Kano: The Need for Caution


Like many well-meaning people in Nigeria and around the world, I have been following the recent developments in Kano regarding Emir Sanusi II as well as the hidden and open forces of government with keen interest. For so many reasons: Lagos is said to be the most populous city in Nigeria while Kano is the most populous state in the country. Thus, anything that happens in Kano will have profound impact far beyond Kano. Kano is over 1, 000 years old, making it one of the oldest cities in sub-Saharan Africa. And, for centuries, Kano has been a commercial and cultural centre since the Trans-Saharan Trade.

Thus, whatever political, economic and social development in Kano must be of concern to Nigeria. In fact, there was a Nigerian head of state who, on waking up, would, before anything, ask if Kano and Lagos were peaceful, and once he was given report that everything was OK in those places he felt relaxed. This is because these are the two main commercial centres of Nigeria that have self-sustaining economies with some of the most enlightened citizens who know how to fight for their rights and with capacity to damage the image of any government. Also, every northerner in particular and indeed Nigerians in general have direct or indirect attachment to Kano.

What brought about the current controversy in Kano is the instigated attempt by the Kano State government to probe the Emir of Kano Mallam Muhammadu Sanusi II with the possible aim of dethroning him. The Kano State government-owned anti-corruption commission initiated this by inviting some officials of the Kano Emirate Council to build a case of financial impropriety against the Emir. Since the council was not directly consulted for its inputs, the councillor in charge of finance, the Wali of Kano, Rtd DIG Mahe Bashir Wali, came out in public to explain all the financial dealings of the Emirate since Sanusi II became Emir.

Some well-meaning governors tried to intervene to establish peace between the Emir and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano. These governors led by Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno, who is also the chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, are very much aware of the need for peace in Nigeria especially at this time. They know they were elected by the people to bring peace and development. For Shettima in particular he has seen what lack of peace means, his state of Borno being the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency. Ganduje appeared to see reason with his colleagues, and the situation appeared to have been contained.

Then, suddenly last week, Kano State House of Assembly raised the issue and even appointed a seven-member committee to probe the Emir. Part of the charges brought by the Assembly was that “the Emir sent his daughter to represent him at a function which is contrary to tradition and that the daughter was not properly dressed when she went to represent her father on that occasion”. Can you beat that?

That reminds me of the committee that the House of Representatives set up last week to probe the N15billion funds recovered at Ikoyi, Lagos. President Buhari had earlier set up a committee under the Vice President to probe the circumstances of that money and the Osinbajo committee had not even officially submitted its report when the House now wanted to duplicate efforts by starting its own probe. The Kano anti-corruption agency had not finished its job when the Kano Assembly was similarly going into the same issue!

Anyway, as a banker and financial expert who is the immediate past governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Emir Sanusi II is in the best position to answer any query on financial matters, so I will not go into that aspect. What I want to look at here is the larger picture and the implication to the institution that we all revere. For it is not Mallam Sanusi II as a person but the institution he currently represents that is at stake.

Elementary sociology can easily teach anyone who cares to know that just like technology and society are dynamic so also is culture, which is our way of life. Those who think and want Sanusi II to be like his grandparent Sanusi I and Ado Bayero are going to be disappointed. Those great rulers had different personalities and belonged to a different era. Emir Ado Bayero was royalty personified. He was gone with his aura, charisma, prestige, glamour and even myth. As a police officer, diplomat and prince, Emir Ado was trained to be guarded in his utterances. He hardly spoke except when it was necessary and his words were full of wisdom. In his era, there was none like him in Nigeria as far as splendour of power is concerned.

As a young boy, I  met Sir Muhammadu Sanusi I, Ado Bayero’s elder brother and grandfather of Sanusi II. He was not only a scholar, a philosopher but also a Sufi. He was one of the greatest kings to ever come out of West Africa and was once even governor of Northern Nigeria. He never spoke except when it was necessary as he was busy meditating. Ambassador Aminu Sanusi, the father of Emir Sanusi II and son of Emir Sanusi I, was not only one of the first Nigerian diplomats but was once head of Nigeria’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Flippant talk was never part of his training both as a professional and as a prince.

It was therefore a huge disappointment for many of us when we saw that Emir Sanusi II has refused to internalize the virtue of golden silence or guarded speech. Although he was an activist, he should know that he is now an Emir, in fact the Emir of Kano, one of the greatest kings in Nigeria. Or does he think we are happy if an Emir is criticized in public? He must not only remember his pedigree but also know that he does not have any professional advice now — only royal opinion, which is not for public consumption.

As for the issue of sending his daughter Shahida to represent him, it was actually in response to the invitation extended to him for an occasion about the Chibok girls. Emir Sanusi II sent his daughter because the Chibok girls are almost her age-mates and to also underline the fact that those girls are like his daughters too, and so he sent their sister to talk to them. For those talking about her mode of dressing, Shahida is already married and a mother of one, so she is matured enough to know what is right and proper. And she was honest enough to acknowledge that it was the first time an Emir was represented by a non-title holder. I don’t see anything wrong with a girl going to a girls’ function.

The government of Kano should be very cautious on this matter. Nigeria has enough flashpoints to open a new one. The traditional institution should be insulated from politics so that politicians should not see removal of an Emir as if it is an impeachment of an elected governor. The prestige of the institution depends on its stability. In any case, Emir Sanusi II has his own followers and it is politically suicidal for any politician to think he can be removed without repercussion.  There is need for caution on both sides. It is always good to err on the part of wisdom and caution, which Governor Ganduje as an elder knows.

History is on the side of the oppressed.



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