Sanusi and the price of truth by Lateef Adewole

Deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II
Deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

“Ojó a bákú làá d’ère, èèyàn ò sunwòn láàyè” (The day one dies, is the day one becomes a hero, even when not appreciated while alive)

The hottest news in Nigeria in the last six days is the dethronement of the former Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammad Sanusi II. He has been trending for days. Mallam Sanusi has suddenly become a “celebrity” who everyone and anyone is talking about. Tons of articles, write-ups, commentaries, etc, have been written about him and the issue. Many of his past speeches have resurfaced. They are all over the social media.

On Monday 9th of March, 2020, the shenanigans that have characterised the relationship between the former Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammad Sanusi and the governor of Kano state, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, in nearly four years, came to an end. The governor deposed the emir, in something that looked like history repeating itself. This was based on some ludicrous reasons of “disrespect and insubordination” to constituted authority. His grandfather HRH Muhammad Sanusi 1, was also dethroned 57 years ago by the then Premier of Northern Nigeria, late Sir Ahmadu Bello.

Governor Ganduje started by splitting the historic Kano emirate into five, creating additional four emirates and making Kano the headquarters. This was done to whittle down the power and influence of HRH Sanusi. Their squabbles started when he criticised Kano state government’s plan to build a light rail in Kano by borrowing a whooping sum of 1.8 billion dollars, a decision he said was unnecessary and wasteful. That drew the battle line.

Since then, the former emir has been found raising one concern or another about different policies of governments, at both state and federal levels. Like when he referred to the foreign exchange “subsidy” issue in 2015/16 as a scam just like petroleum subsidy scam of the previous administration. This was among many others.

Many of his opinions continued to generate controversies. It seems he thrives on this and even enjoys them. Maybe he even created them “deliberately” to always be in the limelight (lol). The former emir was not without his own blemishes. He could be accused of being guilty of the same offences he criticised others for if his own past activities are subjected to serious scrutiny. He is a product of the feudalism that he now tries to fight.

Historically, his life has been a rollercoaster, from his youthful years when he was accused of being part of a group that beheaded a person in a barbaric religious upheaval, to his confrontation with Kwakwanso in his first term as governor of Kano when he criticised him for not implementing Sharia in Kano.

This led to his abrupt resignation from United Bank of Africa where he was a General Manager and walked into the waiting arms of First Bank of Nigeria Plc, where he rose to become the CEO, from where he was appointed the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by late President Musa Yar’adua. He started with another controversy when he criticised the seven-point agenda of Yar’adua, while being screened at the senate. He said that the government did not need more than two to three-point agenda.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai and dethroned Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II
Governor Nasir El-Rufai and dethroned Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II

His time in CBN was also full of drama. If not against the national assembly, it was “unauthorised” spending of CBN funds for charity in Kano. The tipping point then was when he raised alarm (or “blew whistle”, as we now call it) about a “missing” 49 billion dollars from oil revenues under former President Jonathan administration. This caught fire. Worse still, that statement was made in the thick of political realignment, following the formation of a new opposition party APC.

The opposition latched on it and began to sing it as a song. They used it to bring down the then government which eventually lost power at the centre in 2015. That accusation from Mallam Sanusi pitched him against his employer at the time, the federal government of the day. He was suspended. Moreso, his allegations were found to be completely inaccurate, as he also kept changing his figures from the initial 49 billion dollars to 30 billion, and later to 20 billion. After a forensic audit, 1.2 billion dollars was discovered to actually be unaccounted for.

So, he was seen as a “tool” in the hands of the opposition. Well, he was adequately “compensated” by the APC which governed Kano towards the end of that administration, since Governor Kwankwaso was one of the governors that broke away to form new PDP and defected to APC. Immediately after the demise of the previous Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, the intrigues that followed could only be imagined.

However, Governor Kwankwaso used his “state power” to enthrone Mallam Sanusi as the 14th fulani emir of Kano, against popular expectation of appointing the eldest son of the late Emir, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, whom was seen as close to PDP Federal government. Mallam Sanusi was appointed to spite former President Goodluck Jonatan and PDP. But like the saying goes, “those who rode on the back of the tiger will end up in its belly”. One could say that was the fate that has befallen Mallam Sanusi. The current governor of Kano was the deputy to Kwankwaso at the time.

The former emir never kept quiet in the face of wrongdoings of those in government. Likewise, he took it upon himself to continuously raise issues as they concern the northern Nigeria in particular, with many retrogressive practices there. The issue of increasing out-of-school children and lack of girl-child education burn his heart. He condemned the practice by many parents who gave birth to these children only to end up as Almajiris, roaming all over the streets.

He advised state governments to legislate against men marrying more wives when they are financially incapable of taking care of even just one wife. He also proposed criminalising giving birth to too many children without taking care of them. And that such parents should be arrested and prosecuted for negligence and irresponsibility.

