There is no doubt that it is not the best of time for the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, following last week’s creation of four new emirates out of his domain by the Kano State government, Felix Nwaneri reports


It was a dream come true for former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, when he emerged as the 14th Emir of Kano on June 8, 2014. He ascended the revered throne of his forebears after the death of his grand uncle, Emir Ado Bayero, two days earlier.

Sanusi, a consummate banker and grandson of the 11th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, who was deposed by the Governor of the Northern Region, Sir Kashim Ibrahim, in 1963, had before then, never pretended about his ambition of ascending to the throne.

His appointment was on the heels of his ouster from the nation’s apex bank and the legal battle against his suspension as well as challenge of Federal Government’s confiscation of his passport.

The then Kano State government, in announcing his emergence on said: “Allah has conferred on Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the former governor of the Central Bank, the successor to the late emir.”

In arriving at Sanusi, the four kingmakers of Kano Emirate considered a number of names and put four of them forward to the state government for approval. They were Sanusi; the late emir’s eldest son, Sanusi Lamido Ciroma; Wamaban Kano, Abbas Sanusi and Galadiman Kano, Tijani Hashim.

The appointment was after 72 hours of frantic lobbying, and reports had it then that it attracted some of North’s most powerful traditional rulers, who pressed for a less divisive candidate in one of the former emir’s sons.

However, Sanusi had high-level support from politicians across the country and then governor of Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who had the final word on the matter.

Kwankwaso was said to have been influenced by his compatriots in the then opposition political party – All Progressives Congress (APC), who drummed it on him that Sanusi’s sympathy for their party was among the reasons why the then Goodluck Jonathan-led presidency moved against him as CBN governor.

The APC’s chieftains were said to have worked assiduously for the emergence of Sanusi to take their pound of flesh from the Jonathan administration and consolidate their grip on the state.

However, the choice of Sanusi, who was in 2013, installed as the Dan Majen Kano, did not go down well with some youths, who immediately after the state government’s announcement, trooped to the streets to protest his emergence instead of the late Bayero’s son.

However, the resentment by the supporters of the late Bayero’s son did not alter the choice of Sanusi, Consequently, the former CBN governor was placed as one of the most influential traditional rulers in the North, second to the Sultan of Sokoto.

The Emir of Kano is one of a triumvirate of powerful rulers in the North, whose lineage dates back to the vast Hausa-Fulani and Borno empires that predated British imperial rule.

The three traditional Muslim monarchs – Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano and Shehu of Borno are custodians of Islam and lead clerics in their areas. They are also seen as key figures in bridging the often fractious divide between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.

Between royalty and activism

Sanusi has remained the activist many know him to be before he ascended the throne. He has not refrained from championing causes that have bearing on the masses, particularly the Talakawas of the North and he has seized any opportunity that comes his way to drum it on the region’s political leaders that they are responsible for the plight of their people.

For instance, writing on his official Instagram page on April 11, 2017, Sanusi said leaders in northern Nigeria are using their knowledge to impoverish the people of the region.

He pointed out that when many other Muslim countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia are competing with other developed western countries, leaders in the North are racing backwards.

He was reacting then to a statement credited to Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, that the meningitis outbreak is a punishment from God for the sin of fornication.

Describing the statement as an example of the ignorance rooted among northern leaders, Sanusi stated: “Muslim countries are holding their own in the modern world, proving that Islam is not a religion of underdevelopment. However, the likes of Zamfara State governor, Yari only strengthen this prejudice.”

The Kano emir further said the belief by conservative Muslims that children do not need other knowledge than Islamic studies show that they are still stuck in the 13th Century.

He words: “I choose to fight for the progress of Nigerians and suggest solutions to their problems. It’s my duty to speak the truth about the ill-effects of conservative Muslims who are harming Islam rather than helping it.

“I still believe that conservative Muslims are still stuck in the 13th Century and their claim that children need no other knowledge than Islamic studies flies in the face of reality. All the poverty, under-development and immense suffering in the North are a result of uneducated masses refusing to learn work or trade.

“The majority of technicians in Kano are from the south while untrained indigenes beg. How does that make sense? Why is it that conservative Muslims, who claim to be against scientific progress, enter aeroplanes and fly to perform the Hajj in Mecca rather than using camels to cross the desert!

“Unless northern political leaders like Governor Yari pay attention to me, there will never be a day when anywhere in the North will be like the modern Muslim cities of Kuala Lumpar, Istanbul, Jakarta, Lahore, Greater Cairo, Dacca, Karachi, Dubai, Riyadh or Faisalabad.”

