By Dirisu Yakubu


SANUSI. “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is strength,” slogans of Orwellian fictional Inner Party in Nineteen Eighty Four

His is a classical instance of a privileged upbringing. Born into royalty, he attended some of the best schools and became an advocate of social justice, democracy and good governance.

Blessed with an uncanny brilliance and a tongue sharper than any two-edged sword; it was always easier for him to wow his audience anytime he mounted the podium to bare his mind on the ills plaguing the nation, particularly the north where a few years ago, he realized his childhood dream following his appointment as the 14th Emir of Kano.

Welcome to the world of Muhammadu Sanusi II, the recently dethroned and banished first-class traditional ruler, described by many as a man of deep convictions.

READ ALSO:Sanusi leads Friday prayer in exile, calls for obedience to God

Sanusi, a descendant of Uthman Dan Fodio, the legendary Islamic scholar and hero of the Jihad that culminated in the spread of Islam in Northern Nigeria in the 18th century, was educated in Lagos and Zaria. Lagos brought him face to face with other privileged Nigerian kids Kings College and at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he obtained first and second degrees in Economics; Sanusi made friends of Muslims and Christians alike; a friendship that was later nurtured and sustained into adulthood.

Sanusi made a name for himself when as governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank; he exposed weak corporate governance and insider abuses involving top executives of the leading Deposit Money Banks in the country.

These Managing Directors, many of whom lived flamboyant lifestyles were merely feeding fat on customers’ deposits, Sanusi declared and moved on to enthrone a governance system with an emphasis on risk management, transparency and accountability. He didn’t stay for as long as expected following his suspension and eventual removal from office in 2014.

There was no time to mourn the pain of such a huge loss as Sanusi in a dramatic twist was appointed Emir of Kano by the then Kano state governor, Engineer Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso. However, not a few wondered what a man of his intellect and outspokenness had to do with a traditional stool that was fated to see him playing less to the gallery.

To this school of thought, Sanusi was the sort of man serious nations deploy in their armoury to drive the development process and not as heavily-decked traditional ruler receiving guests and addressing his subjects only when necessary.  As it turned out, the stool earlier sat upon by his own grandfather, Muhammadu Sanusi I, was an age-long ambition for the financial wizard.

He didn’t mount the saddle for long before his sharp tongue tore at everything he believed was hindering development in the country, particularly the north. For him, the poor conditions under which the majority of the people in the north live bear no proportional relationship to the resources available to the governors of the region.

It was a measure of his generous spirit that at every forum he was privileged to speak, he carpeted northern state leaders for doing little to champion the cause of education like their southern counterparts. His utterances, cracking like snaps of a whip, soon unsettled powerful forces who found in the royal father, a force too educated and sophisticated to tame.

Sanusi spoke against polygamy not backed with sufficient financial resources to nurse and openly charged Muslims to do away with the idea of fathering children they could not afford to train. The plum and highly revered stool in the reckoning of Sanusi made him a guardian of truth and sanity in a world of lies.

In the past few years, Kano state governors, including Musa Kwankwaso kicked off the practice of settling marriage bills for intending couples; a tradition sustained by the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje. Sanusi would have none of this as he, times and again, labelled such practices ill-suited for the era we live in.

A degree holder in Sharia and Islamic Studies from the International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan; the former Emir laid claim to superior knowledge to fault such ills as wife battering, public perception of polygamy, street begging, out of school children, bogus earnings by politicians, particularly federal legislators, schools in place of building new mosques amongst others.

This position, and the bad blood between him and Ganduje, many argued, played a huge role in his eventual dethronement by the Governor earlier in the week. Those who wanted him kicked out saw in him a primal traitor and defiler of their cultural heritage and traditions. Aware of this position, he soldiered on, knowing that the duel was not for the faint-hearted.

Prior to his dethronement and banishment from the land of his ancestors, Sanusi had had quite a bit of torrid relationship with the Kano state government. He spoke truth to power and rattled powerful influential figures with his public condemnation of their actions. As a result, bookmakers predicted short stewardship on the stool, a prediction that came to pass on Monday.

Centuries ago, English writer and essayist, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) inked that “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

Did the royal father know his time wasn’t for the long-term as Johnson pointed out years ago? Representing her father in Abuja at the first annual Chibok Girls lecture in 2017, Shahida, daughter of the deposed Emir gave the world what has turned out to be prophetic.

She had said of the former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN governor: “My father is not afraid of giving up his throne if it stands in the way of speaking the truth. Those who think that my father would keep quiet because he wants to hold on to his throne, I think they don’t know my father.

“I know that he has always wanted to be the Emir of Kano but to him, if it comes between what is right, what his conscience tells him and choosing the throne, he would happily give up the throne. My father has always been a part of one controversy or the other and it’s normal for us. We are not scared anymore.

“And honestly, he has been a source of inspiration and pride. He never fails to fight. He fights for progress, liberty, justice and equality. Those who think they know my father should know that he will never be silenced by blackmail and intimidation. He lost his position once as the governor of CBN and I remember his quote that you can suspend a man but you can never suspend the truth. I know he does not mind being the most unpopular Emir so long he speaks the truth.”

