Lamido Sanusi: A dethroned Emir who continues to reign in Exile

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There are strong indications that the dethronement of former Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, his banishment and immediate replacement with Aminu Bayero by Kano State governor, Umar Ganduje may have backfired with far-reaching implications for the political power play in Kano, and the presidential and governorship election in 2023.

From his brief stint in exile, it could be said of Sanusi, that even though his traducers meant it for humiliation and diminution, he garnered much public goodwill more than his six years on the throne.
Now, the situation and circumstances have combined to crown him as a global figure and prime advocate for girl child education, poverty eradication as well as social and economic rights. Though dethroned as Emir of Kano, Sanusi now reigns effortlessly in the hearts of the Nigerian people; most of who may have not have known or heard about his tongue troubles with the Kano feudal establishment.

Indeed, Ganduje who struggled to secure re-election in 2019, following Sanusi’s favorable disposition towards the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), might have decided to get rid of the former emir to pave way for whoever will succeed him (Ganduje), and to also retain Kano for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), among other reasons.

But having secured his freedom through a Federal High Court’s pronouncement, which ordered his immediate release, the embattled emir has indicated that his dethronement was not properly carried out. It was, however, interesting how Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai immediately identified with Sanusi, against his fellow APC counterpart, Ganduje, by bestowing two high profile appointments on the former emir; first into the board of the Kaduna State Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA). Coming less than 24 hours of his deposition and banishment, Sanusi’s appointment was according to El Rufai intended to bring his wealth of experience and knowledge to bear in the socio-economic development of Kaduna State.
The statement, which conveyed Sanusi’s appointment read: “Kaduna State hopes to benefit from the profile, experience, intellect, and networks of His Highness, Muhammad Sanusi, who before becoming Emir had built a solid reputation in global financial circles. Kaduna State is honored to be able to call on the services of a man of such caliber to drive its development.” In quick succession, El-Rufai also named Sanusi as the Chancellor of Kaduna State University to succeed the pioneer Chancellor, HRH Malam Tagwai Sambo, the Chief of Moro’a, who accepted the role in 2005. ‘’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 level,” his letter read.

El-Rufai’s action was despite the negative role Sanusi played against Ganduje and APC in the 2019 Guber election, which nearly cost the incumbent’s re-election. This is seen as partly why the governor, with alleged approval by the Presidency, went ahead to depose and banish Sanusi, despite the mediation of a committee, led by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. The development may also have subtle effects on the internal fighting in APC, as it is now obvious that Ganduje, who is sympathetic to the embattled National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, will further strain his relationship with El-Rufai, who is among the governors pushing for Oshiomhole’s removal. A party source said the Sanusi saga might further create a gulf among party members loyal to Kaduna and Kano States governors.

A source close to El-Rufai told that Sanusi initially agreed to move from Kano to Awe in Nasarawa, perhaps on the alleged assurance from El-Rufai and others that necessary legal arrangements would be made to secure his freedom. “That must have informed El-Rufai’s prompt appointment of Sanusi in two capacities, following his deposition. It would be recalled that El-Rufai was among the first dignitaries to pay homage to Sanusi in Awe. No sooner had the court pronounced his freedom, than El-Rufai started making arrangements for Sanusi’s relocation to Lagos,” the source said, adding that Lagos is much safer for the former emir than any northern state, given that Sanusi spent his childhood in Lagos and most of his friends are in Lagos. Besides, the source added that it might be easy for Sanusi to continue to play his radical role from Lagos than in the North for safety reasons, pending when 2023 politicking will begin.

Having made himself available in his new abode, the deposed Emir began to attract goodwill like bees to the honeycomb. Within just about 12 hours of his sojourn in his home in exile, the entire Nasarawa State was abuzz as the place was turned into a Mecca of sorts. The more than 40 security personnel detailed to protect the ‘goldfish’ had a hard time profiling and containing high profile visitors. The village of Awe, which sat in the dark all these years, became a sudden spotlight. The traditional ruler of Loko, the village initially selected to host the exiled Emir, Alhaji Abubakar Ahmed Sabo, told the BBC Hausa Service that the former CBN governor “slept well in my palace, he has accepted his destiny and harbors no regret.”
The traditional ruler said his community received the deposed Emir with mixed feelings, adding, “We were sad as a result of what happened to him. Though we do not have air-conditioned house befitting of a man of his caliber, we were also happy that our village came to limelight; that, of all the cities in Nigeria, it was Loko that was chosen for him to come to.” While the exiled Emir was receiving warm sentiments in his new abode, some stakeholders expressed the belief that with his training and public exposure, Sanusi could not fit into the archaic monarchy that has no place in modern society.

APC sources confided to that Ganduje has made a strategic blunder that will most likely come back to haunt him after he leaves office in 2023. “Ganduje just signed his own political death warrant and he will realize sooner than later that he is on his own,” one APC source noted. The standing view among the northern political elite is that Sanusi unshackled from the constraints imposed by the monarchy is a lose canon who has the capacity, stature and national profile to alter the political calculations over the 2023 presidential elections.

Political observers are unanimous in their opinion that dethronement may well be a blessing in disguise as the deposed Emir will now be able to address issues that are urgent for Nigeria as a public intellectual not encumbered by the burden of the emirate office. Already, there are growing indications that Sanusi ordeal has catapulted him into the national consciousness to the extent that political watchers will not rule out a possible run for 2023 as a candidate or a vice-presidential candidate.

Meanwhile, the dethroned Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II has expressed confidence of getting justice, if he decides to challenge his removal in court. In a trending video that went viral online, he however, said he doesn’t wish to return to Kano state as a monarch. “I’ve done what I could in six years. I’m moving on. The truth is that I don’t want to go back...We should go on with the new phase in life,” Sanusi said.

When the ancient gate to the Kano palace opened that fateful evening of Monday, March 9, 2020, the convoy of pickup vans, buses, and cars that drove out bore the somber looks reminiscent of a funeral procession. There were no ceremonies. But as the vehicles snaked their way out of the spacious palace, not even Ganduje would have imagined that dethroning and banishing the maverick Emir was in a way, the dethronement and deportation into exile of the Kano Emirate palace. Now that the chips have fallen, Ganduje might finally come to the realization that he has provided Sanusi with an escape vent to disengage from the suffocating burden he inherited leaving the door open for him to dedicate his talent and energy in the service of the Nigerian people who are yearning for the kind of leadership that accepts and speaks truth to power.