Emir Shehu Idris of Zazzau: Exit of a gentleman peacemaker

After clocking 45 years on the throne, an occasion celebrated on February 8, 2020, Emir Shehu Idris of Zazzau has passed on as the longest-serving emir of the emirate. The highly revered emir is a man of many firsts, as Daily Trust reports.


As if inspired by a premonition of his death, Alhaji Shehu Idris, on his 45th anniversary as the 18th Emir of Zazzau, earlier this year, delivered an emotion-laden speech praying Allah, residents and other Nigerians to forgive all his shortcomings. He explained that it was time for him to seek forgiveness as the end may be near.

Seven months after, the emir passed away on Sunday, September 20, 2020.

Turbaned Emir of Zazzau on February 8, 1975, at 39 he was the youngest prince ever to ascend the exalted throne.

The emir’s pleas at his 45th anniversary made listeners sober. The whole atmosphere became maudlin.

“We have all forgiven you. May you live long in good health,” the crowd thundered in response to his pleas.

During his reign, one of the things the late emir did was to raise exponentially the number of district heads in the emirate, which according to the Ubandoman Gabas of Zazzau, Alhaji Aminu Abdulkareem Aminu, was done to accommodate and give a sense of belonging to more princes.

Among prominent northern monarchs

Aside late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, late Alhaji Idris was arguably one of the most respected and revered emirs in the country.

The late emir served in many peace missions including the ethnoreligious crises that bedevilled Plateau State in the early 2000s. He is the chairman of the Kaduna State Council of Chiefs and the Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu state.

Autan Sambo

Alhaji Idris was born to the family of Malam Idrisu Auta on February 20, 1936. The alias of the monarch’s father was Autan Sambo and this is one of the famous songs of praises of the emir, Dan Idrisu Autan Sambo.

Alhaji Idris’s father, Malam Idrisu Autan Sambo, died when the emir was only 12 years old.

According to the emir’s brief memoir, Alhaji Idris began his education at the local Islamic school or makarantar allo in Hausa. He later enrolled in the Zaria Elementary School between 1947 and 1950. Between 1950 and 1955, the emir had his Middle School education. He then attended Katsina Training College and this qualified him to become a teacher.

The monarch started his teaching career in 1958 at Hunkuyi, now the headquarters of Kudan Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Later in 1960, Alhaji Idris was appointed the private secretary to the then emir, Alhaji Muhammad Aminu, who ruled for 16 years between 1959 and 1975.

After serving in different capacities in the Zazzau palace and the then Native Authority, in 1973, Alhaji Idris was turbaned as Dan Madamin Zazzau and the District Head of Zaria-Kewaye.

Upon the death of Emir Muhammadu Aminu, he was succeeded by Alhaji Shehu Idris from the Katsinawa dynasty of the Zazzau Emirate, one of the four ruling dynasties of Zaria, the others being the Bare-bare, Mallawa and Sullubawa.

The Emir’s many firsts

The death of Alhaji Idris has opened a new chapter in the history of the Zazzau Emirate.

The late emir has many firsts to his credit. He sets the record of being the first emir to assume the throne at the age of 39. With his 45th anniversary on February 8, he became the first person to serve for that long as emir in the history of the emirate.

Before then, Sarkin Zazzau Jafaru had sat on the throne for 22 years between 1937 and 1959.

Findings showed that late Idris worked with 19 governors of Kaduna State. He is also the first to rise through the ranks of the traditional hierarchy of Zazzau emirate to become the emir.

Born a leader

According to Wamban Zazzau, Alhaji Abdulkareem Aminu, events that followed the birth of Alhaji Idris indicated that a leader was born.

“On the day His Highness was born, an army of bees took over the house buzzing everywhere. Similarly, as he grew up, people gathered around him anywhere he stayed. His simplicity and humility and other attributes indicated that he was born a leader before he even emerged as the emir.

“These attributes were still with His Highness until his demise. He is honest. He has a good sense of judgment. One can understand this when a case is brought before him. The way he handles disputes is always amazing to us,” he said.

Alhaji Aminu added: “Those of us that are part of the Zazzau royal family are indeed happy with this anniversary. In the history of the emirate, His Highness is the first emir to serve for 45 years. Allah has blessed him with long life. We are indeed saddened by his demise at this period that Nigeria needs him most.

“Again, the emir is always after the welfare of his subjects. Not only that, but the emir is also a peacemaker. He assists the poor, the rich and the royal. Therefore, he is not only the Emir of Zazzau, but his humanitarian and peacemaking activities spread across nooks and crannies of Nigeria.”

Alhaji Aminu advised Nigerians to emulate the good virtues of the emir by loving one another.

Rulers of dynasties

The history of Zazzau Emirate revealed that each of the four dynasties of the Zazzau Emirate has produced emirs at different times.

For instance, the Mallawa dynasty had produced four emirs, Malam Musa, Malam Abdulkadir Dan Musa, Malam Abubakar Dan Musa and Malam Alu Dan Sidi.

The Bare-bare dynasty has nine. They include Malam Yamusa, Malam Hammada Dan Yamusa, Malam Mamman Sani Dan Yamusa, Malam Abdullahi Dan Hammada, Malam Yero Dan Abdullahi, Malam Kwasau Dan Abdullahi, Malam Dalhatu Dan Yero, Malam Ibrahim Dan Kwasau and Malam Jafaru Dan Isiyaku.

The Katsinawa dynasty produced four emirs. They are Malam Abdulkarim, Malam Sambo Dan Abdulkarim, Malam Muhammadu Aminu and Alhaji Shehu Idris.

The Sullubawa dynasty has produced only one emir. He is Sarkin Zazzau Malam Abdulsalam.

Zazzau Emirate has a history spanning more than 1,000 years. However, the Jihad of Sheikh Usmanu dan Fodio marked a new beginning for the emirate.

Before the creation of chiefdoms in the southern part of Kaduna by the Ahmad Makarfi administration, most of the area was under the Zazzau Emirate.

Up to today, most parts of Zone I, Northern Senatorial District, except Lere, are under the Zazzau Emirate.

In the same vein, most parts of Kaduna Central, Zone-II, are under the emirate except for Birnin Gwari.

The sad countenance of the residents of Zaria, especially those from the royal families, was infectious yesterday. The prayers on the lips of most people were for Allah to forgive the man they tagged “peace-maker and gentleman.”