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Thousands mourn death of influential monarch

06 June 2014, 21:56

Kano - Hundreds of thousands of people flocked the streets of Nigeria's second city on Friday to pay their final respects to one of the country's most influential traditional rulers as he was laid to rest.

The Emir of Kano, Ado Abdullahi Bayero, was second in the hierarchy of Nigeria's Muslim monarchs and was the ancient kingdom's longest-serving emir, ruling for 51 years until his death after a long battle with cancer.

President Goodluck Jonathan called his passing "a national loss" and said he was "one of the most respected traditional rulers" in Nigeria, which is almost evenly split between a Muslim-majority north and Christian-dominated south.

The Emir "will always be remembered and honoured by the people of Kano and all Nigerians for his immense wisdom and competence as a traditional ruler, as well as for using his exalted throne to build bridges of unity, friendship and harmony across the nation," Jonathan's office said.

- Assassination attempts -

The Emir of Kano and the third-highest Muslim cleric in Nigeria, the Shehu of Borno, had previously survived assassination attempts by Boko Haram insurgents, who were angered by their co-operation with Nigeria's secular government.

The leader of Nigeria's Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, has also been threatened.

Boko Haram last month killed the Emir of Gwoza in Borno state, Idrissa Timta, while he was travelling by road to the funeral of another cleric. Two other traditional monarchs escaped unhurt.

Critics say the three senior monarchs could have taken bolder action against the Islamist insurgents who have killed thousands since 2009 and kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last month.

The Emir of Kano was a well-regarded figure in the northern state and was seen as a key link between tradition and modernity, leading the region's clerics as the custodian of Islam in the region.

Palace officials -- so-called "kingmakers" -- will now meet in closed-door session to determine the three names to be submitted to the Kano state governor for approval as his successor.

Those tipped to be in the running include the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who is the grandson of the late emir's brother.

Another name in the frame is one of the emir's sons, Aminu Ado Bayero, who holds a royal title and is currently a popular district head in Kano.

In a sign of the emir's popular appeal, the vast crowd defied scorching heat to flood the vast Durbar parade grounds outside his palace shortly after afternoon prayers, two hours before the funeral.

"We have lost a father and a leader," said 37-year-old mechanic Haruna Bala, tears rolling from his eyes.

"He is the only emir I have known and love so dearly for his compassion and justice to his people."

- Strong bond -

Drenched in sweat from the hot sun, mourners chanted excerpts from the Muslim holy book the Koran in memory of Bayero, who took the throne in 1963 after the short-lived reign of his brother.

Security personnel, including armed soldiers, policemen and other paramilitary, battled in vain to control the masses, forcing an hour's delay to the funeral.

The leader of Nigeria's Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, tried to calm the crowd as an ambulance conveying the late cleric's body arrived for the funeral prayers.

Afterwards, thousands walked three kilometres (two miles) to the emir's final resting place alongside his ancestors as crowds lined the route of the funeral cortege, raising clenched fists as a sign of royal greeting and farewell.

"The emir was a just leader. This was why people loved and respected him," Ibrahim Sani Gaya, a Kano royal, told AFP at the emir's palace, where royalty and community leaders gathered.

"Kano will miss him so much for many years to come."

History professor Tijjani Naniya, from Kano's Bayero University, described the emir as a "colossus, the like of whom there is none among all the traditional rulers in Nigeria today".

"The emir established a strong bond of allegiance with his subjects through his just rule and intense love for his people," he added.




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