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Breaking of Kano Emirate will destroy northern Nigeria — Naniya, history professor

• Says Gov Ganduje broke Jihad rules, challenged the authority of the Sokoto Caliphate
• ‘Step shattered the remaining institution that unites Kano’

By Abdulmumin Murtala, Kano

 Professor Tijjani Naniya, a former Commissioner for Information in Kano State, is now a university don. In this interview, Naniya, a professor of history, dismisses the creation of four new emirates from Kano under the leadership of the Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi by Governor Anbdullahi Ganduje as an abuse of the traditional institution. He insists that the creation of the emirates is not based on the history, tradition and culture of the people of Kano but personal bias and whims.


What do you make of the creation of new emirates in Kano?

The creation of additional four emirates in Kano is a wrong decision because it is not based on the history, tradition and culture of the people of Kano in particular and the history and tradition of the Sokoto Caliphate in general.

Why did you say so?

Emirates do not emerge just by chance. There is a context for their establishment and emergence. The areas that are called emirates received their names because of their participation in a Jihad that transformed Hausa land into the Sokoto Caliphate. Participation in the Jihad is what gives you the basis to establish an emirate. The basis is that a delegation must be sent from that particular area, town or location to the leader of the Jihad at Degel or Gudu as the case may be. The recognition of your capability to conduct a Jihad in that particular area would make them to give you a flag recognizing that this delegation coming from Kano has been given a flag and is now delegated to represent Sheikh Uthman bin Fodio in declaring a Jihad in Kano.

This flag is what gives, upon succeeding in the Jihad, the territorial name of an emirate with a leader known as an emir from the Arabic word Amir. Amir is the word; it is the Europeans that corrupted it into emir.

So, emirate is not something that is begged, it is something that is earned by right of conquest. Even by the right of conquest, the territory has to be recognized to participate in that Jihad based on authority given to it by the leaders of that Jihad in Sokoto.

This flag is the symbol of authority and the moment you declare Jihad in your particular territory and you succeed, then the same delegation will go back to Sokoto to say that they have succeeded, “appoint among us an emir”.

Sarki Sulaiman was appointed the first post-Jihad Emir of Kano through that process. He was not the one that appointed himself, it was not Kano that appointed him; he was appointed by the leaders of Jihad in Sokoto: Sheikh Uthman Fodio, his brother, Abdullahin Gwandu, and Muhammad Bello. So all other territories where the Jihad took place, emirates emerged through that process.

Did this not change with the coming of the colonialists?

Even when the Europeans came, they also recognized that cultural and traditional system and worked on it. And when they deposed the Emir of Kano, Alu, they did not just get somebody and appointed him, they asked what the tradition was and how it was done and they adopted the tradition to be part and parcel of the colonial culture.

So, for somebody to come and create emirates, what is the basis of that? The emirates came as a result of the Jihad when they participated. Rano, Karaye and Gaya participated in the Jihad under the leadership of Kano Jihad leaders. Therefore it was not an independent participation.

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Let me give an example. When Kano was made an emirate and the territory around Danbatta was declared as part of Kano, the Fulani leader in Danbatta, Dantunku, refused to operate under Kano. He said he also went directly to Sokoto and received a flag and, for that reason, he would not operate under the Emir of Kano. What followed was that Muhammad Bello, then-Sultan of Sokoto, had to summon both Ibrahim Dabo and Dantunku and reconciled them and carved a territory and gave it to Dantunku and that area became the Emirate of Kazaure. A boundary was established between Danbatta and Kazaure. The other side became Danbatta under Dantunku by the right of the flag and the other side under Kano because of the right of the flag he collected. Which flag did the Emir of Rano collect? Which flag did the Emir of Gaya collect? And which flag did the Emir of Karaye collect? None! So why should they be called emirates, on whose authority?

Emirates became emirates on the authority of Sheikh Uthman Fodio. Is Sheikh Uthman Fodio around to say he gives emir to such and such? That is why I say it doesn’t tally with history and culture of the people.

Don’t you think the coming of the colonialists has relegated the institution to the point whereby the emir is under a local government authority as its position is defined by the laws of the state as the case may be? Don’t you think it is on that basis that they created the new emirates?

It is not on that basis because what the Constitution says is… I am not a lawyer but I know one of the Sections in the Constitution, I think Section 215, says any law that should be made must give respect to the tradition, history and culture of the people. Yes, local governments existed; even before the Local Governments Reform of 1976, there were local governments during the colonial period called the Native Authority, NA, which had defined powers and jurisdiction, and the colonial government never interfered with their affairs because they knew that they were based on the history and traditions of the people.

