The 17th Sultan of Sokoto

Sir Siddiq Abubakar III, GCON, GBE (15 March 1903 – 1 November 1988) was a revered Nigerian Muslim leader and the 17th Sultan of Sokoto. His tenure from 17 June 1938 to 1 November 1988 marked him as the longest-serving Sultan in history.

Born in Dange on 15 March 1903, Abubakar descended from a line of notable ancestors. He was the great-grandson of Mu’azu, who himself was a descendant of the renowned Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio (1754–1817) – a leader of the Maliki school of Islam and the Qadiri branch of Sunni.

Having received an Islamic education, Abubakar’s early career saw him serving as a district scribe in Dange from 1929 to 1931. By February 1931, he succeeded his uncle, Hassan Ibn Muazu, becoming the local authority councillor (Head of Talata Mafara) for the Sokoto Native Authority. His astute administrative abilities, effective leadership of traditional courts, and supervision of district and village heads quickly set him apart. Working from Sokoto, he became a central figure in the decision-making process, overseeing prisons and police departments, which heightened his visibility and rapport with the people.

However, this prominence also led to strained relations with Sultan Hasan dan Mu’azu Ahmadu. When the throne became contested, the esteem in which the Sokoto residents held Abubakar played a pivotal role in his ascension. The British, favoring a leader whom the people trusted for their indirect rule policy, recommended Abubakar to the kingmakers. On 17 June 1938, he was thus crowned as the 17th Sultan (Sarkin Musulmi) of the Sokoto Caliphate.

His leadership earned him several distinctions: King George VI appointed him a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in 1944. Later, after Nigeria gained independence in 1960, he was conferred the title of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) in 1964.

Abubakar’s political involvement saw him serve as a Minister Without Portfolio for the Northern Regional Government in 1951. In this role, he supported regional premier Sir Ahmadu Bello’s administration and was pivotal in rallying the Northern people towards independence. His leadership remained invaluable following the 1966 coup and assassination of Premier Sir Ahmadu Bello, where he worked tirelessly to alleviate regional tensions.

In 1974, during a state visit to Nigeria, President Moktar Ould Daddah visited Sultan Sir Abubakar, acknowledging their shared bond as Islamic scholars. Later, in 1984, after Shehu Shagari’s removal from power, Abubakar advocated peace and continued to champion the welfare of his community, upholding the cultural values propagated by Usman Dan Fodio.

Leaving a legacy of 52 children, including the 19th Sultan of Sokoto, Ibrahim Muhammadu Maccido dan Abubakar, and more than 320 direct grandchildren, Sultan Abubakar III is fondly remembered as a religious leader who transcended the sectarian divides of his era, embodying the spirit of peace and unity.

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