The unpopular decision of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje to create new emirates, against public outcry and widespread condemnation, in Rano, Gaya, Karaye and Bichi, is a perfect re-enactment of political events of 1907/1908 when the first Resident of Kano Dr Featherstone Cargill (Mai Gunduma) created 34 districts and appointed district heads to man them.
Emir Sanusi II, whose estrangement with the governor precipitated the decision to balkanise the emirate into five, is a near-perfect incarnate of his great-great grandfather Abbas who clung to the throne in the face of humiliation and administrative ostracism. On the surface, one would assume that Sanusi is the only ‘recalcitrant’ and pugnacious monarch in the history of Kano who fights with governors. But Abbas fought with virtually all the colonial residents who served in Kano during his 16 year reign. Even the fears of dethronement (as it happened in Katsina and Daura), never stopped Abbas from fighting against usurping of his powers till death. It was widely believed that Abbas’ death on May 1, 1919 was as a result of fight he had with the Acting Resident A.C.G. Hastings 10 days earlier.
Of course the greatest turbulence in the royal history of Kano Emirate was the civil war (yakin basasa), which broke out shortly after the installation of Emir Tukur by Sultan Abdurrahman in December 1893. The caliphate’s action in forcing unpopular candidate as the emir backfired and resulted in the civil war. After the civil war and the assassination of Tukur on March 16, 1894, Emir Alu Mai Sango (The Musketeer) took charge until his ouster/exile and the capture of Kano in 1903 by the British forces.
The second crisis that rocked the emirate occurred in 1907, when Cargill sacked top Kano princes, created 34 districts (Gunduma), posted district heads to villages, partly took over tax administration, and attempted to dethrone Emir Abbas and replace him with his slave, Dan Rimi Muhammadu Allah bar Sarki (May God Spare the Emir).
The recent removal by Emir of Bichi of 93-year-old Sarkin Bai Mukhtar Adnan and other district heads, apparently on the orders of Governor Ganduje, reminds me about the ill-advised sack and demotion of key district heads loyal to Emir Abbas by Cargill 112 years ago. At the peak of the crisis in 1907, Dr Cargill first removed the son of Emir Abbas, Abdullahi Bayero, as Wazirin Kano and replaced him with Dan Rimi Allah bar Sarki. The Resident did not just stop at removing the emir’s son, he put him on house arrest at Fanisau. Dr Cargill also deposed Ciroma Abdulkadir, another prince loyal to Abbas and sent him to start schooling at the newly established Hanns Vischer school (Makarantar Dan Hausa). He deported Ma’aji Sadi to Lokoja and replaced him with Ma’ajin Watari.
Cargill’s administrative lunacy is a replica of the madness we see today in Kano. Putting question to Cargill’s mental stability, C.N. Ubah wrote in his book, Government and Administration of Kano Emirate 1900-1930, that “He (Cargill) had developed mental disorder, a fact which must have affected his work at Kano, and was declared unfit for the position of Resident.”
Just the way Ganduje ostracised Emir Sanusi, Cargill too made Emir Abbas redundant with little or no role to play in the administration of the emirate. Allah bar Sarki was then made a pseudo prime minister in the Westminster style. Allah bar Sarki was the de facto Emir of Kano, being in charge of the districts and the only interface between the Residency and the subjects. Emir Abbas confirmed his redundancy in a letter he wrote in Arabic to the then Governor of Northern Nigeria, Sir Percy Girouard, lamenting how Cargill rendered him effete.
The emir almost gave up the fight to embark on exile, but the Chief Judge of Kano, Alkalin Kano Muhammadu Gidado, prevailed on him to hold on, pray and fast for divine intervention. As the signs of deposition became manifest, Emir Abbas said in the letter to Governor Girouard: “This is to bring to your notice that at present I have nothing to do; and I would like you to give me some proper work to do, formally I was nobody, before the Whitemen made me a king — now that I am sitting down doing nothing I always feel sick… I have already rolled up the sleeves of my gown waiting to start the work you will give me.”
Forget Emir Abbas’ drunkenness (cited in Robert Heussler’s “The British in Northern Nigeria”, Ibrahim Aliyu Kwaru’s 1991 dissertation, among other literatures), the reason for Cargill’s decision was more of youthful exuberance and obvious lack of understanding of the concept of indirect rule. With his colleague and age mate, Assistant Resident Herbert Richmond Palmer, deposing emirs in Katsina and Daura, Cargill appeared too eager to join the bandwagon in order to prove his mettle. In a reply to a query, Cargill cited the emir’s drinking habit and making the task of administration very difficult as the reason for rendering him redundant.
According to Charles Lindsay Temple, who succeeded Cargill as Resident of Kano, Zungeru (the then capital of Northern Nigeria) acted quickly to avert the crisis. Dr Cargill was removed as Resident of Kano on June 6, 1908; Waziri Allah bar Sarki too was removed and asked to revert to his position as Dan Rimi. According to Temple’s “Notes on the History of Kano”, dated July 6, 1909, a preliminary decision was taken by Sir Girroud to restrict the powers of Allah bar Sarki on October 29, 1908. “Two days later, Governor Girouard instructed Hewby that ‘the duties of the Waziri should be confined to receiving and delivering to the Resident the Government share of the tax, and on special occasions conveying to the Emir any Government requests for labour and contracts which could not be arranged for locally.”
There are lessons for Ganduje to learn from history. Before him, there were governors; and after him there will be governors. Whatever decision he took against the interest of the people would hardly stand the test of time or the stroke of the pen of any right-thinking successor.