The politics of the return of Sanusi II

This is the second time in the history of Kano that an emir is dethroned and later returned to mount the throne again. Also, this is the second time that additional emirates that were created in Kano by a previous democratically elected government were later abolished by a successive democratically elected government.

A historian and researcher, Nasir Wada Khalil, said: “Emir Muhammadu Kukuna (1651-1652AD) was dethroned and sent to Zaria and then later re-emerged as the leader of the state for eight years and seven months in 1652AD. Kano as a city-state began around 999AD and has witnessed more than 56 traditional leaders in the status of emir, from Habe, Kutumbi and Fulani dynasties”.

On April 1, 1981; the then Governor Muhammad Abubakar Rimi, in what was aimed at whittling down the power of the then Emir of Kano, the late Alhaji Ado Bayero, created four new emirates of Gaya, Rano, Dutse, and Auyo as well as raised the status of the then second class emirs of Gumel, Hadejia, and Kazaure emirates of the Old Kano state to first class status.

In the second republic there was a sour relationship between the highly revered late Emir of Kano Ado Bayero and the late Governor Rimi of Kano state. Rimi issued a query to Emir Bayero on April 7, 1981. In 1982, in an interview with NTA Ibadan in a programme called Speakout with Lekan Alabi at Ogun state Government House; Abeokuta, Rimi declared that traditional rulers are public servants and threatened to remove Emir Bayero, if found guilty.

Governor Rimi of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) had had a serious misunderstanding with his party leader late Malam Aminu Kano which led to the emergence of PRP Yan Tabo faction loyal to Malam Aminu Kano and the then PRP Yan Santsi faction loyal to Rimi. The then Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) recognised the Malam Aminu Kano faction as the genuine PRP. Governor Rimi defected from the PRP to the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) in preparation for the 1983 elections. He resigned from office and was replaced as governor by his deputy, Abdu Dawakin Tofa. 

Governor Rimi’s former party, the PRP, fielded the late Alhaji Sabo Aliyu Bakin Zuwo as its candidate. Sabo Bakin Zuwo defeated Governor Rimi of the NPP which prevented him from returning for a second term. Sabo Aliyu Bakin Zuwo of the PRP on assumption of office in 1983 reversed the creation of the four new emirates to the status quo. That continued until 1991 when Jigawa state was created from Kano state. Thereafter, Kano state remained not just the only first class emirate, but also the only emirate in Kano state. That situation remained for 36 years until in 2019 when Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state balkanised the emirate again.

Emir Muhammadu Sunusi II had a running battle with former Governor Ganduje. His trouble began in 2017 at Kaduna State Investment and Economic Summit (KADINVEST-0.2) where the emir publicly criticised the then plans of Kano state government under Ganduje to obtain a loan from China for Kano state Light Rail Project. It took the intervention of the then vice president, some governors, and powerful Nigerians including some former heads of state to stop his dethronement over the incident. 

The emir’s comment generated a serious debate within and outside the state. The then leading opposition party in Kano state ahead of the 2019 elections turned the comment to a de-marketing talking point against the Ganduje administration using several radio stations in the state. Another alleged trigger to the dethronement of Emir Sanusi II was his call for free and fair elections in the state during the 2019 elections. Some observers argued that the call was an affront on Ganduje’s bid to return to office for a second term and it meant he was backing former Governor Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso’s anointed candidate.

In what was aimed at whittling down the power of Emir Sanusi II, Ganduje created four new emirates of Rano, Gaya, Bichi, and Karaye in 2019 before he finally dethroned Emir Sanusi II in 2020. Ganduje, however, argued that the balkanization of Kano Emirate was for its social and economic development.

On his part, former Governor Kwankwaso in his press statement through his Principal Private Secretary (PPS), Muhammad Inuwa Ali, immediately after the dethronement of Sanusi, said: “The fears of high esteem and caliber, plus the influence the emir possesses made Ganduje jittery…We know that Ganduje always feels diminished and inferior in the presence of the emir…We also know that Ganduje was madly obsessed with reversing everything that Senator Kwankwaso did in the state. And we are aware, for these reasons, Governor Ganduje was set, ab initio, to destroy the Kano Emirate. And Emir Sanusi II was marked to be the first victim…”

In an Interview, soon after the emergence of Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf on the dethronement of Sanusi and the balkanization of Kano Emirate, Kwankwaso stated that: “As elders, we will continue to advise them to do the right thing. We tried not to intervene in the issue of bringing or removing any emir, but now, an opportunity has come. Those who have been given this opportunity will sit down and address the issues. They will look at what they are expected to do. Besides the emir, even the emirate has been divided into five places. All these need to be studied. Usually, a leader inherits good and bad issues that are hard to reconcile.”

As Emir Sanusi II returns it is true that he has the following qualities: (1) an emir who leads daily prayers (Fajr –Zhuhr –Asr -Maghrib –Isha’a), (2) an emir who leads eid prayers (Eid al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha), (3) an emir who conducts Khutbah and leads Juma’at prayers, (4) an emir who memorised the Holy Qur’an (Al-Hafeez), (5) an emir who conducts Qur’anic exegesis (Tafsir), (6) an emir who leads Salat- al-Janazah, (7) a scholar of Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia), (8) an emir who speaks and writes Arabic with proficiency, (9) an internationally presentable traditional ruler and (10) the most sought after traditional ruler in Nigeria, etc.

However, Sanusi’s major undoing before his dethronement was his background as a public intellectual who speaks out, an activist, a public affairs writer, a critique and a public affairs commentator who has not properly adjusted to being a subservient emir to the political authority. I have held the view that giving the quantum of Emir Sanusi’s knowledge, which I got to know through his writes ups and public lectures, I have the belief that he is really caged by his ambition of being an emir, but for him he loves Gidan Dabo more than anything else in this world . Every human being has his strength and weakness.

Our traditional rulers were once very powerful, combining executive, legislative, and judicial powers before our colonial conquest of the 19th Century. But soon after our conquest and the subsequent local government reforms, our emirates were brought under local governments’ supervision. With the said situation, our once powerful emirs completely lost their powers.

Our traditional rulers are in serious dilemma of whether to be puppets or to speak truth to power. Many people often criticise them for keeping quiet or mute on issues of bad policies or programmes, insecurity, unemployment, and bad governance. They are often accused of being yes men to the powers that be just as their forefathers were once accused of being to the white men.

Finally, the truth of the matter is that our highly revered traditional rulers must accept the fact that they are now subjected to political authority. The reality as at now is that the best way to last long on the throne as an emir or a chief is to keep quiet on governance issues no matter what and or whatsoever.

Permit me to ask: as Emir Sanusi II returns, will he adjust to the reality of being a subservient emir to the political authority? It appears that politics is gradually dominating Kano state emirate system. If so, are we not likely to see a change of an emir in Kano after every election cycle? 

As Emir Sanusi II returns to Kano Emirate may the Almighty Allah guide him for the overall benefit of the Umma. Please, accept my best wishes, Dan Lamido.

Nurudeen Dauda writes from 

Kaduna, Kaduna state via

[email protected]