Since his ascension to the throne of Dabo four years ago, Kano has seen an era of unprecedented peace, stability, progress and economic opportunities. His Highness has not only brought back, but has elevated, the honour, relevance and power of the northern traditional institution to the rest of Nigeria and beyond. He uses his position as Emir to enhance the living conditions of his people.
June 8, 2014 will go down as a momentous day in the history of the ancient city of Kano; a watershed date that heralded the dawn of a new era. It was the day a unique and immensely accomplished royal son of Kano was named the 14th Emir, as a decendant of the Sullabawa clan (two days after the passing of His Highness, Ado Bayero of blessed memory). It was the day Muhammadu Sanusi II achieved his lifelong ambition of succeeding the throne of Ibrahim Dabo. To understand the person of His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II requires understanding his pedigree and the tradition of distinguished public service that has characterised his entire royal lineage.
Born in Kano on July 31, 1961, Muhammadu Sanusi II is very well learned in both Western and Islamic education. After attending the famed St. Anne’s Primary Boarding School in Kakuri, Kaduna and King’s College Lagos, Muhammadu Sanusi II proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, one of Nigeria’s premier and most-respected citadels of higher learning, where he obtained the first and Masters degrees in 1981 and 1983 respectively. His mother, Hajiya Saudatu, is a descendant of great scholars. She equally encouraged him to study under the tutelage of Kano’s leading scholars, notably her uncle Shaykh Idris Kuliya (a Grand Imam and one time Grand Khadi) and her cousin Shaykh Mahmud Umar. His Highness later obtained a first-class degree in Islamic Law from the International University of Africa in Khartoum. It is worth stating that the curricula in both St. Anne’s and the King’s College Lagos were heavy in Christian religious studies, and he topped his class in both schools in these studies. Another point of note is the fact that princes from northern Nigeria do not often go to the southern part of the country to acquire education. They often opt to study in the north, and within their own Emirates. Muhammadu Sanusi was one of the rare exceptions. His stay at the renowned King’s College Lagos was particularly crucial in shaping his view and mindset about the Nigerian nation and the world. He acquired values that reinforced his already deep-rooted (home-acquired) values of inclusivity, team-work, humility, accountability, respect for others, sense of duty, selfless service and transcending petty sentiments (such as ethnicity and other forms of bias). Many of his friends at King’s College (mostly from regions other than his own) remain among his closest today.
After a brief spell as a lecturer of Economics at ABU, he joined the banking sector where he worked in Nigeria’s premier banks, reaching the peak of his career as the managing director of the First Bank of Nigeria PLC. His stellar performance in the banking sector earned him a nomination, by the then Nigerian president, late Umaru Musa Yar’adua, for the governorship of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in June 2009. His nomination hearing at the Senate, which was telecast live across the country (and in some other countries), ranks among the most memorable confirmation hearings in Nigeria’s political history, not only because of the masterful way he addressed all questions posed to him by the distinguished members of the Senate, but because of the amazing power of his oratory capacity, depth of knowledge and eloquence. He took over the management of the CBN, Nigeria’s apex bank, at a precarious moment of immense uncertainty in the Nigerian banking sector (characterised by corruption and mismanagement in the banking sector, with many of Nigeria’s banks facing the risk of imminent collapse). He immediately instituted tough and far-reaching reforms (appropriately tagged the “Sanusi tsunami”), pumped billions of naira in bailout packages to rescue distressed banks (while firing their incompetent chief executives), leading to the stabilisation, salvation and streamlining of the banking sector in particular, and the Nigerian economy in general. He, of course, had to confront Nigeria’s corrupt and powerful bank executives (having many of them prosecuted and convicted for their crimes against the nation) as well as corrupt and powerful interests in government (notably through his exposure of the mega corruption associated with the funds diversion at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, in a courageous act that ultimately resulted in his being relieved of his post as the CBN governor by then Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan). While on the job, His Highness was showered with countless prestigious awards for his troubles, including being the Central Banker of the Year (on a worldwide level) and the Central Bank Governor for Africa by the Banker Magazine. He is widely known as the best CBN governor in history. There, simply, was never one more competent, visionary and courageous among those who ever ran Nigeria’s apex bank.
Despite his many years in public service, anyone who remotely knows Muhammadu Sanusi II will be in no doubt what his lifelong ambition was. It was to succeed the throne of his fore-fathers. Of course, every male member of the Sullabwan Dabo Clan has exactly the same dream (and he is no different). Muhammadu Sanusi’s journey to the throne started when His Highness Ado Bayero appointed him as the Danmajen Kano on June 8, 2012, precisely two years before he received the ultimate prize of becoming the Emir. History teaches us that the only person to ever be Danmajen Kano and later Emir of Kano was Aliyu Babba (who was Emir between 1894 and 1903).
