Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Second Republic parliamentarian, Dr Junaid Mohammed is renowned for his bluntness on matters of public concern and governance.
A true son of Kano with a good sense of history and culture, Mohammed in this interview with Sunday Sun reflected on the current crisis rocking the Kano Emirate Council, pointing out that the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi II was conspicuously partisan during the polls and, therefore, has debased the throne.
The social commentator x-rayed the monarch, his leadership style and said that he expects him to resign from the throne in the face of the present crisis. Excerpt:
Can we have your general impression on the current crisis in the Kano Emirate Council?
I do not believe that what you call a crisis is what I would pass for a crisis. If you look at the genesis of the crisis, it started when some people in government then, in their own wisdom or lack of wisdom, decided to pick a politician and a man who is openly partisan to be the Emir of Kano. Whether he paid for it as he says himself and tells his friends, or some considerations were brought into play…. And these considerations would include one, money, and two, the fact that the previous regime in Kano, somehow, did not like the revered Alhaji Ado Bayero, the then Emir. They had felt that as long as he was there, they were not going to use the Emirate for their own political ends. And it has to be admitted that throughout his career of over 40 something years as the Emir, Alhaji Ado Bayero was never fingered as being involved in partisanship of any type. Apparently, that was not good enough for those who are in power and they decided that this time around, they were going to put somebody who would not only be part of the dirt, but who would also play by the game and all the consideration, to and fro, he would be included. That, in my view, was the number one mistake. Number three, after becoming the Emir, you people in the media shot him (Sanusi) up to the high heavens, saying that this were his virtues, he was such a genius, that he has degrees in banking, Islamic banking and all those sort of things. Now, degrees don’t make a character. Character is what makes a man. If the person doesn’t have a character to be a leader of people, then there is a problem. A leader should be disciplined, very careful with his choice of words, and should not be the kind of person who is after publicity and others. He should also be responsible enough to realize that certain considerations are meant for certain people. In addition also, there is the issue of a person’s track record, which itself is a reflection of his character. We knew that as he was about to leave the Central Bank to come and assume the Emirship, the previous government – which had, of course, grouses against him not because he was anything special, but because he had decided to be openly partisan, even before he became Emir. And some of the statements he made were not the statement we expected from a governor of the Central Bank. We know that the so-called natural rulers in Nigeria are somewhat involved in politics in a subterranean manner. But all of them are careful to do so and they knew that if they get caught, they would be dealt with. And those of them who are sensible enough, unlike him, also knew that even if they don’t lose their throne, they are likely to lose the prestige and the respect of the people and of the institution itself. And since most of them live for a very long time, for a lifetime looking forward to be Emirs, they wouldn’t want to squander all that by simply going out to play a very reckless game. Now, from the advent of the British colonialism to the unification of Nigeria in 1914, we have never had an Emir who debased the institution within so short a period of time like the current Emir. I have nothing against him any way. His father was a very close friend of mine.
Let me ask you, irrespective of his purported mistakes, what about the process of the creation of the new emirates? Were they right?
You talk about a process, if there is already a process on ground… if there is one on ground. Most states in the country and most states in the North from the colonial administration in the Northern Region to the current political administration in the 19 Northern states, the power to determine the process, the dos and don’ts, in appointing an Emir or in removing one, which is very rare, is entirely the sole privilege of the governor who is the head of government. Whether the governor truly has the power or does not have the power, to my view, has not been tested in court. I will give you a few examples. In the 60s, there was the Etsu of Nupe, who was the paramount Emir in the Niger State of today, the people revolted and banished him from the town when he was coming back from Kaduna. The government of the day had to remove him as Emir, take him away from Niger to a town near Gusau. And that was where he lived until he died. The Sultan of Sokoto himself who is the preeminence of all the Emirs in the North was removed. It is up to you to pass judgment whether he was serving at the pleasure of the government of the day or not. But it happened and that was it. The man never saw the interior of the palace until he died and when he died he was not brought to the palace again. He was brought to a place called the Hubari- that is the place where the Danfodio was buried. And his grandfather (Sanusi), who was very high-handed, also went into the finances of Kano Native Authority and messed it up. He had in fact what was close to what you would call “procedure” for want of a better name. The Northern Regional government appointed a commission of inquiry led by a senior administrative officer called DJN Muffet. They went into the account of the Native Authority and found that there were excesses. The grains reserved were taken out illegally without due process and a number of people had taken money. Some agreed that they took the money and some, who did not want to go down alone, said that it was the Emir who instructed them to do so. So many of them were removed as district heads and he, himself, was taken away to Kaduna and asked to write his resignation letter and he resigned. From there, he was taken to Azare in Bauchi State and left in some small ramshackle buka where he stayed for a very long time until a motion moved by me in the National Directorate of the PRP, we passed a resolution that upon coming to power in 1979, we will bring him back to Kano. And we did. We brought him back to Kano. So, what you call a process depends on your own bias, but the fact of the matter is that the system has been deliberately on the loose, more or less untested.
We presently have a few court cases challenging the tampering of the structure of Kano Emirate. Would you support the idea of putting these things to legal test?
I don’t believe in leaving anything loose. I believe that if this system is to work and to work into the next generation and century, it has to be placed in very strong legal terms. The laws should be passed appropriately. But at the moment, the reality on ground is that somebody is in charge and it is assumed that it is just the governor and the House of Assembly who are in charge.
Some say that the creation of new emirates is a good omen for Kano and some say, leave the structure the way it is. Where do you stand in this debate as a Kano man?
Those who said that it is good for Kano, I take them for what they said. But those who said that it is not good for Kano, did they give you any reason? No! The only reason they could give is selfish, self-motivated reason. We are used to the status quo; it must remain indefinitely. I can assure you that the overwhelming members of the people in Kano would prefer to have their own emirates, than live under the tutelage of the Emir of Kano in the city.
