By Dr. Ugoji Ebujo
Emir Sanusi has been dethroned. He lasted six years. Sanusi enthronement sparked hopes. The north had been in cultural handcuffs, detained in illiteracy. The handcuffs had to be unlocked from within. It had seemed that a high profile social activist as emir could hold the key. But many feared for Sanusi. Sanusi was loudmouthed. Where would he find tact? To survive, he had to stay within the bounds of the throne and let many sleeping political dogs lie.
Sanusi became emir and remained a social crusader. He sat on the throne flamboyantly and told the north hard truths coldly.
The north was breeding uncontrollably. Population explosion could leave more human rubble than Boko Haram. Sanusi told the north to check polygamy. That sounded heretical. He told the north to zip up. These messages irritated many.
The north had been told in the past that its strength lay in its numbers. Teaching the north to control population seemed politically naive. Sanusi told the north that its millions of unhealthy illiterate children would destroy it. Some said he had made public humiliation of the north his pastime.
Sanusi painted pictures no southerner could have painted without being branded a bigot.
Sanusi told the north that it had become an eyesore. He wanted to push the north into a much needed sober reflection. He said the north was so backward, so developmentally shabby, it didn’t look the part of the same country with the south. That was a damning but honest picture. Many northern political leaders had created a bubble in which the north ensconced itself, with pride. Sanusi wanted to burst the bubbles with pins of truths.
The school enrollment figures in the north look like data from Somalia and Afghanistan. The north has the highest number of out of school children per 1000 in the world. The north has the highest number of malnourished children in the world. Yet, northern politicians march around the universe in bloated babanriga, smiling like astute politicians.
Nigeria is called the poverty capital of the world. That trophy was won by the own goals scored by the north. Our infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are abysmal, Congo standard. And they are abysmal because health care is largely non-existent for millions of ordinary folks in the north.
Sanusi looked at the north and felt ashamed. The truth is, lack of sense of shame afflicts all political leaders in the country—north and south. But the state of the north is particularly atrocious. So lack of sense of shame in political leaders in states where less than 50 graduate from universities in a year is criminal!
The north is filled with natural resources and youth, yet, the north is starkly wretched. Sanusi told the north that its fortunes won’t change until it prioritized girl-child education. Sanusi ruffled conservative feathers. But many of these feathers actually need to be pruned, not just ruffled.
If all emirs in the north spoke the truth like Sanusi the north would be a better place. The north is a pile of illiteracy and joblessness. The emirs sit on it, ride Bentleys and enjoy the worship of their benighted subjects.
The leaders of the north know the north is in peril. I don’t mean banditry and Boko Haram. Those are bad tumours. But they can be cut off or irradiated. I mean the steady production of unhealthy illiterate children who will have no jobs. This is suicide.
The leaders of the north won’t talk about the population explosion. They won’t do anything about it. They have other priorities. They do not seem bothered by youth unemployment. They aren’t bothered by children roaming the streets during school hours. They are not bothered by the fact that a state like Zamfara registered fewer students for the National Common Entrance in 2018 than one school in Delta State.
The ordinary child in Yobe is strong and intelligent. He needs a good education, good health care, security, job opportunities. But he is unlikely to have these basic things if he is the 40th child of an old farmer in a village that has one dilapidated school with no teachers, in a state where the governor lives in, and rules from, Abuja.
Sanusi told the truth. Many of the politicians in the north do not care about the plight of the poor. They are a special breed of rent-seekers. They dwell on cornering federal appointments for their cronies; calculating the detention of the presidency in the region in 2023; worrying about census figures; fighting for the retention of the Quota system and federal character till eternity; quarrelling about the right of way for cattle in 2020.
Quota system and federal character have outlived their usefulness. 60 years after independence, the impression the quota system creates is that some persons can’t compete with others mentally. And that impression has helped foster negative stereotypes about the ability of the average northerner in the south. The northern youth is intelligent. What she needs is good schools and teachers. But northern politicians want the retention of the quota system which compensates indolence. Sanusi told the north the truth, quota system and federal character can’t endure. They are unjust in 2020.
Sanusi’s problem wasn’t always his forthrightness and tactlessness. Sanusi was a bundle of contradictions. He struggled to lead the lifestyle he preached. He played to the gallery. So while many saw him as a crusader, others saw a hypocrite, and others called him a charlatan.
While crusading about the empowerment of the girl child, he married an 18-year-old as fourth wife. He acted well within his rights. But a crusader championing the empowerment of the girl child in a region ravaged by child marriages ought to be a better example.
As Emir he rode Rolls-Royces and Bentleys while preaching against profligacy. He was neither deterred by his sermons nor by the millions of hungry Almajiri children that roam the streets of Kano.
Governor Ganduje wasn’t happy the Emir criticized him and his policy priorities in public. He said he didn’t dethrone Sanusi because he told the truth. Ganduje said the Emir abused the office of Emir by engaging in partisan politics. Sanusi denied the charge. Sanusi said he didn’t help his cousin who had sought to unseat Ganduje in 2019.
He didn’t get along with President Jonathan. He had frictions with Gov Kwankwaso. He didn’t get along with Gov Ganduje. It could be his ego. It could be his loquaciousness. It could be his sense of social justice. It could be a rotten system.
The Emir has been dethroned. His weaknesses aside, the north needs more emirs like Sanusi.