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Kano and conundrum of reviewing Emir Sanusi’s sack

By Murtala Adewale, Kano
07 May 2023   |   4:00 am
Unless good effort is made to prevent the eventuality, the incoming government of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in Kano State will revisit the instrument deployed by the outgoing government of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to dethrone the 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.


Unless good effort is made to prevent the eventuality, the incoming government of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in Kano State will revisit the instrument deployed by the outgoing government of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to dethrone the 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.

The presidential candidate of the NNPP and leader of Kwankwasiyya political dynasty, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, speaking recently at a public event in Cameroun, hinted of the intention of the incoming government to review the sack of Sanusi, apparently to rubbish Ganduje’s decision.

Since the utterance was made, the ancient city has been gripped by an uneasy calm and anxiety over the implication of such action and a possible reversal. Should a reversal come to pass, Sanusi II, would have set a new record in the anal of the traditional institution in Kano and perhaps in Northern Nigeria, by becoming the first emir to reclaim his crown after his primacy was deliberately reduced by ‘political power.’

Although, the Court of Appeal, Sokoto division struck out a similar case of dethronement and ordered the reinstatement of the Emir of Gwandu, Kebbi State, Mustapha Haruna Jokolo, the litigation is pending for final verdict at the Supreme Court since the first class monarch was deposed by Adamu Aliero in 2005.

The former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was appointed to the throne by Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso during his second tenure as Governor, to succeed his late grand uncle Alhaji Ado Bayero on June 8, 2014.

For those against his appointment, Sanusi was considered and supported by the then opposition party who tactically shielded him amidst an unresolved $20 billion oil theft he unraveled under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

Ganduje, however, dethroned Sanusi in 2020 for alleged undue interference and criticism of government activities, as well as performing an act of insubordination to constituted authority.

After his uncelebrated deposition, Ganduje banished the first class Emir to Loko village, a sleeping community in Nassarawa state as part of traditional deterrent. Although, Sanusi subsequently challenged his banishment and secured court judgment that quashed Kano State government’s action, the deposed Emir had relocated to Lagos where he later settled with his family.

How Sanusi, Ganduje Fell Apart
SANUSI who enjoyed unparalleled solidarity and support of Kwankwaso’s administration, fell apart with Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in 2017 over political issues and comments on Ganduje’s style of government.

For instance, Sanusi had severally kicked over Ganduje’s plan to borrow $1.85 billion from the Chinese government for construction of light rail project in Kano. For Ganduje, the intercity rail transit project was intended to reduce transportation bottlenecks and enhance social economic wellbeing of the state.

On the contrary, Sanusi viewed the whole idea as another white elephant project that would unnecessarily plunge Kano into liability and mortgage that future generations of Kano indigenes would not be able to settle.


Again, Ganduje accused Sanusi of conniving with the opposition party and essentially instigating the masses against his re-election in 2019. Although, the Emir was quoted on several occasions, asking people to vote credible candidates based on their conviction of the best option among candidates, there was no viable evidence made public where the emir openly canvassed votes for the opposition.

Soon as Ganduje returned elected in 2019, Sanusi was swamped with baggages of allegations, including financial misappropriation and illegal acquisition of landed property by the state Anti-corruption Commission, ostensibly orchestrated by Ganduje as pay back.

First was the allegation of N3.4 billion financial misappropriation charged against him. He was accused of reckless spending of public funds on private affairs including lavish spending on charted flight, purchase of CCTV camera, luxury cars and other material things. He was later queried over alleged illegal disposal of emirate landed property worth hundreds of millions of naira.

Perhaps, Sanusi was aware of Ganduje’s move to boot him out of the palace, but the monarch had strong determination to remain steadfast in the face of trial. Shahida Sanusi, one of the daughters of the dethroned emir, unveiled what perhaps was in the wind.


Shahida, who spoke at a public event in Abuja where she represented her father on April 14, 2017, made bold to say, “My father is not afraid to give up the throne for the truth.”

Traditional Institution And Government In Northern Nigeria
BEFORE the invasion of colonial masters in Nigeria, the system of traditional rulership was fully in charge of public, sociocultural and religious affairs of the native people in the North.

The 1804 Jihad war of Usman Danfodio, which conquered mass majority of Northern region, except the Kanuri territory in old Borno State, gave birth to the monarch leadership institution in the region.

After the invasion, Danfodio superimposed the conquered territories and installed his sons and cronies as emirs (Leaders) who carried out his dictates and presided over the affairs of the natives. That traditional institution survived maximum dominance until the white colonisation interjected with another style of enslavement hence the introduction of indirect rule.

Due to the conservative nature of the Northern region, the whites, through the indirect rule, used the traditional rulers to directly preside over the affairs of the people.

