Comrade Mohammed Garba is the Commissioner for Information, Kano State. In this interview conducted by DESMOND MGBOH, the one time National President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) offers explanations as to the vision that informed the creation of additional emirate councils in the state. He also talks about the reasons the government fell apart with the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, saying he got involved in partisan politics contrary to the tradition of the throne, even as he stresses that the on-going probe of the financial dealings of the Kano Emirate Council by the State Public Complaint and Anti – Corruption Commission would follow the due process of the law.
There is trouble in the Kano Emirate Council. As the Commissioner for Information, Kano State, what is happening between the governor , Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and the Sarkin Kano, His Highness, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi?
Well, I think, for me, there is nothing personal between the state governor and His Highness, the Emir of Kano, Mallam Muhammad Sanusi II. If you go down to history, you will remember that the present governor and the former governor of the state were among those who facilitated the appointment of the present Emir. If you go down to history , you will remember that when he was a deputy governor , it was himself and Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso that facilitated the appointment of the present Emir. And this Emir is quite aware of the role that Ganduje played when he was a deputy governor (during the first time) to support him. Their relationship was very very cordial. I remember vividly when there was a misunderstanding between Kwankwaso and the Emir, way back, it was the present governor that intervened between the two and eventually, they were able to amicably resolve whatever was their differences- If you remember the publications of the Emir on the former governor which was widely circulated at that material time. So when Ganduje became the governor, the relationship continued and eventually, when Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi became the Emir, the relationship has continued to be very very cordial. The governor has this tradition of giving a lot of respect to the traditional institution. Do not forget that he is also from the class of traditional leadership. His late father was the village head of Ganduje and his senior brother is presently the village head. He is also part of the royal blood. And there is no reason why he would have anything personal against the Emir as far as I am concerned. But I know that there are certain utterances of the Emir which I think is not good for somebody of his caliber as the Emir of Kano. The Emir has been a social critic – that is his nature. But despite that, the governor has tolerated him for a while, has really tolerated him- not until when he identified himself with a political party, with a group. And even then, the governor was kind enough not to show any kind of displeasure. At their own level, bearing in mind that the governor is older, I am sure that he has been advising the Emir on how best to behave and on the need to be a little careful because of the role and the position he is presently occupying in the society. So as far as I am concerned, the governor has no personal grudge against His Highness.
What happened actually as a result of the creation of the new emirates.. you should remember that it was not the governor that initiated the petition. It was a group of lawyers who felt that there was the need for them to have additional emirate in their own area. And they wrote to the Kano State House of Assembly and the State House of Assembly, from the information available to us, read the petition or whatever submission that was submitted to them and they felt that all the issues raised by the concerned citizens and lawyers are serious issues that should be looked into. The State Assembly decided to do their own constitutional responsibility by looking at it, initiating a bill, did one or two corrections, went through the normal process of the Assembly. At the end of third reading, they presented it to the executive. If you remember the pronouncement of the Speaker when they were presenting this bill to the state governor. He said that they strongly believed in the bill , that should the governor fail to assent to the bill, they would come back to the House and use a two third majority to pass the bill, which means that the Assembly is completely convinced. And they came to the State House and made a presentation to us and the governor looked at it critically and we felt that in the interest of the people of Kano, especially those who are living in some of these local government areas and the rural areas, we felt that it is something that would further develop these areas bearing in mind that some of the local governments in our neigbouring states like Jigawa – look at Ringim emirate for example. I remember when Kano was with Jigawa State, Dutse was a hamlet. I know Duste then because I schooled in Sumaila. There was no light , there was nothing in Dutse. But when Duste became an emirate and eventually a state, look at the level of development! Look at the creation of Ringim which was the last of the emirates that were created. Go to Ringim today and see the level of development. So when the late Abubakar Rimi attempted to have these emirates in 1981 /82, if these emirates were recognised , especially the three emirates of Gaya , Karaye and the other one , if they were recognized by that time, believe you me , by now in terms of development of these areas, you will be very surprised. Another area we looked at was the challenges of the present day. And we looked at our own area and the level of insecurity that Nigeria is facing today. We have read from the newspapers , we have heard from the security agencies that most of the bandits, quite a number of them, have relocated to Kano. And we know that the traditional rulers have a crucial role to play in terms of checking the movements, the access of people and what have you. And we felt that in order to have an effective monitoring system of people , there is need for us to ensure that we have traditional institutions that are much more closer to the people than what is obtained with the centralized traditional system. The governor looked at it and the issue of how they can advise him in terms of infrastructural development, road networks, in terms of water resources , in terms of education – we are lacking in education. The number of out- of- school children is quite alarming in Kano. And we felt that these traditional rulers have a serious role to play. Honestly, we looked at all the advantages of having the emirates recognized and we felt that there is no need to waste time. So the governor decided to assent to it. But unfortunately while the process was ongoing, some people felt that there was no need to decentralize, some people felt that there was a personal problem or even a political problem between the Emir of Kano and the governor of Kano. The Emir as a person, we believe that he has the right of choice. But by virtue of his current position, he has to be cautious in whatever he is doing because he is now a father to everybody. He is a religious leader and he is a community leader now. Where there is a problem , even if it is between the governor and some prominent people in the state, it is the Emir that is expected to invite them and intervene. That is what is meant to be the father of all. But when the Emir is partisan, practically partisan, I think that that is the problem.