Kano, established by Bagauda in 999 AD, is a mega city inhabited by an estimated five million people from a multitude of ethnicities and localities within and outside Nigeria. Kano, one of the seven Hausa states (and the undisputed leading city and cultural centre of the over 150 million Hausa speakers globally), prides itself as being one of Africa’s leading commercial, cultural and intellectual centres. Owing to its immense diversity (of people, cultures and traditions), Kano has always been a melting pot of original ideas, ideologies and philosophies. That’s why Kano is modestly known as the Jallah Babbar Hausa (i.e., the numero uno Hausaland) and the land of “Koda me kazo an fika” (loosely translated to mean “whatever you are or come up with, we are or have greater”, how more unabashedly-modest can a people get?) After the 43 Hausa kings (dating back to Bagauda), the Jihad of Shehu Usman Danfodio brought the Emirate System into Kano at the beginning of the 19th century. The Fulani Sullubawan Dabo dynasty (the Kano ruling house to date) began with Mallam Ibrahim Dabo, a pious, well-learned, brave warrior and seasoned administrator, who became the Emir in 1819 as a successor to Sulaiman of the Mundubawa Clan. Sulaiman recommended Dabo in a will that was sent to Sarkin Musulmi Muhammad Bello, because he was the most loyal and competent of all Kano chiefs. Dabo was a tall, gangling, charismatic and immensely eloquent man. He was also a very fair and just ruler. That’s why Kano is known as “Kano ta Dabo Cigari” or, as famed Hausa singer late Mamman Shata will have it, “Kanon Dabo Birni” (i.e. Kano, the City of Dabo).
All successors of Dabo, prior to Muhammadu Sanusi II, have many things in common, including, notably, total commitment, and a stellar track record of distinguished and selfless service, to the people they rule over. They are also known for their judicious and fair administration of justice, and capacity to adjust with changing times (thereby retaining and enhancing the eminence and relevance of the traditional institution for two centuries). In addition to their many shared distinguishing qualities, they also brought about a number of distinct qualities and characteristics. For example, Sarkin Kano Abbas (1903-1919) was known for his prudence and conscience – qualities which helped the Kano Emirate and the northern region to stabilise and navigate during the traumatic period of the imposition of British colonial rule (particularly in not allowing the colonial masters to compromise his commitment to the tenets of the Shari’ah). His son, Sarkin Kano Alhaji Abdullahi Bayero (1926-1953), defined the way people (not just his subjects) across the region should manage their affairs, thereby proving a profound example to other Nigerian leaders to follow. As the chief executive of the Kano Native Authority, Sarkin Kano Abdullahi Bayero embarked on infrastructural development projects that are yet to be surpassed by any sub-national leader in Northern Nigeria. He established a water treatment plant and an Independent Power Plant of 15MW (there is yet to be one of similar capacity by a sub-national government anywhere in Northern Nigeria, 80 years after his pioneering initiative). He also established the School for Arabic Studies, the first public institution in Nigeria to integrate Islamic and western education.
This now leads us to Sarkin Kano Khalifah Sir Muhammadu Sanusi (Emir 1953-1963), the grandfather of His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II. Like Dabo, Sarki Khalifa was an immensely pious, highly-educated, scholarly and remarkably fair and just leader. He was also a visionary who was very unique, with his leadership and impact extended far beyond the confines of his domain. He was the greatest supporter of Nigeria’s ruling party during the First Republic (the Northern Peoples Congress), and made sure his friend, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, became the leader of the party and later the premier of Northern Region. Sarki Khalifa was the first Nigerian to serve as the governor of Northern Region. Under his leadership, the Native Authority built the largest industrial estate in Northern Nigeria, in addition to building a primary school and a dispensary in every village that had a Dagaci (Village Head). Sarki Khalifa was credited as being Kano’s “father of irrigation”, having laid the foundation of Kano’s modern irrigation agriculture. In particular, he commissioned the very first major agricultural modernisation initiative, via a study on irrigation led by a consultant, Dr. O’Sullivan. Dr. O’Sullivan studied the Tiga Rapids on the Kano River, forty-eight kilometres south of Challawa, for water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power (his study indicated great possibilities, which Sarki Khalifa took to heart and led to fruition). As a consequence of the study, the Kano Native Authority, under the leadership of Sarki Khalifa, constructed 17 dams from 1956 to 1959, at the cost of £22,000 (with the Northern Region Development Corporation contributing £1,685 of the total amount). Sarki Khalifa also laid the foundation for Kano’s famed Orthopedic Hospital in Dala, which serves the whole of northern Nigeria. Muhammadu Sanusi II’s father, the late Ciroman Kano, Ambassador Aminu Sanusi of blessed memory, was one of the first 12 foreign service officers recruited in Nigeria in 1957. He founded what later became Nigeria’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Ambassador Sanusi had a distinguished career in the diplomatic service, rising to become the permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the period of Nigeria’s high diplomatic profile, in which he provided the professional leadership that supported African liberation movements.
