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The dethronement of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi


In any controversy that Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS) is at the centre there can be no sitting on the fence. You would either be for him or against him. Those for him love him passionately and those against fiercely. It is a mark of greatness. All who stand for something attract deep affection from some and at the same time exceeding hate from the others. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi always has strong views on issues. He does not have to be right; sometimes, there is a display of misguided patriotism; sometimes you wish for a touch of higher degree of maturity and a display of sensitivity in some of his actions and pronouncements, but you can trust he will take a stand. He is, therefore, seen as a rebel in the garb of conservatism. It is the fears of the revolutionary garb that have dogged his ascension and tenure as the Emir of Kano. In his kingdom he is seen as a thorn in the flesh of conservatives who are in slumber and red-blooded elite circles, and outside the kingdom a monarch with an air of royal arrogance clutching some unguided missiles. It could not have come as a surprise that his dethronement has dominated headlines in both print and digital media. Step forward His Majesty, Muhammad Sanusi 11 and take a bow.

Lamido Sanusi is more of a Lagos boy. He started out in his impressionable years at King’s College that could rightly be described as a mini Nigeria. He met compatriots, mixed freely, made everlasting friends. The experiences helped him to form his views about liberalism, without losing grip of his roots. When he travels he does so with his eyes open. This has made him come to the conclusion that education is the catalyst for development and a gateway to yet other levels of education, education that opens the book to knowledge, and knowledge that leads to refinement. It does away with anachronism. It is in getting his people to throw out of the window hampering anachronistic tendencies that has pitted Sanusi 11 against the Northern Establishment. His downfall from the exalted Kano throne, temporary or permanent, will be seen by a great many as a clash of entrenched retrogressive culture and reformation. One man, commenting on the Almajiris phenomenon, for example, vigorously defended what he called the culture of the North. “How do you throw away your culture?” He asked. “Reform, yes, but should not be thrown away,” he said. That is what Lamido is seeking to throw away. The commentator referred to can certainly not be said to have any of his children in the burgeoning community of Almajiris.


Two weeks ago, Emir Muhammad Sanusi 11 armed with his missiles showed up in Kaduna, the erstwhile seat of what used to be Kaduna Mafia in the days of Yakubu Gowon and Olusegun Obasanjo, a powerful gathering of the Northern Elite drawn from professionals but largely from the rank of senior federal permanent secretaries. That body is more known today as Arewa Consultative Forum after Ibrahim Babangida moved the federal capital to Abuja in 1991. This time the gathering was to celebrate the 60thbirthday of Nasir el-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State. The event had in attendance prominent Emirs like Sanusi himself and several other members of the Northern Establishment, and naturally his brother governors from several parts of the country. It was the occasion Emir Sanusi 11 decided to throw his arrows to make the right impact in the quiet bid  to fight feudalism. It was like taking the war to the camp of the “enemies” who had caged his people. From then any discerning person would know the Northern Establishment would fight back. Hear what Sanusi had said in Kaduna:

“The truth is nobody who is leader in northern Nigeria today can afford to be happy with 87 percent 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 percent of the entire malnutrition burden in the country.’’

He spoke on the sore issue that has been a divisive factor in the country which has been spoken about openly and in closets by other parts of the country, but by which the core Northern Establishment was unmoved: The repugnant quota system. Said Emir Sanusi: “If the North does not change, the North will destroy itself. The country is moving on. The quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause.

“As we celebrate Nasir at 60 we need to celebrate him as a public officer who is addressing the core problems of his constituency. It is education; it is child begging, parental irresponsibility, demographic growth…You need not come from the North or being a Muslim to get a job. You come with your credentials, your competence.”

He spoke about overbreeding in the North which does not take account of the capacity of the parents to look after them. Such children populate the Almajiri system. He also touched on drug abuse among the Northern youths, and the lingering Boko Haram insurgency war.

It was Emir Muhammad Sanusi’s second bombshell in Kaduna, again invited by Mr. el-Rufai on the occasion of the state’s economic and investment summit. He accused states of misplaced priority. The innuendo was unmistakable. He was referring to the Northern states. It was on the same occasion he accused people marrying more wives than they can cater for with their offspring swelling the ranks of Almajiris who account for more than 70 percent of Nigeria’s 13 million out of school children.