(Cuts in) We don’t even see it from that way and that is not even the reason.. We are more concerned about the development of the state. Honestly, even his partisanship has no meaning because even with his partisanship, we were able to win the elections. And after winning the election, the governor was very unhappy because there was no reason why he should be partisan against him. This is because their relationship has been very cordial. He has not offered a single advice which the governor refused to implement. The governor felt that if there was any problem, if there was any crisis, if there was anywhere the Emir wanted changes, in terms of advice, he has a lot of access. The governor has a lot of respect for him. Whenever the Emir comes to the Government House, the governor would escort him to his car. When he comes to programs late-ideally, the Emir should be there before the governor. But in most cases the governor would be there before the Emir . And whenever he comes the governor would stand up and greet the Emir. So as far as we are concerned, whatever is due to the Emir as a father and as a traditional ruler has been given to him. Even after the election, despite the fact that we know that this man has fought us seriously, the governor accommodated him. He went to the palace twice. At a time when we were told that he was indisposed the governor went there at a personal level. He went there also for a special prayer for peace and then, he went for the weeding of 1500 couples. The governor was able to forget his partisan role. As far as we are concerned we did not do it (create emirates) in order to destroy any history or any legacy or whatever the forefathers of these Emirs built. We want it to be more effective, we want to make sure that the traditional institutions are more involved in terms of the administration of the state.
The kingmakers of Kano are getting involved in this dispute. They have gone to court to oppose the new law, they are complaining that the heritage of the people of Kano has been distorted
Ideally, we expect that from them. If you have more emirates, it means that you have reduced the level of their influence and the number of the local governments that they control. And if you look at the allocation of demarcation and the allocation of local government to some of these new emirates, it has affected the district head of Wudil , it has affected the Madakin Kano, it has affected the district head of Dambatta . Ideally their level of influence and their status have been reduced. But I am aware that the governor said that all those guys I have mentioned, they have their own traditional settings in Kano. The governor has passed a message to them that if you still want to be a part of Kano, the opportunity is still there and you can still come back to Kano and still be part of the Kingmakers if that is the arrangement that you prefer. All we needed is to have replacements in some of these local governments. There is no problem about that. Honestly, I am even surprised that, maybe they don’t understand the whole arrangement. Going to court would not help because if you look at the Constitution of Nigeria, the governor has all the constitutional right to remove the Emir. He has the right to install an Emir. The Emir cannot appoint a single district head or a very strong traditional title without the approval of the governor. These are all constitutional issues, which eventually they would waste their time in the court of law and at the end of it all, nothing. No matter how long, they can only drag it to a certain level and for a certain time. Eventually everybody knows that it is within the right of the governor, what he has done is within his right. Fortunately, it went through the normal due process. So I don’t know why they went to court. Like I said, maybe they don’t understand the level of the arrangement. I have had the privilege to advise the governor to see how to reach out to some of them to understand this level of arrangement.
Out there in the public sphere, there are claims that the breaking up of the emirates is part of 2023 politics, that the APC team would not want an Emir that is sympathetic to PDP in Kano
Of course, whatever you do now, is subject to the interpretation of 2023. And I as a Muslim, I don’t know about 2023. But I know a lot of politicians talk about 2023 and they have started making a lot of arrangements, they have started making a lot of moves. I was made to understand that there would be a lot of cross carpeting. The PDP, some of them are trying to look at their allies in the APC and the same for the APC. They are doing a lot of calculations to see how their ambition can be achieved in 2023. But on this issue, as far as I know, I don’t want to believe that it has anything to do with 2023, except maybe on the part of the PDP. Maybe the PDP has a plan. If you analyse the whole situation, you will see that the PDP is desperately in need of Kano. Kwankwaso still wants to contest as the President of Nigeria, especially with what had happened at the election, he feels that Kano would be a very good base for him to reorganize himself and re-launch his political ambition and campaign for 2023. Financially, he needs Kano. He needs a state that would be able to assist him financially. And you know that presidential ambition is very, very expensive and he needs a state that would take care of some his expenses. He also needs to further consolidate because Kano has a very large population. Looking at the number of votes in Kano, if you look at the 2015 election and the 2019 elections, you will see how Kano, to a large extent, determines who becomes the president of Nigeria. Actually, he needs Kano, strongly and badly.
