The tragedy in Kano
The deposition from the throne on Monday last week of the 14th Fulani Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, was a tragedy from every angle we look at it. For Sanusi personally, a top-rated economist and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, it was a monumental tragedy to lose a throne that he had coveted for decades and which he obviously enjoyed. It was doubly tragic that he lost the Kano throne the same way that his grandfather, Muhammadu Sanusi I, lost it 57 years earlier, in 1963. For Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, this was also a personal and tenure tragedy that he could not have wished for. No governor in Nigeria would be happy to have such a deed as deposing a top traditional ruler as part of his record in office. The Kano State Government’s official complaint was that the former emir showed disrespect to it by ignoring many of its directives, such as the request to convene a meeting of the state’s Council of Emirs. Of course KNSG knew that Sanusi would resist that directive because it would amount to recognising the four new emirs of Bichi, Karaye, Gaya and Rano, to which he was implacably opposed.
Other directives, such as the order to post Kano’s kingmakers as district heads within the new, severely limited Kano Emirate, were seen by the former emir as provocative, as indeed they were. They were all understood within the context of the fight between the two institutions and personalities. These directives were traps deliberately set for the former emir, which he in turn willingly stepped into. Deposition of the Emir of Kano was also a tragedy for Kano Emirate and Kano State, for Northern Nigeria, for the old institution of royal fathers, for inter-institutional harmony in Nigerian governance, and for Nigeria as a whole. It is fruitless to attempt to apportion blames in this matter. The bottom line was that Ganduje and his political party, APC, were convinced that Sanusi had teamed up with their political enemies. What evidence they have, we do not really know.
Traditional rulers are a much older, more historic, more deeply rooted and, in the eyes of rural folks, more legitimate institution than modern governments. Yet, Nigeria is governed under the terms of the 1999 Constitution, which states that “all executive power of a state shall rest in the Governor.” As such, every officer of an Executive Branch in a state, and that includes traditional rulers, serves under the governor and must accept his policies and directives. The alternative is to resign from the public office. Of course governors are required to exercise their enormous powers wisely and in accordance with laws, rules and customs. Where politics comes in however, no one expects matters to be simple or straight.
An unfortunate accompaniment of deposition was the banishing of the former emir to exile in Nasarawa State. Though this has been government policy since colonial times, it was clearly incompatible with the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees every citizen’s freedom of movement. Fortunately, a High Court intervened and ensured that Sanusi was able to travel freely to Lagos. Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero has already assumed the throne as the new Emir of Kano. In the circumstances, he is a very good choice. An educated, cosmopolitan and measured son of the late Emir Ado Bayero, we expect him to restore the traditions elaborately laid down by his father in 51 years on the throne. Those traditions had their own faults but they did ensure stability in Kano for five decades and ensured that the old throne was held in deep respect in Kano and beyond.
Going forward, we urge royal fathers all over the country to do their best to avoid political affiliation or stigmatization in order to spare us from deposition tragedies. As for governors and state governments, we also urge them to be more patient with situations and to exercise their enormous powers under the Constitution with great sensitivity and regard for peace.