On a bright Saturday morning of October 1, 1983 at Kano Race Course, the late former governor of Kano State, Sabo Bakinzuwo, started his inaugural speech as the new executive governor of the state with the most exciting part. Waxing garrulous as ever, the verbose politician glanced over his shoulder to where the late emir of Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero was sitting. “We will restore the prestige and dignity of Kano Emirate now,” he said.
He announced the dissolution of the four emirates of Rano, Gaya, Dutse and Auyo created by his predecessor, Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi. He began by likening the worth of the emirs to four aces of Heart, Diamond, Clubs and Spade, saying in Hausa: “Mun rusa Sarkin Caka (Ace of Clubs) da na Dusa (Ace of Spade) da na Kubu Ja (Ace of Heart)…”
Sabo Bakinzuwo did not stop there. He fired a salvo at Emir of Gumel, Ahmed Muhammed Sani, a former commissioner of Information in Rimi’s cabinet who succeeded his father as emir in 1981. “Shi ma Sarkin Zi don mun yi zaman mutunci da maihaifinsa ne.” (The Ace of Diamond is lucky that I was in good terms with his late father).
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On Wednesday May 8, 2019, the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, made history by assenting to a controversial bill that divided Kano Emirate into five, or what I term pentarchy – a coinage derived from numerical prefix of penta (5) and monarchy.
The supersonic speed with which the new emirates were created raises a lot of questions. Ganduje’s reason is not far-fetched given the cold war that simmers between him and the emir since April 2017. I am not a fan of Emir Sanusi’s loquacity but this time the emir’s greatest crime is speaking up against electoral violence when Kano election was declared inconclusive by INEC. The emir’s call for whoever lost election to accept the outcome in the spirit of peace and progress of the state might have infuriated the governor, who every right-thinking person knew he lost election.
But a congress of scoundrels that forms the Kano Assembly executed the hatchet job by trading off the heritage of Kano in exchange of a life pension, foreign medical trips and other perks for Kabiru Rurum and Hamisu Chidari, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly respectively.
The House cut short its recess before the original resumption date of June 3, 2019, considered and debated a petition by some lawyers from a nondescript chamber, formed a committee to submit report within 24 hours, scaled the bill to first, second and third reading and passed it into law, all in barely 72 hours.
On the day the Assembly passed the bill, the governor – at the stroke of a pen – slew and cut one of the most prestigious emirates in Africa into five asymmetrical pieces, and then excised 36 out of the 44 local government areas under its control, shared it to the new ‘emirates’ and left Kano Emirate with just eight. Running riot with his pen, Ganduje on that same day assented to a pension law for the House of Assembly speaker and his deputy.
But why the haste to pass this unpopular law? Why not before election? Why now when the ball left the court of the electorate? By the time the bill for creation of the four emirates was read before the Assembly, notable Kano indigenes, including Aliko Dangote, had waded into the matter and pleaded with the governor to rescind the plan. In his characteristic pseudo noncommittal mien, Ganduje told the business mogul and other Kano elders that he had no hand in the decision. Give it to him, Ganduje is a shrewd politician but this decision has upgraded his charisma to that of a shrew.
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A few days to the presentation of the contentious bill, an inside source hinted me about the plan, but never thought the execution would be this meteoric. For an Assembly that has notoriety of commoditizing legislation, even a bill to auction off the entire Gidan Rumfa to Chinese and relocate the palace to its original site at an area between Madabo and Garke could see the light of the day.
For an Assembly that has Due Process Bill, Audit bill and Financial Regulations Bill before it, reconvening the House to consider a bill on creation of new emirates (not creation of new Almajiri schools) tells everyone that the law was meant to serve personal not public interest.
The mistake framers of the law made was to equate Kano Emirate with Rano, Karaye, Gaya and Bichi, which have never been independent of Kano Emirate. They posit that some of the emirates are as old as Kano emirate, or older than Kano emirate. And on this ground, they argue, there is need to exhume them from the graveyard of fallen empires and breathe life into them. But the point most proponents of this viewpoint failed to reckon with is that the mere fact that Sarkin Rano or Karaye or Gaya are addressed as “Sarki” doesn’t change their status as heads of tiny districts under Kano Emirate’s control. The cowl doesn’t make a monk.
A professor of History, Tijjani Naniya, on Friday told me that even when Kano conquered Rano, Karaye, Gaya and Dutse long before the Jihad, they were never independent towns as Kano Emirate placed them under its indirect rule – same way the colonial masters ruled their colonies in the North. “Rano, Karaye, Gaya and Dutse have been under Kano’s indirect rule since 13th Century. It is sad that just because of one person, the governor has dissolved 1,000-year history and lowered the rank of the most prestigious and internationally-recognised emirate in Nigeria,” the professor said.
In my view, justifying the ranking of these offshoot principalities at par with Kano Emirate is tantamount to rationalizing of, say the return of the capital of Nigeria from Abuja to Calabar or Lokoja or even Zungeru. Proponents of this idea should not bat an eyelid when another rogue governor decides to relocate Kano Government House to the climax of Dala Hill, believed to be the first settlement in Kano where Barbushe offered deific service to the pagan clan in the 7th Century.
One of the oldest monarchies in the world, the British monarchy, did not start as one in the early medieval Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England but as small kingdoms, which later in the 10th Century consolidated into the kingdoms of England and Scotland. England, for over 400 years, operated what was known as Heptarchy, a system where England was divided up into seven major kingdoms of Northumbria, Wessex, Mercia, East-Anglia, Essex, Kent and Sussex. But where are the kingdoms and the kings today?
Governor Ganduje’s strange argument was that creating more emirates will bring about development. How? When Lagos wanted to develop communities, Tinubu created development area councils not more Oba stools to whittle down the influence of Oba Rilwanu Akiolu as the paramount ruler of Lagos.
Does the creation of more emirates in Kano make economic sense? No. Will the emirates bring pipe-borne water to Rano or Gaya? To bring the new emirs’ picturesque carriage – not prestige that is priceless – at par with Emir of Kano, Ganduje will have to squander public funds to build new palaces, buy exotic cars, among other regal paraphernalia befitting their new status.
Lying beneath the comic effect of Sabo Bakinzuwo’s 1983 inaugural speech was a lesson for Ganduje. If this lesson is outdated, Ganduje should consult his in-law, Abiola Ajimobi, and ask what happened to his creation of 21 Obas after review of the 1957 Olubadan Chieftaincy Declaration and other Related Chieftaincies laws in Ibadanland in May 2017.
The fact remains that whatever is built in the quicksand of politics hardly stands the test of time. Abubakar Rimi created more emirates in Kano not because Kano at that time needed them but because he had an axe to grind with Emir Ado Bayero. And that was how the emirates and the emirs Rimi created collapsed like a pack of cards on the very day Sabo Bakinzuwo assumed office.