He may have lost the stool after only about six years in the saddle but the manner he was banished and taken to the rural community of Awe in Nasarawa state has elicited condemnation in some quarters.

Speaking exclusively to Saturday Vanguard, former Deputy National Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Isa Tijjani noted that banishment, as it were, was an old practice that is no longer tenable in today’s Nigeria.

He said: “What they are clinging on to is the archaic law of the British colonial times when they (the British) feared rebellion as a result of their actions. Since then, it has remained a tool of intimidation and harassment.

“The governor said he deposed the Emir because he criticized him in the public. Uthman Dan Fodio to which both of them lay claim as Fulani used the same method. He criticized the Hausa Habe rulers, swaying and sending messages to the public to galvanize support which later became Jihad. So what has Sanusi done wrong?”

Tijjani who hails from Kano expressed fear of the unknown given the manner Governor Ganduje dispensed with the Emir with the little or no check on his powers.

“If care is not taken, corrupt governors will appoint and sack Emirs at will or come along with their Emirs on the assumption of office,” he continued even as he chided President Muhammadu Buhari for allegedly playing a role in Emir Sanusi’s ouster.

“The complicity of the President in this matter is too glaring for the discerning mind. When Ganduje led Kano citizens to the President, Emir Sanusi was visibly absent even though he was the chairman of the Council of Chiefs. Nobody heard the President ask of his whereabouts even if sarcastically.

“Mr President as the chief crusader of the fight against corruption found nothing wrong with the alleged stuffing of dollars. Let us agree that he cannot be prosecuted before a court of law for the sake of immunity but does that stop investigation to confirm the veracity or otherwise of the claim,” he queried.

Hero in Exile

Eminent Nigerians greeted Sanusi’s dethronement with an expression of shock and disbelief. Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo and elder statesman, Baba Ahmed Joda, have separately written to Sanusi, urging him to brace up to seek the restoration of his breached fundamental human rights in a court of law.

On his part, Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai appointed the deposed Emir as Vice Chairman of the Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency, KADIPA, and followed it up less than 24 hours later with the chancellorship of the Kaduna State University, KASU.

As it is in this part of the world, there are murmurings already that influential Nigerians are working at a strategy that would see Sanusi run either for the Presidency of the country in 2023 or at least as a running mate on the platform of a yet to be identified political party.

Top quotes by Emir Sanusi

View of polygamy

“If it’s religious law, it’s a religious law. I get a lot of comments from the west on polygamy. But let me give you a different perspective. In Britain today, you can have relationships with any number of women. You can have six partners. If they agree and you’re not forcing them, you are not committing any offence. But if you decided to marry them, you’d go to jail. I don’t understand that. If a society does not criminalize adultery, it has no business criminalizing polygamy,” 24 January 2020 at the maiden convocation of the federal university, Gusau, Zamfara state.

Abuse of polygamy

“It’s a total misconception of Islamic law for people to think that you have the right to marry more than one wife and not be able to maintain them. It’s not a blank cheque. You can’t just produce children and leave them on the streets begging and out of school,” 24 January at the maiden convocation of the federal university, Gusau, Zamfara state.

Drug Problem in Northern Nigeria

“We have youth bulge and youth unemployment. We have a drug problem. And it’s all come from, I think, a collapse of family values,” 18 February 2020 in Kaduna during the 60th birthday celebration of Governor Nasir El-Rufai

Salary cut for legislators

”If the salary of each member of the National Assembly was divided into two, it would go a long way to provide more jobs for 70,400 jobless Nigerians at between N90, 000 and N92, 500 monthly salaries.

”Where is the change? Change should start with the National Assembly. A senator receives N36 million monthly. If this is divided into two, it comes to N18 million. The second half of N18 million can be used to create jobs for 200 Nigerians, each earning N90, 000 monthly. When you multiply 200 people by 109 senators, this will give 21,800 Nigerians gainful employment. In short, 200 Nigerians will be able to live a comfortable life on half a senator’s monthly salary.

Nigeria has 360 members in the House of Representatives. Half of their salaries can employ 48,600 Nigerians who can live comfortably.

“So, the Buhari Administration can employ 70,400 Nigerians with monthly salaries ranging from N90, 000 to N92, 500. This is just by dividing the salaries of senators and representatives,” 12 February 2018 in a statement addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari.

