Since last year, Kano State has been in the news, with a seeming drama playing out. At the centre of this theatre of the absurd is a concerted effort by the Kano State government, led by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, to cut the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, to size for an offence that is not convincing. It started with an allegation of misappropriation of funds. It soon graduated to the bulkanisation of the Kano Emirate. And it climaxed with the recommendation for the suspension of the Emir of Kano and the risk of his deposition.
The Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission, headed by Muhuyi Magaji, in its report, had told the world that it uncovered misappropriation of over N3.4 billion by the Kano Emirate Council. According to the commission, the said amount was misappropriated between 2014 and 2017 under Emir Sanusi’s watch. It said, among other things, that the Kano Emirate Council, under Emir Sanusi, spent over N1.4 billion without appropriation. Also, the commission claimed the emirate council spent over N1.9 billion on personal things, which contravened the provisions of Section 120 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Section 8 of the Kano State Emirate Council Special Fund Law 2004. It also said this action violated Section 314 of Penal Code, as well as provisions of Section 26 of the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission Law 2008 (as amended). The commission, therefore, recommended the suspension of Emir Sanusi as well as others connected with the case, pending the final outcome of investigations.
It was obviously a case of the hand of Esau and the voice Jacob. Governor Ganduje, relying on the Kano State Emirs Appointment and Deposition Amendment Bill 2019, which he signed into law, had followed up the Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission’s report with the appointment of four first-class emirs in Gaya, Rano, Karaye and Bichi to have the same status as Emir Sanusi. In justifying this action, Governor Ganduje said: “We created the emirates in order to reduce the burden on the Kano Emirate,” adding: “The challenges are too weighty on Kano Emirate; that is why the emirate is running away from centralisation of the system.”
The governor’s assurances that the creation of the new emirates and inauguration of four emirs were not done to spite Sanusi, but “based on the aspirations and yearnings of our people,” did not fly much. It was, therefore, not surprising that Justice Usman Na’Abba of the state high court nullified the creation of the new emirates. This was not a surprise. There was never a report that Kano Emirate was over-burdened. Also, there was no genuine agitation from any quarter for the splitting of Kano Emirate.
Those who thought Governor Ganduje would give up after the court spoke clearly were wrong. In his desperate move against Emir Sanusi, the governor engineered a fresh bill, which was expressly approved by the state executive council and presented to lawmakers. The fresh bill, Kano Emirate Council Bill 2019, also split the Kano Emirate into five. It created new emirates and emirs in Gaya, Rano, Karaye and Bichi. The House of Assembly considered the fresh bill with the speed of a tornado and passed it into law. The same day the bill was passed by lawmakers, Governor Ganduje signed it into law.
It was apparent that Governor Ganduje was not with the people on this. While the Kano State government insists that its four new emirates remain in place, the Kano Elders, under the aegis of Advocates for United Kano, have urged Governor Ganduje to repeal the law that created them. The elders said the law destroyed the tradition of the ancient city of Kano. The group, led by Alhaji Bashir Tofa, presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in 1993, during the General Ibrahim Babangida government’s transition programme, said: “The governor, for political reasons, has deliberately overlooked the numerous words of wisdom written to him formally and/or expressed through various media and went heedlessly ahead to sign into law the obnoxious bill creating four additional emirates within the historical jurisdiction of the Kano Emirate.
“Unfortunately, the actions of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, which, to a greater extent, borders on personal margins, are unequivocally bent on destroying that legacy,” adding: “The governor has severally been cautioned to apply reason and rectitude in contemplating dissecting the Kano Emirate to meet certain political ends. But political impunity and vendetta have beclouded his good senses of reasoning and judgment. Clearly, he is resolute in the mission of destroying the legacy of Sheik Usman Dan Fodio, which Kano Emirate duly represents.”
What is at play in Kano is obviously a personal war. It is a case of a governor, not ready to brook opposition or accept his mistakes, trying to misuse his power. The creation of four additional emirates in Kano State, no matter what Ganduje and his government said, is aimed at reducing the influence of Emir Sanusi. It is clear, however, that this is an effort in futility because the stature of the ancient Kano Emirate cannot be reduced by the mere appointment of four more emirs of “equal status.” Besides, Emir Sanusi, on his name, has a pedigree, which cannot be diminished by a simple pronouncement of Ganduje. If Ganduje, for instance, makes the Emir of Kano to report to the local government chairman, as his government once threatened, does that make Emir Sanusi a lesser monarch? Hasn’t the governor heard that the hood does not make the monk?
In Kano, one can see the effort of a governor, who is overwhelmed by a “feeling of general inadequacy,” having a delusion of reducing his towering monarch to a Lilliputian. Between Governor Ganduje and Emir Sanusi, there is a clear difference. While one is satisfied with his accomplishment in his little world, the other is looking at globalisation. Between them, while Ganduje is a partisan politician, being a governor, Sanusi is the conscience of the society, as an outspoken monarch. In this kind of setting, a Sanusi, who is known for speaking his mind, who condemns what he thinks is not right, who wants rapid development, would certainly have problems with the likes of Ganduje. Sanusi has been unequivocal in calling for progressive reforms in the northern region, where Kano State is located. He had accused the political class in the region of not doing much to lift the people from illiteracy and poverty. He had indirectly exposed ineptitude of those in government, which has shown in the poverty level in the northern region.
Recently, Sanusi, in lamenting the huge out-of-school children population in the North, advocated the arrest of parents of kids seen in the streets begging during school hours. He challenged the northern political class to enact laws against rape, against divorcing women without giving them support to take care of their children and against obnoxious practices against women. These are basic truths. The tragedy is that, in a country where those in government see progressive suggestions as things that would take the shine off them, a Sanusi will continue to have problems with his supposed “boss,” the governor of Kano.
Instead of chasing after Emir Sanusi, Governor Ganduje should devote his time to tackling the problem of out-of-school children in his state. A visit to Kano would show an army of idle youths roaming the streets. These youths do not have education that would empower them in a challenging and competitive world. They do not have skills that would make them competitive or give them their daily bread. These youths are Nigerians whose future depends on what the Gandujes do in government. The Kano State governor, a few days ago, ordered the arrest of Almajiri in the streets. Good move, on face value. However, what programme has the governor evolved to prepare these youths for the future? What the youths need is reorientation, first. It is something Ganduje and his fellow northern governors must do, in tackling the Almajiri problem.
Governor Ganduje should stop attempting to diminish Emir Sanusi. It is a war he would not win. The fact that the Federal High Court, Kano, has dismissed the report of the state’s Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission, which had recommended the suspension of Emir Sanusi, is an indication that he is fighting a lost battle. The problem of Kano people is not the number of emirates or emirs therein. Their basic problems are high illiteracy, excruciating poverty, and subjugation of women, at a time when most Islamic nations are liberalising, among others. These are things Sanusi has been preaching against.