Sanusi II…X-raying a Controversial Era

The reign of ex-Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Muhammadu Sanusi II as the emir of the Kano emirate ended on Monday. DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR RAYMOND MORDI examines his reign, which was filled with drama.

Though Muhammad Sanusi II has been deposed as the 14th Emir of Kano and banished from the ancient city, he would be well remembered for his many controversies, particularly for using his position as emir to speak out on issues peculiar to northern Nigeria. Emir Sanusi, who chose the official title of Muhammad Sanusi II, conducted himself in such a manner that must have embarrassed the ultra-conservative elements in the North. Recently, he said fathers who sent their children out to beg for alms should be arrested. In the past, he also criticised what he described as the “ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam” in some parts of northern Nigeria that has discouraged girl-child education, family planning and other progressive policies.

Interestingly, Emir Sanusi II was removed, according to the Kano State Government, for his “total disrespect to lawful instructions from the office of the state governor”. The government said he was removed “in order to safeguard the sanctity, culture, tradition, religion and prestige of the Kano Emirate,” accusing the emir of “total disrespect” of institutions and the governor’s office.

The former Central Bank governor has been having frosty relations with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje since 2017 when the state government first attempted to remove him as emir through a probe of the emirate council’s finances. The attempt was only halted after a series of high-level interventions. Emir Sanusi did not help matters. Since he fell out with the governor, he has not attended state functions and official meetings, which the government said amounted to “total insubordination”. Observers say the outspoken Sanusi has broken the tradition of an emir being seen, rather than heard.

However, Sanusi’s supporters believe he was sacked for opposing the governor’s re-election last year. The general perception at the time was that Sanusi’s utterances seriously jeopardised Ganduje’s re-election bid. Ganduje’s team felt that Sanusi was backing Kwankwaso’s candidate, Abba Kabir Yusuf of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who gave the governor a run for his money. They point to the governor’s splitting of the Kano emirate into five and appointment of four more emirs subsequently, as proof that he was out to whittle down the influence of Emir Sanusi.

Life-long ambition

Sanusi’s emergence as the 14th Emir of Kano was a realisation of his life-long ambition to sit on the throne of his fathers. Born into the royal family, he had long before described the post as his life-long ambition. His grandfather, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi I, had been deposed by Ahmadu Bello in 1963 in favour of Ado Bayero, the elder Sanusi’s younger brother.

Sanusi was appointed Emir in 2014 by former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso. The death of Ado Bayero, his grand-uncle, in 2014 coincided with the time he was fired as Central Bank governor under controversial circumstances. This presented an opportunity for Kwankwaso who had just defected then from the former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to settle a long-running conflict he had with the Ado Bayero ruling house. Some of Kwankwaso’s supporters had earlier accused Bayero of favouring Kwankwaso’s rival Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. Kano State politics since the return to civil rule in 1999 has been shaped by the Kwankwaso-Shekarau rivalry.

Bayero’s death in June 2014 perfectly suited both Kwankwaso and Sanusi’s designs for the emirate. Kwankwaso, as governor, had a major say in choosing the next emir and Sanusi offered a tool for sidelining Bayero’s direct descendants and gaining long-sought influence over the emirate, as well as a means of undermining the then President Jonathan by elevating one of Jonathan’s key adversaries. So, within a period of just four months in 2014, Sanusi went from being fired and rebuked by Jonathan over the missing oil revenues controversy to being enthroned as one of the most prominent traditional rulers in the northern part of the country.

History repeating itself

Sanusi I was deposed as Emir of Kano under similar circumstances he was relieved of his job as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. Similarly, he was deposed as emir just like his grandfather. His grandfather, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi I was the Emir of Kano from 1954 to 1963. He was the eldest son of Emir Abdullahi Bayero. He was a powerful emir that had substantial influence in colonial Northern Nigeria. He hosted Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Kano in 1956. The power tussle between him and his distant cousin Sir Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto is believed to have resulted in his dethronement and confinement in Azare 1963.

The elder Sanusi was closely affiliated with Ibrahim Niass and the Tijani Sufi, for a while, he accompanied Niass on pilgrimages to Mecca and was later the appointed Caliph of the Tijaniyyah order in Nigeria.

Controversy without end

In the mid-1990s, he quit a well-paid job as a risk manager in a bank to deepen his knowledge of Arabic and Islamic studies, by going to study in Sudan. Indeed, his first big clash with authority was on his return from studying in Sudan. The late General Sani Abacha, another Kano man, accused Sanusi II of mobilising a grassroots movement against his oppressive regime. After he managed to evade that charge, Sanusi II went on to head the First Bank of Nigeria.

Sanusi is a man who never shies away from controversy. Following the controversy his accusation that the Goodluck Jonathan administration diverted about $20 billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 2014, he openly admitted that he loves controversy. “I love controversy”, he was quoted as saying at a conference. He gained notoriety as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria following the allegation.

Sanusi publicly clashed with the Ganduje-led administration on several issues. The emir had repeatedly condemned corruption and misgovernance among northern elites. His utterances on polygamy and family planning were also regarded as controversial in conservative northern Nigeria. In fact, his views do not go down well with many in the North where the masses are usually denied the freedom to choose based on the prevailing religious dogma in the region.

