Kano used to be a major centre of industry and the Emir has repeatedly promised to work hard to revive industry in the State and he would do well to use his skills as a banker and economist to work on that. For Sanusi II, I say silence and exit option NO, voice YES, but central focus on bringing Kano back to its days of glory.
My Emir, HH Sanusi II is too much, challenging President Buhari to devalue the Naira and stop fuel subsidy, removing the Ciroma of Kano, and being accused of demolishing historic monuments in the palace all in the same week. All these coming after making controversial statements on Saudi authorities and the Hajj following the Mina tragedy, marrying an 18-year old bride and riding a camel rather than a horse for the Durbar on his return from the Hajj, we can say with certainty that he will not be known in history as the quiet, distant Emir who just dresses up for ceremonies and keeps his mouth shut. Deference to authority has never been his style although he does have deep respect for authority.
Nigerians advisedly invented the word cousin/brother to meet a specific need. The term ‘cousin’ draws too much from consanguinity and places too much blood distance between people who are part of the same family and should be rightly considered brothers or sisters as the case may be. Last week, Emir Sanusi II removed his cousin/brother, Sanusi Lamido Ado Bayero from his traditional title of Ciroman Kano for disloyalty. For over one year, cousin/brother Sanusi Lamido refused to accept the authority of cousin/brother Sanusi Lamido (just to confuse outsiders the two of them have the same names) as Emir of Kano. It is unacceptable in the culture and religion of Kano and the Sokoto Caliphate for royalty to refuse to recognise legitimate traditional authority once they have been appointed and turbaned.
It will be recalled that in 1963, the Premier of Northern Nigeria decided that the then Emir of Kano, grandfather to the current one must be removed for not showing enough deference. D.J.M. Muffett, a British administrative officer was given the responsibility of inventing the excuse for removing Alhaji Sir Muhammadu Sanusi, K.B.E. through an administrative inquiry. Many scholars including Professor Dudley castigated Muffet for being a willing tool for removing an Emir through invented excuses. After retirement, Muffet published a self-justification article in the African Studies Review, 1975, arguing that in aristocratic circles, legitimacy must always go with deference and Emir Sanusi the First lacked deference to his distant cousin and boss, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of Northern Nigeria, so he had to go. He might have a point, the reality with Kano royalty is that they have always been the biggest, richest and most illustrious kingdom in the Sokoto Caliphate, so why should they kwo tow to the others, just because they have State power? Those who suspect this is a partisan Kano position are right and those who know this to be the truth are even more right. Let us not forget that at the beginning of colonialism, while the Governor-General of Nigeria was on an annual salary of 6,000 pounds, the Emir of Kano was on 16,000 pounds way above everybody else in the country. If Sanusi II is not too much into the culture of exercising deference to constituted authority, the fault might be in his genes.
I admire Sanusi II for coming out so clearly with his views to encourage a policy debate about the best option, irrespective of people’s sensibilities…so Sanusi II knew the risk of unpopularity he was taking by being so bold about his views. These views expressed by Sanusi II are clearly not in line with much of radical thinking in Nigeria today but his radicalism is about pushing for the truth as he sees it, and the truth as Einstein said has never been a popularity contest.
In my column of June 18, 2014 entitled “Sanusi II and the Prospects of Radical Emirship”, I argued that this new Emir presented 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. 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 he 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.
Sanusi II has indeed spent his life ruffling feathers and saying what he thinks and what should be done irrespective of what the others think. While at the Central Bank, he had publicly insisted that fuel subsidy was wasteful and should be scraped, annoying many of us on the barricades. At that time, some people assumed he was falling in line with the desire of the Jonathan Administration. Since President Buhari came into power, the new “body language”, has been reluctance to rush and scrap petroleum subsidy. By coming out to forcefully promote the end of fuel subsidy, Sanusi II knew the President might not be too happy. He also knew that Nigerians in general are strongly in favour of retaining a regime of cheap fuel for obvious reasons. Since General Ibrahim Babangida raised the price of petrol from 3.15 to 20 kobo in April 1985, Nigerians have come out and spontaneously organised mass protests against removal of fuel subsidy 19 times. President Buhari knows it and that might account for his caution. I admire Sanusi II for coming out so clearly with his views to encourage a policy debate about the best option, irrespective of people’s sensibilities. Nigerians are equally committed to the protection of the value of the Naira relative to foreign currency, so Sanusi II knew the risk of unpopularity he was taking by being so bold about his views. These views expressed by Sanusi II are clearly not in line with much of radical thinking in Nigeria today but his radicalism is about pushing for the truth as he sees it, and the truth as Einstein said has never been a popularity contest.
I was concerned when I heard about the alleged demolition of historical monuments in the Emirs Palace in Kano. I have reached out and asked questions because I believe protecting our monuments is important. The response I received is that the Kano Emirate Council is committed to preserving its monuments for posterity. There are however some mud buildings in the palace that have become structurally weak and might collapse. As these buildings are not monuments per se but buildings where people live and work in, renovation is required to protect the lives of the occupants but also the buildings themselves. The renovations are to be done with techniques that would preserve as much as possible but also maintain the traditional architecture. As the issue is in court, I will stay out of the debate.
Sanusi II should continue to exercise his views on matters of importance… Sanusi II should not force members of his exclusive club to push him towards the door. All of us in his fans club want him to be there for a long time so that he can continue to exercise his views on vital questions of policy from time to time.
I will conclude with three messages to HH Sanusi II. The first is that we live in a society in which people are afraid to say what they consider to be the truth because they are afraid of negative reaction of the powers that be. At important moments when leaders and intellectuals should come out and speak truth to power, they keep quiet and society is worse for it. I admire his highness because he has policy messages to make that are not pleasing to interlocutors but rather than take the option of silence, he articulates his views. Sanusi II should continue to exercise his views on matters of importance. My second message is that Sanusi II is not a commoner like me, he is a member of a club that exercises power. Such clubs in history appreciate occasional criticisms from within but when it becomes too frequent, they get upset and may impose the exit option on the guilty party. Sanusi II should not force members of his exclusive club to push him towards the door. All of us in his fans club want him to be there for a long time so that he can continue to exercise his views on vital questions of policy from time to time.
My third message to Sanusi II is that there is a vast radical agenda he has already enunciated which he can execute with less controversy. 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 percent. It is important that he takes leadership in promoting 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. Finally, Kano used to be a major centre of industry and the Emir has repeatedly promised to work hard to revive industry in the State and he would do well to use his skills as a banker and economist to work on that. For Sanusi II, I say silence and exit option NO, voice YES, but central focus on bringing Kano back to its days of glory.
A development consultant and expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development and Chair of the Editorial Board of Premium Times.