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  • The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Maccido (1926–2006)
  • Jean Boyd

Sultan Muhammadu Maccido patterned his conduct on the example of Sultan Abubakar III. Interviewed in August 1988 he spoke frankly of his admiration for his father:

The Sultan is so open. People go there to eat with him, or meet in a small group at morning greetings. And they will say, 'Did you hear such and such on the radio?' or 'Do you know what is being discussed at so-and-so's house?' He knows what is going on and he has tried to meet the wishes of the people, never counting the cost to himself. I too have had the opportunity to serve. Alhamdulillahi. Na gode ma Allah. But some people are bent on getting their own way. I believe that in the process they are determined to destroy my father and myself even though we mean well to everyone. The Sultan has baraka – a difficult thing to put into words – but exemplified by the fact that no one has been able to shorten his term of office. The people know this and earlier this year at the filin Idi (prayer field) there were more people than ever. It is God's blessing (baiwar Allah) on him.

When Abubakar became Sultan in 1938 he had only two children, a son, Muhammadu, and a daughter, Hadiza Ta Modi, both by his senior wife, Hauwa. All the other children born to him up to that point had died in infancy, which is why Muhammadu was given the sobriquet Maccido ('slave'), to ward off further misfortune. (After his accession Abubakar went on to have a further 53 surviving children.) Muhammadu Maccido went to the local school and at home ate local food. He used to say that his favourite meal was tuwon dawa and miyar kuka, dumplings made of guinea corn flour with a sauce made from baobab leaves. In his father's household thrift and economy were practised and any left-overs were heated up and eaten the next day.

In his teensMaccido was used to seeing ordinary people pass through the palace gates to discuss their problems with the Sultan. Abubakar not only enjoyed meeting with herders, fishermen, market traders, farmers and workmen – he also learned from them, which is why he was so well informed. Reminiscing in 1988, Maccido said, 'I remember when the Sultan last came to UK for medical treatment. He soon demanded to be taken back home. We wanted him to stay and rest, but he missed the daily contact with his people. We managed to delay his departure for a couple of days but then we had to go.' This relationship to his people was at the heart of Sultan Abubakar's idea of good governance. [End Page 159]

In 1943, when Maccido was 17, Sardauna Ahmadu, who had hoped to become Sultan in 1938, was accused of misappropriating tax money. He was given a jail sentence by Sultan Abubakar, whereupon the Sardauna hired a southern lawyer and appealed to the British court where the conviction was quashed for lack of evidence. Commenting in 1987, Waziri Junaidu said: 'There were faults on both sides.' Alkalin Alkalai Mai Wumo told me: 'It was very unfortunate. The wound never healed at all.' From this dispute, which had serious consequences resonating to this day, Maccido learned a great deal. In 1987, à propos of unrelated matters, Maccido said: 'I do not wish for recriminations and bitterness. What is the point of confrontations?'

In the 1950s political organizations emerged from social networks dominated by men who had been at the British-run Katsina College. Sardauna Ahmadu Bello, who himself had been educated there, entered the House of Assembly in Kaduna in 1947 and in 1954 he became Premier of the Northern Region. Malam Maccido, made a Member in 1951 at the age of 25, was too young to be anything but a bystander, but as the Sultan's eldest son and the Sardauna's relative all doors were open to him. Quiet and well-mannered, he watched, listened and learned, always reporting to the Sultan. In Kaduna his lodgings were not with the elite but in the house of...


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