Thursday, March 12, 2020 5:48 pm
By Dare Babarinsa
The Sanusi Lamido Sanusi saga has not ended but it has reached an important denouement. As the Emir of Kano, Sanusi was a leading member of the establishment. In the hierarchy among Fulani princes, he was second only to the Sultan of Sokoto, the direct descendant of Usman Dan Fodio, the Fulani revolutionary who led the war that ended the centuries –old Habe dynasties in the Hausa country. Sanusi himself is a member of the Fulani clan that put an end to the reign of the Hausa Sultan in Kano, got him killed along with his leading nobles and sent the remnant of the royal family into oblivion. Today, Sanusi’s foes would wish he would quietly go into oblivion. He would not.
On Monday March 9, 2020, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, finally moved when he signed the instrument of deposition for Sanusi. Ganduje had received the backing of the state House of Assembly made up mostly of his colleagues in the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC. Earlier in the day, security agencies; the police and members of The State Security Service, had sealed up the palace and put the emir under virtual house-arrest. The emir, a compelling showman, dressed up in his full regalia, moved to the palace veranda below which staff have gathered in their hundreds. The emir waved to them. The scene was eerie with pathos.
Soon the team came to lead him into exile. The siren were blown and some of the town people, having gotten wind of the historic development, ran to catch a glimpse of their emir on his last trip out of the palace. They ran after the furious convoy as it made its way into the airport. Soon Sanusi landed with his unfriendly team in Abuja. He has begun his journey into the unknown. It was a grim replay of history for Sanusi’s grandfather, Muhammadu Sanusi, the first acting African Governor of the defunct Northern Region, was also deposed because he clashed with his old friend, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, a prince of Sokoto and Premier of the Northern Region. That night too, his old rival, Aminu Ado Bayero, the stately prince who had struggled for the throne with Sanusi in 2014, was pronounced the new emir. Bayero II is the son of Ado Bayero the former policeman and diplomat whose long reign witnessed a lot of changes in the emirate. Two of his sons are now emirs, thanks to Ganduje.
Sanusi has had a fruitful, though controversial public career. He refused to cultivate the reticent image of the traditional emirs and would not subscribe to the code of silence that governs the Fulani aristocracy. He would not hesitate to openly criticize the elite of the North or even Governor Ganduje in public. I don’t know of any governor who would have tolerated what Sanusi was doing? Power resides with the governors. Forget the fanfare and the panegyric of princes and their retinue of traditional servers including bare-footed sword bearers. If push comes to shove, they are no match to the modern Caesars in charge of the Nigerian state. When Sanusi would not change his ways, Ganduje realize that he had no choice than to break him.
As the emir, Sanusi took on three powerful opponents. One was the Fulani aristocracy of which he is a part. As the emir, he was the leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order, the second most powerful office among the Fulani, next to the Sultan who is the leader of the Qadiriyya Sufi Order. He continued to criticize many old practices including child marriage and unplanned population growth. He said again and again that the almajiri phenomenon had no place in Islam. He said the reckless practice of polygamy among Northern Muslims was increasing poverty in the region. He warned that abject poverty in the region is a threat to the growth of Islam. “Poverty can lead to disbelief,” he said.
His second target was the Nigerian federal government. He used almost every forum to assert that “I am an economist,” and then move on to castigate the Federal Government and its economic policies. His most damaging error was to take on the state government publicly. He made it known that he did not agree with Ganduje’s social policies. Some elements within the government accused him of hobnobbing with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and they started treating him accordingly as an enemy.
Sanusi had the opportunity to learn from the experience of his grandfather who was well-loved by the people of Kano but that did not save him when Ahmadu Bello moved against him. In his career too, he has ranked up a powerful list of foes. He had a distinguished career in the banking sector rising to become the first person from Northern Nigeria to be appointed Managing Director of the First Bank. The icing on the cake came when he was appointed the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. It was in that office that he showed his mettle for ruthlessness and capacity for controversial actions.
In one day he fired five Chief Executives of banks, including those of Union Bank, Oceanic Bank and Intercontinental Bank. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was soon sent on the trail of the top bankers. Erastus Akingbola, founder and former Chief of Intercontinental Bank fought back in the court. Mrs Cecelia Ibru of Oceanic Bank was forced to refund cash and properties to escape imprisonment. When those leading banks were later taken over by other banks, not everybody believed the deals were transparent.
However when he started attacking the government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the government interpreted it as enemy action. The climax was when he raised an alarm that 20 billion dollars was missing from the account of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, superintended by Mrs Diezane Alison-Madueke. The government denied it and booted Sanusi out. When he contested for the emirship, Abuja tried to stop him but failed. Now he has failed.
Sanusi is intelligent and frank, flamboyant and self-assured, but his voracious appetite for public speeches unsettled his constituency. He had stayed long in Lagos, starting from his days at Kings College and has acquired a taste for Western idealism, they were saying. His flamboyance and grandstanding was seen as a kind of reckless fatalism. He wanted the North to change. They now remember that he hobnobbed with members of the pro-democracy movement in Lagos and had too many Lagos friends. His enemy list grew.
Sanusi also has many powerful and influential friends. He must have been surprised that many of them were quiet when the curtain fell. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was one of the few exceptions when he addressed a letter to the deposed emir asking him to be courageous. Femi Falana, the lawyer and human rights activist also commented that Sanusi was not given fair hearing. Everyone knew that a powerful prince has fallen victim to the raw power of the modern state. In the real sense, ultimate power has redefined itself.
When they finally came for him, the ordinary people of Kano went about their normal business. Ganduje has done his homework. The almajiris were off the streets and Kano, usually so eager to brew a riot, was somnolent. The talakawas on whose behalf Sanusi had given many long impassioned speeches did not consider him as their own. No one carried a placard. The muezzins of the numerous mosques performed their duties with accustomed alacrity. Kano is ageless and moved one with ceaseless rhythm. One emir is gone! Another emir is here now!!
Long live the emir!