By the year 1999, the Nigerian State had stripped the traditional rulers of all executive, legislative and judicial functions and made them only advisers and advocates for its programmes. Sarkin Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero (Emir from 1963 to 2014) was well-prepared for this role. He made the Emirate institution more dignified as an advocate for humane and just Islamic society. He maintained the integrity of the institution by supporting the construction of mosques and Islamic schools across the Kano Emirate and beyond. The whole of Nigeria accepted him as a moral fatherly leader, and he was invited by several groups to support their faith-based and educational endeavours. He became an ambassador for peace and social harmony, serving as a bridge linking Nigeria’s diverse communities, thus fostering unity, friendship and mutual respect amongst all people.
The genesis enumerated above shows one unmistakable fact that His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II came from a tradition of distinguished public service and leadership. He came from a tradition of bravery, courage and total devotion to duty. That’s why it was no surprise that when he achieved his lifelong dream of ascension onto the revered throne of Dabo, he continued a legacy of impressive service and devotion. It is probably fair to say there never, in history, was a monarch as competent, accomplished, globally-renowned and well-learned (in both western and Islamic education) seated on the throne of Dabo (or dare we say any other throne in Africa). Muhammadu Sanusi II was an instantly-recognisable global figure in his own right (owing to his unsurpassed reputation in the global banking community).
When His Highness was turbaned as the 14th Emir of Kano on June 8, 2014, his first order of business was to restore some of the well-known roles that successors of Dabo typically carry out, including leading Friday prayers and enhancing the living conditions of the people who work in the palace. We can recall that during the very first Friday after his installation as Emir (when he was still staying at the Government House before the palace became ready for His Highness to move into), he delivered the Friday Khutbah exclusively in Arabic, and with absolutely no written notes to aid him in the delivery, to a group that included almost all of Kano’s leading scholars, political and business elites. The sermon, telecast live across the country, remains one of the most important moments in Northern Nigerian history, and the older among the Islamic scholars in attendance were visibly elated and moved by this, as they recalled that the last time an Emir of Kano delivered sermons on Fridays was during the time of Sanusi’s grandfather, Sarki Khalifa. Indeed, like grandfather, like grandson.
As he had always done during his time in the public service, His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II chose a few key areas of focus as Emir, namely the economy (with emphasis on attracting quality local and foreign investments), health care, education and the empowerment of women. He, in close collaboration with the Kano State Government, consequently, instituted a number of key social reforms aimed at helping him (and the state government) achieve the set objectives. There were a few initial bumps (which comes with the territory for someone of His Highness’ immense public stature, having to adjust to the needs of his new role to remain somewhat dutifully silent in public, even in situations where one’s expertise and experiences will be vitally important in advancing the public discourse). His Highness has remained laser-focused on working with all people within (and outside) his royal domain to improve the living conditions of anyone and everyone who lives within it. Like he saw during the first few days of his tenure as the CBN governor, he also observed a Kano society on the brink when he was turbaned as Emir (characterised by economic challenges and other major social challenges, such as society’s attitude towards women). He immediately realised that comprehensive social reform was necessary. His Highness initiated a Social Reform Committee, headed by the renowned academic Professor Sani Zahradeen (the Grand Imam of Kano), with the central focus of fostering greater love and care among married couples, reducing divorce rates in the community, minimising domestic violence, eradicating child and drug abuse, protecting the rights of women after divorce, protecting the rights of women towards their reproductive health, protecting children’s rights and their welfare and protecting the rights of the orphans. It also advices on ways to help empower women financially (through education and access to business opportunities etc.) The success of the Family Social Reform initiative of His Highness, which enjoys the support of all the stakeholders in the Kano society and beyond, was widely applauded in the nation and beyond. In fact, just two months ago, the president of the neighbouring Niger Republic invited him to speak about this reform to a packed audience of community leaders in his country.