The colonialists never created new emirates. No colonial authority in northern Nigeria created new emirate. They could have destroyed some but they never created one because they realised it was dangerous. Because if you create it, one day the people of the area might say they do not belong to such area.

What is happening now in Jos is based on the history of the area. The governor is saying that there is problem. He realized that part of the reason for social crisis is that when the title of Bon Gbon Jos was created, some of the areas were not Birom and they were forced to be under Birom because the Bon Gbon is Birom. Those areas traditionally were not even part of Plateau, they were part of Bauchi. But when states were created, they were merged with Jos and when the Bon Gbon Jos was created, they were said to be part of his territory. That is why this crisis continues. Now you realize that the only thing is to divide, to give those people their historical rights which they are protesting on because they say that they must respect their history and tradition. That is Bon Gbon.

With regards to Kano, is he (Governor Ganduje) respecting the wishes and traditions of the people of Kano? The tradition of the people of Kano is that Rano, Karaye and Gaya are all parts of Kano Emirate. They remained part of Kano Emirate after the Jihad, they remained part of Kano Emirate after the coming of the colonists and they remained part of Kano Emirate even into independence and after the first democratized local government system came into force.

When former Governor Abubakar Rimi attempted to change it in the 1980s, he met a brick wall because, no sooner than another democratic government was elected than the new emirates he created were outlawed and Kano Emirate reverted to Kano Emirate.

I think a precedent was set in1980 and it backfired, so why attempt to do it again? The person doing it is now inviting chaos in Kano. Even by law, you don’t go to the court of law and get a judgment and, after 10 or 20 years you take the same case back to court. By so doing you are playing with the intelligence of the people because this is not how the law works.

 When you said Rano, Karaye were part of Kano prior to the Jihad, what we are told about the Sarkin Rano is that they said “give us Autan Bawo”. Don’t you think this showed that they were independent prior to the Jihad?

Rano, in particular, was, initially, an independent kingdom of Kano around 11th to 12th century, over 700-800 years ago. And Bagauda, the founder of the traditional institution in Kano, was said to be the senior brother of the first Sarki of Rano. In fact, they came together and conquered Kano and his brother went and established Rano. Kano started increasing in size because of its strength and the strength of its economy. It expanded and captured other areas. Rano was captured by Kano. Then it became by right of conquest a part and parcel of Kano. But then, because of its ancient tradition, the Kano royalty accepted to maintain the Rano royalty but in terms of political control, it will continue to be under Kano. So the de facto power now was given to Kano but the jury, their appointment, the local chiefs, they could continue and that was how it continued up to the time of the Jihad.

When the Jihad was conducted in Kano, in the same way the Hausa kings were removed, the Hausa rulers were removed. So Autan Bawo was only the name and he was Fulani. The basis of his authority is the Jihad. It was the Jihad that made his ancestors the rulers of Rano. Now if he is disregarding the Jihad, even his house will go because his house was a creation of the Jihad. His families were appointed by the Jihadists because of the fact that they fought the Jihad in Rano. They were Fulani, but they shouldn’t have been Fulani, they should have been Hausa. If he is saying that they want to rule because they were independent, yes they were independent as Hausa, they should then get out and the original Hausa people will be brought in. That is when we will know that the former independent rulers of Rano, even before it was conquered by Kano, are in authority, this is the picture.

Now, all of them that you are talking about, Rano, Gaya, Karaye, their leadership, the Sarakuna, are Fulani and the origin of the Fulani is the Jihad. Now they are disregarding the realities of the Jihad in saying that. What is the reality that gave them the right to be rulers if not the Jihad? They want to be accepted as rulers but they want to disregard the Jihad tradition, do you think this is plausible?

What is the position of the most talked about of the four, Bichi Emirate?

I have never mentioned Bichi because Bichi by tradition, by history, by everything has never been an emirate. It has never been a kingdom. It was just created like that. Do you think you can establish history just like that? History is established based on context, based on human activities that bring results, that is what history analyzes and says something has developed. What is it that gave the basis, the right, for Bichi to be given an emirate status? Why didn’t he give Dawakin Tofa, why couldn’t he give Danbatta for example? Why can’t he give it to Takai? Why didn’t he take it to Gwarzo, which is even more cosmopolitan?

