Lamido Sanusi: A Man Born to Rule but Cursed by the Jinx of History

Guest Columnists

The decision by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former CBN governor, upon ascension to the throne as Emir of Kano to be addressed as Muhammadu Sanusi II, sent a lot of tongues wagging, especially those who recalled how his grandfather was dethroned in 1963. The fear and apprehension was predicated on the fact that with his acerbic tongue and radical views, the new Emir could face a similar fate. Was the name jinxed? The genesis of events that culminated in his dethronement by Kano Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje appears to support that assertion.

On Monday, March 9, 2020, Governor Ganduje did what his erstwhile charismatic predecessor, the late Abubakar Rimi, tried and failed to do: He deposed the Emir of Kano and split the Kano Emirate into four chiefdoms. When the crisis started, it was as if Ganduje was following in the footsteps of the late Rimi, because exactly 38 years before he split the Kano Emirate into four, Rimi had, as the governor of old Kano State that comprised the present day Jigawa State, carved the same number of emirates with new emirs to be equal in status to the prestigious Emir of Kano.

On that fateful April 1, 1981, the flamboyant governor designated Auyo, Dutse, Gaya and Rano as emirates, even as he described the office of an emir as an extension of other public servants that should be taking instructions from their local government council chairmen. And just as Ganduje queried Sanusi, Rimi had in similar circumstances, ostensibly to humiliate and subjugate the then Emir of Kano, Alhadji Ado Bayero, sent a query signed by the Secretary to the Kano State Government (SSG), Alhaji Yahaya Sule Hamma, to the then Emir, whose son has now benefitted from the dethronement of Sanusi to step in the shoes of his father.

In the strongly worded query, the government accused the Emir of serially disrespecting the administration of Abubakar Rimi ever since he became governor on October 1, 1979, stressing that “the community expects of you as a matter of right to show respect to constitutionally elected government which is the vehicle of exercising the popular sovereignty of the community which is provided for by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

In addition to accusing Emir Bayero of undertaking “several trips either abroad or within the country without the permission of the governor,” listing other instances of his alleged transgressions as follows:

• That on the 2nd of October, 1980 in a celebration marking the first anniversary in office of the Kano State House of Assembly, a stone’s-throw away from your palace, you disregarded the government invitation and refused to show up;
• That it has been observed by the government that you have without authority extended your 1981 annual leave beyond what was approved for you by the government.
• That you refused, in spite of invitations, to attend or send representation to the installation ceremonies of the Emirs of Gumel, Auyo, Dutse, Gaya and Rano. You may recall that the Governor of Kano State sent the Commissioner for Local Government and the Secretary to the State Government to meet you and discuss these issues on the 3rd June, 1981.

Consequently the query stated: “In the circumstances therefore, I have been directed by the Governor of Kano State to request you to forward your defence in 48 hours and to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken on you.” However, given the strong political divisions in Kano between the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) that was controlling the state and the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that was in power at the federal level, Rimi could not have his way. Amid rumors and speculations that the governor was poised to dethrone the Emir, violent riots broke out in the ancient city, which led to massive killings and destruction of Kano state government property, including the burning down of the headquarters of the state-owned Triumph Newspaper, which was named after Sa’ad Zungur.

It was held that the riot broke out after the state secretary of NPN; Malam Mansur Kakarofi released a statement. In the highly inciting statement Kakarofi had declared: “The people of Kano will not allow one of our most respected institutions to be eroded by irresponsible people who by sheer political accident happen to be in the control of the Kano State Government.”

A Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice E. A. Fernandez that was set up found that even the Nigeria Police Force watched the mayhem and refused to intervene to stop the killings, reinforcing the standing view that the rioters were acting out a script written by unseen hands in the political capital. In fact, the governor’s Adviser on Political Affairs, Bala Mohammed (father of the current Managing Director of Nigeria Ports Authority, (NPA)) was burnt alive after he was caught in the process of crafting the announcement that would have led to the dethronement of the Emir.

It is indeed an irony of fate that Ganduje; a man caught on camera stashing dollar bills he received as bribe from a contractor, would be the one to dethrone Sanusi on unsubstantiated charges of corruption.  There was no love lost between Sanusi and Ganduje after a video that went viral, showing the former Emir shedding tears complaining about the lack of health facilities in most northern states; noting that for the want of just five dollars, a woman who was waiting to see him in the palace lost her child. That jab was taken as clever innuendo against Ganduje, who was at about that time shown in another video clip where he was stuffing dollar bills, believed to be proceeds of kickback, into his flowing gown.

When the former Governor of Zamfara State said cholera and other killer diseases ravaging the northern part of the country were as a result of the sins of adultery, Sanusi came out in strong condemnation saying the governors should turn mosques into schools to expand and improve access to education in the area. But the last straw that broke the camel’s back was Sanusi’s public utterances in the build up to the 2019 General Election when he urged Nigerians not to be electing uneducated persons into leadership positions, a statement which did not go down with the presidency.

Moreover it was alleged that at the height of President Buhari’s ill health, which took him to a prolonged stay in London, Sanusi was said to have lobbied Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to consider him as potential Vice President in the event that the unexpected happens to his principal. Then Sanusi was said to have openly canvassed that Ganduje should not be returned for a second term in office in obvious effort to return the favour to Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso for making him Emir.

The president’s body language when Governor Ganduje visited him alongside the Emir of Bichi, at Aso Villa, and other statements credited to the president, explaining why he did not intervene in the crisis, clearly demonstrates to every discerning mind that despite the conflicting signals from the presidency, Buhari gave Ganduje the green light to dethrone the emir.

The deposition script handed down by the Kano government would have had Sanusi spend the rest of his days in Loko community, a border town between Nasarawa and Benue States. With its harsh weather, bad roads, lack of electricity and susceptibility to attacks by armed criminals, however, Loko appeared the perfect setting for a vindictive plot against Sanusi. Barely 12 hours after he arrived in Loko, a police helicopter at about 1:45 pm yesterday, flew the former emir to Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital, amid tight security.

Hundreds of miles away from the prying eyes and punitive hands of the Kano State government, some political bigwigs in the country may have rallied around deposed Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi with a view to giving him a less painful exile. The powerbrokers were disappointed at the way the Kano State government had treated Sanusi and have vowed to make life more comfortable for him.

The emir of Loko, Alhaji Abubakar Sabo, had earlier disclosed that upon departure from the town, Sanusi would touch down at another community in Awe Local Government Council where he would be expected to live out his banishment. Sanusi arrived there at about 6:00 pm on Tuesday. Ganduje might be thinking that he has dealt Sanusi a fatal blow; but that would be a naïve mistake. Expect Sanusi to become a major player in the 2023 general election.

Sanusi, meanwhile, has described his dethronement as an act of God. The former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, whose grandfather, Muhammadu Sanusi I, was equally deposed in 1963, said he was glad to have followed in the footsteps of his forebear. In a short video clip, which emerged on social media early Tuesday, Sanusi said he vacated the throne a fulfilled and happy man, urging Kano residents to remain calm and accept the development in good faith. He said: “Everything that has a beginning has an end.”

Following his ultimate dethronement, Sanusi’s defiance and philosophical nature rings true, as his words echo: “The throne of an emir is not permanent, every king and leader should know this. If it was a permanent throne, I wouldn’t have been the emir of Kano. Before I came someone was emir and before him someone else was there. Whenever God says your time on the throne is over, if you don’t leave with your legs, people will carry your body out of the palace. It is God that gives power and it is God that takes power.”