His home government tried to shut him up and cut him to size, accusing him of blasphemy and misinterpreting the Qur’an. The state government tried to whittle down his influence by creating new emirates where in some cases District Heads used to be. The final straw, therefore, would seem to be the dethronement as Emir of Kano. The government is in error. The government appears to be oblivious of the fact that it is dealing with an educated, exposed and highly informed public figure. He has a rich library. He has at his fingerprints indices of economic direction around the world every split second. He is the twin brother of Peter Obi, erstwhile Governor of Anambra State and a banker like him. Call up Peter Obi any time he would tell you the stock position in Texas or in Beijing even in the face of COVID-19 ravaging the country in these times. Whether in the cage or out of it Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Muhammad Sanusi 11 will always be Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.

Governor el- Rufai obviously considers the action of the Kano State Administration deposing the Emir a slap on his face. Within 24 hours he has offered two appointments to Muhammad Sanusi 11.  He has been appointed onto the Board of Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency which is hoping to tap into what the governor calls “his solid reputation in global financial circles.” A government statement quotes Malam Nasir el-Rufai as saying: “Kaduna State is honoured to be able to call on the services of a man of such caliber to drive its development.” He has also been appointed chancellor of Kaduna State University, succeeding pioneer Chancellor Tagwa Sambo, the Chief of Moro’a. Malam el-Rufai said of the appointment: “In public life, His Highness has demonstrated a strong commitment to education. Kaduna State Government has no doubt that as Chancellor, His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi would provide symbolic and substantive leadership in raising the profile of KASU as an emerging centre of learning on the national and global leve…Kaduna State Government is grateful that HH Muhammadu Sanusi 11 continues to support and assist the realization of the governance objectives of the Kaduna State Government.”

There is also an international appointment from the United Nations. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has named him and 16 other influential figures around the globe as Sustainable Development Goals Advocates “to push the agenda of the global development to a new height.” The appointment has Mr. Nana Ado Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana; Ema Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway as co-chairmen of the committee. And from Graca Machel, founder of Graca Machel Trust and Foundation for Community came a message of solidarity.


The message reads in part: “Your highness, we hold you in very high regard, and count on your knowledge, expertise, experience and wisdom to continue to lift the continent to higher heights. We proudly count you among the Grace Machel Trust’s International Board of advisors and stand with you in your courageous efforts to speak truth to power. We are here for you should you feel there is something we can do to assist during the challenging time.”

The Kano State government accused the Emir of insubordination, the same transgression that was levied against him by the Jonathan Administration. Jonathan was right given the recklessness in the claim that $20million revenue could not be accounted for by the NNPC. In the end this could not be proven. He also had a brush with the National Assembly.

It would appear Muhammad Sanusi 11 has not come to terms with the doctrine of Magna Carta and years later with constitutional development engendered with ascension of William of Orange in 1668 after James 11 was deposed. A new Bill of Rights and a constitutional agreement was passed which firmly put power in the elected representatives of the people. Since 1689 British monarch has been a constitutional head but does not rule, although it could occasionally veto bills. It was barred from raising taxes, dismiss parliament and forge foreign policy. Since 1911, the monarch cannot intervene in parliamentary debate. It can only be briefed and it can deliver Speech from the Throne and invite the Prime Minister to assume office. The British are content with the monarch setting the tone for public life and being the symbol of the British life with dignified carriage. From his carriage, Emir Sanusi would have been too delighted that we have such an arrangement, to be the symbol of his people and open parliament and sign bills into law.


The Emir is at home in the gathering of youths. I recall his speech at the launch of a book by Sir Olaniwun Ajayi in 2009 when he called out to the youths: “My grandfather was a Northerner, I am a Nigerian. The problem with this country is that in 2009, we speak in the language of 1953. Sir Olaniwun can be forgiven for the way he spoke, but I cannot forgive people of my generation speaking in that language.” He added: “Tell me how many governors has South West produced after Awolowo that are role models of leadership? How many governors has the East produced like Nnamdi Azikiwe that can be role models of leadership? There are only two major tribes in Nigeria. The Elites and the Masses. Once you make lots of money you belong to the Elite tribe. …youths are the worst victims of power play; they kill one another, call one another tribes, unprintable names, do terrible things and sometimes even lose their lives, thinking they are fighting for their rights, not knowing they are fighting for the personal welfare of someone whose children are probably safe in America or London…So youths, don’t hope on government. If you don’t have a job, create one. There is abject poverty in the South as well as the North. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it well and never remain idle. Think clearly and deeply and you will realise that empowering yourself is the best course of action, not fighting each other.

“Youths shine your eyes! Don’t always fall for these tribal, religious sentiments over and over again. Nigeria is bigger than these corrupt elites. They are the problem, not the poor masses.”


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