Open main menu

Sir Siddiq Abubakar III (1903–1988) was a Nigerian Muslim leader. He served as the sultan of Sokoto between 1938 and 1988.

Siddiq Abubakar III
Died1988 (aged 84–85)
Known forSultan of Sokoto
ChildrenMuhammadu Maccido
Sa'adu Abubakar
Parent(s)Usman Shehu

He was born at Dange, on 15 March 1903, the same day on which the British finally subdued the Sokoto Caliphate. A son of Usman Shehu, he was therefore a grandson of Mu'azu and, through him, a direct descendant of Usman Dan Fodio. Abubakar is the fourth heir to the two century-old throne founded by his ancestor, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio (1754-1817) leader of the Maliki school of Islam and the Qadiri branch of Sufism.[1]

Abubakar had Islamic Education. He held several administrative posts before succeeding his uncle, Hassan Ibn Muazu, at the age of 35. In 1938, he was appointed a local authority councillor of the Sokoto Native Administration (Head of Talata Mafara).

He distinguished himself by his administrative competence, the able way he dealt with appeals from traditional courts and his supervision of district and village heads. He was a Saurdauna of Sokoto until 17 June 1938, when he became Sultan Abubakar III.

As the 17th Sultan of Sokoto and Sarkin Musulmi, he became the most important Islamic personality south of the Sahara. He was the leader of 50 million adherents of the Islamic faith in West Africa.

Although he did not occupy a visible political position in Nigeria, his de facto political influence was considerable and throughout his life he worked towards the promotion of Nigeria's unity. He used his decisive influence over public affairs for the political and social advancement of Nigeria as one nation.

He contributed a great deal to the maintenance of order and calm among the population of the then Northern Region after the 1966 coup in which Sir Ahmadu Bello was killed. During the Nigerian civil war, he helped to mobilise men for the Federal forces.

Abubakar saw the development of his country in a different light from many of his more conservative co-religionists. He encouraged further education for females and voting for women in purdah, and urged the liberation of women in these respects. As a result, the Women Teacher's Training College in Sokoto was founded.

His faith in and identification with the quest for knowledge led to his appointment as Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which awarded him an honorary LLD degree.

During his life, however, Abubakar, in common with other traditional rulers, witnessed several inroads into his power base, such as loss of control over the local courts, prisons, and police. Because of his mature outlook, he did not allow these developments to affect his concern for the welfare of his people.

He saw these changes as inevitable in the wider context of the country's politics and in the overall interest of Nigeria's development. When Northern People's Congress was formed in 1951 and his support was needed to launch the new party and mobilise the Northern people for the independence movement, he readily gave it.

Abubakar took the post of Minister without Portfolio in the Northern Regional Government in order to give the new administration, headed by Sir Ahmadu Bello, traditional legitimacy.

When party politics became divisive, he stepped out of it to safeguard his role as the spiritual leader, but continued to be looked up to by other leaders on certain governmental issues.

He was knighted by the British in 1944 and after Nigeria attained independence was made Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON) by the Federal Government.

He had great love of poetry and as a traditionalist, kept the culture of his people alive while recognising the need to develop their potential and achieve progress in the modern world.

He ruled the emirate for one of the longest reigns in its history, from 17 June 1938 to 1 November 1988 when he died, having celebrated only four months earlier his fiftieth year on the throne.

He left behind 52 children and 320 direct grandchildren.

Sultan Abubakar III is best remembered by his compatriots as a religious leader who rose above the religious dissensions of his day and throughout his life played the role of peace-maker and father of all.