Embattled Emir Sanusi Breaks Silence, Speaks On His Alleged Removal

Kano crisis: I don’t care if I’m removed again –Sanusi

Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has opened up on the controversies surrounding his removal by the past government as well as his reinstatement by the current administration in the state.

In an interview with Saturday Sun, Emir Sanusi spoke on a wide range of issues including the history of the Kano Emirate, reasons he was unpopular with the past administration in Kano, and roles of the traditional institution in Nigeria, among others. He spoke with BEIFOH OSEWELE.

There has been considerable upheaval since your reinstatement as Emir. How do you intend to manage the post-reinstatement crises?

You ask about managing the fallout. You see, this was something created, manufactured by the previous government. The people of Kano never asked to be divided. In parts of this country, you have had emirates and kingdoms created, and you can understand that. If you go to Kaduna State, at one time, you had everything under Zaria. But you had huge Christian minorities, different ethnic groups, and chiefdoms were created for them. It makes sense, if they felt that they did not want to be under the emirate system or under what they saw as a self-denial system. But Kano is a largely homogeneous society. If you see the Christians in Kano, they are part of us. They don’t say they want to leave us. They’re not asking for a different system. Nobody. If you go to Tudun Wada, we have Christians. You go to Rano, we have Christians. We had an issue in Rogo. You may remember that there was an issue. People went and burnt the church. I went there, took out my own personal money and rebuilt the church.

So, we are one people. Nobody asked for new emirates. So, what we are dealing with is a situation where somebody divided us. And actually, when you create these things, some people get some privileges. They didn’t ask for it, but they’ve enjoyed it for four years.

Now when they lose it, it’s a problem. But the problem is not what has happened today. It is what happened four years ago. If it had not been done, we would not be in this situation today. We are one family, we are one people. Somebody comes, divides us up. Even in this family, he takes one emirate, gives it to a part of the family. Now, when people enjoy it for four years and you take it away from them, it becomes a problem. 

But the truth is, when you take the larger picture, this is a kingdom that has existed for over 1000 years. If you go to the king’s list in Kano, the king’s list from Baguada starts in 999 AD. We have a list of kings. From Baguada up to me in my first term, I was the 57th. If you add my cousin and myself, I’m 57th and 59th.

In that period, we’ve had the expansion of Arewa kingdom. The only time a part of Kano was taken out was when Jigawa State was created, because Jigawa State put together Kazaure Emirate, Hadejia Emirate, Gumel Emirate, but those three combined were not big enough to make a viable state.  And Hadejia and Gumel people wanted a state. So, part of Kano was carved out. These are the two emirates of Dutse and Ringim. We were all hurt. As a family, it was like cutting off a part of you. At least Ringim is still with members of our family. That’s fine. It was necessary.

But what was left still remains what has been there for a thousand years. Now, just like the British partitioned Africa, you divided what had existed over a period of time. People need to understand what this government did, because people don’t understand what that law was and the kinds of damage it did to our history’s fabric. 

You know, the way the Europeans came and just drew lines on a piece of paper. People say Nigeria is a geographical expression. People are talking about that. You just take people, and this is, they just came and drew a line; these nine local governments go there. These nine go there, just like that. You don’t create emirs for people. Somebody who, for one thousand years, has never been under you, somebody now decrees that this is your king. How?

Take Bichi for instance. Bichi, as a town, was run by a village head for centuries. It only became a district under the British. The first district head of Bichi was Abdullahi Bayero in the 1930s; my great-grandfather.  Before him, it was a village head. There is something called Sarkin Bichi who is a village head. He’s the king of the town of Bichi.  Now that Sarkin Bichi, historically, reported to a district head in Dawakin Tofa, Madakin Kano. Now you make a law and say you have created an emir in Bichi, and Dawakin Tofa should report to Bichi. Do you understand it? 

You had families that waged the Jihad. The Yolawa; the family of Madakin, the Jobawa; family of the Makama. These are kingmakers.  You now take two of the four kingmaker families, Madakin and Makama, and say they should go and report, not to Kano, but to an emirate that you created in Bichi. Something that was run by a village head who was a district head. How? You make a law and say, these are the kingmakers in Kano. We have had four traditional kingmakers in all our history. Because you like a particular individual, you just decided as a governor, that we now have five kingmakers. Out of nowhere, you created a kingmaker position for an individual. 

