Nigeria: Emir Sanusi's Inappropriate Truth

21 November 2019
opinion

Emir Sanusi's admonition against parental neglect of their children is critical but nevertheless inappropriate under this circumstance, as it is akin to blaming the very victims of a crime perpetrated by others. Beyond the reprehensible act of criminality is also the fundamental issue of the betrayal of trust between residents and their host communities...

As a liberal-minded progressive in a conservative society that is somewhat culturally averse to education, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi of Kano is often caught up between his role as a traditional ruler and his passion for intellectual activism. The Emirate of Kano is the heartbeat of the Fulani Sokoto Caliphate, which exercises a religious hegemonic suzerainty through a network of vassal emirates in the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria. This makes the position of Emir Sanusi a powerful one and his voice very influential in the conservative Muslim north.

A non-conformist, as evident in his antecedents in public service, Emir Sanusi, a banker who became the governor of Nigeria's central bank, carried out a surgical operation, aided by his insider's knowledge, on Nigeria's financial system with clinical precision, to cleanse it of the self-destructive tendencies of corrupt and unethical practices. As the chief banker of the government of Nigeria and the de facto head of the treasury, Emir Sanusi was to go on to extend his anti-corruption activism to government's fiscal activities. From the management of the petroleum subsidy regime to non-remittance of monies accruable to Nigeria from oil mineral revenues by the state oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Emir Sanusi's voice was unambiguous about unbridled corruption in the operation of government business.

Endowed with the strength of character to tell inconvenient truth to power, Emir Sanusi ascended the throne of Kano with the full compliments of his activist credentials. Coming into the powerful northern traditional rulership institution at a time when the region was enmeshed in socio-economic decadence, resulting from several decades of religious and cultural self-immolation, Emir Sanusi once again intervened by freely deploying his intellectual activism to diagnose, as well as proffer solutions to the problems involved. He became a vessel conveying the bitter truth about the backward, poor, diseased, insecure and the dislocated socio-economic condition of the Muslim north, while also calling for urgent societal reforms, which was bad news to many who are deeply conservative.

By sharply deviating from the norm of conservatism associated with northern Muslim traditional rulers, who are expected to be pacifist conformists while savouring the privileges of their high royalties, in their roles as symbols of stabilising spiritual authorities, Emir Sanusi comes across as a non-conforming reformist. Whereas, traditional rulers are mostly seen but rarely heard in public, Emir Sanusi will not only be seen but heard loudly through his regular seminal interventions in matters of public interest. Emir Sanusi has used his position of influence as an integral part of the traditional rulership establishment of the Muslim north to call for reforms in retrogressive cultural and religious practices that have reduced the region to the lowest rung of the ladder of human development, as one of the poorest and most insecure places in the world.

... in his latest intervention in the unfortunate incidences of child theft across northern Nigeria by some criminal elements, Emir Sanusi may have spoken the inappropriate truth, even if not his characteristic inconvenient one. Operating out of Kano and other northern Nigeria states, a criminal syndicate of mostly ethnic Igbo residents, abducts children from their host communities...

An unwavering advocate of mass enlightenment, among people who mostly hold education in contempt as a Judeo-Christian evangelical enterprise, Emir Sanusi has consistently called for the reform of the AlmaJiri institution in order to roll back the menace of the high rate of out-of-school children in the Muslim north of Nigeria, by educating them to a level of economic self-sustenance. To successfully accomplish the desired societal reforms needed to positively transform the socio-economic conditions of the Muslim north of Nigeria, Emir Sanusi suggests a complimenting good governance structure with prudent management of resources by the various sub-national governments in the region.

Like a Moses in the court of Pharaoh, Emir Sanusi's reformist agenda and good governance advocacy, portends an attempt at class suicide as any significant change in the status quo threatens the privileges of the traditional ruling establishment. This explains why Emir Sanusi's often inconvenient truth is fiercely resisted by concerned interest groups. To forcefully shut him up, Emir Sanusi has been subject to a state instigated inquest into the finances of his Kano Emirate, which has exposed an oxymoronic side of the Emir, as seen in his violation of the table manners of eating and talking at the same time. To whittle down his influence, Emir Sanusi's domain was splintered into the four additional emirates of Bichi, Karaye, Rano and Gaya, with further clandestine moves to outrightly dethrone him eventually. Interestingly, none of these measures have been able to tame the spirit of Emir Sanusi's restless activism.

However, in his latest intervention in the unfortunate incidences of child theft across northern Nigeria by some criminal elements, Emir Sanusi may have spoken the inappropriate truth, even if not his characteristic inconvenient one. Operating out of Kano and other northern Nigeria states, a criminal syndicate of mostly ethnic Igbo residents, abducts children from their host communities and, like human cargo reminiscent of the transatlantic slave trade, sell them to prospective buyers several kilometres away in their South-Eastern region of origin. These children who were mostly born to Muslim parents are rechristened with both Igbo and Christian names in a change of ethno-religious identity, which aims to permanently conceal a most horrendous crime against humanity.

Emir Sanusi called for the arrest and prosecution of parents of the abducted children... Whereas, the imperative for parents to take adequate care of their children by providing shelter, food and clothing for them is an obligatory responsibility but failure to do this must not be a licence for the criminal enterprise of the abduction and sale of children.

In reacting to this unfortunate incidence, Emir Sanusi called for the arrest and prosecution of parents of the abducted children for allowing their children roam the streets freely. Whereas, the imperative for parents to take adequate care of their children by providing shelter, food and clothing for them is an obligatory responsibility but failure to do this must not be a licence for the criminal enterprise of the abduction and sale of children. Findings reveal a well-coordinated criminal franchise by known residents among unsuspecting members of their host communities, who come across as normal people in the community but prey on the innocent children of their neighbours. A secure and safe environment, in addition to food, clothing and housing are fundamental rights of every Nigerian child upon which criminal trespass should never be justified under any circumstance. And not even the street roaming Almajiri out-of-school children deserve to be abducted and sold as human cargo in a sane society. Therefore, calling for the prosecution of the parents of the abducted children for their negligence is like calling for the prosecution of a rape victim for indecent dressing.

Emir Sanusi's admonition against parental neglect of their children is critical but nevertheless inappropriate under this circumstance, as it is akin to blaming the very victims of a crime perpetrated by others. Beyond the reprehensible act of criminality is also the fundamental issue of the betrayal of trust between residents and their host communities, which may catalyse a push back against cohesive national integration. Fortunately, by ostracising these undesirable elements, the leadership of the Igbo community in Kano was more altruistic in their reaction, when they did not only condemn the criminal activities of some of their kinsmen but also called for justice for the victims, while admonishing their members to be law abiding at all times. In taking full responsibility for the criminal actions of a few undesirable elements, without taking the ignoble road of playing the victim by raising the charge of ethnic profiling, the leadership of the Igbo community in Kano has saved Nigerian the needles dissipation of energy on endless debates about the true identity of the criminals. Considering the implication of this nature of criminality in a country that is sharply polarised along ethno-geographic and religious fault lines, the commendable stand of the leadership of the Igbo community in Kano has saved the majority of law abiding ethnic Igbo residents in northern Nigeria the guilt of a few criminal elements. In the current circumstance, the most appropriate truth is for Emir Sanusi to add his voice to the call for justice for the victims of this crime against their humanity.

Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through dahirumajeed@gmail.com.

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