As HRH Justice Bage (rtd) marks 5th anniversary as 17th  Emir of Lafia

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By Tukura Matthew

On March 26, 2019, Justice of the Supreme Court, Sidi Bage emerged as the new Emir of Lafia Emirate following the demise of Isa Mustapha Agwai I on January 10, 2019.

The kingmakers selected him because of his capacity, competence and experience. He is a born prince and a successful law officer.

At the official turbaning ceremony, former Governor Umaru Tanko Al-makura said the State Government was happy with the selection exercise and called on the people of Lafia emirate and the entire State to support the retired Supreme Court Justice turned traditional ruler.

A good start of his job as Emir, Justice Bage ascension to the throne, said “we are one we must unite to develop the emirate and I pledge to be just in my dealings with all”.

This apt opening speech from the Emir is one of the qualities of a good leader as he promised to be “fair to all” irrespective of tribal, religious or political affiliation.

Now, five years on, what is the verdict? Has His Royal Highness Justice Sidi Bage (Rtd), kept his words to be fair to all irrespective of tribal, religious or political affiliation? The answer is not too difficult to provide because save for the fact that the Emir is a human being and cannot possibly be perfect, everyone knows that the monarch has kept to his words. The evidence is there for all to see.

It is often said that there is no peace without justice so it is safe to say that the presence of peace is a direct consequence of justice. Throughout the five years Justice Sidi Bage has been on the throne of his fathers, Lafia has remained in peace. Every resident of Lafia carries on with their lawful activities with so much confidence because they know a just monarch is on the throne. He has shown that he does not only append the title ‘Justice’ to his name but he embodies the character.

In 2021 when the Emir of Lafia was about two years into his reign, he toured all the chiefdoms within his domain. Explaining the purpose of his tour at Barkin Abdullahi (BAD) the royal father said: “one of the reasons for this tour is to see how we can ensure greater peaceful co-existence among the people of this land at large. Since our coming to the throne, which is about two years now, by the grace of God, we have enjoyed peace because since our coming in there has not been any moment of crisis anywhere within the domain. This is not our making but the will of God Almighty.

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“Anyone who listened to the speech I delivered when the then Governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura gave us the mantle of leadership, I said we shall endeavor to bring our people together. By the will of God all of us in this land are brothers and sisters of one another, people often forget that, even this gathering we are having now, it is impossible to say this is some one’s father or mother who is not related to that person or the other. If a father hails from here you would find the mother hails from there. God does not make a mistake when He makes people from different lineages coming together to form a family. This is to tell us about relatedness or affinity. I said at the occasion that we all in this domain must see and relate with ourselves as brothers and sisters. Therefore, we must live together as one. God has not made a mistake by putting us together in this place; this is the destiny He has set for us”.

These are words and actions of one who understands the importance of peaceful co-existence. No wonder his domain has been peaceful all these years.

In a paper presented by Alhaji Yakubu Muhammad (Magajin Garin Lafiya) titled “The Lafia Emirate and influences of Kanem-Borno in the Socio-Economic Development of Parts of The Central Region of Nigeria” at the celebration of Kanen-Borno millennium and Yerwa centenary 12th-16th November, 2007, said: “Dunoma founded Lafiyan Bare-Beri and established a dynasty at a period the whole area acknowledged the Sovereignty of Aku-Uka of Wukari by whom he was accredited”.

As the 17th Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Bage’s reign could not have come at a better time. He came at a time when the needs of the populace from their monarch was extending beyond the traditional duties. The world has advanced so much and Lafia has become so cosmopolitan and it needed someone with vast knowledge and exposure to fill the large shoes left by Alhaji Isa Mustapha Agwai I of blessed memory. Who better to fill that shoes than a retired Justice of the Supreme Court; the highest court in Nigeria.

For the past five years, he has brought in his vast knowledge, experience and exposure to bear while handling the several issues that have come up. For example, when the issue of Almajiri was become a menace in 2020 and the government of Nasarawa State needed to take drastic measures to save the situation, the government received the total support of the Emir of Lafia. Being a beneficiary of quality education himself, the Emir has remained a strong voice promoting the need to take children off the streets and into the classrooms so that they can become something in future. 

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Justice Sidi Bage is not just the Emir of Lafia. He is also the Chairman of the Nasarawa State Traditional Council of Chiefs and naturally, his impact has extended well beyond Lafia and is being felt in the whole State. As Chairman of the traditional council, he has led his colleagues into assuming a more active role especially in the aspect of securing the various communities.

Because of his remarkable achievements as Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Bage has been called upon a number of times to carry out national assignments. One of such assignments was when President Muhammadu Buhari needed an eminent personalities to select those that would be receiving national honours in 2022.

Even before that in 2020, Justice Sidi Bage was selected among his peers in the country to chair a committee whose sole purpose was to get the constitutional mandate for traditional rulers to play vital roles in governance especially as it concerns security. That committee has since submitted its report with the Speaker of Nigeria House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas promising to implement the recommendations by the Justice Sidi Bage-led committee.

Only recently, the Governor of Nasarawa State, Engr. Abdullahi Sule appointed him Chairman Reconciliation and Resettlement committee for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Toto Local Government.

In his honor, the Federal Government named the Federal Secretariat Complex in Lafia, after him.

All these and many more in just five years on the throne. You will understand when his subjects are optimistic that his reign will bring a lot of progress to his domain. It will only be proper for such subjects to keep amplifying the words of the royal father in promotion of peaceful coexistence.

Speaking at the occasion, His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji (Dr) Abubakar Sa’ad CFR, MMI, said the celebration of the 5th anniversary of HRH, Hon. Justice Sidi Bage was a unique one because it showed the whole world that Nigeria is a united family.

“We are showing the whole world that royal father in this country are united, just look at the list of traditional rulers from the six Geo-political Zones that honoured the occasion,” he said.

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His eminence called on Nigerians to work for the peaceful co-existence of the country, pray for their leaders and not to castigate them.

In a special tribute to Justice Bage the Sultan said: “If you want to know how good someone is in life, look at his friends and associates”. His Eminence said the quality of attendance of the occasion from all parts of the country including international community is the reward for hard work, honesty and humility which the celebrant is well known for.

In his remarks the Shehu of Borno, HRH, Alhaji Abubabakar Ibn Umar Garbai, who was the Father of the day, called on Nigerians to share useful information as a vital tool for overcoming security challenges in the country.

The royal father said, “when we keep quiet about the activities of criminals in our areas, we are inviting problems, so we should continue to enlighten our people to work with security agencies as traditional rulers.”

The host, Governor Abdullahi A. Sule in his welcoming address, thanked the state traditional council for being supportive of his administration. The Governor said he will continue to rely on them for continuous support of his administration.

The week long activities that marked the 5th anniversary of HRH, Hon. Justice Sidi Bage  JSC (retired) CFR, included prayers, visit to his Al-ma-mata (Government Science School Lafia), visit to ruling houses in Lafia emirate, public lecture and a gala night preceding the final ground ceremony on May 4th, 2024, at the emir’s palace.

The colourful 5th anniversary celebration was a display of different cultures of the people who have remained united in diversity. The horse riders (Dubar procession) from Yobe, thrilled the audience. The Borno dancers in their beautiful regalia, the Mada leopard dress and Eggon dancers speak volumes of Nigeria as a strong indivisible entity.

Matthew is  a staff of the Nasarawa State Ministry of Information and the former Secretary, NUJ Nasarawa State chapter

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