You’re dealing with Kano. You’re not dealing with me. It’s not about me as a person. It’s about our history, our culture. How does he become a kingmaker? The other kingmakers, the other four, how did their families become kingmakers? When they went and waged the Jihad, when they came and risked their lives, when they reached this agreement, those four chose the emir. We are not superior to them. We’re all part of the Jihad. And they agreed that for peace, we don’t want to have three, four, five ruling houses; we’ll allow you to produce the emir but we will decide who becomes the emir. These are the four. 

This is the right they claimed for themselves for their contribution to the Jihad. How does somebody now take Mr. A and say I’m creating a fifth kingmaker in Mr. A’s family? What right do you have to join those four?  How? What did you do that gives you the right to be a kingmaker? What? There’s just so much wrong.

And then, the kingmaker families as well.  You have different lines in the family. Then you have a law that puts in just one line. Did you know that based on the law that we had, out of the four kingmakers that we had, three of them were not even qualified because they didn’t even understand who are the king-making families? Which families produce the Madaki; descendants of two different people. Makama, descendants of two different people. Sarkin Dawaki; descendants of three or four different people. That is our tradition. It’s only Sarkin Bayi that is made of one person.

But they came and took one, one, one person. The current Madaki is not the descendant of the person they put in the law. The current Makama is not a descendant of the person they put in the law. The current Sarkin Dawaki Metuta is not a descendant of the person they put in the law. So, what they have as a law has already disqualified three out of four kingmakers, because there was no consideration of history. 

Then check the different Emirates they’ve made. If you go to Rano, there are two or three ruling houses; they take one. They’ve killed two houses. In Karaye, two or three ruling houses. The house of one of the most famous Sarkin Karaye Garba, his family has been knocked off.  Gaya, four or five ruling houses; you give one. 

So even in those emirates that they created, what they had done is they have destroyed the people. But we who appoint them as district heads, we know the families from which we select the district head. 

I am making this point so you understand that this is not about me versus somebody. This was an entire assault on a system. Even if you want to do it, if it had been well motivated, if you sat down with us to discuss, with  people of Rano or people of Gaya, if genuinely they say they wanted an Emirate and the government said we want to do an Emirate, there’s a way of doing it. You sit down, you look at the history; okay, who are the ruling families? How do you do it? What is the process? And you do it in line with our custom and tradition.

The Kano Emirate was not created by the Nigerian Constitution. The Emirate existed before Nigeria. The Kano Emirate existed before the Sokoto Jihad. Even Uthman Danfodio did not create the Kano Emirate. The emirate was there. All that happened was that some of his disciples waged a Jihad and conquered Kano. But Kano was in existence. You will never find a law in the Nigerian Constitution or any law that created the Kano Emirate. 

So, how does a State House of Assembly get the Constitutional right to amend something that was not created or amend something that was not created by the Constitution, that does not even exist in the Constitution? 

But the law you will see is an Emirs Appointment and Deposition Law, which already presumes that there is an Emirate. It’s about how you appoint an Emir. But there is no law creating the Emirate. Therefore, when Ganduje wanted to create these Emirates, he could not find a law to amend. He started by amending Emirates Appointment and Deposition Law, which the court struck down. So, he had to, de novo, ex nihilo, out of nothing create a law and create emirates, new emirates that never existed. Something called a Kano Emirate with eight local governments. That emirate with eight local governments had not existed in our one thousand years of history. The same thing with the Bichi Emirate, Rano Emirate, Gaya Emirate. None of them existed in one thousand years of history. 

So, they had the stools for four years and a new governor came on board and said we have to deal with this attack on our system, on our collective history. And he says we cannot in the interest of preserving something with a history of four years abolish a history of one thousand plus years.  He says let’s go back to the original order. That was all that happened. It was not targeted at any individual, at any family, at any person. But of course, the people who were beneficiaries of this would hurt. And we understand that. It is not their fault. But we cannot because we do not want to harm or hurt them and allow it to go on. 

