Borno State Governor Hon Kashim Shettima
Askira, in the southern part of Borno state was founded about a century ago. It’s development from a small community to a modern town is quite a unique story that is linked with its successive rulers. Michael Olugbode writes about the history of the town and the expectations from its new ruler
They all came together to celebrate not just for the presentation of the staff of office to the new king, but to jubilate over what a small settlement, Askira created by Mai Muhammadu Mai Maina in 1921, has become. They were all glamorously dressed and it was hard to distinguish the few royals in their midst since going by their adornments they could easily be picked; they were gathered to witness history in the making, the presentation of staff of office to the third Emir of Askira. Before the day, Alhaji Mai Abdullahi Ibn Muhammadu had received the blessings of his people to be decorated. He followed in the footsteps of his fathers, Mai Maina (great grandfather) who founded the town, and Alhaji Mai Muhammadu Askira II (father and the molder of modern Askira). They were prepared for celebration as they brought along their glamorously adorned horses in readiness for the Durbar, they did not leave their drums and dancing shoes at home and danced to the delight of their new king.
From the way they dressed and if the look on their faces were of any indication, one would know they were happy to be part of the crowning of the next great thing to happen to Askira, the move of the town to modernity.
This was the step started about a century ago by Mai Maina, the founder of the town. The story of Mai Maina would not be complete without that of Abega (Bukar), his grandfather who was alongside his bosom friend Dorugu, a Hausa man from Damagaram in the present Niger Republic were probably the first persons from the region to visit England and Germany in 1851. They became so popular and influential that Abega, a Marghi from Mulgwai in the present Damboa local government area of Borno state was later made the Chief of Lokoja, the present capital of Kogi State by the Royal Niger Company after his return from London.
Abega betrothed his link upon his grandson, Mai Maina who joined the service of the Royal Niger Company in 1894 and later the Colonial Administration, by 1913 when he retired and was appointed the Chief of Marghi with Damboa as the headquarters. He was in the vanguard in the service of the Colonial Administration in shaping most of the Emirates in the Northern Nigeria. Considering his invaluable contributions and linguistic prowess when he acted as a liaison between the Colonial Administration and most of the emirates in the Northern Nigeria, Mai Maina was referred to by the Kanuris of Borno as Maina Turjiman “the prince of interpreters” a profession he inherited from his grandfather, Abega.
After reigning for about five years (1913-1918) as Chief of Marghi, Mai Maina resigned his appointment as a result of disagreement over the exclusion of some important Marghi villages including Mulgwai his own family fief under his domain and merged to Borno Emirate, he retired to Fika and took up trading. During his sojourn in Fika, he alongside Mai Disa, the great grandfather of the present Emir of Fika, HRH Muhammadu Ibn Abari Mohammed Idrisa moved to Potiskum. He settled at a place outskirts of Potiskum and named it Damboa, which became the largest ward where various government institutions are now situated. As a result of boundary adjustment between Borno and Adamawa provinces in 1921, Mai Maina was invited by the Colonial Administration to establish his new domain “Askira”, Askira is a jubilatory name derived from Arabic word “Askurallah” and a Kanuri variant “Askir Gina” expressing gratitude to the Almighty Allah, he was installed as Mai of Askira on February 2, 1922.
Askira has continued to prosper through various administrative reforms over the years and by 1954, Askira native authority took off thereby making the chiefdom completely independent. In 1957, when Biu Division was created, it comprised of three independent federating units of Biu, Askira and Shani. In 1976, following the creation of some states and local governments out of the then Northeastern State, part of Uba district in the then Adamawa division was merged with Askira chiefdom to form the Askira/Uba local government area of Borno State.
Mai Maina, the creator of Askira, ruled for 43 years (1922-1965) and was succeeded by his grandson, Alhaji Mai Muhammadu Askirama II, who ruled for 46 years (1965-2011) and was credited with not only being instrumental to turning Askira from a quiet to a boisterous commercial and administrative headquarters of Askira/Uba local government. Tt was also through his doggedness and determination that made the status of what was a chiefdom in 1922 to first be upgraded to third class chief in 1979, then second class in 1989 and changed from the nomenclature of chief to emir in 1997 and then to a first class status on June 1, 2007.
