The crowd that assembled at the Palace of the departed Emir of Zaria, Alhaji Shehu Idris, to receive his remains on arrival from Kaduna, reflects the love and affection the royal father enjoyed in his life time. His death at the ripe age of 84, to his subjects, though painful, is seen as a departure, in a blaze of glo-ry, of a man who was genuinely loved by a people he served remarkably so well. It also marks the end of an era and the beginning of another phase of service for whoever will wear the big shoes he left behind.
Considered a father figure by his subjects, the octogenarian represented, in his life time, a glorious phase in the rich history of an Emirate that dates back to centuries of empire building. As is to be ex-pected, what most remember is that within the 45 years that he reigned on the throne of his forefa-thers, he became distinguishable as representing a pillar to the revered traditional institution during which period he fraternised with 13 heads of state from General Yakubu Gowon to President Mu-hammadu Buhari as well as 20 governors. Indeed, he saw it all and had a lot to bequeath the younger generation in terms of experience and public service.
It is, therefore, no wonder that to many, he was a bridge between people of various ethnicities and religions as Zaria, his domain, presented itself. Furthermore, Alhaji Idris was a powerful force needed to keep Kaduna State so cosmopolitan and a melting pot of ancient and modern systems of history, tradition, culture and, of course, western education.
Those who had the privilege of coming in contact with the royal father attest to the fact that during his eventful reign, he applied his immense wisdom and prestige towards enhancing peace and transfor-mational development of the Emirate and, to a large extent, Kaduna State. Which is why he is regard-ed as the father of the State. On the national scene, the late Emir’s wisdom and integrity were highly sought after as he became invaluable in advancing the growth and progress of the polity.
Alhaji Shehu Idris was born on February 20, 1936 to the family of Malam Idrisu Auta (Auta Sambo) and Hajiya Aminatu. He started his early education in his native Zaria under the tutelage of two Islamic scholars who espoused the tenets of Islam to him as is expected of youths at that time. This was be-fore he enrolled at the Zaria Elementary School for his formal education. This formational phase of his life was between 1947 and 1950, during which period he lost his father at the age of 12. Idris continued both his qur’anic and formal education and enrolled in the Zaria Middle School in 1950 and finished studies in 1955. He then attended Katsina Training College where he was trained to become a teacher.
In 1958, he was a teacher at a school in Hunkuyi and then taught at a few other schools in Zaria. In the 1960s, he was a private secretary to the late Emir of Zazzau Muhammadu Aminu, and was also ap-pointed as the secretary to the Zaria Native Authority council in 1965. These two appointments ex-posed him to the ways of royalty which also prepared him for what he was to become later in life. In 1973, he had conferred on him the title of Dan Madamin Zaria and was appointed the district head of Zaria which placed him at a shouting distance from the throne itself.
It was no surprise then that Alhaji Idris succeeded Emir Aminu after his death in 1975. On February 8, 1975 following the demise of Alhaji Muhammadu Aminu, the 17th Emir of Zazzau, he was installed the 18th Fulani Emir of Zazzau and the Chairman of Zazzau Emirate Council as well as the Chairman of Ka-duna State Council of Chiefs. Genealogically, the late Emir’s heredity is notable. His grandfather was Emir of Zazzau, Muhammadu Sambo, who reigned from c. 1879 to 1888 and Sambo’s father in turn was Emir of Zazzau, Abdulkarimi who reigned from c.1834–1846.
On February 8, 2020, he celebrated the 45th anniversary of his coronation, a landmark event by any yardstick. No crystal ball could have predicted that he was actually celebrating his own exit. Perhaps, that is the way of great men and Alhaji Shehu Idris was, especially, one of a kind.
As he goes the way of all mortals, this newspaper joins his family, relations and the people of Zaria Emirate to wish him a peaceful repose in Heaven.