So managing the situation is for all of us as citizens of Kano. As members of the royal family, it is for all of us to look at the big picture and see that what has been done has been done to restore the glory of our emirate and to protect our own history and custom. For me, even now that I am here, only God knows how long I will be here. I can die tomorrow. Another governor can come tomorrow and say that he has removed me, it doesn’t matter. But I am happy if he does not touch the emirate. I am happy that I will not leave a history that it was during my time that these 1000 years of history was destroyed. So, I am grateful to this government, grateful to this Assembly that they have corrected that, that we have the emirate restored to what it was and Insha’Allah that when I die or when I leave, the person who inherits will inherit what we had. It’s about the system, not about me or about any individual.

Many have wondered why you did not challenge your removal in court…

A number of reasons. I have told you that I don’t have a fundamental right to be an Emir. I am one of hundreds of princes. God chose me. And if God says I should leave, for me, I take it that God knows better than me why I had to leave. Okay, let’s say I go to court. Let me even say this; I just got a letter that said I had been dethroned for insubordination. I had never been queried for insubordination. The details of the insubordination were not given. I had not been given any chance to defend myself. So, it was clear that the state and the federal governments had both decided that it was time for me to go. Okay? 

So, let’s even assume that the court said I should come back. Do you think I was looking forward to working with that government? Would I have been happy as an Emir in the last three years working with that government? You’re under a governor. The law gives him the power to be on top of you. He has said he doesn’t like you. He has made it clear he does not like you. If I come, he would just make my life miserable. 

It was going to be one story after the other. One fake story, one social media insult after another, and in my position, I won’t be able to respond. So, for me, I had a happier life in Lagos with my friends, publishing my book, doing my Ph.D, doing my UN work, doing my Tijaniya work, than sitting here in a constant fight with the government.

Secondly, look at the Emir of Gwandu, who was removed under Obasanjo. How many years now? Almost 20. The state High Court said he was illegally removed, return him. So, there was an appeal. The Court of Appeal said he was illegally removed, return him. It is at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has not yet spoken out about him. I mean, do I have 20 years to fight in court to come back to a throne?

So, for me, I had been Emir for six years, alhamdulillah. I had done what I did. At least, the only reason I would have gone to court is if they had removed me on an allegation that harmed my reputation because the only currency I have is my integrity. So, if they had accused me of fraud or something, I would have had to go to court to clear my name, but they said insubordination. 

So, the governor was asked, what are the reasons for insubordination? He said, sometimes he is invited to meetings, and he does not come. For every well-meaning Nigeria who saw that story, who saw that news, I don’t even need to defend myself because if you are going to remove an Emir and the only reason you can have is that you invite him for some meetings that he does not come, then nobody takes you seriously. Everybody knows that this was not the reason. So, I always felt that if it was God’s will that I come back, if not, I’ll go and continue my life.

So, I didn’t go to court to challenge my removal. I went to court to challenge their attempt to keep me in exile and under house arrest to enforce my fundamental human rights but I did not go to court to challenge the removal because I didn’t even have to because it was self-evident on the face of it that this was just a political act. So, that was why I didn’t challenge it.

What are the lessons you learnt while away from the throne in the last four years and how do you intend to leverage on the experience to move the emirate to the next level?

Life is always a continuous process of learning and relearning. And for me, I had always believed, as they say, that we should not waste a crisis. So, anytime I have a crisis, it’s an opportunity to do something else.

In the last four years I’ve not been idle. In fact, I had just completed writing a PhD Thesis in the University of London, a week before I returned to Kano. I will be going back next month to conclude some things, because I will be graduating in September. Let us just take that as an example, the PhD thesis I wrote was on the codification of Islamic Family Law as an instrument of social reform. This was one of my major projects as an emir trying to codify Islamic law to deal with a number of issues around child marriage, around domestic violence, around child spacing and basically women and children’s rights and so on. And because I did a PhD on the subject matter, some of the things I learnt have basically made me rethink some of the premises upon which we are passing that law. Today, if I were to reconstitute the committee, I will have different areas of emphasis and different understanding of some of the issues.