On the education front, His Highness always believes that quality education is the foundation for the creation and sustenance of a knowledge-based economy that is immensely vital in the building and nurturing modern societies and nations. He has always been a champion of public education in the State and the nation as a whole. He is focused now on helping to greatly improve the standards of all the academic institutions in the State (and has helped attract major investments to some of the institutions, particularly the Bayero University Kano, which he remains steadfast in trying to make one of the best universities in Africa). Thankfully, His Highness inherited a vibrant community-oriented leadership in Kano, with a great track record of offering quality solutions to many of the social and socio-economic problems confronting the State (of which public education is one of the pressing ones). His Highness has been working closely with these groups to help maximise their impact. For instance, Alhaji Aminu Dantata, one of Nigeria’s leading philanthropist, led a group that formed the Kano Foundation, which is actively involved in establishing and supporting public schools in Kano. Alhaji Magaji Dambatta led Inuwar Jama’ar Kano, an organisation of technocrats that supported education. Similarly, the Dangote Foundation has expended billions of naira in youth and women empowerment, as well in building centres of excellence in some tertiary institutions. Alhaji Bashir Othman, a major Kano statesman, leads the Kano Concerned Citizens Group that empowers youth, resolves conflicts in communities and fighting drug abuse, among others.
His Highness has always been a champion of unity and strength in diversity. He has always believed that Kano must continue to open its doors and accommodate people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. He saw this as critical to achieving Kano’s socio-economic renaissance and reclaiming its glory as the undisputed commercial leader of sub-Saharan Africa. His Highness believes that no problem can defy the people of Kano if they work together in a united fashion. That’s why, shortly after his installation, he conducted a tour of all segments of the ethnic and faith communities in Kano to assure them of his support and call for unity among all people. His Highness hosts community leaders to a breakfast session at the Palace during every Ramadhan, and the theme of this year’s session (which took place on the 28th day of Ramadhan) was unity and brotherhood among all people who live within his royal domain. This topic is crucial and timely, owing to the forthcoming political electioneering season (with the 2019 elections looming around the corner). The Kano State governor, His Excellency Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who was the principal guest at the palace, greatly echoed His Highness’ call for unity. His Excellency assured the audience of his government’s unrelenting commitment to unifying the people and working collectively to make the State a model for socio-economic development, peace and unity. His Highness reiterated his call for unity when he visited the governor at the Government House during the traditional Sallah felicitation. He called on the governor to invite all the major politicians to accept violence-free elections. He stated that agreeing to work together for peace does not imply abandoning one’s party or political ideology. The governor responded by, again, reassuring His Highness of his government’s commitment to fostering and sustaining peace, unity and development.
Since his ascension to the throne of Dabo four years ago, Kano has seen an era of unprecedented peace, stability, progress and economic opportunities. His Highness has not only brought back, but has elevated, the honour, relevance and power of the northern traditional institution to the rest of Nigeria and beyond. He uses his position as Emir to enhance the living conditions of his people. He is a modern Emir for the modern times. He challenges his people to constantly seek higher goals and become better versions of themselves. He is a man of immense intellect, knowledge, wisdom, eloquence, global reputation for excellence and vision. Further, when it comes to the art of the display of royal pageantry, no one does it better than the Kano Emirate, particularly at this Muhammadu Sanusi II era. Durbars in Kano, during his reign, are spectacles never before seen on Nigeria’s shores. While other Emirs ride on horsebacks, he routinely and uniquely appeared atop a giant white royal camel, perfectly symbolising the supremacy of the Kano Emirate over all others. His Highness is, undoubtedly, the perfect epitomy of the aforementioned Kano’s “Koda me kazo an fika” and “Jallah Babbar Hausa” mindsets. One of the authors of this article recently led a delegation of the Nigerian Mathematical Society (who were having their s annual conference in Kano this year) to pay a courtesy call on His Highness at the Palace (May 10, 2018). The members of the delegation, consisting of some of Nigeria’s most-respected mathematical minds, were thoroughly impressed by the eloquent and authoritative manner in which he spoke about the crucial role mathematics plays in nation-building. Further, he spoke, at great length and with great clarity, to the delegation about some important mathematical concepts in his own field of Economics (such as chaos theory and the mathematics of risk analysis, market fluctuations and volatility). The members of the delegation who hail from South of the Niger have never seen anyone like His Highness, and they surely never ever experienced the magnificent display of culture and tradition they saw at the Palace. His Highness, being Kano’s Number One Promoter, also urged members of the delegation to check out some of Kano’s major traditional monuments and to spend some money at local markets within the city. The visit to the Palace was the hallmark of the entire conference.
We can go on and on about the wonderful things coming out of Gidan Rumfa (i.e., the Palace of the Emir of Kano) since His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II became Emir. The bottom line is simply that great things always happen when competent people are given the chance to serve. We can state, without any hesitation whatsoever, that there was never anyone more immensely competent to ever occupy the throne of Dabo than His Highness, and it shows. Blessed be His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Kano Emirate and the people who live within the Emirate. We pray that His Highness continues to have a peaceful, prosperous, progressive, healthy and long reign. We join millions of well-wishers within and outside Nigeria in wishing His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II a Happy 4th Anniversary on the revered throne of Dabo, and 57th birthday in advance. May there be at least 40 more returns of this anniversary to come on the throne of Dabo.