The mess bedeviling the Kano Emirate Council is President Muhammadu Buhari’s baby. It stinks like a skunk, but he ought to own it. The crisis has tap roots in Buhari’s growing twin evil of selective justice and vendetta politics that have emboldened his allies to victimize perceived political opponents with impunity.
The crisis is a long time coming. It is a clear case of shrewd gerrymandering designed to diminish the influence of the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. A unique kind of king, Sanusi is a voluble and charismatic figure, who is globally celebrated as a maverick anti-corruption advocate. He is also well-known for speaking truth to power and has never shied away from criticizing any government, where necessary. The problem, however, is that his criticism of Buhari has been eloquently potent and goes far and wide. But Buhari sees opposing views as provocation for war and does repay this in kind. Yet, the president equally goes above and beyond to protect his allies and protégés, without minding their character or image.
This pattern of selective justice and vendetta politics was exemplified by Buhari’s sheer shenanigans in the most dramatic bribery incident in the recent Nigerian memory. The central character was the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, the same man babysitting the emirate mess. Lest we forget, not long ago, Ganduje was caught on camera allegedly receiving bribes in multiple billions of naira. The evidence was overwhelming. The witnesses did not bulge. The whole scene provoked worldwide outrage, as well as mockery for the war against corruption under Buhari. And the situation demanded action from both the state and federal levels.
Very stunningly, instead of condemning the incident, President Muhammadu Buhari shocked the world by showering massive encomiums on the rogue governor. This action or inaction by a sitting president represents the shameless juncture where the evil trajectory in Kano took a dramatic rise. Even the Kano State House of Assembly, which had commenced investigation of the governor, as required by the law, read Buhari’s body language and quickly swept the bribery case under the carpet. There was no apology, no sign of compunction, not even feigned sincerity from Governor Ganduje, or any form of rebuke from the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). The national anti-corruption agency also looked the other way. The conclusive testament is that, when there are no consequences for bad behavior, the bad behavior usually worsens.
It did not take long before the Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, landed in Kano to pass a vote of confidence on Ganduje, to the chagrin of the Nigerian masses. Only in Nigeria! Only in Nigeria!!…Ganduje’s re-nomination for a second term in office would become a mere formality. The optics was abject impunity and did not sit well with Nigerians, particularly the progressive elements in Kano, led by Emir Sanusi. But the character of Kano electorate has been nonconformist from ages. They vote their conscience, power of incumbency notwithstanding.
Come election day, even though President Buhari recorded massive victory in the state two weeks earlier on merit, Governor Ganduje lost to a political greenhorn, Abba Kabir-Yusuf, who happens to be the son-in-law of a former governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. Ironically, Kwankwaso is a close ally of Emir Sanusi, but a fierce foe of both Ganduje and Buhari. Be that as it may, Emir Sanusi was blamed for Ganduje’s electoral woes. But the governorship election would be declared inconclusive. It took a combination of uncommon electoral maneuver and police intimidation to overturn the original outcome. The general view in Kano remains that Ganduje’s “inclusive” victory is a broad daylight robbery. The case had gone to the courts. The governor may serve out his 4 year-second term, but there is worry about life after, especially considering that re-opening of the bribery case depends on who takes over from him. Yet, Ganduje’s electoral humiliation, as well as future obstacles, point to one man: The Emir of Kano, whose influence bestrides the entire state and beyond.
In simple terms, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is facing a political double whammy: one from his state governor and the other from the president of the country. Though Buhari’s side of the equation is understandably more intense, fronting Ganduje to tame the emir offered a nebulous compromise.
Therefore, the splitting of the Kano Emirate Council by Governor Ganduje has nothing to do with development or the common good. While the traditional institution remains a worthwhile societal phenomenon, it is not ennobling where balkanized and basterdized. If fragmentation of kingdoms is a panacea to development, Great Britain would have more kings than Kano. This goes without saying that the balkanization of Kano emirate council is a brazen political witch-hunt, and the goal is two-fold. First, by rubbishing the influence of Sanusi, Ganduje hopes to ride on the cocktails of the “Ganduje Emirs” to dictate the complexion of the State House of Assembly and who becomes governor—after his tenure. Second, and more significantly, it serves to cow the emir from the bigger issue of his goring criticisms of President Buhari.
Many have argued that the royal and religious fathers should not dabble into partisan politics. But that is another idle talk. Societal status must not always deny people the freedom of speech, especially where expressed for the greater good. Moreover, there is the need sometimes to resist the temptation of allowing sycophancy or hypocrisy to breed selective amnesia into national political discourse. It is a common knowledge that, before his ascension to the throne in 2014, the same Sanusi, as the Governor of Central Bank, was hailed within the then opposition ranks for busting the pandora box that contributed to the downfall of President Goodluck Jonathan. As Emir, Sanusi equally did not hide his sympathy for Buhari’s opposition candidacy in 2015. Ditto for the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, who openly endorsed Buhari in both 2015 and 2019 elections and is always in the news attacking the perceived political foes of Buhari. Needless to mention Catholic Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka whose fervent support for the president is legendary.
The Kano emirate crisis portends a troubling future. It is Kano today, but it can be any other Nigerian kingdom tomorrow. Unless President Buhari is crisis-happy, he should hasten and call Governor Abdullahi Ganduje to order. The swirling notion that the emirate crisis is a state matter is pure baloney. And stoic silence ought to be viewed as Buhari’s acquiescence to the quandary.
SKC Ogbonnia, a former 2019 APC presidential aspirant, is the author of Effective Leadership Formula