Sanusi also stoked fire among Islamic scholars at a time, when he called on governors of northern states to convert mosques to primary schools, especially in the villages.

His argument was that mosques were not initially meant for prayers alone, but used for other things like marriages, scholarly activities and leadership trainings.

Sanusi has also not spared the governor of his home state, Abdullahi Ganduje in his criticisms and it is clear to discerning minds that the monarch and the governor are not best of friends.

The frosty relationship between the duo, perhaps, informed the belief in some quarters at a time that Ganduje was out to dethrone Sanusi as emir. Ganduje was re-elected in the recent general elections for a second term in office and reports had it that was he not supported by Sanusi.

However, while the governor has persistently washed his hands off Sanusi’s ordeal, last week’s passage and signing into law of the Kano State Emirs Appointment and Deposition Amendment Law, 2019, has forced many to believe that the monarch’s ordeal is beyond the ordinary.

Consequence of the new law Ganduje assented to the Kano State Emirs Appointment and Deposition Amendment Bill at the 136th state council meeting and the event was witnessed by the Speaker of the state Assembly and other principal officers of the House.

The bill, which was passed by the State House of Assembly, made provision for the creation of four new emirate councils in Kano, namely, Gaya, Rano, Karaye and Bichi.

With Kano, the state now has five emirates. Before signing the bill into law, Ganduje said: “Traditional institution will now go closer to the people in all nooks and crannies of the state. We are about to make history today, and in the Holy Month of Ramadan.”

Though there were series of interventions by some prominent individuals to stop the governor from creating the new emirate councils, he explained that with the expansion and importance attached to the institution alongside preserving the cultural heritage, there was a need to bring forth the all-important institution to serve people better. According to him, all the necessary requirements for the immediate take-off of the new councils would be done with dispatch.

“Kingmakers will be known very soon. So, also all other process and procedures will be completed for appointing respective emirs, issuing them with appointment letters up to the coronation stage,” Ganduje said.

He thanked the state Assembly for the “historic work done,” emphasizing that Kano would now have sustained development in all aspects of life in the state. While acknowledging the role traditional institution plays in the security of the larger society, he also noted that “in the areas of education, health, environment, traditional institution is indeed partner in progress. With this development, therefore, all hands will be on deck to take Kano to the next level.”

Speaking during the official presentation of the bill to the governor, Speaker of the State Assembly, Hon. Kabiru Alasan Rurum, reminded all of the traditional status of the three out of the four newly created emirate councils. He said Gaya, Karaye and Rano Councils were in existence before, for over 100 years, and along the line “many things happened when they all ceased to exist.”

The bill emanated from a petition filed before the House by Ibrahim Salisu Chambers, which sought for the decentralization of the Kano Emirate Council and the need for the creation of four additional First Class Emirs in the state.

Whittling Sanusi’s power While proponents of the bill believe that establishment of the new emirate councils will enhance the development of the state, the thinking in most quarters is that the new law came into existence with the intention of crippling the traditional influence of Emir Sanusi, who is being probed by the state government over alleged financial misconduct.

An aide to the emir, Alhaji Isa Bayero, was on Thursday quizzed by the Kano Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission, over allegations of misappropriation of funds.

Bayero, who later spoke with journalists, said he was mandated to report back on Friday with some documents, which he did not disclose. He said that he was presented with some documents, which he went through and requested more time to study and return. However, he expressed satisfaction with the probe, adding that the truth would prevail. A familiar path

This is not the first time the Kano monarch would be facing an ordeal of such magnitude since he ascended the throne. Many had thought that history would repeat itself in 2017, when the state Assembly instituted a probe against him over alleged misappropriation of N6 billion belonging to Kano Emirate Council, Trouble started for the monarch then, when the chairman of Kano State Public Complaints and Anti- Corruption Commission, Muhiyi Magaji, announced that his agency will investigate alleged “questionable expenditures and financial misappropriation” against the Kano Emirate Council.

Though he ruled out any political motive in the probe, saying the decision was borne out of the need to ensure fairness, Sanusi declared that he was ready for any probe on his expenditures since he became Kano’s emir.

The monarch, who then spoke through the Walin Kano, Alhaji Mahez Wali, said allegations of questionable expenditure were “baseless, mischievous and utterly designed to tarnish his image and that of Kano Emirate Council.”