I will give an example; we always talk about child marriage as a problem. And we think that the solution is to have a law that says every girl must reach the age of 18 before she gets married, but the reality is that the solution is in what the Kano State government just did – giving priority to education. They have to be at schools, you have to provide them with what they are going to do. We did a research and we found out that within Kano city and environs, we don’t have child marriage because there are schools all over. Parents can send their children to schools, they can go to secondary schools, and they have teachers. If you go to the villages and a girl is 11 or 16 years old, and there are no schools and teachers and nothing to do, the father marries her off. It is not religion, it is not culture, it is just a failure of the state to provide development. So many of the things we have taken as either religious misunderstanding or culture are actually issues of governance and development and the failure of the state. Okay, you want to have a minimum age like the Arab states, fine, but do we register birth? If we don’t start registering everybody, how do you even know the age of the child? How do you enforce that law in a court of law? These are just a few of the examples.

Part of my work was that I gathered data from nine Sharia courts from the three Senatorial Districts in Kano and asked, what are the major marital problems faced by women in Kano? We started from the premise of what is a global discourse on the problem because every society has its own issues. Do you know what we discovered? More than 40 per cent of all the cases in courts and before Hisbah have to do with men not providing maintenance for the families. It is poverty. Men are not providing food or accommodation, or they have divorced the women and are not taking care of the children. So, many of these socio-cultural problems have their roots in economics. Therefore, providing an education, especially for the women, and providing them with an opportunity to earn a living are the solutions. So, when we write the law, we must bear in mind these things. Now, some of the things I have seen in the speech of the governor (during his declaration of state of emergency on education) are the kind of things that other states had said in the past because my thesis also did a comparative analysis with Morocco. What do they do in Morocco? They built the schools, invested in school transportation just like we are now talking about school transportation. The girls would be moved from villages to the nearest schools. They also invested in school feeding and equally provided financial support to the poorest families who are ready to send their sons and daughters to schools. So, they don’t need them to earn a living to send their kids to school. So, if a parent is below a certain poverty line, and he allows his daughter to go to school, the government would give him some money, so that he does not have to marry his daughter off. He doesn’t also have to get her to trade. She goes to school, and the parents get some compensation for sending her to school. Now, that allows the girls to get education and earn a living.

So, for me, the PhD was a major eye opener. Like I said, I am not the kind of person that just sits in one place and says, okay, now that I am not an emir, let me wait until I become something else. No. I said ok, let me do something with my time and I have moved. For me, it was on transition. I was governor of the Central Bank. I was told to move and I moved. People have jobs and they resign, right? You’re a former civil servant, former teacher, former this or that. Yes, I was an emir for six years. It’s nothing. I moved on but now, God decreed that I must come back. It is a new transition. With all the knowledge I have built, I’ve improved myself. When I finish my PhD, hopefully, I will ask Bayero University for an opportunity to once in a while go and give academic lectures and postgraduate seminars on Islamic law. I won’t have the time to give a full course or to mark, but all this research; the data that I had gathered in Kano needs to be shared with the younger generation.

The second thing is that we just have to realise that we are in a very difficult place as a country because of many, many years of economic mismanagement. And you all know that for the past 10 years, I have been talking about it. People are talking about NNPC and all revenues and the dollar but look, how long have I been talking about this? 2011, 2012, 2013, this was exactly what we were trying to avoid. I was listening to the debate about subsidy, and I remembered that I said people don’t know what an economic crisis is until they get into one. And that is what we are in now. All the crimes were exactly what we knew would happen. Food becomes unaffordable, your income gets wiped out, your wages cannot get you anywhere. And this is why the management of the economy is crucial. What can I do? Obviously, I give as much advice as I can to the government on how to manage resources, and also see to the best of my ability how we can try to get the private sector to come in to build the economy because government alone cannot do everything.

It is fantastic for the 30 per cent budget the Kano State government is giving to education. But we also need the private sector to come in, we need to build infrastructure, even in the educational sector. Kano has produced the two richest Nigerians, maybe two richest Africans, we need to start seriously talking to those people to come and invest in education and skills acquisition programmes in Kano. So, part of my job as an emir is to call these citizens of Kano and other well meaning Nigerians to see how they can come in and address these problems.

So, that is it. For me, a transition is a transition. I have never been hounded by an office, not being in Kano has never stopped me from continuing to do service because at the end of the day that is what matters not the title.


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