By Luqman Saka
For the few privileged born into nobility whether as sons and/or daughters of Kings, Obas, Obis, Emirs and/or other traditional authorities, ascending the thrones of their forefathers holds a special allure; and could be a lifetime ambition.
Indeed, the throne and the aura that surrounds it can be said to possess certain spirit (in the literal sense) that pulls sons of nobility and propel them to do all that it takes towards fulfilling the urge of ascension. This might not seem rational for those not born into nobility.
Thus, the need to explain why a cerebral, vocal, astute and reformist personality former Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi would covet the position of the Emir of Kano whereas he could have pursued a career in politics. This lack of rational explanation is manifested in the age long contention between tradition and modernity. Thus, it is an exercise in futility to engage in rational explanation on SLS II’s choice to be Emir.
An Achilles Hill: Tradition, Amir Kano and SLS Personality
Personality traits are important in the course of action, career path and the role an individual carves for themselves in public life. As a Prince of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi enjoyed all the privileges that characterized the upbringing of nobles. He was educated at Kings College, Lagos, He holds a B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Economics from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and a B.Sc. in Sharia and Islamic Studies from African International University, Sudan. As education comes, he is a highly educated noble from Kano. However, in public life as a banker, Central Bank of Nigeria Governor and as an Emir, SLS II reflects a personality at odds with his privileged background. He consistently speaks for the less privileged and champions the cause of the lower class. In doing this, he has created an identity that resonates with being an activist, social critic and advocate. As an Emir, SLS II acted more as a reformist than monarch. He spoke his truth unto power whereas those he spoke to expected him to hear, see but not talk; at least in public about governance, probity, accountability and responsible use of political power. They also expected he would not speak publicly about the social ills bedeviling Kano and northern Nigeria in general. On the contrary, the type of public role he envisioned and struggled to carve for himself was that of an activist and reformist Amir Kano, not restricted by the traditions and encumbrances of the throne. However, one is bound to ask whether being a revolutionary is compatible with royalty? Can one occupy the position of a royal and still act as a reformist and revolutionary? Going by the fate of SLS II, it might be safe to argue that royalty does not sit well with being a revolutionary, activist, critic and conscience of society at least in the manner SLS II acted and conducted himself as Emir of Kano for the period that his reign lasted.
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A Game of Thrones: SLS II Ascension
SLS II has always courted controversy. This is because his personality is that which cannot keep mute in the face of perceived anomalies nor be restrained by the confines of office. Prior to his ascension as the 14th Emir of Kano, SLS II had an illustrious career in the banking industry. Between 1985 and 2009, he worked at Icon (a subsidiary of Morgan Guaranty Trust Bank of New York), Baring Brothers of London, United Bank for Africa (UBA) and the First Bank of Nigeria. In 2009 he was appointed the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. In that position, SLS II initiated reforms directed at strengthening the Nigerian Banking Industry, notably as it relates to the protection of depositors funds, corporate governance, and transparency in the books of the banks among others. He was also a thorn in the flesh of those that appointed him as CBN Governor, making public commentaries about good governance, responsible management of the commonwealth and transparency in public office. In the mold of an Activist, “National Banker”, SLS II stepped on many toes. He was suspended from office in 2014 by former President Goodluck Jonathan after he alleged that 20 billion US Dollars was missing in Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC Account). As fate would have it, the late Emir Ado Bayero (SLS Uncle) answered the call of his maker around this time. Being a friend and supporter of then Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano, SLS II was appointed by the State government as the new Emir of Kano after his selection by Kano’s kingmaker (being an Heir to the throne). For those that are conversant with the selection and appointment into important traditional stools in contemporary Nigeria, they will attest to the high wire politics that characterizes ascension to the throne. While tradition is still important, modern political authority now play important roles in the politics of ascension and SLS II ascension to the throne of Amir Kano was in no way different.