What if it is not the present Emir, Muhammad Sanusi II, would the idea of creation of more emirates have enjoyed the same spark? Is this an idea that has come of age?
This issue of creating more emirates in Kano has been with us since 19…, Kano State was created in 1967 and thereafter, there has been two or three exercises in creation of states and at every instance, there has been demands for the creation of more states out of Kano State. I can assure you that it was the enormous personality of the late Alhaji Ado Bayero and the way he was revered that this matter was somewhat suppressed. At the end of the day, he nearly killed the idea of creating more states out of Kano. That is why we barely ended with Jigawa State. Left to him and those who were subservient to him, there would have been no additional state created out of Kano despite the fact that the population of Kano at the time of the creation of states in 1967 was more than the total of number of the Southeast. It has been an agitation, which has been there, but it has somehow been muffled and left underground.
How do you relate to the argument of the governor that Emir Sanusi worked for the other party against him during the poll?
It is not a question of the argument. It is a question of what actually happened. Lamido Sanusi was in court, campaigning in front of everybody and giving people money. I challenged him to sue me, we will produce the photographs, we would produce the evidence. He has never denied it. And even before the issue of this election came, he has been warned by the Federal Government to stop making politically tendentious and incendiary statements. It is not the job of the Emir to be provocative in statement and to take an openly partisan line that can lead to bloodshed. Thirdly, there were investigation made against him, one of which is still ongoing and somehow, they had a meeting with some notable governors in Kaduna and he was asked to apologize and he apologized. You don’t apologize over a fault or an infraction if you are not guilty! You are not under duress, you apologized. The truth is that there has been a low intensity warfare between him and all the major strata of the Kano society – the politician, the government in power, even some of the leading kingmakers. It is not a question of allegation, he did it.
In some quarters, they see the present misfortune of the Emir as a payback given the way that the children of Alhaji Ado Bayero were not allowed to succeed him?
Let me be honest to you. What makes an Emir ultimately is character. Whether the late Alhaji Ado Bayero had children to assume that post or because people felt, and I was one of them, that he served Kano well is not the issue. Look, I come from the opposite end of the establishment of political parties NEPU and I knew how my parents suffered under Sanusi, the grandfather of the present Emir. It has to be admitted that nobody to date, from the time Alhaji Ado Bayero came back from Senegal as an ambassador up to the time he died, nobody can point to an occasion, even once when Ado Bayero took somebody’s house or took over somebody’s piece of land or took over somebody’ s field and converted it into a ranch and for that Kano people are eminently grateful. And I believe that it is right for Kano people to be grateful to Alhaji Ado Bayero given what they knew of Alhaji Sanusi (the grandfather of the present Emir) and other Emirs before him. I believe that in terms of character, in terms what he did, if indeed you will give an Emirship to somebody or his son because of what he did, I believe that he deserved it. But that was not the issue. The issue is that among the people who were interested in becoming emir, the generation of Sanusi, among Ado Bayero’s son, I can count five of them who are fit to become the Emir of Kano.
What is your take on the kingmakers who had gone to court to challenge the action? Added to this is that some of the towns are not comfortable where they are. Wudil is not comfortable in Gaya, Dambatta is not comfortable in Bichi?
Again, you started this interview with talk about procedure. Does the procedure provide for people to be given the opportunity to go for some kind of election or some kind of referendum to choose? I am not aware of any place in Kano where the headship of the district was chosen by some kind of election or referendum or plebiscite.
And if in deed there were just after that, then the question that arises is why didn’t they object before now? Why are they objecting now? If they are objecting now, what are the alternatives? Because if you ask for alternatives, you are going to have several because every district would say we want to be the headquarters. Historically, Gaya has a greater right than Wudil to be an emirate because they are one of those areas, which were supposed to have head system, but were brought under Kano as a result of conquest. If history were to be a judge, they have greater right than Wudil. Number two, Bichi has a very old history in the sense that most of the prominent district heads who eventually became Emirs of Kano had, at one time or another, been district heads of Bichi. Ado Bayero was not a district head of Bichi because he was in the police and later in the Foreign Service, but Emir Sanusi, the grandfather of the present Emir, had been the district head of Bichi. His father, Abdullahi Bayero had also been a district head of Bichi. And among these people who had been promoted to Emirs, one or two of them had been district heads of Bichi because Bichi had always been treated as a very important district. The present Emir’s father, the ambassador, had been both in Bichi and Dawakin Kudu as district head. If you want to resolve that – the issue of who is where – and you mean well, you should do it by galvanising the people and getting them to make a choice and ask the government to respect their choice. Afterall, we are living in a democracy. It is not a question of who is stronger.
Do you forsee the present Emir resigning the throne in the nearest future?
If you look at his arrogance or the way he goes about it implying that Kano would not breathe if he was not the Emir, I would have expected him to resign. If he has self-esteem, if he had self respect, I would have expected him to resign. If he is what he says he is, the most educated person and whatever, he should have resigned and let see whether Kano would not move on without him.
Can we trust Governor Ganduje in every thing he has done so far? I want you to put your flash light on Ganduje too!
You are confusing two issues. Don’t forget that Ganduje’s father was a village head. Ganduje comes from the same establishment and would never do a thing that will destroy or undermine the Emirate system. Secondly, part of Ganduje’s problem on this issue is that he was too slow to react… because if the Emir of Kano had done all these things under Rimi, he would have been history long ago! If he had done this under Dawakin Tofa, he would have been history and, of course, if he had done this under Sabo Barkin Zuwo, he would have been history.