In late 2018, a video of Governor Ganduje accepting dollars from a contractor, supposedly a bribe, began circulating. Although the case never got to the House of Assembly, Sanusi’s sermon about good governance was widely regarded as an indirect way of discrediting the governor and left no room for friendship between the two them.

Sanusi has been a vocal proponent of modernising the North. He had often advocated that the Moslems in Nigeria do not need to rely on Saudi Arabia and Iran to explain Islam to them. He told Africa Report in 2016: “For me, Wahhabism and Salafism have a certain intolerance in common with groups such as Boko Haram. […] Islam in Africa has its own schools of thought, its ancient empires and its own history. And we have no need for Saudi Arabia and Iran to explain Islam to us.”

Sanusi said millions of children study the Koran and Arabic, understand the language, but on paper, they are illiterate because they don’t speak English. He said: “That means there is no opportunity for them to become medical doctors, to become engineers, to become economists, to become historians. If you study Arabic, you can study Arabic phonology, you can study the hadith, you can study the Koran, you can study Islamic law – which is fine. But you do not have other areas of knowledge that open opportunities for you in a modern economy. Now, the result is you have disgruntled people who end up in the hands of some radical scholar who sets them against the system, and they become extremists and terrorists.

“When we are concerned about security, we must go back in the history of the Sahel and look at the rebalancing of our cultural priorities, the reopening of trade routes. I would like to see the French go to look at Niger and say: ‘How many solar panels do we need to generate 10,000MW of electricity? How many industries can we produce? What kind of crops can we encourage to halve desertification and give the farmers access to European and Asian markets?’ So you combat an environmental problem that has created poverty, and you also create economic empowerment for the population.”

Titbits

  • The deposed Emir Sanusi studied Arabic and Islamic Studies at a Sudanese university as part of his preparations for the throne.
  • His grandfather, Muhammadu Sanusi, who was also deposed by his distant cousin Premier of Northern region Ahmadu Bello, was emir of Kano from 1953-1963. He was the eldest brother of the father of the new emir.
  • Sanusi’s grandfather was replaced by Alhaji Muhammad Inuwa, who lasted only three months before his death, and Bayero was enthroned.
  • The deposed Emir is married to one of the sisters of his successor. His father-in-law and father of the new emir conferred him with the traditional title of Dan Majen Kano in 2012.
  • On February 19, 2020, a Kano State High Court presided by Justice S.B. Na-Mallam stopped the planned suspension of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, over the investigation into the alleged involvement of Kano Emirate Council in financial misappropriation.
  • On February 25, 2020, the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission said it would appeal the judgment against its investigation of the alleged N3.4bn misappropriation of funds by Emir Muhammadu Sunusi II.
  • On March 4, 2020, the Kano State House of Assembly set up an eight man committee to  investigate allegations leveled against the Emir  over violations of culture and tradition as well as religious norms and values of people of Kano.
  • On March 5, 2020, the Kano State government directed Sanusi 11 to immediately initiate a process of assigning the four Kano Kingmakers as District Heads of Local Governments under the jurisdiction of the Kano Emirate Council.
  • On March 5, Sanusi II sought a new date to appear before the state anti-graft body over allegation of land racketeering.
  • On March 9, shortly before Sanusi 11 was dethroned there was a free-for-all at the House of Assembly when the Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Public Complaints and Petition Committee, Hamisu Ibrahim Chidari, raised observation over the ongoing investigation of petitions against Sanusi 11. The opposition members struggled to take control of the mace.

About Kano

  • Kano started as far back as the 6th century A. D. after some Maguzawa settled around the Dala, Gwauron Dutse and Fanisau hills.The first ha?e ruler of Kano was Bagauda, who ruled for about 66 years, was the son of Bawa and grandson of Bayajidda. During the reign of the 11th Ha?e ruler, Yaji (1359-1385), Kano witnessed an era of prosperity. It was at that time that the Wangara merchants and Islamic scholars introduced Islam.
  • During the reign of Muhammadu Rumfa (1463-1499), Islam was consolidated and it was at that time that the first Kano central mosque was build.
  • In the early 19th century, the Fulani Jihad (Islamic holy war) was waged against Kano by Usman Dan fodio and that ended the Ha?e dynasty and brought the establishment of the Fulani dynasty. Sulaiman (1805-1819) was the first Fulani
  • Emir and Alhaji Ado Bayero came to the throne in 1963, is the 13th Fulani Emir of Kano.
  • The British, under the command of Col. Morland with about 800 soldiers attacked and occupied Kano on the 2nd of February 1903. The 7th emir of Kano Alu, was away to Sokoto when Kano was occupied; he was captured, dethroned and exiled to Lokoja where he died in 1926.
  • When modern Kano State was created in 1967 and formally came in to being on April 1st 1968, it had a population of over 11 million, covered an area of about 16,630 square miles and had four separate emirates Kano, Hadejia, Gumel & Kazaure. Today, because of Jigawa State being carved out of Kano State, the population is 5.6 Million (1991), cover an area of 20,760 Sq. Km.

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