The title of ‘Sultan’ is traditionally reserved for predominantly Muslim northern states or communities in Nigeria.
So, when news began making the rounds that plans were underway to install a Sultan in predominantly-Christian Edo State, most folks went to town with conspiracy theories that the coronation was yet another attempt by Nigeria’s ruling class to “Islamise Nigeria.”
Things really got heated in Edo over this; and the tension would soon spill into the social media space.
Before long, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, was issuing a bare-knuckled warning to say moves to install a Sultan in a domain where the Oba has held sway for centuries, “would constitute a direct assault on the traditions, customs and culture of the people of Edo State.”
The governor also accused people behind the planned coronation of having “sinister motives” and of “trying to abuse the well-known Edo hospitality by their act of sacrilege.”
He also described it all as “a potential threat to the peace and security of Edo State, with the capacity to cause a breakdown of law and order as citizens of the state are likely to be provoked by the obnoxious ceremony.”
So, who was this Sultan that was about to be installed in Benin City?
Well, the leader of the Shua Arab in Edo State, Alhaji Idris Adanno, has come out to say it was all a misunderstanding and that it wasn’t really that deep.
Adanno, who was the man his people wanted to crown Sultan in Benin City, says the controversy arose from the name, and that there was nothing sinister behind the move.
According to Adanno: “The whole issue was misunderstood because of the language used. All the tribes from the north who are resident in Edo State are all under the Sarkin Hausawa but we all now have our individual sarkin like those of Kanuri, Nupe, and others.
“In our Shua language, Sultan is our own sarkin and we only wanted to celebrate my appointment as the head of Shua Arab in Benin because we are the second-largest local ethnic group from the north.
“We are all under Sarkin Hausawa of Benin who gave us an introductory letter which we submitted before the Governor of the state, the Oba of Benin, and the Secretary to State Government.”
Adanno adds that the coronation of a Sultan in Benin City has now been shelved to avoid trouble and a heating up of the polity.
“We are all law-abiding citizens and under the laws of the state. We are also loyal to our royal father the Oba of Benin who is father to all of us.
“We apologise to the state government for the mix-up and as law abiding citizens, we have also cancelled all the activities we wanted to do as directed by the state government,” Adanno adds.
What is the leader of the Hausa community in Benin saying?
The Sarkin Hausawa of Benin, Alhaji Adamu Isa says the people involved “are a community resident in Edo and they have a large percentage of their people here too. They are into cattle breeding and other businesses.
“The thing is a misuse of language from them.
“About five months ago, they came to me that since they are large, they want to have a traditional head so I told them to go and look for someone among them who is going to be their leader and so they came with one Idris and then some issues came up then I asked them to go and resolve it.
“I gave them a date to come back. And then we did the turban of their leader so that in case we have issues concerning them, we know who to hold responsible.
“The whole issue was misunderstood. I was born and bred here in Benin, my father was born and bred here in Benin so I understand the tradition and custom of the land and the laws of the state. It was just a misuse of language. Sultan in their own language means sarkin.”
In any case, to forestall a recurrence, Governor Obaseki has warned that: “Under the Edo State Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Law, it is an offence for anyone to proclaim himself, or allow himself to be proclaimed as the holder of any traditional title not recognised under the said law and/or without the approval of the appropriate authorities.”
There you have it.