By Henry Akubuiro
For the Good of the Nation, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Alfa Books, 2021, pp. 509
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi comes across as an intellectual gadfly dancing on the scrotum of a fiendish predator. He is at home with dialectics, and controversies always trail his profuse mental energy. At fora, on the pages of newspapers and in interviews, Sanusi has demonstrated a great capacity as a public intellectual. This book, For the Good of the Nation, took ten years to berth, and it’s a bountiful harvest.
A book in five parts, it is a collection of essays presented to the public or written at various times, addressing a myriad of issues, ranging from politics, polity, Islam, identity, history and nationhood. Where topical issues are flawed by ideologues, Sanusi attempts to illuminate them with compelling facts. He plays the devil’s advocate sometimes. Never a fundamentalist, he seeks to salvage Islam from cloyed perspectives and defends its application when righteous. One thing that runs through this book, needless to say, is his firm belief in the pan Nigerian project, which explains why he challenges orthodoxies that encourage ethnic subservience, and mapping out strategies to save the floundering ship. Sanusi, hence, lends himself to those species that Albert Einstein had in mind when he said, “Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.”
In his Foreword to the book, Nasir El-Rai, the current Governor of Kaduna State, offers the book to “anyone that desires to learn the plain truth about our country, its contradictions and the ways out of our national quagmire”. Professor Pius Adesanmi of blessed memory, in the introductory note, lauds that “it’s one thinker’s attempt to evolve heuristic paradigms for engaging the many fault lines that have beggared every effort to forge a unified postcolonial nation.”
Both El-Rufai and Adesanmi scored a bull’s eye here. Readers interested in Nigerian political crises would find the first part of the book useful, as Sanusi dissects Identity, Politics & Democracy. Today, the drumbeat of restructuring has become frenetic. In “Issues in Restructuring Corporate Nigeria”, a 1999 piece, Sanusi addresses the need to restructure the Nigerian superstructure, delineating the individual parts and the nature of limits of their connectivity, its objective and subjective variables. Sanusi argues that the northern bourgeoisie and the Yoruba bourgeoisie have exacted their pound of flesh from the Igbo since the end of the Civil War, and, “If this issue is not addressed immediately, no conference will solve Nigeria’s problems”. Sanusi, a Muslim Fulani, is “convinced that we tend to exegerrate our differences for selfish ends…” (p. 25).
Still in this first section, Sanusi treats values and identity in the Muslim North, the islamisation of politics and the politicisation of Islam, as well as Muslim leaders and their myth of marginalisation. He even rises in defence of Father Mathew Kukah when he was chastised by fellow Muslims. Sanusi is flummoxed by ethnic bigotry and the subversion of democracy. Flip over to page 80-87 for a dialogue with a critic, which is Sanusi’s open sesame to his worldview —one that clarifies erroneous misconceptions about him, setting a prism for us to see him better.
The politics of Shari’ah and its acrimonies when it was introduced in Zamfara and other northern states at the turn of the new millenium thereafter got Sanusi talking in the second part of the book —Reflections on Shari’ah. It’s a section non-Muslims would find revelatory, too, as Sanusi talks about Shari’ah, Islam in Northern Nigeria, justice and poverty in the region. Sanusi xrays the stereotype of the northern Muslim in Nigeria as a never-do-well and charts a new part for the Ulama to mobilise the citizens towards economic empowerment.
In the third part of the book, Sanusi addresses gender related issues, especially as it affects women in Muslim, taking into account comparative jurispudence. He attempts to answers questions bordering on class and gender as they relates to the political economy of Shari’ah, plus sex, pregnancy and the Muslim law.
Sanusi, in the fourth section, delves extensively into the realm of Islamic theology and philosophy. He deconstructs revolutionary Islam and Nigerian democracy, and explains succinctly the botherline of Muslim communities living in a secular nation, among others.
In the concluding part (interviews), the 14th Emir of Kano and former CBN governor, says on the way forward for Nigeria:”… we need to address those issues that keep us back… So, engaging the moment is critical, rather than spending time thinking about the future without doing anything concrete at the moment.” For the Good of the Nation is a must-read for all.