(views expressed in this piece are strictly personal)
The dethronement of His Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II is a huge loss for my home state of Kano, but what appears to be Kano’s loss might become Nigeria’s gain. I have followed the ugly drama of his unfortunate dethronement from the throne he craved to ascend his entire adult life, yet, like the sudden end of a dream, it was whisked away from him in the most unfortunate of circumstances.
I have decided to engage in the debate about this historical saga for three reasons. First, Kano is my home state, and whatever happens in Kano is of interest to me personally. The second reason is the condition of Northern Nigeria. In the last decade, Northern Nigeria has become the hub of many social ills that should give every right thinking individual sleepless nights. An insurgency that has wrecked the population especially in the northeast of the country. An alarming level of poverty that has become the signpost of every street in the region. Social problems like high rate of divorce, and the mother of all problems in the region, child-begging or what is known as almajiranci, where millions of children run the street under the pretense of searching for Islamic education when in reality it is simply a sign of the failure of parenting.
Yet, the leadership of the region from independence to date has failed to find a solution to the problem of child-begging, despite the region producing more leaders for the country, and the states most affected by the culture of street begging being run by the indigenes of these states, so we can’t blame others for our predicament. One person who has consistently elevated the debate about these social ills in our society and utilized his authority, personal appeal, public engagements, and international networks, and seizes every opportunity to draw sympathy to the situation of the child-beggar is His Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II (a.k.a Sanusi Lamido Sanusi).
Not everybody agrees with his approach of defying traditional convention to be an advocate for social reform because of his position as a traditional authority. Others have questioned his attempt at making Ijtihad, a methodology in Islamic law that applies legal reasoning to find solution to contemporary challenges that do not have explicit explanation in the two main sources of legislation in Islam, that is the Qur’an and Sunnah (traditions of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), nor is there a consensus of opinion on them (ijma).
But Ijtihad is an issue that that has been thoroughly debated by scholars of Usul Al fiqh (the roots and foundation of investigating the methodologies to drive legal rulings from original sources), and a common position among the scholars of Usul is that a mistake of Ijtihad in non-fundamental issues of religion should be excused, and are not considered sinful. Disagreements and diversity of opinion was common throughout Islamic history and it has only enriched the discourse aimed at arriving at public good. Some of us have disagreed with His Royal Highness in the past, but such differences in understanding of issues should never be a justification for the suppression of truth as we have seen with the brutal nature Muhammadu Sanusi II was dethroned from the Amirship of Kano emirate. In my opinion, this is not an attempt at a personality, but a deliberate effort at dethroning public conscience.
The third reason is the need for a public face to continue representing public conscience at least in Northern Nigeria. The region cannot afford the silence of the learned. Enough damage has been done to the North by the shear aloofness of its elites. Here, I do not mean a political icon; we are already seeing the monumental failure of investing the entire effort of the region on personalities. Going by our political model, a politician can only serve in an executive office for maximum of eight years. The problems of Northern Nigeria will take a generation to solve.
In conclusion, I would like to suggest a three-point agenda for His Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II for the benefit of Northern Nigeria, and the larger Nigerian society. This simple manifesto could keep him busy for the rest of his life.
The first agenda is to aggressively engage in writing serious compendiums, which is what intellectuals do in every society that prospers. As the social critic, poet, and religious philosopher Søren Kierkegaard stated, “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Today, the Qur’an and any theological scripture that serves as a manual that enriches public ethics does so because our predecessors saw the need to ensure it is put in print. A word in written form has an exceptional rhythm in capturing the imagination of generations unborn. Ideas, no matter how powerful, would be forgotten if not documented in written form. Neither Adam Smith nor Karl Marx would have influenced the 19th-20th century economic systems without putting their ideas in writing.
The second agenda is to establish a foundation that will focus on tackling the very issues that attracted the wrath of the mediocre politicians to remove him from the throne. The priority should be on educating the child-beggar (almajiri). Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of out-of-school children, majority of them in Northern Nigeria. As one of the advocates appointed to promote the SDGs by the UN Secretary General, you have a major platform to attract resources to help achieve the targets of SDG4 (Quality Education). The second priority for this foundation is to focus on rebuilding the family system particularly in Northern Nigeria where divorce rates, and irresponsible men abandoning their responsibilities created some of the mess in the region. The third priority for the foundation is to work on youth empowerment, particularly equipping them with skills for entrepreneurship, innovation and SMEs. A Waqf (endowment fund) should be established to ensure financial sustainability for the foundation. His personal library alone could be converted to public use, and serve as a starting point for the foundation, few people have access to such useful collection of literature.
The third agenda is to refine and strengthen his role as an advocate for social change. This can be done by working with like minds across the aisle, from Northern and Southern Nigeria. The youth are looking for role models, for inspiration, and for a sense of direction. There is scarcity of true role models in Nigeria. This is a vacuum that needs to be filled with immediate effect. I know some people are already blowing the siren of 2023 for you. That is your decision to make. But in or out of politics, the new chapter in your life is an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of ordinary Nigerians and beyond.
I end this piece with the words of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as narrated by Muslim: “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer, if something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience, and that is good for him.”
Dr. Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u is an independent analyst and the author of Regional Parallelism and Corruption Scandals in Nigeria.