Category: Star feature Written by Tadaferua Ujorha who was in Sokoto
Ibrahim Tambuwal, a retired civil servant, has a rare passion which many royals and historians are interested in. He is a specialist in dynastic charts or what some may also call the genealogy or family tree. This means that this simple man, who entered primary school in 1955, keeps records of the date when a King came to power, and the particular date when such King vacated the seat.He also records any additions to a family. Then he turns this information into a chart which has perfect lines linking one individual to the next. So, the reader or viewer has a clear view of who founded a dynasty, and who the King’s descendants are. It is a simple, very clear process or chart, which ordinarily leaves no room for any debate or conflict. What Ibrahim Tambuwal does in Nigeria, is precisely what griots may be doing in Francophone Africa.The difference is that he does not use music or song to make his point as the griots would. In the passage of the years he has also met many of the Emirs and traditional rulers in northern Nigeria.
This indigene of Sokoto state has mastered the art of preparing or drawing the dynastic chart. His interest in dynastic charts began in 1988 as a reaction to a controversial lecture which was given at the NYSC Camp at Bodinga in Sokoto state. He recalls the event “Someone was invited to give a lecture at the NYSC camp at Bodinga. He said that descendants of Buhari are not eligible to be Sultans. That was a very controversial issue. I decided to write out dynastic charts to show people how things are in terms of ascension to the throne. This was in 1988.” He has done dynastic charts for Emirates in Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Kano states, and has the ambition of working on dynastic charts for the entire north, especially the areas which fall within the borders of the Caliphate. His words “I have prepared dynastic charts for Kano, Zamfara, Kebbi and Sokoto.” He says that his work calls for a lot of research, and the regular consultation of oral sources to confirm a few historical points. He adds that he is alone in the north doing this good historical work. According to him “I don’t know of anyone else doing this work. I don’t think there’s anyone else in Sokoto working on dynastic charts. It’s just me alone, and I haven’t come across anyone else in other Emirates in the north.” However, he has a son who has exhibited interest in the field, but that’s the closest he has come across, in terms of another active participant in the field. He adds that anyone interested in working on dynastic charts has to be a researcher, and needs qualities of patience and politeness, especially when engaging with people. He acknowledges that a vast field still has to be covered in the north in respect of dynastic charts.
Ibrahim Tambuwal says that he normally has interview sessions with the Emir of the community he is studying as part of the process of producing its chart. His words “I go to the Emir, and he would call somebody whom he thinks may know better than him on the subject to be discussed. Then we will discuss at length.” He is disturbed that he is alone in the field gathering information for dynastic charts. His words “Our cultures need dynastic charts and it is disturbing that I am alone doing this work, completely without a helper.”
The work has undergone many changes across the years. In the beginning Ibrahim used stencils to draw his charts, but today he uses computers to do the work. Technology has caught up with the art. According to him, “At first I used stencils to do my work. Later I changed to computers. The computer is faster. The whole of a chart can be typed in a short period of time. With a stencil I have to sit down, and do all of them.This may take several days. I write, cut the names and then paste. I write with my free hand, only the typing is done by computer.” When he is with an Emir, he takes notes down in long hand, and he says he has many of such notes in his possession today. He stresses that he doesn’t go into the achievements of a King or a dynasty. His duty is to present the facts in an objective and unbroken line. He defines dynastic charts in this simple way ‘A way of telling people who are descended from who and who comes next.” For him, it is a lifelong passion which he feels a strong attraction to, and he is not about to leave this work. On the fees charged, he says “people come to me and ask me to produce a chart for them. I am usually paid for this. In the past I charged 2,000 Naira, but today, I charge 30,000 Naira for one dynastic chart.”
In 25 years of researching into the genealogy of families, “he says that he has not experienced any particular challenge to the work. His words ‘There are no challenges. People are happy when I go to meet them, and they were happy to tell me what I want to know.” He focuses on areas which fall within the borders of the Sokoto Caliphate, and he has the ambition of preparing dynastic charts for areas within the north, which fall within the borders of the Sokoto Caliphate. He says that he has written to Arewa House, Kaduna, asking to be given a contract to prepare the dynastic chart for the north, and adds that the research institute responded positively to this request. Whenever there is a death or a birth, or a Turbaning, he is called upon to make the necessary corrections or additions to a dynastic chart. So the work keeps him busy. Now, he is on the cusp of preparing dynastic charts for the whole north. He feels deep personal satisfaction from his activities. His words “People often come to me and ask me to produce a chart for them. So, I feel very rewarded.”