Just few weeks ago, he dropped another bombshell at the 60th birthday ceremony of the governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. “If the north does not change, it will destroy itself…” This was a quote extracted from his scathing speech against the practices in the north, which have made them complacent, riding on quota system and federal character enshrined in Nigeria constitution, to get many “undeserved” opportunities within the Nigerian state, at the expense of the merited people from other parts of Nigeria.

He admonished that with 80 per cent poverty level in the north, high illiteracy, poor healthcare, etc, it is a matter of time before the rest of the country will decide that enough is enough spoon-feeding northern Nigeria. When other regions are educating their children and the north refused to educate theirs, but still expect to get equal share or even more, from the country, just because they come from the north. That such situation will not continue forever.

There was pin-drop silence while he delivered these fatal blows to the audience, which was full of many political office holders and importantly northern elites who were responsible for all of these. It was too bitter a truth to swallow. They could not have been happy.

So, the solidarity that the deposed emir has enjoyed since his dethronement could be seen from the place of the course that he has continued to champion, particularly in the past few years now. Many prominent and ordinary Nigerians alike have condemned the Kano state government for his sack. Many believe it was a vendetta by Ganduje, who sees him as an opposition to him, given his relationship with Senator Kwankwaso. Governor Ganduje and Kwankwaso have been at dagger-drawn in the past four years.

Many prominent individuals and groups across the country tried to intervene to resolve the issues between the governor and the former emir while the brouhaha lasted. Northern leaders, governors forum represented by Fayemi, even Professor Osinbajo. One voice that was loudly not heard throughout was that of the President Buhari. This was responsible for the insinuation that he must have sanctioned the dethronement, despite the denials. Action they say, speaks louder than words.

The part of the dethronement that is repugnant and untenable in the 21st century was the associated “banishment” of the former emir. While there is no official statement or any part of the letter issued to him that indicated that, coupled with what the Attorney General of Kano State, Ibrahim Muktar, said on Channels television on Wednesday’s Sunrise daily programme, that Kano state government did not banish him, one wonders what the confinement which he was subjected to afterwards, then means, with his forceful stay in Awe, Nasarawa state. It was an abuse of his fundamental human rights to move and associate freely. Yesterday, the Federal High Court, Abuja granted an ex-parte order to release him. He was released same yesterday and left Awe for Abuja, en route to Lagos.

As long as political office holders impose their whims and caprices on the people through their manipulative interference in who becomes the traditional ruler, whether an Oba, Emir, Obi or any other traditional title, the institution will continued to be denigrated by them. Such was the spectacle in Port Harcourt some months ago when Governor Wike treated the traditional rulers in the state like “school children”. He even asked them to stand up and “raise up their hands” (sorry, I mean; show their staff of office). What nonsense was that?

Mallam Sanusi Lamido is one of the most cerebral, competent, vocal, courageous, influential and globally respected individuals from Nigeria, especially from the north. His wide reach, experience and capacity to contribute to positive developmental strides in Nigeria, Africa and worldwide, could not and should not be put to waste with some archiac, repressive and retrogressive traditions.

The import of the above claims is already been seen with the recent appointments given to HH Sanusi by the Kaduna state government. He was appointed as vice chairman of Kaduna State Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA) and the Chancellor of Kaduna State University (KASU), all within a spate of 48 hours of his dethronement. These are well deserved appointments and Kaduna state government and the governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai should be commended for their kind gestures.

However, many wondered to what ends were the appointments. Where were they all these years (almost five years of this government)? Many felt the governor was merely playing to the gallery. That action was considered to have political undertone, given all the intrigues that are currently going on in APC, with focus on 2023. Moreover, many have said that Mallam El-Rufai is far more intolerant than Governor Ganduje and that Mallam Sanusi would not have lasted one month, had he been under the jurisdiction of Kaduna governor. Senators Hankuyi and Shehu Sani will be in better position to tell. Many can see through these appointments. They were not considered completely altruistic, unfortunately so.

Like I told my wife shortly after the news of the dethronement broke, I expect to see numerous appointments come the way of HRH Muhammad Sanusi, within Nigeria, across Africa and all around the world. Mallam Sanusi is a colossus. He can never be tamed. He should now “sincerely” rise up and begin advocacy to free his region from the shackles of poverty, illiteracy, diseases, backwardness, and all retrogressive practices that have kept them aground for too long. He has gotten back his freedom to speak up without his mouth being gagged. He was quoted to have said after the incident that: “you can either remain a slave with a turban or a free person without a turban. The choice is yours.”

We believe he has chosen the latter. He should practise what he preaches too.

We wish him all the best in his new life and newly found “freedom”.

God Bless Nigeria.

Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator can be reached by email [email protected] or via WhatsApp +2348020989095 and @lateef_adewole on Twitter