Amidst praises and pomp, (former) heads of states, traditional rulers, dignitaries, well-wishers, admirers and ordinary citizens trooped en-mass to the historic city of Sokoto from Thursday, November 3, 2016 to celebrate the 10th year of the glorious reign of the 20th Sultan of a vast Caliphate. The Sokoto Caliphate, an independent Islamic Caliphate that stretched from present-day Burkina Faso in the west, to Cameroon in the east, was the most important empire in 19th century Africa and, at its height, it linked over 30 different emirates of over 10 million people.
The sheer number of those who attended the events, their diverse background, the caliber of the dignitaries, their personal testimonies and candid opinions of the Sultan and that of his illustrious family are all eloquent testimonies to the fact that the Sultan has truly succeeded in building an enduring legacy on the trail of his forefathers and has established a successful brand as a builder of strong bridges of understanding and brotherhood across Nigeria in just one decade.
Another testimony to his legacy in the making is that the Sultan has consistently used his exalted position as the spiritual leader of the Nigerian Muslims to show to the non-Muslim community that with him, leadership of one faith and true friendship with the other can go hand in hand.
It is important to understand the significance of the achievements that the Sultan has recorded especially at a time of raging and often polarizing debate on religion in the country. In 2012 when the Boko Haram terror group was having a free rein and expanding their devilish enclave, the Sultan of Sokoto together with Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Cardinal John Onaiyekan were nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for their joint efforts to prevent a religious civil war and for ultimately bringing about interfaith dialogue against all odds. The nomination recognized their staunch stand against the predatory Boko Haram group and their courageous and critical roles championing the cause of national unity, and working assiduously to prevent the misuse of religion to spread hate, violence and vengeful attacks.
The Sultan started many initiatives to counter and reduce the influence of Boko Haram, including inviting an international joint Muslim-Christian Delegation to visit Nigeria between 22 and 26 May 2012. His hard earned reputation as an inspirational, strong and visionary leader; as a relentless bridge builder and a missionary for hope and his constant message of peace, love and harmony have endeared him to the hearts of all Nigerians and won him many national and international awards and nominations.
Within the Islamic world, His Eminence Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar is considered an icon of our time. He is adjudged to be the 22nd most influential Muslim in the world in The 500 Most Influential Muslims. The important annual publication, first published in 2009, ranks the most influential Muslims in the world on the basis of the influence that particular Muslims have had within the Muslim community and the manner in which their influence has benefited the Muslim community, both within the Islamic world and in terms of representing Islam to non-Muslims. The publication is compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan and the Sultan has been ranked amongst the overall top 50 most influential Muslims for the last 7 consecutive years.
For Muslim and non Muslim Nigerians, up and down the country, the Sultan is a royal and authority icon who represents an epitome of humility and wisdom. He had stayed at the forefront protecting the unity and integrity of the nation as an accomplished solider and as a fine example decorated for participating in foreign peace keeping missions. Now, he is using his exulted position to move the country back on the track of peace, spirituality and prosperity. He has used the Sultanate Council and other resources at his disposal to mobilise other traditional rulers to lead campaigns against the scourges of polio, infant mortality and other ills in the society and his most noticeable works have been in the areas of building peace, religious and interfaith harmony, philanthropy, charity and development.
The sterling achievements of His Eminence, his exceptional qualities and standing amongst world leaders demonstrate convincingly that he does not only have the nobility to lead, very importantly, he also has the credibility.
May the Almighty bless His Eminence, our great and magnanimous Sultan and grant him long and successful reign. I join other well-meaning Nigerians to celebrate the 10th radiant year of the reign of the great icon of our time, and a royal father of the nation. I do this with a good memory of his past achievements, great joy in the good stories of today and soaring hope in the years to come.
Disu Kamor is the Executive Chairman, Muslim Public Affairs Centre, MPAC, Nigeria.
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