Faith and Fatalism: SLS II Running Battle with ‘Power Elite’
Been an elite himself, SLS II knows the traction of power and that in this part of the world those occupying position of State authority often detest criticism especially in public. Therefore, the decision to conduct himself in the garb of an activist, critic and reformist Emir was a deliberate choice. In making that choice, SLS II is acting a script that would bring him in collusion with a certain fate, ‘that which befell his grandfather, the late Emir Muhammadu Sanusi I’ who was deposed and banished to Azare by the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of Northern Nigeria during the First Republic. For any keen public watcher of events as it concern SLS II, his dethronement was a given, the question was when and by which executive governor of Kano. For instance, Emir Sanusi was said to have been issued query twice in the space of One year in office by the Kano State Government under Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. If Governor Kwankwaso, his confidant and ally who was instrumental to SLS II ascension to power as Emir could issue him query, then his running into troubled waters with Governor Ganduje was inevitable. As to SLS II running battles with Governor Ganduje and the Kano State government, there are numerous causal factors out there in the public domain. There was the political division between Kwankwaso and Ganduje (Kwankwaso former deputy, Chief of Staff and major political ally). In the rift, it was alleged that SLS II choose to support Kwankwaso, being a staunch “Kwankwasiyya”. There was also the strident public criticism of poor governance of the ruling elite in Nigeria by the Emir. Another issue was the Emir consistent talks and advocacy about education, the almajiri crisis, widening poverty gap, unsustainable population growth in the North, the plight of the girl child, women empowerment and rising insecurity in the region, all of which SLS II squarely blamed Northern Power Elite for. In pursuing the course of actions he had deliberately chosen for himself, Emir Sanusi adopted a non-diplomatic approach and spoke bluntly about the numerous shortcomings of the governing elite in Kano and the whole of Northern Nigeria. He was highly unapologetic and even confrontational. However, the bluntness that characterized his public speeches about these issues were largely informed by the passion and commitment he has for the North as it relates to the need for development and of course his personality traits. Although savvy, educated and cosmopolitan, Emir Sanusi like all mortals could not rise above his personality traits. In trying to breaks his resolve, the Kano State Government under Governor Ganduje adopted multi-prong strategy. First, the Governor using the State House of Assembly legalised the balkanization of a once monolith Kano Emirate into Five emirates (Kano, Rano, Karaye, Gaya and Bichi) and appointed Emirs for the four new emirates. Interestingly, Aminu Ado Bayero (Son of the late Ado Bayero, Cousin to Sanusi Lamido and a heir to the Kano emirate throne was appointed and installed Emir of Bichi). This latest balkanization of the Kano emirate by Governor Ganduje was not the first attempt at effecting such sweeping reorganization with the intention of undercutting the power, influence, reach and authority of the Emir of Kano. Indeed, the first attempt at such was by Abubakar Rimi governor of Kano during the Second Republic and reign of the late Emir Ado Bayero. When Rimi lost his re-election bid, Governor Bakinsuwo reversed the attempt at dividing the Kano Emirate. Aside balkanization and undermining the reach of SLS II as the Emir of Kano, the state government also instituted a probe into the management of the Emirate finance under Emir Sanusi. The panel indicted SLS II for misappropriation of the Emirate funds and financial recklessness. However, the Emir was able to get court injunctions against the efforts of the state government. When all the weapons had been exhausted, the last and most potent was brandished and SLS II was dethroned as the 14th Emir of Kano and banished to Nassarawa State. Whether Governor Ganduje played the final act in this episode of Emir SLS II reign or not, it was inevitable. As an Activist Emir, SLS II was ensnared in the web of his own contradictions as a person. His emergence, removal and the drama that characterized his reign can be likened to when fate and politics cross path at a most inauspicious time in the history of Kano Emirate.
End of a Chapter
In truth, SLS II wanted the position of Emir of Kano and he got what he had always prayed for. However, he willingly decided to side-step and ignore the restrictions that comes with the position and the fact that being an activist Emir is a misnomer in conservative Northern Nigeria. Unfortunately, SLS II carried on like a private citizen, indeed, the Amir Kano conducted himself like a Public Advocate, Civil Activist and Social Critic. The truth is that the Northern Power Elites are not so much comfortable with an activist Emir. For the period he reigned, it is crystal clear that Emir SLS II biggest and greatest contradiction was his attempt at projecting himself in the mould of revolutionary royalty, an activist Emir, a social critic and conscience of society. In playing this role, it is obvious that Emir SLS II was far ahead of his time. He acted as a 21st century Emir in a Kano Emirate still steep in 19th century traditions. Emir SLS II was an enigma to himself as well as to his protagonist and antagonist. Emir SLS II is a personality that is difficult to read and understand. He is a royal who understands the dictates of traditions, yet he is a modernist, reformist and activist that attempts to live as a 21st century Emir in a society that is reeling in and fascinated by 19th century traditions, customs, practices and belief system. Being a part of the power elite in Northern Nigeria, Emir SLS II clearly understand the enormous risks that come with the path he chose to take and either through fate (romancing what befell his grandfather) or fatalism, SLS II was willing to bear the consequence of actions. Even when he was pushed down, he chose not to stay down and did not allow his traducers to trample on his pride and personality. Emir Sanusi showed the stock he was made off by his acceptance of his dethronement with equanimity and the philosophical disposition that the creator gives and takes power. Indeed, Emir Sanusi can be said to have accept his fate with uncommon attempt at fatalism. Emir SLS II reigned and his reign will continue to be remembered. The dethronement might be devastating, however, it is nothing but the end of a chapter as the book that SLS II is still has some chapters unwritten. SLS II is a man with nine lives. SLS II will rise again like a phoenix and soar like an African Power Eagle.
Dr Luqman SAKA is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Ilorin, Nigeria.