THE KUMASI ZANGO CHIEFTAINCY SNAG: THE TWIST AND TURNS
It’s been almost two weeks now since the man who was to be the 15th Ashanti Regional Sarkin Zango was chosen. But the dust, which billowed from the footsteps of the committee members when they trekked from the burial of the late Sultan Umar Farouk to the purported selection of Alhaji Sidi Abdul Kadir, is yet to settle. Put simply, the decision has been met with a lot of controversy.
Per the selection committee’s timetable, Alhaji Sidi was supposed to be introduced to the Asantehene, HRM Otumfuor Osei Tutu II, last Friday, March 10, 2023 and coronation would follow the next day, Saturday. However, all of that did not happen, owing mainly to a Kumasi High Court injunction secured by one of the unsuccessful candidates in the race for the throne, Alhaji Usman Muttawakilu, who, per our checks, felt he was treated unfairly by the committee.
Many are those who have questioned his decision to seek redress in court, with the chorus around being the usual refrain among Zango people often when something happens to someone: “Allah Ya kaawo”. To wit, “…it’s according to God’s plans”. The implication of this refrain is that a victim, however unfairly they feel treated, should accept the mistreatment and let go.
Zango Spotlight reached out to Alhaji Usman Muttawakilu’s family, to understand, first-hand, his reasons for going to court, rather than being a true “Zango” person.
According to a close relative of the plaintiff, their father is in court primarily to have his name cleared of the allegation which purportedly served as basis for the committee’s denying him of the headmanship – the allegation that he was once arrested overseas in connection with drugs.
“They never gave Baba [Muttawakilu] a chance to tell his side of the story. Immediately the issue was brought to the committee’s attention, they upheld it outright and went ahead to take a decision against him, without first seeking to know his side of the matter”, the worried family member who pleaded anonymity told Zango Spotlight in a phone conversation.
HOW THE ISSUE AFFECTED BABA MUTTAWAKILU’S CHANCES
It is our understanding that Baba Muttawakilu was actually chosen as the 15th Sarkin Zango after he ranked topmost among the candidates with a cumulative 36 points and announcement was made by the committee to that effect after the entire process. This is based on the account of a source in the palace who said he sourced the information from two highly placed committee members.
However, everything changed after one Tijani Tafida, a relative of Alhaji Gariba Suleiman, one of the three leading candidates, raised an objection against the decision, citing a case of arrest of Baba Muttawakilu in the past in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Baba Muttawakilu confirmed there was such an arrest but was not given a chance to explain the whole story, even when he maintained that he had evidence to show that he was actually cleared of any wrongdoing. Immediately, the committee called for the matter to be settled by vote and Alhaji Sidi, with the second highest points of 30, was selected based on majority votes.
“It was like a planned something”, our source in Baba Muttawakilu’s family said, in a voice full of suspicions of foul play on the committee’s part. He added that the choice might have been made, of who is the next Sarkin Zango, but as a family, they deem it important to have Baba Muttawakilu’s name cleared, hence their decision to seek redress in a secular court of law.
THE ARREST IN AMSTERDAM IN THE 80s
About 40 years ago, Baba Muttawakilu was travelling from Kano in Nigeria through Holland as a transit point. When their flight landed in Amsterdam, a female passenger aboard the same flight was nabbed, allegedly for carrying a bag containing substance believed to be hard drugs.
According to Baba Muttawakilu’s own narration to us, by some accident occasioned by circumstances, officials at the Airport initially suspected the woman was getting help from him with the bag. Thus, he was taken into custody at the Airport for questioning and not any long after that, he was cleared and released when it was found that he actually did not know the woman.
IS SECTARIANISM ACTUALLY A FACTOR IN CHOOSING A SARKIN ZANGO?
Rumours are rife within Kumasi Zango that another factor, though unwritten, that featured prominently in who becomes the 15th Sarkin Zango is sectarian leanings – that one’s chances are higher in their bid to lead Zango if they identify as adherents of ‘Tareeqan Tijjaniyya’.
The view of Baba Muttawakilu’s family and of Alhaji Garba Suleiman’s, as well as several supporters of their bid to be Sarkin Zango, is that there was an agenda from the beginning hatched by a section of the committee to ensure he did not succeed, allegedly due partly to the fact that he’s an adherent of Ahlus Sunnah Wal-Jama’a (ASWAJ). For more than a week now, the rumour mill has been busy grinding this information.
As a matter of fact, the Deputy National Imam of Ahlus Sunnah Wal-Jama’a, Sheikh Kamil, concerned specifically by the rumours to do with sectarianism as a deciding factor, we are told, had had to enquire during the vetting of the candidates to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of it.
The palace however denied that reasons to do with one’s sectarian leaning played a role in the committee’s decision of which of the candidates became the next Sarkin Zango, citing several past occupants of the Throne who were perceived ASWAJ adherents, including the late Amadu Baba.
It is noteworthy that Tijani Tafida, the man who brought up the matter that went against Baba Muttawakilu, is a known staunch ASWAJ adherent.
COUNCIL OF ZANGO CHIEFS, SHEIKH ABDUL WADUD & MANHYIA PALACE
Fingers have been pointed at followed by accusations of unnecessary meddling made against some notable personalities, including the president of Tijjaniyya Movement of Ghana, the respected Sheikh Abdul Wadud Ciessey Haroun. Zango Spotlight sought to find out the real truth beyond what was mostly unsubstantiated speculations on social media.
According to our source in the scholar’s inner circles, Sheikh Wadud’s involvement, though indirect, was for the good and stability of the community. It is our understanding that Manhyia took an interest in the matter in the immediate aftermath of Sultan Umar Farouk’s burial, right when the succession issue started raging, with a question as to the cause of the controversies.
“Zaeem took a chance to explain at Manhyia how and why the Throne had been exclusively occupied by the Hausas since its inception”, our source says.
Manhyia advised that the concerns of lack of consultation raised by Council of Zango Chiefs should be considered, and their inputs taken in the selection of the new Sarkin Zango. It’s noteworthy that prior to when Alhaji Sidi was selected, an informal complaint had been made already to Manhyia by the council before the recent petition that was made public.
Alarmed by the concerns Manhyia raised about the need for broader consultation, Sheikh Abdul Wadud requested of the committee to hold on with the announcement of the selected headman to allow for the Council of Chiefs to be consulted and heard first. Our source says even before Zaeem could reach home from Manhyia on the day of the recent Awukudae, social media was already awash with pictures of Alhaji Sidi with congratulatory messages as the new headman.
Somewhat, the seeming disregard for Manhyia’s counsel through Zaeem for the need for broader consultation by the committee is what birthed the petition from Council of Zango Chiefs in which they effectively announced their stance against the enskinment of Alhaji Sidi by the Hausas.
We have been made aware also by our source that Sheikh Wadud did not seek to influence the selection of the new headman in favour of a particular candidate. In fact, the source says, he only hinted based on their stated qualification that either one of the two leading candidates at the time – Baba Muttawakilu and Alhaji Sidi Abdul Kadir – would make a good Sarkin Zango.
Currently, efforts are underway to bring all stakeholders and the feuding sides in the matter to the table to ensure stability is brought back. The evening of yesterday, Sunday, saw a high-powered delegation visit the home of Baba Muttawakilu with an appeal for him to withdraw his suit from the Kumasi High Court for the issue to be resolved out of court.
We are reliably informed that though it’s possible he could heed the appeal, he has asked to consult with his family first.