On whether he would join politics

“I am not ready, I don’t want it and I’m not interested (in politics). I feel that if I go into politics, it would destroy everything I have done. I cannot survive for one year in that space. I think it takes a particular type of skill to be a politician and I don’t have those skills,” Sanusi in an interview with the BBC (Hardtalk) November 2013

The Nigeria conundrum

“I have always said it. The problem with this country is that we are in a country where we import what we have and we export what we don’t have. It is only in Nigeria we do that. We have cotton, but we will not process it to make cloth, except we go to China to buy clothes. We have crude oil, but you cannot go to the filling station and get fuel in Nigeria except we take our crude to England and go there to buy refined products. We have gas, but we are always flaring it into the air,” Emir Sanusi speaking in Kaduna at the commissioning of the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, KADCCIMA, 5 April 2017

Build schools not mosques

“I’m just tired of people coming to me to say I want to build a new mosque. You know, we keep building mosques and our daughters are illiterate. So, my appeal is that if you really want to help Kano, don’t come to me with a request to build a N300 million mosque because I have enough mosques everywhere. And if I don’t have a mosque,

I’ll build it myself. If you really want to help, go and educate a girl child in the village. It is not a mere coincidence that this is where you have the highest levels of illiteracy, early marriage, divorce and the highest levels of domestic violence,” Emir Sanusi at a financial conference in Kano, 19 January 2017.

On meaningless projects

“We have governors, they go to China and spend one month on a tour and what do they come back with, MoU on debts. China will lend you $1.8bn to build light rail. This light rail will be done by rail workers from China. The trains will come from China. The engines will come from China. Labour comes from China. The driver is Chinese.

“At the end of the day, what do you benefit from it? Your citizen will ride on a train and when you ride on a train, in northern Nigeria, in a state like Kano or Katsina, where are you going to? You are not going to an industrial estate to work. You are not going to school?

You are not going to the farm. You borrow money from China to invest in trains so that your citizens can ride on them and go for weddings and naming ceremonies,” Emir Sanusi in Kaduna criticizing Governor Abdullahi Ganduje for taking a $2 billion loan from China to build light rail, 5th April 2017.

Early marriage

“People need to understand that the law has to change. If you look at the medical data on maternal health, girls who get pregnant below the age of 15 are five times as likely to die as girls who get pregnant at the age of 20. Those who get pregnant under 18 are twice as likely to die as those who get pregnant at the age of 20.

If you look at the statistics, 48 per cent of girls from the age of 15 to 19 in north-western Nigeria are married, but that’s not all. 75 per cent of these girls cannot read and write. Imagine what society we are creating,” Emir Sanusi at a workshop organized by the Northern Islamic Forum in Kano, 23 May 2016.

Poor men should not marry more than one wife

“We have all seen the economic consequences of men who are not capable of maintaining one wife marrying four, producing 20 children, not educating them, leaving them on the streets to end up as thugs and terrorists,” 24 January at the maiden convocation of the federal university, Gusau, Zamfara state.

Beat up your wives, lose your titles

“You should all come back to your senses and stop these barbaric acts because we will not allow this to continue in Kano. I have warned all district heads, village heads, ward heads and Imams to also desist from the bad habit of beating their wives and whoever among them is reported to me to have beaten up his wife, would lose his title outright,” Emir Sanusi at the mass wedding of 1,520 couples sponsored by the Kano state government, February 2017.

On birth control and family planning

“The age at which girls get out of school and marry, the number of children that they have; having babies every year. The number of wives people marry when they cannot maintain them and their children- these subjects have been tabooed, but we cannot fix the north and get investments into the north until we confront these subjects,” Emir Sanusi at the opening of the 108th edition of the Islamic Vacation Centre, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, 26 December 2019.

Northern Nigeria much change its perception of Islam

“We need to understand the roots of the problem of northern Nigeria. Burning books, it happened in Kano, what is the crime of those books? They were writing about (love), and love apparently is supposed to be a bad word?
“In a society where you don’t love your women and you don’t love your children, you allow them to beg, you beat up your women, why should anyone talk about love?

“We have adopted an interpretation of our culture and our religion that is rooted in the 13th-century mindset that refuses to recognize that the rest of the world has moved on, “ Emir Sanusi in Kano, 2017.

We can’t afford to be happy

“If the north does not change and tackle some of these social problems, it will destroy itself. When we talk about the birthday, we talk about happiness. Just last week, someone asked me, ‘are you happy?’ And I said, ‘I am not.’ And the person was surprised. Nobody who is a leader in northern Nigeria today can afford to be happy.

You cannot be happy with about 87 per cent of poverty in Nigeria being in the north. You can’t be happy with millions of Northern children out of school. You can’t be happy with nine states in the North contributing almost 50 per cent of the entire malnutrition burden in the country.

You can’t be happy with the drug problem; you can’t be happy with the Boko Haram problem. You can’t be happy with political thuggery. You can’t be happy with all the issues, the almajiri problem that we have. We have been saying this for 20 to 30 years. If the north does not change, the north will destroy itself,” Sanusi in Kaduna, February 2020 at the celebration of the 60th birthday of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai

Quota system must go

“The country is moving on. The quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause. We wish Nasir a happy birthday, but we do not want him to be happy as a leader. Because you are happy when you think you have reached a state of delivering and taking your people to where you want them to be,” Sanusi in Kaduna, February 2020

The change we need

“The real change in the north will come from those who are considered mad(radical) people because when you look around and say, ‘if this is the way people have been doing things, and this is where they have ended up, maybe there is the need to do things differently,” Kaduna, February 2020.


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