A word for Emir Sanusi, by Jaafar Jaafar

Daily Nigerian
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Jaafar Jaafar

Sometime in 1960, two ministers and top leaders of the defunct Northern People’s Congress, NPC, the Magajin Garin Kano, Alhaji Inuwa Wada and Ibrahim Musa Gashash, visited the Emir’s Palace, Kano to pay homage to the emir, Sir Muhammadu Sanusi.  They were told the emir had travelled to his riverside castle in Wudil, some 40 kilometres away from the ancient city.

Out of respect, the duo decided to travel to Wudil to greet the emir. At Wudil, the emir kept them waiting for over an hour. When they asked the palace aides who the emir was meeting with, they said it was P.A. David (popularly known as David David in Kano).

P.A. David, a Yoruba man, was a prominent colonial-era contractor and business man.

“So just because of David,” angry Musa Gashash flared up, “the emir is keeping us waiting, despite the fact that we are ministers? I can’t take this! Inuwa, you may wish to stay since you are a title holder. As for me, I will never pay homage to the emir again.”

L-R: Sir Ahmadu Bello, Isa Kaita, Ibrahim Musa Gashash and a police chief, MD Yusufu

Musa Gashash, then minister of Land and Survey and vice chairman of the NPC North, a political schemer per excellence and well-connected politician, walked out on his friend. The minister thereafter started campaigning against the emir.

Years before the Wudil incident, the premier of Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto himself once remarked that Ibrahim Musa Gashash, Madaki Shehu and Nuhu Bamali were the three most sophisticated people in the North. Although Musa Gashash never had western education, Sardauna said, his plots and political scheming never failed.

Articles soon began appearing in Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo that Emir Sanusi was autocrat, dictatorial, revoked ownership of lands, squandered treasury, misused cattle tax, siphoned money meant for the establishment of Bompai Industrial Area, among other allegations.

Out there in Kaduna, the ministers and traditional council members too were angry that the premier was showing preference to Sir Sanusi. Although among the emirs, there were ministers without portfolio, Sir Sanusi had portfolio and, to their chagrin, was once made acting governor of Northern Region.

Sir Sanusi, unlike other emirs, used siren in Kaduna and his convoy parked at a space meant for the premier’s motorcade.

Sir Muhammadu Sanusi (left) and Sir Ahmadu Bello (right)

Sardauna and Sir Sanusi’s good relationship began in the 40’s when Sardauna was sentenced to one-year imprisonment for misappropriation of cattle tax in 1943. Sanusi (then Chiroman Kano) and Muhammadu Aminu (then Iyan Zazzau and later emir of Zazzau), joined hands with Shehu Shagari and Malam Aminu Kano to support the legal tussle that led to Sardauna’s acquittal after serving three months of his one-year term in jail.

Worried by Sir Sanusi’s influence and excesses, one day Musa Gashash reportedly led a team of ministers to Sardauna to complain that Emir Sanusi was arrogating himself the powers of the premier. Sardauna therefore succumbed to their pressure and ordered that henceforth no minister or traditional ruler should use siren and fly his car flag in Kaduna.

Although Sardauna was initially ignoring the reports in view of his closeness to the emir, he soon started taking offense when Sir Sanusi ignored the order.

By 1962, the estrangement between the two close friends reached an alarming level, such that Sir Sanusi’s diplomat brother, Ado Bayero (who later succeeded him), had to fly to Kano from Senegal, where he was Nigeria’s ambassador, to plead with Sardauna and reprimand the escort commander of the emir’s convoy against further using siren in Kaduna. But a few months later, the situation worsened.

In November last year, I met one of the political actors of the First Republic and prominent minister in Tafawa Balewa’s cabinet, and sought to know the behind-the-scene issues, the remote and immediate causes of Emir Sanusi’s removal – euphemistically termed as murabus (resignation).

Most published accounts regarding the deposition of Emir Sanusi, in my view, do not capture the emir’s real crimes (as narrated to me by this minister) beyond “misappropriation of Kano Native Authority funds”, as captured in the oft-cited Muffet Commission Report. John Paden however traced the genesis, capturing the Tijjaniyya-Usmaniyya rivalry and establishment of provincial commissioner system in Northern Region in his book, Religion and Political Culture of Kano, as some of the reasons that put the two friends on collision course.

On September 18, 1962, the Northern Regional Government appointed a senior administrative officer, D. J. M. Muffet, to immediately start inquiries into the “deteriorating financial position of the Kano Native Authority”. Muffet was then asked to report to the minister for local government, Sule Gaya, who was also opposed to Emir Sanusi’s attempts to control the NPC in Kano.

On March 28, 1963, after the commission sat for 144 days and invited the emir, Northern emirs, including embattled Sir Sanusi, were summoned to Kaduna for a meeting. On arrival, Sanusi was ushered into the office of then governor of Northern Region, Kashim Ibrahim. According some accounts, Governor Kashim Ibrahim then handed him the resignation letter and asked him to sign, which he did posthaste after uttering “Inna lilLahi wa inna iLaihir raji’un”.

From then, he was banished to Azare. But 20 years later, he returned to his riverside residence in Wudil – the place Musa Gashash began hatching his deposition plot – and died there in 1990.

Now, fast-forward to June 8, 2014, when his grandson, the present emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, was appointed emir. A few months after his appointment, Emir Sanusi went ahead to appoint a top councillor in the emirate, the Waziri and other title holders without seeking the approval of the state governor. The infuriated governor couldn’t stomach it. He issued him a strong-worded query.

Again, a few months after the first query, the emir – who was publicly opposed to begging (almajirci) – began alms-sharing show, drawing tens of thousands of beggars to his palace. This happened shortly after the governor announced banning of begging in Kano. Again, the then governor took offense and queried him.

In a public reply to the governor, Emir Sanusi said “nobody should stop us from giving out our money”.

Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II (left) and Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje

To Emir Sanusi, knowledge of Islam, Shariah, Arabic, philosophy, economy, cosmology, rocket science and what not, starts and ends with him. And all Emirs, Obis, Obas, Shehus, Lamidos are, at best, semi-illiterates.

Last year, local authorities in Danbatta town came up with a kind of family law to reduce some pecuniary requirements and cultural constraints related to marriage. But the emir condemned the move and cancelled the law. A few months later, after encouraging wives to retaliate battery instead of reporting to appropriate authority, the emir proposed his version of family law to be applied in Kano! Danbatta version of the law could have been more practicable in view of the size of the town and its surrounding hamlets.

I was once a fan of the emir, but his painting of impressionistic portrait of himself, cockatooing superfluously and lowering the estimation of the throne are some of my problems with him. From blabbering “I’m a Bellover” with Korede Bello in a viral clip, to endless selfies with every bystander, down to breaching palace protocols, Emir Sanusi is eroding the mystique and the aura of eminence associated with the throne.

After inheriting over N1billion in the treasury of Kano Emirate Council, the emir – an economist – went on spending spree until the council’s accounts ran into deficit. Now if another Muffet-type commission is to be re-inaugurated to investigate how Kano Emirate squandered the treasury on exotic cars, unnecessary ‘restructuring’ of the palace, frequent foreign travels, chartered flights, customised sets of Christian Louboutin spiked shoes and Moroccan costumes, Internet bills, among others, the revelations could be startling.

The deposition of Emir of Gwandu, Mustapha Jokolo, and the unlawful removal of certain Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as governor of CBN because of their public criticisms of government should have served a lesson to the emir.

I just hope somebody is listening.