The Emir of Lafia, Dr Isa Mustapha Agwai I is the chairman of the Nasarawa State Council of Emirs and chiefs, recently he clocked 43 years on the throne of the ancient town that is located in the Benue Valley North Central Nigeria.
The traditional ruler is from the descendent of Aliyu Ari royal house and he was born on 15 February 1935 at kofar kaura in Lafia town to the family of Muhammad Al-Mustapha Marafa & Hajiya Halimatu respectively.
During his early age, he was enrolled into Quaranic school in Kofar Kaura Lafia and after acquiring some elementary aspects of Islamic knowledge and some chapters of the glorious Quran, he enrolled into Lafia Elementary School in 1943.
After obtaining his first school leaving certificate from Lafia elementary school in 1951, the teenage Isa Mustapha Agwai was admitted into Benue Provincial Middle School Katsina Ala. Having successfully completing his secondary school in Katsina Ala in 1958, from the Katsina Middle School the young Isa Mustapha Agwai later registered at the institute of administration, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in 1958 and obtained his Diploma certificate in Accountancy 1959.
He joined the service of Lafia Native Authority where he served as assistant treasurer, revenue officer and later pay-master in charge of the entire market of Lafia Native Authority.
Isa Mustapha Agwai apart from holding several government positions, he held the traditional tittle of Dan Galadiman and District head of Obi. The tittle conferred on him automatically brought him to a position of a full time member Lafia Native Authority Council.
This also gave him the opportunity to expose himself to Obi District as well as the entire Lafia Native Authority.
Obi was the second largest District under Lafia Native Authority apart from Assakio District and also the most heterogeneous with many ethnic groups among whom were migili, tiv, alago, eggon, hausa/fulani among others.
Despite the number of ethnic groups in the Obi District and as the District Head Isa Mustapha Agwai applied wisdom, charisma, humility in overcoming all forms of instabilities and challenges among different tribal groups in the District.
He settled many disputes and aggression that occurred among the different communities and tribes that made up the District.
As the then District head of Obi, Isa Mustapha Agwai worked towards rapidly increasing commercial activities and agricultural commodities were produced in large quantity and large scale farming was encouraged during his tenure.
As a District head, he also championed the location of mini markets and the renovation, restructuring of Agyaragu weekly market to a better standard with large capacity. Agyaragu market was the largest commercial centre in the Obi District. He mobilized Agyaragu community and the entire District Council collaborated together and upgraded the standard of the market to a better and spacious market.
Isa Mustapha Agwai was during his tenure as District head of Obi, he acquired a Land Rover vehicle to ease the movement of people within the district, especially during an emergency needs or any activity that may required transportation.
In his effort to boost education system across the District under his administration, Isa Mustapha Agwai led the struggle for the establishment and location of community secondary school in Obi town. To him Obi town was the most favourable for the location of the school than any other part of Lafia Native Authority.
The location of the at Obi provoked some of the communities who refused to make any attempt for financial contribution, and even persuaded some Obi inhabitants not give their land for the building of the school. He later invited some dignitaries to launch the school fund and the launching attracted so many dignitaries like Alhaji Jafaru Dan Mallam from Kano and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim from Borno. Huge amount of money was realized to build the school. The district is the current Government Secondary School Obi in the present town of Obi Nasarawa State.
With the passing away of the fifteenth Emir of Lafia Alhaji Yusuf Musa the second on 14th April 1974, the stool was declared vacant by the Makongijin Lafia(prime minister of the emirate), subsequently, the government of the then Benue/Plateau ordered the emirate council of kingmakers to select the next ruler of the emirate.
Following the order, the current emir of Lafia Dr Isa Mustapha Agwai the first was on 15 May 1974 selected among other contestants of the stool to be the next ruler of the emirate.
After his selection by the council of kingmakers, the secretary of the then military government of Benue/Plateau state late Alhaji Mustapha Bawa announced Isa Mustapha as the successor and the sixteenth emir of Lafian Bare-Bari.
Staff in office was presented to the emir of lafia Dr Isa Mustapha Agwai the first who was a second class chief then by the then governor of Benue/Plateau state Joseph D. Gomwalk on 26 October 1974 at the lafia stadium which is now the parade ground.
According to Turakin Azara Alhaji Zakari Yakubu “When Isa Mustapha became Sarkin Lafia, I was the press secretary and my cousin Umar Suleiman was the administrative secretary both to governor J.D Gomwalk of Benue/Plateau. During the installation and the presentation of staff in office to Alhaji Isa Mustapha Agwai the first, I was the master of the occasion, it it was a monumental occasion and so many traditional rulers were present from the upper north, his Highness friends and well wishers were all present”.
“It was an excitement in the sense that a new and the young trade ruler is presented a staff in office, that excited every body. It shows that lafia was in the track of change and development, such changes and developments we have seen it now and God has blessed him to be the longest serving Emir in the history of Lafian Bare-Bari”.
Also speaking on the installation of Dr Isa Mustapha Agwai the first as the sixteenth Emir of Lafia, the monarch classmate and a long time friend Shehu Othman said “ During the installation and presentation of staff in office to my friend, Alhaji Isa Mustapha the first, on 26th October 1974 Governor J.D Gomwalk made a statement that touches the mine of every individual at the occasion ground.”. He quote the governor saying “ the succession of Alhaji Isa Mustapha Agwai to the throne, I have no alternative rather to approve it”.
