Desmond Mgboh, Kano and Abdullahi Hassan, Zaria
chairman of Northern Elders Forum, Prof Ango Abdullahi, has opened up on their meeting recently with elders and stakeholders in Kano over the feud between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje and Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, which resulted to the division of the old Kano Emirate into five.
In this interview, Ango told Sunday Sun that if the quarrel was not resolved as expected, what would be left to tame it would be constitutional means. Excerpts:
Recent Peace and Reconciliation meeting between the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11 and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has been expected for a long time, why did you decide to hold it now?
Well, let me start by saying that before we left Kano on Monday , I signed a press statement. That statement gave an update on this initiative, which took Northern Elders Forum to Kano in connection with the ongoing crises which some people said is between the government and the traditional institution of Kano, that was the reason, before taking that decision, we have been following the events that surrounded the matter for almost two years. In view of the fact that nobody of authoritative substance have waded into the crises to put it off as early as possible, it was left hanging for this long. That is why we held consultations within the Northern Elders Forum and decided that we should initiate an effort. This initial effort is for us to seek the truth as much as possible for Kano stakeholders, and this is precisely what this visit to Kano had achieved. We have been able to sit with prominent Kano stakeholders without going into details with their names. To see the genesis of this , the concerns of people and the efforts made by individuals and organizations were to bring this unfortunate thing to an end. I must emphasized here that some people must have thought that responsible Kano opinion had not done much and to our surprise we found out that a lot had been going on at the level of respected opinion of Sano State leaders. They have been trying as much as possible to really intervene and bring Kano back to its historical status of being a city of history, a city of responsible leadership , a city of commerce, a famous city in the world and for it to be seeing in the light of quarrels mainly on personal ground, it’s most unfortunate. That is why after extensive consultations of leaders both from within and outside Kano, we were encouraged at the Northern Elders Forum to go in and see which information we could gathered in terms of the genesis of the matter, mainly what are the things behind it. And I must say that the two days spent in Kano were most fruitful and in the press statement I signed , we acknowledged the very positive opinion of Kano leaders in terms of how much they are unhappy about what is going on in that city and more so in the state surprisingly, they also have a fair understanding on the implication of the crisis not only for Kano, but also for Northern states and to some extent to the country. This is what we discovered throughout the discussion with stakeholders in Kano. I must also mention here that this initiative of ours had led to some actions by the Federal Government. This is something to be honest with, we quietly discussed during our meeting that some leaders at a higher level than Kano ought to have intervened much earlier than now so that this matter could be brought into an amicable end.It is unfortunate that it has taken so long and it had to wait for a Non-governmental Organization and Civil Society Organization, Northern Elders Forum, to start before someone wakes up from sleep and say here is a committee set-up to look into the matter, even though we welcome it and we look forward to having a good interaction with the official government committee on the matter.
Why did you not start with the Council of the traditional rulers in the North, especially the Sultan of Sokoto and Shehu of Borno?
Let me admit to you that the main reason we delayed the commencement of the peace process was to avoid a situation where we will not be taking steps in consonance with the intension of our traditional leadership. We have always believed that traditional leadership at the highest level are concerned with this. They have at a point confirmed to us in the course of our interaction wwith them. It is only that we are not receiving the kind of listening ears of people that are directly responsible for what appears to be a political crisis. Because the whole issue in the crisis have been politicized unfortunately, and this is where the traditional rulers have to apply caution so as not to be caught in political crisis and struggle between politicians. Honestly, they have been working on it, but the only thing is that they go behind doors because they don’t want to be seen acting at the centre stage. Again we must commend their approach of maturity and decorum with hope that their effort will tally with our own, including those that are coming out from the government to finally resolve this matter.
What really makes the crisis so unique so much so it has taken this multi-dimensional approach to be solved?
