Sanusi II and the Prospects of Radical Emirship, By Jibrin Ibrahim
I start my column today with an apology to my teacher and mentor, Prof A. D. Yahaya who taught me that the idea of radicalism and emirship are completely antithetical. The Northern Aristocracy, he taught us, were incorporated into the British system of Native Administration to oppress the people as has been so well expressed in Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU’s) Sawaba Declaration published in Kano in August 1958 parts of which reads as follows:
“That the shocking state of social order as at present existing in Northern Nigeria, which is due to nothing but the family compact rule of the so-called Native Administration;
That owing to the unscrupulous and vicious system of administration by the family compact rulers, which has been established and fully supported by the British imperialist government, there is today in our society an antagonism of interest, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between the members of the vicious circle of Native Administration on the one hand and the ordinary talakawa on the other hand.”
Of course at that time, the Native Administration led by Emirs controlled the police, prisons and the courts and were therefore directly exercising state power. Today, traditional rulers do not exercise state power but do exert substantial influence over their domains. The appointment of Mohammadu Sanusi II, formerly known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the throne of Kano presents the prospect of an Emir exercising radical influence on his society. Its an opportunity for the emirship to reconcile with its original mission of the Jihad of 1804, which was one for the struggle against injustice and oppression and establishing a political system that will serve the interest of the talakawa.
I believe that Professor A. D. Yahaya will be excited at this possible transformation of the emirship into an instrument of liberation, a struggle he has been engaged with over the past fifty years. His classic book, the “Native Authority System in Northern Nigeria” remains the best published narrative on how the Emirship was operated as a system of oppression and why Aminu Kano and his comrades in NEPU had to take over the mantle of promoting the radical agenda of the Jihad from the aristocracy.
Sanusi II has lived an intense life of radical intellectual engagement, which has evoked strong reactions of support or disagreement among interlocutors. For example, when Sanusi was being proposed as Governor of the Central Bank in 2009, there was a passionate debate on the Internet. One Nebukadineze was excited at the idea of a radical occupying the position. Sanusi, he explained is not only qualified to be Central Bank’s Governor, he is a Nigerian in whom every progressive Nigerian must find a partner to uplift our nation from the doldrums. The Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that I knew personally (in the 1980s) was a Marxist–a protégé of the late Bala Usman.
He added that Sanusi’s intellectual depth is unquestionable; his numerous writings bear witness to this assertion. He is a Muslim in whom non-Muslims have a friend. He is not into proselytizing or into fostering Islamic supremacy. He adheres to his religion with open mind. Above all, he never shies away from confronting the hypocrisy of Northern politicians who use Islam to mislead the downtrodden masses of the North.
In his own reaction to Nebukadineze’s accolades, Ikenna Anokute argued, “This Taliban (Sanusi) with a Bachelors Degree in Sharia (at Sudan of all places) is an unlikely candidate to head Nigeria’s Central Bank. Simply put, he’s not qualified. He’ll undo what Dr Soludo took years to build. He will undo the recapitalization. He’ll radicalize, if not Islamize, the Central Bank. I fear that his religious belief will cloud his judgement in monetary policies and it is a mistake to ask him to replace a foremost Economist. It will be a BIG shoe to fill. Nigeria is about to face decline in foreign investments …”
The verdict of the jury on Sanusi’s stewardship of the Central Bank is out. Some examples: ”We were fascinated by the CBN Governor, and impressed by the tough, decisive and transparent actions that he and his colleagues had taken in Nigeria in a way that many Americans wish had also been done here with the leaders of financial institutions that benefited from tax-payer funded bail-outs.” Hon. Gregory W. Meeks, Chairman Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade of the United States Congress
“In the last 18 months that Mallam Sanusi has been in office, he has salvaged a crumbling Nigerian financial sector, including implementing reforms that have put Africa’s most promising market back on the map for investors globally.” Global/African Central Bank Governor of the Year 2011 by The Banker Magazine- a publication of Financial Times of London
“Nigeria’s reformist central banker Lamido Sanusi is not afraid of bold gestures to keep economic growth on track – and remind investors of policy intent. He has Nigerian banking reforms under his belt (and lenders aware of the need to finance productive economic activity).” The Lex Column of the Financial Times (November 23, 2011). Sanusi II has clearly excelled in all that he has set out to do.
The radical agenda that we all hope HH Sanusi II will seek to exercise his influence on is clear. The first is the promotion of education in general and girl child education in particular. Primary school enrolment for most of the core Northern states is less than 30%. It is important that the new leadership in the North actively promotes formal education with the type of vigour and determination of the late Sardauna of Sokoto in the 1960s. On health, the campaign for eradication of polio and the prevention of VVF caused by marriage of young girls who are not physically mature is crying out for support from traditional authorities. The rapid pace of desertification is another issue of importance. It should also be pointed out that the new Emir has a very cosmopolitan and urbane background and has a key role to play in promoting good inter-community relations in Kano.
Emir Sanusi II has a track record as an anti-corruption crusader. Emirs cannot be loud radical advocates like some of us in civil society. Nonetheless, he has a role to play in the promotion of public probity. The culture of leadership based on massive corruption has led to an increase of the incidence of poverty from 54% to over 70% in Kano over the past twenty years. Responsible leadership in which public resources are used to provide public goods is essential and the advice and counsel of the Emir on this issue would definitely promote the public good.
Kano is an important State in Nigeria and God has willed that Sanusi II becomes its Emir. He has the intellectual skills, princely training, religious knowledge and cosmopolitanism to lead the State as a father to all, irrespective of ethnic, religious or political affiliation. I believe he is very much aware that his princely training has taught him that playing politics is not the way to go. Peace building and promoting commerce and industry is the central agenda before him given the present economic depression facing the State. I pray that God gives him the wisdom to be a pillar in promoting a prosperous and peaceful State.
Dr. Ibrahim, a development consultant and fellow of the Centre for Development and Democracy in Abuja is Chairman of the PREMIUM TIMES editorial board.