On Monday, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State finally mustered the courage to do what he had been planning for almost three years: He dethroned the 14th Emir of Kano, HH Muhammadu Sanusi ll. Interestingly, the statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Usman Alhaji, made no reference to the rash of probes that had been instituted in recent months. Nor was there any pretence that this is about transparency and accountability. HH Sanusi ll was dethroned for “total disrespect to lawful instructions from the office of the governor and other lawful authorities, including persistent refusal to attend official meetings and programmes organised by the government without any lawful justification which amount to total insubordination.”
In the past 13 years, I have exchanged numerous emails and text messages with HH Sanusi ll. But the one I found most profound, even if disturbing, was his reply to my mail ten months ago. I read it several times that day because I had a premonition that it was for the record, as it has turned out to be.
Following the announcement by Ganduje that he was splitting the Kano Emirates into five to “take Kano to the next level”, I sent HH Sanusi ll a ‘my thoughts and prayers are with you’ message and ended it by enclosing a piece that was being circulated on WhatsApp at the time. “I don’t agree with the entire content but there is a lot in the piece that I agree with”, I ended my terse mail. Incidentally, the message remains on a few websites but none indicate the writer’s name.
Before I come to what HH Sanusi ll said on 10th May 2019, let me first share the WhatsApp message I forwarded to him: “If the man formerly known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had carried out a dispassionate SWOT analysis on his good self, he would have opted for a political career instead of ascending the throne of his ancestors. He is too imaginative and effusive to be a monarch because it is a system that inherently neither encourages, questions nor is open to innovation. That antiquated contraption will never allow the kind of thinking outside the box that he is so adept at. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the 14th Fulani emir of Kano is ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’.
“The last place Nigeria’s former apex banker should be is under the travel restriction of a Local Government Chairman or being blackmailed to have the Kano Emirate decentralized by a hapless State House of Assembly. It is however not easy to be a victim of circumstances, especially if you helped in creating those circumstances in the first place. The ascendancy of the current Emir of Kano was against the backdrop of high wire politicking as he is unapologetically a Kwankwasiyya loyalist. Any analysis of the many Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of the former SLS is already in the public domain and do not require to be repeated here. What is not are the real intentions of Governor Ganduje towards His Royal Highness: Just clipping the emir’s wings or removing him?
“Whatever it is, Ganduje is not inspired by good governance or probity. The governor is motivated for political reasons, the revenge kind that would have extensive collateral damage on him whenever he vacates office. No doubt, the petition by Messrs Ibrahim Salisu & Chambers submitted to the state parliament to review the extant law establishing the Kano emirate as the sole royal stool in Nigeria’s most populous state has Ganduje’s finger prints all over it. As if seeking to decentralize the emirate is not enough, the governor has also gone for the jugular. The Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission have reopened the probe into the emirate’s finances started and suspended two years ago. Perhaps for the first time in his illustrious life, the emir is now lost on his usual pinstripe quotations from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to Friedrich Nietzsche as the governor ruthlessly brutalizes the scion of the Sullubawa ruling house with an abundance of Niccolo Machiavelli.
“The million Naira question is: Who will blink first between the economist and the governor? By exchanging his trademark bow tie for a full blown turban, the emir precariously took the route to involuntary self-abdication by voluntary devaluation. From hobnobbing with development economists and investment bankers, his days are now spent listening to idle royal gossip, intervening between bickering courtiers and surviving palace intrigues. For such a maverick once known in banking circles as ‘Sanusi Tsunami’ to become a victim of pedestrian political machinations is a bad Humpty Dumpty fall for somebody who in 2011 was eminently listed among TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. If there is ever a Northern First Eleven, the emir would be its most valuable center-forward. This is somebody that has all the attributes of a president. He has the clout and capacity to reinvent Nigeria if he had jumped into the political fray. It is very difficult for me to discern how blue bloods think.