On the death of Alhaji Mai Muhammadu Askirama II, the architect of Askira greatness, on August 6, his eldest son, Alhaji Mai Abdullahi Ibn Muhammadu Askirama was unanimously selected to be the new emir. Born on 21st February, 1959 at Garkida General Hospital in the then Adamawa Province at the time his father was a councillor, administrator of prisons, Biu federation, comprising of Biu, Askira and Shani native authorities.
The new emir started his primary school in 1965 at Biu Central Primary School, and later transferred to Askira Central Primary School, Askira the same year his father become the ruler. After his primary school he attended the Government College, Maiduguri from 1972-1976, he later worked as a clerical officer with the Ministry of Education in Borno State and has to attend the Borno State College of Arts and Science for his ‘A’ levels as one of the pioneer students from 1976-1978. He was to attend the University of Maiduguri to study Law between 1989-1984 and from there proceeded to the Nigerian Law School and was consequently called to the Nigerian Bar as a Solicitor and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. He later attended the University of Jos between 1999-2000 for a Masters Degree in Public Administration.
His public career took him to the Borno State Ministry of Justice as a State Counsel and later as a Senior State Counsel and later appointed as Magistrate and was to become the Secretary of Borno State Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy. He later left the service of Borno State government for a federal appointment with the Nigerian Film Corporation as secretary/legal adviser, rising to the position of executive director administration and finance.
In the service of his people, he was first appointed the District Head of Zadawa district, Askira, a position he held until his appointment as emir on Monday August 15, 2011.
He is expected to continue the success story of his progenitors. For this reason and expectation that many people were gathered to witnessed the presentation of staff of office to the emir by the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima. The occasion was glamorous and a celebration of the greatness of Askira, it was also to showcase the tradition of this great Malgwi town and everyone was entertained by the great Durbar, music and dancing.
The Governor after the presentation of the staff of office to the emir at the Play Ground of the Government Secondary School Askira, described his appointment as well deserved. He recalled that his late father, Alhaji Mai Muhammadu Askirama II, took Askira into its golden era during his 46 years tenure.
He said his administration is ever committed in upholding the tenets of the traditional institution, considering its immense contribution to the peaceful coexistence and promotion of cultural values in the society, hence, government will continue to support all traditional rulers across the 27 council areas of the state. Shettima said, if people like Lord Lugard who colonised the country will recognise the importance of traditional rulers in the quest for social and peaceful coexistence, then no government will afford to neglect them in the dispensation of government policies and programmes at all the three tiers of government, adding that, already, he has directed the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai to immediately embark on the renovation of all the palaces of the Emirs and District Heads to make them comfortable and conducive, even as he said, government is doing everything possible to increase their salaries and allowances in order to improve their welfare. He therefore enjoined the Emir to emulate his late father, particularly in the sustenance of peace and unity among its subjects.
The new emir in his appreciation to the well-wishers who thronged the venue, which include the Deputy Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Zanna Mustapha, the Shehu of Borno represented by the Shehu of Dikwa, Alhaji Shehu Masta II, Emirs of Bauchi, Ningi, Fika, Mubi, Biu, Shani said he was highly honoured by their presence. He expressed gratitute to the governor and other traditional rulers, even as he promised to discharge his duties with the fear of Allah.
He said: “We are sure that he will transform Askira, as the first great grandson of this emirate, Mai Maina and the first son of Muhammadu Askiraman, we are expecting him to follow the footsteps of his fathers in serving Askira and transforming the emirate,” a resident said.
To Alhaji Ibrahim Ngulde, the Zanna Dujima of Askira, the new emir is eminently qualified and well educated enough and has held high positions in the past where he has performed creditably as such his new role will not be of much challenge to him and should be able to perform creditably like his father and forefather.
Alhaji Mai Adullahi Ibn Muhammadu Askirama has been giving the mandate to function in the role of his fathers and the expectations of the people are that he will pick the baton and run a good race until he is compelled by nature to drop it to one of his sons like his fathers did.