The turbaning of title holders by the Askira Emirate in Borno State unveils an enthralling coronation and investiture tradition sustaining the distinct identity of a foremost Marghi community.
For a long moment, the expansive crowd was thrown into a pin-drop silence. The Zanna Marghima emerged from the sizeable group of his fellow kingmakers, councilors, title holders and district heads sitting under a shade directly facing the pavilion, in the fashion of a royal court.
Clad in a Navy Blue regalia, he was roaming slowly in the open space between the pavilion and the shade, carefully taking every step, his hands held at his back, wearing solemn looks, his head bent as his eyes scanned the sandy surface, as though he was searching for a missing little precious item.
The Zanna Marghima was observing a requisite rite in the process of the coronation and investiture of any appointed district head, title holder or councilor, before he is formally bestowed with the powers to exercise his authority.
It was the recent formal investiture of a former Minister of State for Health, Dr Abubakar Ali Gombe, who was turbaned as the Dallatu of Askira, Alhaji Isa Mohammed Ndottiwa, as Sarkin Fulani of Askira, succeeding his late father, Alhaji Usman Abubakar Wakta, as Dan Malikin Askira and Mallam Abdu Alhaji Yama, as the District Head of Gargauri.
However, in spite of the exigencies of modernity, the Emir himself seem restrained by tradition from barring or halting the Zanna Marghima from performing this key rite. It is an important aspect of the traditions and values shaping the identity of this foremost Marghi community, which both the Emir and the Zanna Marghima are bestowed with their respective authorities to be the custodians of.
The kingmaker continued slow-pacing, roaming, this time a bit eastwards, as though pulled by some invisible force out of the venue. Suddenly, he turned towards the shade. He walked directly towards the Galadima, the most senior councilor and kingmaker, who was sitting detached from the group, perhaps in glaring expression of his seniority among the others.
The Zanna Marghima then stooped in a most humble manner, extending his turbaned bent head just a couple of inches to the hearing of the Galadima, to seek the permission of the revered senior councilor to commence the process of the coronation and investiture of the three newly appointed awardees and the district head.
The Galadima, empowered by his authority, granted him the permission in a tone which, apparently according to tradition, only both of them heard.
Every traditional community has a set of rites in the process of coronation and investiture of its appointed title holders comprising members of the king’s council, district, village and ward heads and others bestowed with less essential traditional authorities, as well as personalities conferred with such titles.
Askira’s rites would not fail to fascinate. When the Zanna Marghima obtains the permission to commence the coronation and investiture, he goes to the Emir in a flawless conduct of traditions.
Why does the Zanna Marghima go to the Emir at this point? He has to go to the monarch to relay the permission obtained from the Galadima and subsequently, by implication, seek his grand permission to commence the process.
Obtaining the permission, the Zanna Marghima returns to take his place among his fellow kingmakers, councillors and other title holders. Also the Zanna Kawuskema performs the same movements and steers back towards the Galadima. He would stoop before the revered senior councillor to seek his permission to present the awardees. The Galadima would grant him the permission.
From there, he moves to where they are kept in seclusion, in the custody of the Zaifada. He would relay the message of the Galadima that he has been sent to lead the awardees out for the investiture. Escorted by the Zaifada, all of them file out.
By tradition, there are three shades. One for councilors, kingmakers, title holders and district heads, another for palace guards (Dogarai) led by their leader (Sarkin Dogarai) and one for palace chamberlains (Fadawa) led their leader.
Any awardee is first presented to the palace guards and chamberlains to be humbled even if he would immediately after exert reverence and authority over them.
After more processes, a bravery test is conducted. Thereafter, awardee would then be lowered as though he would be seated then suddenly raised. This rite would be observed twice and at the third time then finally seated.
Then, the awardee would be turbaned. The Zaifada would then emerge from the location where the royal regalia-a hat, a turban and a royal robe, is kept in the palace. Upon delivery, the about-to-be-turbaned awardee would be covered from the sight of the crowd by the chamberlains and palace guards who form a circle around him, as the Zanna Marghima, assisted by other title holders, dress him in the regalia.
The turbaned awardee would then be delivered to the Emir and others at the pavilion.
It is assumed that nobody, not even the title holder himself, knows the portfolio and duties to be performed in the domain. It is said that the Emir or his representative among the personalities would first announce his portfolio and invest him with the authority according to the title conferred on him.
However, in the turbaning of the three awardees and a district head, the decades-old process was abbreviated, not necessarily due to the exigencies of modernity but due to the need to hasten the process to “rescue” the personalities and other guests from the intense tropical heat.
The awardees and district head were not taken before the Emir and other important dignitaries at the pavilion. They remained seated in the shade of their older colleagues, councilors and kingmakers while the Emir, Alhaji Mai Abdullahi Muhammadu Askirama, addressed the gathering.
He was flanked by the Emir of Gombe from Gombe State, Alhaji Abubakar Shehu Abubakar III and the Emir of Keffi, Nasarawa State, Alhaji Usman Shehu Yamusa II.
The Gombe Emirate has maintained decades of friendship with the Emirate of Askira, since the reigns of Alhaji Mai Muhammadu Askirama II in Askira and Alhaji Abubakar Umar in Gombe.
So intimate is their amity that apart from intermarriages among their royal children, no affair takes place in the domain of one without the other attending and participating fully as a family member.
In fact, the Emir of Gombe was the Royal Father of the Day, the Emir of Keffi, Special Guest of Honour while Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai, representing Borno Central Senatorial District and Chairman Senate Committee on Business and Rules was Chairman of the occasion.
But even as guests retreat to their destinations, the rites of installation was a process many present cherished.