Desmond Mgboh, Kano


Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is a respected voice in the politics of Nigeria and in matters of tradition in Northern Nigeria. Drawing from years of experience, both as a member of the masses- based political party, NEPU or member of the ruling elite in the days of the NPN, the elder statesman is of the view that traditional rulers must learn too respect and subject themselves to political authorities if they want to sustain the heritage of their offices. He spoke following the balkanization of the Kano Emirate Council last week by the Kano State House of Assembly, which passed a law splitting the Emirate into five.

We will like to have your reaction to the recent creation of four additional emirates out of the hitherto powerful Kano Emirate Council?

 Well, I think that if you can remember, after the election of the Peoples Redemption Party in Kano in 1979, in between that period and 1982, the government of Abubakar Rimi, with the full support of his leader, our leader, Mallam Aminu Kano, created new emirates out of the existing one. And actually, the majority of the emirates created then were already autonomous administrative units long before the advent of the British colonialists. For instance, Rano is older than Kano. Gaya itself is older than Kano because the Yemenis people when their dam broke down left their homeland in search of water for irrigation farming. They learnt of Gaya and they came to Gaya, settled there and were doing their irrigation farming for years until they heard of the river in Kano, River Jankara. And then they moved to Kano and they began to do their irrigation farming in Kano. What I am saying is that the existence of at least two or more of the additional emirates created by Alhaji Abubakar Rimi predated the creation of Kano Emirate. This event of the last few days (the creation of additional emirates) in my opinion was bound to come sooner or later.. There is already in the minds of many people in Kano that one state is too small for Kano. I don’t, however, believe them in this. They are thinking that if they had five or more states, there will five or more administrative units and there will be bureaucracies and the people would get jobs. But my own belief is that if you have a large unit with the amount of revenue that the present Kano is generating, you will be able to carry out essential services and at the same time get some reserves to do development things. What I am, therefore, saying is that  the creation of additional emirates in Kano was bound to happen and I will not be surprised if it also happens in places like Sokoto and Borno.

 Away from the historical background, what is your response to the way the current creation of these emirates was midwifed in Kano?

You must cast your mind back to the factors that gave rise to it before in the 80s. What made them to do that? Even in Sokoto and Borno states, there is the same feeling for the creation of additional emirates. It is not that I am for it, no! As a NEPU politician, I think that the more emirates that is created, the more “parasites” that you will have… because they would be paid out of the pockets of the money that would have been used for the poor.

 Let us come back to the present case of Sanusi versus Ganduje. What is your take on it?

There is also another historical background that you must note. I think that the sooner the traditional rulers in Northern Nigeria or in Nigeria as a whole begin to realize that there is a superior authority; if people who are inferior to them in authority are willing to  submit themselves to them, they in turn should be prepared to submit themselves to a higher authority. This has been the problem in Northern Nigeria since the introduction of democracy in Nigeria. This is what led to the misunderstanding between the grandfather of the present Emir, and Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduna of Sokoto and the Premier of Northern Nigeria. The trouble between both men was caused by issue of accepting a higher authority or subordinating your own authority to a higher authority.

 Some people have objected to the haste that attended the new law. What will you say to the fact that the emirates were created in less than 24 hours?

This is, in fact, an old thing. It has been there before now and so you don’t see it as something coming up or has within 48 hours. Look at it from the historical perspective of what PRP did and Kano people supported what PRP did during  the season. So by and large, the mentality in Kano is in favour of the creation of more emirates in the state.

 Is this another way of saying that Kano people are looking forward to their own freedom compared to the past?

If you like that is okay.

 The speculation in town is that Emir Sanusi got himself involved in politics and that was why he ran into trouble with Ganduje. Take us from that angle sir?

I personally don’t think that it is a straightforward issue of getting involved into politics. Yes, traditional rulers that get involved in politics, they should be prepared to face the consequences.  This is because politics is not a stable situation. Today, somebody is in power and tomorrow, the person is out of power and another person has taken over power. The man who assisted or facilitated the emergence of Muhammadu Sanusi 11, he is no longer in power now, there is a possibility that he may come back to power. Like it happened in the 80s, when Alhaji  Sabo Barkin Zuwa who was also of the PRP got to power, he dissolved the new emirates that were created. Today, history is repeating itself. I don’t know whether a situation would also arise where a new administration would come and set aside the creation of new emirates in the state.

 What is the position of Kano elders to the present challenge before it got out of hand?

I understand that some of the elders of Kano State made representation to the governor of the state, before it happened and his response to them was that when the Emir was showing acts of insubordination to him and to his administration was the time that they would have tried to intervene because they ought to have realized that the kind of situation was bound to happen. This was the answer he gave them, so I was told. And I would like to say that elders in Kano or in any part of Nigeria should try to be objective and straightforward: Tell the truth wherever it is necessary. Not damn the consequences, do it through diplomacy. There is a way you can still say the truth without earning the anger of anybody. I think our leaders and elders should begin to learn to talk and speak out, not when it is already too late.

 Right now is it too late?

I think so. Yes I think it is already late, since a pronouncement has been made in that regard and the legislature has taken a decision and the governor has assented to it. As we speak now, it is an act of parliament. To reverse, it would take a return to the same parliament.

 There are speculations that some of the children of the late Emir, Alhaji Ado Bayero, are being penciled to become Emirs in these new emirates. Have heard anything about this?

I didn’t hear anything about this, but I will not be surprised if this is true. This is because my impression or my experience with the politics of the emirate is that no matter how cordial is the relationship between the one in power or on the throne and those who are subordinate to him, that ambition is still there to those who are subordinate to him. So, whenever an opportunity presents itself, they would try and pick it up.

 But some people have complained that they, the ruling clan, are playing into the hands of the governor and that the heritage of their fathers was under threat…?

I think you should know that Kano Emirate is now essentially made up of three ruling houses. Everybody within these houses have the same ambition to assume the throne one day. They may not see it the way you are seeing it. Do not forget that the current Emir, when he was a banker, he said that his ambition was to become the Emir of Kano. So, they always have this ambition even when they are your subordinates.

 What in your opinion is responsible for the former Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi not really putting up any fight to oppose the creation of these emirates?

Legally, he (Sanusi ) is subordinate to them. In reality, he looks big and large, but legally, he is subordinate to them. He is subordinate to the state governor, he is subordinate to the legislators. It is the governor who confirmed his appointment and it is the governor who is vested with the powers to remove him. Without the creation of the new emirates, the governor can still remove the Emir of Kano.

 Do you think that Emir Sanusi would accept the situation the way it is presently constructed against him. I have heard people say that he might resign?

I don’t know what he is thinking about now or what options might be before him, but they usually don’t do that. They fight until either they are removed or until something happens.

 But Sanusi appears not to be fighting. He has even traveled abroad?

Well, you can say that. But the way they do their fighting is not the same way you and I do our fighting. You cannot really say. Let us watch and see.