I think there is nothing really unique in the crisis, but it is all about roles of leadership. It is very clear that leaders by whatever description; cleric, traditional, tribal and so on , once you said leadership there is something you expect leaders to do in their position of leadership in the various communities; take the village head for example, a village head is a leader at the level of a village and whatever comes to that village , he ought to be entrusted, especially if the village matter involves the progress of the village, he should be entrusted and he should encourage it, but if it is going to be to the detriment of the village , it should be of concern and he will get it out . This is what it should be, but the collective leadership, like the Nigerian collective leadership has the responsibility that the Nigerian state must progress. Every leader has a role to bring progress, as well as role to mitigate problems or stop problems. So, in this kind of responsibility for leaders, it does not necessarily make a distinction between partisan political leadership and traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is concerned with overall well being of all people under traditional umbrella. It should also be the same with politicians, but unfortunately, while the traditional leadership appears to be working to bring in everybody under the umbrella of their leadership, it does not appear to be the same with democratically elected leadership now in Nigeria. Take for example , a situation where a traditional ruler speaks on education which is a critical tool for socio-economic and political development of any nation. He should be commended irrespective of the style of leadership he finds himself. Also the same with any traditional leader that speaks on ways to improve healthcare services. These leaders should be commended by those leaders that are constitutional responsible for the provisions of such services. And this is where both traditional and political leaders should be complementing each other in terms of the progress of their people. And this the way we see the seriousness of the traditional and political leadership working hand in hand to ensure that at the end of the day what is important is the development of our people. They should not be seen as contending interests. This was what triggered off the Kano crisis. The fact that, for example, an emir speaks for good education may be seen as a contending opponent of somebody in partisan politics as if he is usurping authority. This is very unfortunate. If this is the kind of orientation of the position of any leadership that is supposed to complement what their responsibilities are then it’s unfortunate. We have seen this criticism against the Emir of talking too much. Talking too much on what? Is it talking too much on social duties, or social responsibilities, reminding the leaders of their responsibilities that there are problems here and there, especially in this political leadership that always talks positive and negative things. We now see that partisan political leadership in Kano appears to be seeing the role of traditional rulers as one usurping influence or usurping their responsibility. I think this is totally unfortunate.
Some government officials in Kano have accused you of taking side with the Emir, considering the composition of the Peace Negotiations Process from Northern Elders Forum?
No, no, no. We have not taken side. In fact, the programme we designed, we designed it starting from the grassroots upward. We must talk to the grassroots and those who are quarreling. We decided that we must seek the opinion and views of the Kano people in their various strata, at their various level and positions first and foremost; so our intial invitation or announcement was that we shall start with the grassroots and move gradually upward as we collect information; we ended up with the discussion with the Emir of Kano and finally the governor of Kano, that is our position.
How do you see the implications of the persistent of the crisis, which may lead to the removal of the Emir and its repeat in some other states in Northern Nigeria at the moment?
You see, this comes to my earlier statement that once you said this is a leader, leadership responsibility is bestowed on the leader, actions and inactions will be on the overall people he leads. There is an impression that you can pick from time to time a traditional ruler who has been on the throne for decades as being very familiar with what is going on, but the people under whom he leads, in fact, are more familiar with cases and livelihood of the ordinary people over period of long time of their ancestors much more than a politician who just came to seek for vote perhaps not even from that community and had not lived in that community; that is a world of difference. I think , if the politicians are looking for an area in the constitution to amend, or the restructuring of the country certainly it should be in this area. Political leaders must take this into account that the leadership responsibilities are not limited to people who contest elections. It must be spread across experiences, history, traditions and so on. Together with all these, you find that you have made concerted efforts that would address the wishes of the people.
Looking at the position of Kano State government, especially in its claim to be ignorant of your peace mission, do you have any word for the governor?
No, I have no comment on what the Kano State government should do or not do. For now, from what we are seeing and heard from our interactions with stakeholders in Kano, it looks like the crisis has been resolved. If it has not been done, we will have no option than to go to seek the interpretation of the Nigerian constitution and the matter will be resolved.