Is it because the person that created the Bichi Emirate is from the area? You see, sometimes, one finds it difficult to understand how some policies are arrived at. Normally, policies, real policies are guided by research, by reaching out to various groups, opinion leaders, leaders of thoughts, elders of the community, contact them, you are there by their votes and not of your own volition. A person is appointed a leader in a given community, if you want to bring something that affects their lives, you have to consult them, discuss with them and come to a conclusion. But just to wake up one day and say because you are in a particular position and in a particular state, you think you have the right to do whatever you wish, this is not how things are done. Really, this thing has to be reconsidered either now or in the future.

Looking at what is happening in Kano on the creation of the four new emirates, the state government says the law has been gazetted. What is your view on the impasse?

It is not an impasse, it is an abuse of the judiciary, it is a slap in the face of Nigerian legal system. Let me ask you a question, is it not a law that established the colonial territory of Nigeria? Is Nigeria still part of the colonial territory? What happened to that law? (It is abrogated). If laws could be abrogated, why can’t this one be abrogated? Laws are made by human beings and laws are cancelled or abrogated or disregarded by human beings of a particular given area. And laws are made to serve human beings of a particular area. If the people of that particular area say they don’t like it and you insist, then we are not in a democracy. If he says nothing will happen then we are not in a democratic era. I don’t know whether it is a ‘republican dictatorship’ that we are running in Nigeria but I know Nigeria is a republican democracy. And whatever happens, when people in a democratic set up say they don’t want something, it is necessary for that leadership to look inwards and make amends where necessary.

Q: So the implication is that there is a violation of the traditional institution in Kano?

Definitely! And do you know the danger of that? The danger is that traditional institution is not in isolation of the general institution of the former Sokoto Caliphate comprising all the emirates of northern Nigeria that were once under the Sokoto Caliphate. So, if this could succeed now, tomorrow the governor of Katsina may wake up and say “I have given Mani an emirate status or Funtua an emirate status”. Or the Governor of Zamfara may wake up and say “I have given Gumi an emirate status, Anka an Emirate status” or the Governor of Sokoto may wake up and say “because I come from Tambuwal, I give Tambuwal an emirate status”. This means everything is bastardized and the moment you abuse the tradition and culture of people, what you are doing is that you are disregarding the integrity of that institution. You are throwing dust into their face. You are saying “you don’t have a tradition; you don’t have a culture”, which is not fair to the people that elected you into office. With the way you are paying them back, it is unfortunate.

Q: Apart from participation in Jihad, are there any criteria set for the creation of emirates?

A: I have not seen one and if there is one I want to be guided by the historical development of Nigeria from 1804 to date.

Let me cite one example. Some people may argue that at one time there were areas that don’t have centralized leadership but the Europeans created them, like the Igbo, like the Tiv. And I say, when they created them, did they change the territorial composition of the areas? They didn’t change them. They created the central leadership based on the territorial tradition, the people recognized those areas to be their own demarcated territories and the leader acceptable to them was brought out from amongst them. The office of the Tor Tiv was a creation of the colonialists, it was created in 1946 because the colonialists wanted to find a single person that they will hold responsible, they will hold accountable over the activities of the Tivs. They never included the territories of other ethnicities into the territory of the Tivs. They only demarcated that of the Tivs and said “now this is your territory, what we are doing is bringing out somebody to say this is your leader”.

But now people are united in their history, in their culture, in their tradition and now you are just coming to dismember their territory. What are you doing to them? You are creating disunity, you are creating avenue whereby disagreements and so many nitty-gritty of understanding and respect will give way to violence and “I belong to this and I belong to that”, and you create violence.

And let me tell you the most serious thing, this kind of thing will destroy the entire northern Nigeria. Why? Northern Nigeria is northern Nigeria because of three things just like Kano is Kano because of three things: the historical tradition of the contribution the Ulama did to the development of the political entity, the contribution of the business class to the development of the territory, and the contribution of the traditional rulers to ensuring the security and the territorial integrity of the region. Now we have allowed the scholarly tradition to give way; that is why in Kano we are in disarray such that we don’t have the recognized authoritative scholars to go back to. We have already lost the economic control because most of those who hold the economy of Kano don’t belong to Kano. And now the last institution that unites us, the only institution remaining that brings Kano people together as one, somebody is coming to destroy us, to dismember us for his interest.




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