The fight for Independence and national sovereignty later gathered momentum, but the white again created a divisive system of native authority to coexist as subordinate with the parliamentary leaders.

However, the system could not see the light of the day as the then premier of Northern Nigeria, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello entrenched maximum republic powers to put the traditional rulers at far distance.

Although, the Native Authorities attempted to challenge the civil authorities because of their strong eminence and influence coupled with their wealth, the late Sardauna did not hesitate to wade the full parliamentary power on them. That was what led to the deposition of emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi I, the grandfather of the 14th emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, in 1963.

According to Dr. Samaila Suleiman of Department of History, Bayero University, Kano, the abolition of Native Authority by government has invariably reduced the power and respect of the traditional rulers while the preservation of cultural norms, which are basic responsibility of the emirs have become almost irrelevant because of government’s undue interference.

“The chieftaincy institutions commanded so much respect in pre-colonial era Kano. Then, the emirates had absolute executive, legislative and judicial powers. But the advent of colonialism usurped these powers although the emirs continued to enjoy some authority under the Native Authority system.

“However, the abolition of the native authority system rendered the emirs constitutionally powerless, without any executive function. The emirates, particularly Kano Emirate still exercises considerable cultural and moral command amongst the people.”

Intrigues Of Ganduje’s New Emirates And Political Interest
ALTHOUGH, Ganduje finally achieved the sacking Sanusi after six years on the throne and subsequently created additional emirates with first class chiefs with equal powers and privilege as Emir of Kano, the action triggered criticisms with respect to the motive.

The critics reminded of similar action by the late former Governor of Kano Alh. Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi, who equally balkanized the emirate into five during his 1979 and 1983 administration. The controversial establishment could not live longer days before his successor late Alh. Sabo Bakinso reversed the action considered ill and politically motivated.

A cross section of Ganduje’s critics had opined that the Governor had rather settled his differences with Sanusi without transferring same aggression to the entire traditional institution. Those agitating against Ganduje’s creation of additional emirates had warned that such strange action could lead to counter alterations in the future.

A renowned author and researcher, Malam Ibrahim Ado Kurawa insisted that Governor Ganduje lackedthe legal authority and people’s mandate to create new emirates.

Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso

Kurawa who attributed the origin of emirate in Northern Nigeria to Jihad conquest by Danfodio wonder how Ganduje allegedly destroyed over 1,000-year heritage of our forefathers with formation of emirates, which has not historical reference.

Besides, Kurawa faulted the new emirate Act passed into law by Kano state assembly for creating avenue where public funds would be used to manage selected families in the state. Kurawa said the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria assumes all citizens as equal and equally entitled to public office and resources.

He accused Ganduje of creating an Act that allocated a particular family and of political interest as sole heir to the new emirates created, insisting that the governor got it wrong because no public appointment is reserved for a particular segment in the society.

Implication Of Reversal Of Ganduje’s Sacking Of Sanusi 
Tongues have continued to wag since the pronouncement of Kwankwaso who declared that the incoming government will surely revisit Sanusi’s dethronement. However, there is anxiety on the possible consequence and larger implication such reversal will further cause to traditional leaders in Northern Nigeria.

A Kano-based civil right activist Ambassador, Ibrahim Waiya, who expressed dissatisfaction over Sanusi’s removal, however warned that returning the deposed emir might generate unforeseen circumstances. Waiya advised the incoming governor to consult widely on the merit and demerit before taking action that may further worsen the situation.

“In my opinion, I think the incoming government should rather think about an option that would be less complicated before taking action because, whatever decision it takes, a segment of the society will still be affected. So it’s a critical circumstance that will need caution.

“The outgoing APC government has done enough damage to the traditional institution, and any attempt put in place to heal the wound may still affect negatively another set of people. They should consult widely,” Waiya counseled.

Another public analyst, Dr. Saidu Dokawa of department of political science, Bayero University, expressed the belief that if the incoming government eventually revisits and restores Sanusi, a possible instability could arise.

“Don’t forget the people already occupying the seat of the new emirates have people and followers who would not want anything to happen to their Emirates. On the other hand too, there is tendency of legal battle challenging each other. So, both parties need to be conscious of their actions.”

But for Ibrahim Ado Kurawa, Ganduje’s sacking of Sanusi and subsequent creation of additional emirates would always create room for undue meddling of government in emirate affairs. Kurawa, who argued that culture and tradition are sources of philosophy of jurisprudence, which require no law to regulate, insisted Ganduje was wrong to tamper with Kano emirate council in the first place.

“For me, Ganduje was wrong to sack Sanusi in the first place. He worsened things with the establishment of new emirates. You don’t tamper with people’s way of life. Culture and tradition of people are there ways of life; regulating it amounts to violation of their natural right,” he said.