“That is why I am unsympathetic to the present plight of His Highness. The throne of Kano cannot be said to be on the same pedestal as the President of Nigeria. As a red blooded commoner, I sincerely believe the man formerly known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi would have impacted Kano much more positively on national assignment rather than as emir. My reason? He has a sufficiency of imagination that would have facilitated the return of Kano’s famous Groundnut Pyramids among other more sustainable ‘Next Level’ accomplishments across Nigeria he would have initiated. Regrettably, he is now under the mercy of an executive Hyperbolus far below his peer in all ramifications but well-armed with the 1999 Constitution and an awful lot of grievance. What an irony!”
Now, here is the response by HH Sanusi ll, although I have removed some parts that would be unhelpful to publish, especially at a time like this: “My brother, thank you. I appreciate this. People forget history. In the 80s, the late Abubakar Rimi did this same thing to Ado Bayero, creating five new emirates (four out of Kano and one out of Hadejia) in the old Kano State to humiliate the emirs of Kano and Hadejia, both of whom he accused of being sympathizers of the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) without any evidence. What happened? A short while later, Rimi was voted out of office and Sabo Bakin Zuwo cancelled all the ‘emirates’ at his swearing in ceremony. We just need patience and to hold on to principle.
“In a sense, there is a lot of good in this; only that people are thinking about today and not how history will record it. For those of us who come from families with a history, we are more interested in how future generations will see us than in the petty tribulations that fate inflicts upon us…
“Whichever way this turns out, I am not a loser and Insha Allah, justice will be done. My only crime was working hard to see we had a peaceful and credible election and condemning rigging and the use of thugs and police to disenfranchise my people and deny them their legitimate choice. In other words, my crime was asking politicians to play by the rules they themselves had set…
“But ultimately my life is always a tragedy in the Hegelian sense of two mutually justifiable lines of action. I had the choice to watch in silence as thugs mowed down and intimidated my people…
“This would have given me peace with government and even praise and financial support. The other option was to speak up and risk their wrath and harassment and even removal. There is an argument for both. In one, I sacrifice my throne possibly. In the other, I sacrifice my soul and my conscience. Since I place greater value on my soul than my throne, then for me the choice is clear. So, fate never really happens to us. We help it along, we tempt it, we play into its hands. If you stand for what you think is right in the midst of madness, your fate is already determined as one of great discomfort and pain. That really is the true meaning of the tragedy of life- as far back as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. We are living in history and making history as we live. Thank you my brother. We speak soon. MSII.”ENDNOTE:
It would seem from the foregoing that HH Sanusi ll prefigured the fate that has now befallen him. Like the great heroes of ancient Greek tragedy, his fall can be attributed to the road he did not travel and the choices he consciously made. He shunned the route of partisan politics and the pursuit of elected executive positions where his brilliance and sagacity would have served the greater good of the people. Instead, he chose to fulfil a hereditary obligation. But he is also smart enough to know the constraints of subordinating his lofty ideals to some custodians of local state authority. It is this latter choice, and the inherent contradictions therein, that have toppled him from the position of Emir of Kano.
However, the abuse of state power and the complicity of federal authorities that were on naked display in Kano will be a subject of interrogation another day. The account of Mr A.B. Mahmoud, SAN, who witnessed the drama at the palace is rather pathetic. “The Emir informed the Commissioner of Police that his friends had sent an aircraft to fly him and his family to Lagos and requested that they should be provided with necessary security to the airport so that he could leave. The Commissioner refused saying that was not their instruction. They were willing to allow the family to leave for Lagos but he was to be flown to Abuja then onwards taken to Nassarawa State”, said Mahmoud who added: “It was clear to us that both the Emir and ourselves were helpless and the police and other security agents were willing to take any measure and use force to achieve their objective.”
Despite the monumental challenges that plague Kano State, the governor has for weeks preoccupied his entire government with how to settle personal scores with a traditional ruler. But whatever may be the current travails of the deposed emir, not even Ganduje can legislate for tomorrow. Besides, the ideas and ideals that propel HH Sanusi ll cannot die with the termination of what is really no more than a titular stool, however important it may have been to him. All factors considered, I have a hunch that for HH Muhammadu Sanusi ll, this is simply the close of a chapter. Definitely not the end of the book!