Nigeria: The Kano Crisis - Open Letter to President Buhari

16 December 2019

Your Excellency

President Buhari, I am one of the 200 million citizens of our country and I write to appeal to you to intervene in the political crisis that has engulfed Kano over the past six months, related to the attempt by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje to dismantle the emirate system and remove the emir. I am a student of politics and I know that you have no direct powers over the governor but I am writing you in your capacity as an elder and maybe one of the few Nigerians the governor would listen to. Virtually all the elders in Northern Nigeria and very many people of goodwill from across the country have appealed to Governor Ganduje without success. Please recall that since your entry into politics, the good people of Kano have shown nothing but love and affection to you and proved it by voting for you in great numbers in all the elections you have contested in. Recall that in the period leading to the 2019 elections, many people in Kano expected that in line with your anti-corruption crusade, you would withdraw your support for the then gubernatorial candidate but you did not. In recent months, the good people of Kano have wondered why you have remained silent on the Kano crisis, so I thought I would write to draw your attention to the situation and the urgent need for intervention.

Kano has been living under serious tension since May 8, when the process of dismantling the Kano Emirate was initiated by the Ganduje administration. The governor sent a query to the emir of Kano, giving him 48 hours to respond to the interim report of the Kano State Anti-Corruption Commission alleging malpractices. A new law dismantling the Emirate was passed and signed but as a court ruled, the law was null and void, as its passage did not follow laid out procedure. While the court had stayed action on the entire process, as other cases on the authority of the governor to dismantle the Emirate were on going, the governor disregarded the court and got a second law approved by the State Assembly and has insisted that the new "Emirs" he has appointed must remain in office. This has raised the level of tension in Kano considerably.

Your Excellency is aware as commander-in-chief of our Armed Forces that Nigeria faces numerous security threats in different parts of the country and our security forces are overstretched trying to respond to the threats. Kano has traditionally been a very volatile State but has been relatively peaceful over the past few years. It is important that all efforts are made to keep the peace. It's possible that anger, disaffection and opposition to the dismantling of the Emirate could lead to a breakdown of the peace.

Mr. President, you would recall that this idea of dismantling the Emirate had been tried previously. On April 1, 1981, Governor Abubakar Rimi had created four new emirs who were declared to be co-equal with the emir of Kano - those of Auyo, Dutse, Gaya and Rano. The emirs were becoming a crowd in the old Kano Sate as the other emirs of second-slass status, namely: Hadejia, Gumel and Kazaure, were also promoted to First Class status. Abubakar Rimi then declared emirs to be "mere public servants working under the directives of their Local Government Chairmen". On April 7, 1981, the secretary to the Kano State government, dispatched a query to the emir. Following the query, on July 10, 1981, violence broke out and 34 persons were killed.

Your Excellency, Kano Emirate has an illustrious legacy whose demolition would do great damage to the people. The Emirate has existed as a kingdom since 999AD and was absorbed into the Sokoto Caliphate following the Jihad of 1804-1807. It has since emerged as the most influential Emirate in the Sokoto Caliphate, under the control of the emir of Kano, traversing the entire territory that is now known as Kano State. The Emirate is a melting pot, a mosaic of diverse ethnicities and traditions within Nigeria and Africa. Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II is the 57th ruler of Kano and embodies all that history and is considered as one of the most important Muslim authorities in Nigeria, after the Sultan of Sokoto. It is a religious role, but it also one that has tremendous influence as an advisory role to political authorities and also a key contributor to the delivery of justice and other public services. The people of Kano would feel betrayed if their Emirate is dismantled under your Presidency.

One of the greatest concerns of the people of Kano is the flagrant disregard for the rule of law displayed by the governor. Just one week after the Kano State High Court dissolved the four additional emirates illegally created by the Kano government under Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, he reenacted them. In his judgment, Justice Usman Na'Abba said the Kano State House of Assembly did not follow due process in creating the emirates. Specifically, he nullified the proceedings of the State Assembly conducted on May 6, 7 and 8, which created the new emirates. He concluded that Governor Ganduje should not have assented to the law since its procedure was faulty. Finally, Justice Na'abba restrained the four new emirs appointed by Governor Ganduje to desist from parading themselves as first-class emirs. This should have been the end of a rather sad episode in Kano history where a misguided governor sets out to destroy a revered institution with a 1,000-year history.

As I write this letter, my attention has been drawn to a report that the so called "Emir" of Bichi has just removed from office the district heads of Bichi, Dambatta, Dawakin Tofa, Minjibir and Tsanyawa. The district head of Dambatta, Sarkin Bai Muktar Adnan is 93 years old and has been in office for 65 years. He is one of Kano's kingmakers and God has preserved him to select four successive emirs of Kano, including Ado Bayero, the father of Aminu Ado Bayero, who purportedly removed him. He is loved and respected and carries so much of Kano history and legacy on his shoulders. No one thought it possible to announce in such a cavalier manner that such a venerable figure has been removed from office. It has been very dark days for the people of Kano and its royalty, which is being torn to pieces as one person seeks vengeance on the emir, Emirate and the people.

Your Excellency, I wish to draw your attention to the contention of the Kano Emirate kingmakers - the Madaki, Makama, Sarkin Dawaki Mai Tuta and Sarkin Ban Kano, who have argued that there is a serious risk of irreparable damage that will be done to the people of Kano if the Emirate is dismantled. They have pointed out the idea that the House of Assembly could establish new emirates is based on a fundamental misconception that the Kano Emirate itself is a creature of statute. There is no law that specifically establishes the Emirate, which exists merely as a historical fact and is recognised as part of the tradition and cultural heritage of the Kano people. The precipitate action of the governor and House of Assembly in the hurried passage of the said law in a matter of 48 hours, with no opportunity for any public participation and the governor's defiance of court orders in proceeding to implement and appoint new emirs, despite the knowledge of the proceedings before the court and the service of the court orders is simply wrong and unbecoming of a governor and he should be told so in no uncertain terms. In recent times, there has been no issue that has annoyed the people of Kano as much as the attempt to desecrate the Emirate. Governor Ganduje appears determined to engage in action to break the peace in Kano and he should listen to wise counsel and take a lead in keeping the peace by stopping his Emirate demolition plan. It is for these reasons, Your Excellency, that I appeal to you to engage with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje with the objective of discarding his Emirate demolition plan so that the State can progress and prosper. What the people of Kano need is good governance not the politics of vengeance.

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.

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