By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Emir Sanusi had almost always lived at the top. The grandson of a famed emir, a product of some of the best schools in the country, Kings College, Lagos, ABU Zaria; the first Northern CEO of Nigeria’s First Bank, a banker of bankers with a respectable pedigree in Islamic knowledge and postulations; his enthronement as monarch should not have agitated anyone. So, why is His Royal Highness in trouble?
THE decision of the Kano
State House of Assembly to investigate allegations of impropriety against the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Muhammadu Sanusi II, again throws up another captivating vista of politics in conflict with the palace.
The king’s subjects in Kano have constituted themselves into a panel to try the king. The unfolding situation in Kano is seen as the comeuppance from the political class for the emir’s chastisement of the Northern establishment for its crass opportunism and oppression of the common man.
Serikin Kano had stirred the hornet’s nest during the recent Kaduna State investment summit hosted by his long-time friend, Governor Nasir El-Rufai when he flayed claims by the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari that the recent meningitis epidemic that led to the death of more than 300 lives in his state was God’s punishment for the sins of the people.
However, that was not the first time that the radical emir would raise a stir among the Northern establishment. He had even taken his criticisms to the national level with his chastisement of the economic policies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Speaking at an economic conference last September, the emir who was himself a harsh critic of the Goodluck Jonathan administration had warned that Buhari could end up like the Jonathan if he did not change his style.
“If this government continues to behave the way the last government behaved, we will end up where Jonathan ended. You may not like it, but that is the truth. You have to listen.
“You don’t have to be an economist to know that any system that allows you to sit in your garden, and with a telephone call, make one billion naira without investing a kobo, that system is wrong. It is unsustainable.
Of course, dissent had not been a too distant character of the Emirs of Kano in post-independence Nigeria. In fact, all three Emirs of Kano since 1960 have had brushes with the respective political authorities over Kano.
Emir Muhammad Sanusi I, who was Emir of Kano between 1954 and 1963, had a presence that rubbed negatively with the then equally powerful premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello who was a distant cousin.
Emir Sanusi I who hosted Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of England in 1956 was a man of political grace and grandeur. He was indeed, at one time a pal of Sir Bello and a major political player in the Northern People’s Congress, NPC until rivalry separated the two men. As emir of the most economically vibrant town in Northern Nigeria which made by far the greatest contribution to the economic well-being of the North, Emir Sanusi, even though the fourth in rank among northern traditional rulers saw himself as only comparable with the Sultan of Sokoto.
Over a period, the premier initiated moves to humble the emir. One humble pie served on the emir was the appointment of one Alhaji Aliyu, who was Magajin Gari of Sokoto as the provincial commissioner or administrative head of Kano.
For Emir Sanusi, the action of the premier appointing someone from his hometown of Sokoto as the provincial commissioner was not the real insult; the insult was that the Magajin Gari was supposedly a descendant of royal slaves in Sokoto!
It was an insult that so pained the emir, but he certainly could do nothing about it. Emir Sanusi, however, remained unbowed as he continued his royal duties with grace refusing to be cowed by the prince from Sokoto.
There were insinuations that the Sardauna was also peeved by the effrontery of the emir arriving after him at ceremonies allowing him to steal the show!
There were different clashes between the premier and the emir up till 1962 when the Northern House of Assembly commenced an investigation into allegations of financial malpractices against the emir which culminated in his deposition in 1963.
Emir Sanusi chose to relocate to Azare in Bauchi province after his deposition, and his request was not opposed by his one-time ally and friend, Sir Bello who perhaps did not see him again till he died in the January 15, 1966, coup.
Emir Sanusi was succeeded by Emir Ado Bayero who also had his challenges with Governor Abubakar Rimi in the period between 1979 and 1983. Governor Rimi initially won popular approval with the talakawa when he abolished the poll tax and taxes on cattle which were entitlements of the palace. However, a query issued the emir preparatory to a deposition, however, ignited a popular revolt in Kano leading to a three-day riot that paralysed Kano.
Emir Bayero also had his brushes with General Muhammadu Buhari who as head of state in 1984 disciplined him and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Sijuwade and banned them from leaving their traditional domains for six months after they made a trip to Israel.
Bayero was succeeded by Emir Sanusi II in 2014 in a transition etched in much political drama. There were claims that Emir Sanusi II’s candidacy for the royal throne of Kano was seriously opposed by the Federal Government headed by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The reason for the Jonathan crowd opposing Sanusi’s emergence was not difficult to fathom. Sanusi had been removed by Jonathan from his position as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN in February 2014 following an audit report that alleged “financial recklessness and misconduct,” on the part of the Sanusi-led management of the bank.
Sanusi’s sack was laced with its drama as government officials openly complained that his allegations of missing money from the sale of oil was ammunition for the administration’s enemies in the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.
His closeness to top APC officials including Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was of no comfort to the administration. However, backed by the powerful APC machine and the fact that Kano State at that time had fallen into the hands of the APC through Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso, Sanusi prevailed over the competition to emerge emir.
Emir Sanusi II since his enthronement has, however, embarrassed his former political allies in the APC with savage attacks on the party’s policies and programmes at federal and at state levels.
Just as his grandfather was shoved out through an investigation of the palace purse, Emir Sanusi II is also being attacked through the same channel in a probe that no one, for now, can presently direct its course.
Unlike the situation in 1963 when Emir Sanusi I was humbled by Bello, the prince from Sokoto, Emir Sanusi II’s traducers are from within Kano, even if they are instigated from outside.
The relegation of traditional authorities to political powers was evident penultimate weekend when Speaker Yakubu Dogara visited his home state, Bauchi.
The local emirs fearing for their thrones ran away from their domains allegedly because they didn’t want to be associated with the speaker, a declared political rival of Governor Mohammed Abubakar. That is how far traditional rulers have gone under their political masters!