Recently, precisely on Sunday 28 May 2017 the Emir of Lafia Dr Isa Mustapha Agwai the first clocked 43 years on the throne. These 43 years were not without challenges and achievements, socio-economic and political changes that affected Lafia emirate, Nasarawa State and the country at large.
His Highness ascended throne as a second class chief 1974 but barely seven years on the saddle of administration of the throne, he became so exemplary to the government of Plateau State to the extent that he was promoted to the first class status in 1981. This historical gesture standardized Lafia to an emirate of national level till date.
Though Lafia emirate right from it foundation 1780 to 1974, witnessed reigned of 15 different monarchs, who contributed immensely and extensively towards consolidation and standardization of the emirate but It is during the reign of the present Emir of Lafia that the emirate experienced development in the area of social amenities such as road network, portable water supply, electrification, health facilities among others.
The emir is playing a vital role in the area of educational development, this is because in his desire and effort to boost the educational sector, his Highness urged the government to provide educational institutions to boost education and this ends the emirate is proud to have over 120 public primary schools, 100 government secondary schools and many private schools across the first.
The emirate is also boast of tertiary institutions, courtesy of the effort of the emir. Among the renowned higher institutions of learning requested by his Highness in his decades of rulings Lafia emirate are college of agriculture Lafia, nasarawa state polytechnic Lafia, school of nursing & midwifery Lafia, national open university Lafia campus and the recently established federal university Lafia.
According to the former Vice Chancellor of the Federal University Lafia, Professor Ekanem Braide “we are deeply humble by the exceptional interest the royal father Alhaji (Dr) Isa Mustapha Agwai the first, was shown on our activities. Personal visits to the take off site by the emir and his lieutenants have spurred us on”.
“ This unquantifiable support has reinforced our determination to bring gown to gown through positive interaction with our host communities in a manner that will contribute to the realization for key millennium development goal”.
On the state of economy in the emirate, due the emir’s style of leadership and the peaceful coexistence between different people that inhibit Lafia for the past four decades there is economic growth in the emirate. Some important commercial centers in Lafia town emerged and attracted the mind of many business men and women from far north, eastern part and western region.
Some of these commercial centers include timber shed/market, rice mill cattle/ram market(shinge) and Lafia modern market among others.
Another attribute of his Highness was his efforts for the promotion of inter state relationship. Relationship was enhanced between Lafia emirate and other emirate such as Borno, Sokoto, Kano, Dass, Wase, Kanam, Zazzau, Suleja, Ilorin, Bauchi, Bida, Benin, Onitsha, Akure, Lagos, Ile-Ife, Adamawa Wukari and with all emirates and chiefdoms in nasarawa state.
The diplomatic relationship of the emir of Lafia brought several personalities to lafia and gave him opportunities for interaction with other emirates. He also encouraged inter-marriage between the people of Lafia and some respective emirates and chiefdoms across the country.
Been a man of culture, the over four decades of the present Emir of Lafia Dr Isa Mustapha Agwai the first can be referred to as socio cultural era, because he is a man of culture and traditions. As kanuri by tribe, his bearing and charisma, added to the regalia and splendor have won him acclaim and lafia has witnessed unprecedented upsurge in number of visitors to his palace. He has brought dignity to the language, costumes and other customs of kanuri people. Notwithstanding, His Highness likewise other cultural displays are are acceptable by him.
His Highness as a father, he is a religious tolerance. He participate actively in several religious activities and accepted the virtue of all religions. From 1974 to date, more than 20 Friday prayer mosques have been built in Lafia town and more than 300 daily prayer mosques were built in the domain. On the Christian side, over 100 churches with different doctrines have been established. Tolerance among the people of the emirate is the cardinal objective of his Highness and he championed several religions activities over the years at local, state and national level.
Those that are closer to and far from him, all strongly attested that His Royal Highness Alhaji (Dr) Isa Mustapha Agwai the first is a very simple, modest and highly inconspicuous traditional ruler.
According to the chief imam of Lafia Mallam Dalhatu Dahiru “His Highness is a very simple ruler, I cannot forget when I was teaching in science school Lafia, there was a Lafia base man who is in charge of students feeding, on arrival of His Highness the man turned his face back, His Highness called him and acknowledged him for his duty, the man was very shock about His Highness simplicity”.
Apart from been the current Emir of Lafia, the monarch held several positions that include Chairman of Governing Council of Akwanga Teachers College, Chancellor A.T.B.U Bauchi, Chancellor federal university Akure and presently the monarch is the Chancellor of the federal university otuoke in Bayelsa State.
Alhaji (Dr) Isa Mustapha Agwai the first currently he is the state chairman council of emirs and chiefs, state chairman of Jama’tul Nasril Islam(JNI), Chairman of Nasarawa State Inter Religious Council and he a received many local, national and international awards for his effort and contributions.
The monarch was opportune to visited several countries that include France, Germany, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Benin Republic, Niger Republic, Dubai, China among others.