director, Centre for Distance Learning at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He had equally served as the Director-General/Chief Executive of the National Teachers Institute(NTI), Kaduna.

Katsina is another famous emirate that paraded distinguished statesmen as Mutawali across its annals. His Excellency, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, GCFR,(1951-2010) was the Mutawalin Katsina. He was an outstanding teacher, public servant, politician and statesman. He served as the Governor of Katsina State from 1999 to 2007 and left fascinating records. He was elected as the third President of Nigeria in 2007 and served between 2007 and 2010 when he died in office.

Before him, his father, Alhaji Musa Yar'Adua,was the Mutawali of Katsina. He held the prestigious title between 1986 and 1993 when he died. He vacated the title of Tafida of Katsina when the position of Mutawali became vacant. Alhaji Musa Yar'Adua was a politician and technocrat. He was a Minister and colleague of the first Mutawali of Ilorin at the federal cabinet during the first republic. He equally served as the Chairman of the National Party of Nigeria in the old Kaduna State during the second republic. Like the first Mutawali of Ilorin, Alhaji Yar'Adua was also succeeded by a son of his. Mallam Umaru, who was the grand father of the late President, was also the Mutawallen Katsina during the colonial era.

The Northeast Emirate of Adamawa also has the title. The title is also one of the most respected and it was held by Alhaji Mohammadu Koiranga Jada(b. 1946).He is a renowned businessman who previously served as a Member of the House of Representatives.

In Bauchi Emirate, the Mutawali is His Excellency, Alhaji Isa Yuguda(b.1956). The Mutawalin Bauchi is an accomplished Banker and politician. He was the Minister of Aviation during the administration of His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR (b. 1937). Alhaji Yuguda also served as the Governor of Bauchi State from 2007 to 2015.

Gombe Emirate is also an important emirate whose source of legitimacy was derived from Sokoto. It equally preserves the title of Mutawali among others. The last holder of the title was also a statesman who was the first elected Governor of Gombe State, His Excellency, Alhaji Abubakar Habu Hashidu(1944-2018). Alhaji Hashidu was an accomplished agriculturist and public servant who later served as the Chief Executive of the State between 1999 and 2003. He had earlier served as the Honourable Minister of Water Resources and later Agriculture both between 1989 and 1992 under President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, GCFR (b.1941).Alhaji Hasidu was also the Mutawali of Dukku.

The title also has a pride of place in traditional political entities in the present-day Zamfara State, Northwest Nigeria. The Executive Governor of the State, His Excellency, Alhaji Bello Muhammad(b. 1962) is the Mutawallen Maradun,the headquarters of Maradun Local Government Area of Zamfara State. He was a member of the House of Representatives before his election as the Governor of Zamfara State.

In Gusau Emirate, the capital of Zamfara State, the prestigious title also exists. The holder of the title is an accomplished businessman and statesman, Alhaji Nanadi Dalhatu.


The traditional title of Mutawali is,no doubt,a coveted one. The parade of the holders of the title in the emirates of Northern Nigeria shows that it is not only very important but it is always occupied by those that can be described as first class leaders.

While the quality and prestige of each of the holders of the title cannot be overemphasized, it is also clear that Dr. Muhammed Alimi AbdulRazaq, the new Mutawali of Ilorin, is a man whose calibre compares favourably with those of every other holder of the title in the annals of emirates of Northern Nigeria. This is so glaring that should a meeting of the holders of the title be called today, the Mutawali of Ilorin would certainly and always occupy a very eminent position among his colleagues.

Dr. AbdulRazaq holds a doctorate degree in Law from the University of Hull, United Kingdom and he is the first to bag the post graduate degree in Ilorin Emirate. He is equally a respected technocrat and outstanding politician and the oldest of the current title holder as at the date of appointment. Although, he almost made it to the Office of the Governor when he contested for the Governorship of Kwara State about two and half decades ago (1999) on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he is the head of one of the nation's most successful political families, which produced a diplomatic Ambassador, an Honourable Member of the House of Representatives,an Honourable Minister, a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a Governor,a First Lady of a State as well a Local Government Chairman and a Councillor.

In addition, the title of Mutawalli has also been the exclusive preserve of his family for 60 years and still counting, all of which stand him in good stead to even be qualified for the position of "Mutawali of Nigeria" should such a title be created.

His choice as the Mutawali of Ilorin is,no doubt,a very good one. He is a round peg in a round hole. Without a modicum of adulation,it is an incontrovertible fact that Dr. AbdulRazaq is well prepared for the title and endowed with all he needs to discharge the responsibilities of the office successfully.

May I,therefore, join his relations, friends,colleagues and other categories of well-wishers,particularly the good people of Ilorin Emirate, in wishing him a very long,peaceful,rewarding and stimulating tenure as the second Mutawali of the nation's most unique traditional political entity.

Imam is National Secretary, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union.


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