13 June 2014

Nigeria: Kano - the Return of Sanusi


Just as necessity is the mother of invention, so is ambition the mother of achievement; and the father of both of them is opportunity. For Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the opportunity finally came last week. He had never hidden his ultimate ambition: he wanted to be the Emir of Kano, and whatever else he did or became, he was just waiting for this moment.

Even though this was the ambition of every prince--to succeed to the throne of his ancestors--few would ever admit it even to themselves, much less to others; and fewer still would say so publicly. But Sanusi did say it in public, because for this royal ex-banker, there was never going to be any dissimulation over this. And it was the only ambition he really cared about.

When it was once suggested to him that that what Nigeria needed most was efficient economic management, and that a political career that could in future put him in the presidency would be a good idea for Nigeria. He looked at me without disagreeing, but said, "It might be a good idea for Nigeria, but for me, Adamu, it is Gidan Dabo."

When the governorship of Kano was suggested to him, he said, "Gidan Dabo," and when it was pointed out to him that either of the two could make entry into Gidan Dabo, he once again looked at me, and, this time not without a hint of irritation, said, "Adamu, na ce Gidan Dabo." For him, it was almost an obsession: and at the time we had this discussion, he had not even been made Danmaje; but here is His Highness today in Gidan Dabo, sitting on the throne of his ancestors.

The new Emir is an eminent economist, an accomplished banker and the recipient of a multiplicity of central banking and international banking awards; and for a former doctrinaire, but God-fearing, Marxist, now turned liberal monetarist, a passionate believer in and defender of the Washington Consensus, and a sound intellectual; and a widely-read and critical student of classical Islam, and a writer of compelling prose in whatever discipline he decides to dabble, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is the closest traditional leadership in this clime can ever get to the idea of the philosopher-king.

Sanusi described his accession to the throne as the will of God, and the will seemed to have planned for him one step at a time. First, he decided to flee the impecunious setting of academia. Second, he alighted in the world of corporate finance and scaled to its peak. Third, along the way, he got saddle with governing the nation's central bank. Fourth, he took his first traditional title of Danmaje in 2012 and drew the entire nation to Kano. Fifth, he blew a whistle--and got sacked. In many ways, it was his sack form the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, by President Goodluck Jonathan that signed, sealed and delivered the Emirship of Kano to him; just as his appointment as its governor by the same president put him in the position to make a masterful go for it. And get it.

Seldom has traditional succession to the rule come and gone without controversy--and nowadays even with violence; but that is no indication of the unpopularity of the one chosen, because violence can be, and is, planned by disgruntled elders and carried out by little children. Three cases that involved the most prominent traditional rulers stand out.

When Sultan Abubakar III ascended the Sokoto Caliphate throne in 1938, those who lost out in the contest refused to accept the kingmakers' verdict, and for more than a month, the Sultan had no access to his palace and had to stay the entire period in the army barracks. By the time he died, after more than half a century of the throne, he was a much-loved and today much-missed patriarch of the Northern flock.

When he died in 1988 and Sultan Ibrahim Dasuki was selected the new Sultan, riots broke out in Sokoto and for several days the city was a no-go area as police battled demonstrators opposed to him. Before his deposition in 1996, he gave effective leadership, and today people would give anything to have him back.

When Alhaji Ado Bayero himself succeeded Muhammadu Inuwa in 1963, there were widespread protests by people alleging attempts by government to finish Muhammadu Sanusi's dynasty after his removal from office. He also spent more than fifty years on the throne as a popular monarch.

Therefore protests prove nothing, and, in any case, the question of who becomes the Emir of Kano is for the kingmakers and Governor Rabiu Kwankaso to decide: they have made their choice; and once this choice has been made in accordance with the rules, we expect everyone to accept the result.

The family of the late Emir feel that after his lengthy reign and the love and respect the people of Kano have for him, one of them should have been chosen. This is not an unreasonable expectation; it was the same expectations the family of Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi had when he was deposed and banished, on account of the power he wielded and especially because of the manner he was removed from office. In both cases, those empowered to select the new monarch felt and acted differently--and this should be respected by all.

By congratulating a contender other than the selected candidate before the announcement of the result, agents of the ruling party have shown where their sympathies lie, but more than that, it may have been a calculated move--with two days of sustained social media hype to boot--to provoke the very ugly situation we are all trying to avoid. And in view of what happened in the recent election in Kano, the losers may think that fomenting a crisis that will lead to an emergency situation or the humiliation of the state government may serve their purpose. It will not.

In the end, they will only succeed in punishing the people of Kano by dragging them into needless conflict that could turn bloody--and perhaps become uncontrollable. And knowing well the volatility of Kano and the role model it plays for other Northern cities, it is indeed strange that someone will seek to do this kind of thing at a time when the security situation of the entire North is the way it is.

But the Kano State government must also share part of the blame. It should accept that this problem could have been handled with more sensitivity and greater tact. The appointment of a new Emir, especially one larger than life like Alhaji Ado Bayero and the expectations his passing will raise for some, must not be the zero-sum game that it really is. The government may be right but it doesn't have press the fact home. Knowing that some will almost certainly be aggrieved, steps should have been taken to mollify them and carry them along before the announcement of the result.

The royal sombrero, the twin-spears, and the chaussure-plume d'autruche of San Kano which Sanusi received three days ago are the garb of taciturnity which he must now wear, and they must be the graveyard of controversy which he now must avoid. That amawali is as much a token of prestige as it is a royal cambu, a muzzle for the cessation of all unnecessary talk--best epitomised by Ado Bayeo's ultimate total royal muteness. Whenever amawali goes up, that's signal to the public that those royal lips are thereby stitched--and stitched they must stay. It was indeed in recognition of the power of silence and the effectiveness of quietitude as personal traits that Hausawa say, "Don shuru ake tsoron gawa." And if Emir Sanusi has only one thing to take from the legacy of the late Alhaji Ado Bayero, royal muteness is it.

Today, it is now a week since Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was selected the new Emir of Kano and six days since he was given his letter of appointment and staff of authority, and for all this period, he has been staying at the Kano Government House, not by choice, but because his palace is not available to him. When well-wishers started trooping to congratulate the new Emir last Sunday, the military barred private aircraft from M. Aminu Kano International Airport.

On Monday, police units were withdrawn from the Government House Kano but augmented at the Emir's Palace. It is blocked and surrounded by police answerable to agents of the Federal Government, and with orders not to allow anyone in. Kano tradition requires Sanusi to move into the palace on the third day of his selection; but there are even rumours of plans to arrest him if he ventures out.

It is indeed a pity if the Federal government will choose to play politics with this. If the government has an axe to grind with Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, it must accept that this is beyond an individual: it is the custom of the people, and it must be respected. Sanusi is back in Kano and they must give him back his palace.

Even if some people are intent on invading the palace, the thing to do is not to surround it and prevent a monarch getting access to it; the thing to do is to provide security to him as he enters and stays, and begins his reign--unless the Federal Government is interested in keeping him out.

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