Wali explained that N4.3 billion was spent since he ascended the throne, based on the Kano Emirate Council’s budgetary provision, and not the reported N6 billion. He words: “Before the appointment of Muhammadu Sanusi II as emir, Kano Emirate Council had over N2.8 billion in fixed deposit accounts, out of which over N981 million was used for the burial of the late Emir Ado Bayero. About N1.8 billion was the amount of money inherited by Muhammadu Sanusi II against the alleged N6 billion.”

He dismissed the allegation that Sanusi acquired two Rolls Royce cars, saying: “The exotic cars were never purchased by the emirate council, but donated to the emir by his friends,” adding that the payment of N142,800,000 for two bulletproof vehicles, were based on the advice and approval of the state government.”

Amidst the claims and counterclaims between the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission and the emirate council, emerged another move to investigate Sanusi by the state Assembly. The House, like the commission, also hinged its plan on allegations of misappropriation of funds of the Kano Emirate Council.

The member representing Nasarawa state constituency, Ibrahim Gama, who raised a motion of urgent public importance on the issue, decried a recent comment credited to the emir over the proposed Kano lightrail project, saying that it portrayed the state government and the Assembly in bad light. The lawmaker also accused the emir of introducing religious issues contrary to the teachings of Islam as well as involving himself in political issues.

The House debated on the motion and consequently set up an eight-man committee on May 10, headed by the member representing Warawa state constituency, Labaran Abdul. The House decision prompted the Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission to suspend its probe of the emir. While the House committee was given two weeks to do its job and report back, the legislators later made a detour. The Assembly’s decision to end the investigation followed a letter from Governor Ganduje, which the Speaker read at plenary.

The governor said that halting of the investigation was necessitated by the need to respect the intervention of some notable Nigerians on the issue. They include Acting President Yemi Osinbajo; former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida; former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar; Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar; business moguls, Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Alhaji Aminu Dantata.

Whereas the lawmakers heeded to the governor’s request and called off the probe, they resolved to review the law that established the emirate council. The Assembly mandated the Committees on Local Governments and Judiciary, as well as the principal officers of the House, to review the law and submit the report within three months.

No doubt, the peace of Kano would have been rocked if the probe against Sanusi had gone ahead then given the peculiarity of the city, which has its history dated as far back as the 6th Century, but the aftermath of the power-play is not unconnected to last week’s balkanization of the Kano Emirate Council.

Angst as Ganduje justifies action As expected there have been arguments for and against the action of the Kano State government even as Governor Ganduje has come out to justify the decision.

The governor declared that he has no personal vendetta against the Emir of Kano, while speaking with journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.

His words: “Well, they (critics) are entitled to their own opinion, but we are taking Kano to the next level and we need active participation of the traditional system, especially in the areas of education, security, agriculture, we need the effectiveness of the traditional rulers. “By decentralizing it we are following history. Years back even before the 800 years you are referring to, the situation was not that.

So, if something developed 800 years ago, things are also developing now and there will be another 800 years. So, look at the history. It is not vendetta, I am not against him, in fact he is supposed to be reporting to the local government chairman according to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “It is the local government chairman that is supposed to discuss issues with him not the governor.

So, this is celebrated by the people of Kano and we will make sure that the new emirate councils are effective in terms of developing Kano State.” But, a group, in the state, Kano First Forum, which faulted the development, organized a protest in the state capital on Thursday.

The spokesperson of the group, Dr Yusuf Ishaq Rabi’u, who addressed journalist during the protest, said the people of the state were in dare need of improved healthcare delivery system, good schools and improved infrastructure, not additional emirates.

“It is very important to understand that there is a difference between emirate and an emir. It is wrong to treat both as same.

In regard to this issue, the Kano State House of Assembly has not been fair to the people of Kano State and the state as there are more pressing issues that need their urgent attention as such: education, water supply, health, and the dying socio-economic status of the state,” he said, Rabi’u, added that while the governor can institute action against the emir, he must not allow his decision to affect the emirate as an institution.

According to him, creation of the new emirates will bring disunity and enmity among Kano people.

“The move will ruin our heritage that has survived for over two thousand years, as the grand emirate will lose prestige in the process. And finally, none of the emerging ones will fill the gap in this 21st Century.”

While the dust over the bid to “whittle” Sanusi’s power is yet to settle, it remains to be seen whether the monarch would be cowed by the same group of people, who celebrated his criticisms of the immediate past administration, but seems to be averse to his hard stance now that they are at the receiving end.