Could this also be the reason why an Emir of Kano that is sympathetic to Kwankwaso is not the very best of option for an APC governor?
Well, I don’t know but I want to believe that because of the relationship, the Emir has this relationship with Kwankwaso; maybe they were able to do their calculations. Therefore the Emir felt that he should support the PDP, he should support Kwankwaso to become the President of Nigeria.
Some two years ago, the state anti corruption commission launched a probe into the financial management of the Emirate. Again, when this crisis resumed, this same commission has reactivated the very probe that was suspended then. Could all this be a coincidence?
Well, I think that it is really an accident. If you remember what happened when there was a petition to check the account, it was the same intervention that you talked about, that eventually suspended the whole issue. I remember the governor personally intervened, a lot people did and the Assembly and even the anti corruption agency said that they have suspended the probe. Now I don’t know precisely, I think that somebody still raised the issue. That was what I was made to understand. That as these issues were going on, this issue of probe came forth and the agency felt that they should see to the conclusion of the probe. I think that it is more of an accident, it is not deliberately brought back in order to undermine the Emir. The Emir as far as we are concerned, whatever he has done, we have left him and there is no problem because of that. Our hope and prayer is that the relationship between us should continue, we would continue to give him all the necessary respect.
But what if the Commission indicts the Emir?
If he is indicted, that is a different issue. If the Emir in indicted, there are due process. We would look at the law. The government would look at the law and see if eventually the probe indicts the Emir, then what does the law say? Whatever it is should be dealt with according to the law of the land.
Isn’t that a subtle blackmail by the government? It is like this: Either you resign or we will use the process and get you out of the throne?
No I don’t think so. I don’t think so. The Emir has said that he is ready to defend himself. He came out and said that he was not part of it, that he did not embezzle anything and that whatever he has done at the Emirate is there for the people to see. So they would make their own presentation and if at the end of it all, he is not involved as it is said, I don’t think that there would be any problem. Even if he is involved, as I said earlier, due process would be followed.
There is nobody that is going to intimidate or harass the Emir as far as this issue is concerned. What the anti corruption agency, I feel, is trying to do is to discharge their own responsibility. At the end of it all, his lawyers are there, everybody is there. You can see the chain of lawyers that are representing the Emirate Council on this issue of the creation of emirates and I am sure that they would also have the same, they would go there and whatever comes up, they would see it. These are normal issues. A petition can be written by anybody and whatever it is, is subject to investigation. And whatever is investigated, the truth will unfold.
Is this the same experience for other Northern Emirs? Is Sanusi not being overworked or pushed by his own state government given all the forces of action against him?
Well, the attitude of the Emir. You will look at the attitude of the Emir and compare it with attitude of the rest of the Emirs in the region. How is he behaving? Maybe you should compare him with the late Emir Bayero? The late Emir, Alhaji Ado Bayero does not involve himself in politics. We have quite a number of presentations where he was telling people that he is even a father to everybody in Kano. Everybody respects the late Emir. All the political parties respect him. So many elections were conducted under his watch because of the number of years he spent as the Emir of Kano and there is no political party that has ever accused the Emir of being partisan. So you must look at the attitude. And then his pronouncements; the late Emir of Kano had maintained the tradition of the Emirate. He always played the role of an adviser. Even where things are done wrongly, he would come and advise. Even we as government, we have said it that if we have done anything that is not good we can be advised. In government, some times decisions are based on circumstances. Some of these decisions may not be good to an individual or an organization. Maybe if he felt that something was being done wrongly, depending on the circumstances , I am sure the governor would reflect on that advice and make improvement…… it is very very for wrong for him to make a very serious presentation against the government, against people that are directly supervising him, somebody that gives him a lot of respect, somebody that regards him as a father, to come and condemn a program or policy without a concrete reason, without even understanding. People always give this example of when he said that the governor went and spent one month in China! How can the governor go and spend a month in China? Somebody that went and spent just two days and came back. But we have resolved all that issue. Even after the election, the governor said let’s forget about the past. Even at that , the Emir did not stop. He continued politicizing some of these things, putting a poster of a radical Emir. We are the radical people who are in government. I have been a Comrade all my life but when I came to government, I have to make sure that whatever I do, I look at the system. It is not everything that you will even like . But because that is the system, it is either you are there or you leave. So if the Emir wants to maintain his position as a radical, as a social critic or what have you, let him remove the turban and join the civil society organizations.
Do you predict that the Emir of Kano would resign or choose to resign?
I don’t think so. I don’t think that he would choose that option. He has said it in the past that what he wanted in life, he prefers to be the Emir of Kano than to be the President of Nigeria.
What If time changes that position?
I have not been very close to the Emir but I have read quite a number of his writings and I have listened to his speeches and I know that he has said it consistently and he has not changed , that what he likes the most in life is to be the Emir of Kano.