Pray, not Sanusi’s road to Golgotha
If not for its potential for tragedy, it would have qualified as a modern day re-enactment of the inimitable Fela’s immortal song trouble de sleep yanga go wake am. I am of course referring to the current probe going on in the Kano State House of Assembly and what it holds out for the peace and the stability of the state, in fact of the North and the country.
The assembly, for about a week now, has been probing the Emir of Kano, his royal majesty, Muhammadu Sanusi II. This outspoken traditional ruler, a self confessed radical, has predictably talked himself into trouble with the powers that be in Kano.
From the look of things, these powers that be, which feel unfairly challenged, and possibly bruised, are determined to exact their pound of flesh. That or nothing else. And that is where the danger lies. The emir, not a stranger to crisis and controversy, blew the whistle for this drama to commence. He took his state government to the cleaners by accusing the Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his officials of getting their priorities woefully wrong.
When he spoke at the Kaduna State Investment summit recently, the emir lamented some steps taken by Kano State government, clearly the predecessors of the current leadership, which steps he said were retrogressive and antithetic to any modern development templates. But in an oblique way, he let the world know that even the current government is not about to do those things that would bring positive economic and social changes to the state. He said, for instance, the governor without naming Ganduje in person had gone to China with a retinue of officials to go and negotiate loan for an apparently dubious light rail project.
For the record, these are the exact words of the emir at the said Kaduna summit: “We have governors, they go to China and spend one month on a tour and what do they come back with? MoU on debts. China will lend you 1.8 billion dollars to build light rail. This rail line will be done by rail workers from China. The engines will come from China. The labour will come from China. The driver is Chinese.” And he added, for good measure, that the people that will pay to ride on these trains would not be going anywhere for an economically productive activity. Meaning that the investment would not be productive; instead, it would be humongous money down the drain.
As if they had been hit below the belt, Kano State government officials sprang to action. First it was the Kano Public Complaints and anti-graft agency. It brought what it described as water-tight case against the emir, accusing him of squandering six billion naira, money left in coffers by his predecessor, Emir Ado Bayero. The emirate council denied it. The agency’s chairman, Muhyi Gado would later suspend their own investigation to await the outcome of the eight-man probe panel set up by the state house assembly.
The panel is already at work and unless somebody somewhere tells the eight-man squad to apply the break, the panel is determined to haul the eminent traditional ruler before it to answer sundry charges which include mismanagement of funds. The figure of the mismanaged fund has so far changed from six billion to four billion. The other charges awaiting the royal majesty include misconduct of no material particular, peddling rumour about the governor and his officials and criticising President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in addition to sending his daughter Shahida to represent him in Abuja at an event organised to mark the third anniversary of the capture of Chibok girls by the Boko Haram insurgents.
To make matters worse, according to the speaker, Kabiru Alhassan Rurum, who reeled out the list of the emir’s transgression, “the girl was not in full traditional regalia.” If you understand the Northern culture fairly well, you would appreciate why this last one represents a sore point. Of all the officials of the emirate council, the emir did not find any other suitable person, a man in turban, to represent him. It had to be a girl, his daughter. And the chic of it, she was not even properly kitted for the occasion.
Not done yet. The speaker also accused the emir of introducing religious views that were deemed not to be in consonance with the teachings of Islam. And, as if to compound his iniquities, dabbling into politics and making statements unbecoming of royalty.
Perhaps the alleged transgressions of the vocal emir would have had some lighter consideration and he could, in fact, have been let off the hook with some warning if, perhaps, he had limited his rumour mongering to the executive arm of government. But he went beyond reasonable bounds. As if possessed by death wish, this iconoclastic emir, who fears no foes, decided to include, of all people, the speaker himself and members of the state assembly.
In fact, you’d need to get the version of the speaker to appreciate the enormity of the case: Duration of the trip to China was not one month. It was only four days. It was not to seek loan to construct the light rail project but to find out the capacity of the company to handle the project.
Before bringing down his gavel, the speaker, in a manner of a magistrate seeking to pronounce the guilty verdict, said: “The emir’s allegation has brought a lot of insults to MY PERSON, (caps mine) the state government and the House of Assembly by the general public in and outside the state.”
Considering these weighty allegations by the accusers who will also sit in judgement, what are we to expect? Guilty as charged? And then the re-enactment of the bizarre scene in 1963 between his grandfather, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi and Governor Kashim Ibrahim of Northern Region working at the behest of the powerful Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern Nigeria. On that occasion, the lot fell on Kashim Ibrahim as governor to inform the embattled emir, summoned to Kaduna for the exercise that, as a result of the probe panel that investigated his activities, the government had decided to dethrone him. And he was thereby dethroned. That marked the beginning of his journey to Golgotha. He spent 20 years in exile in Azare before his death.
Though history has a nasty habit of repeating itself, this is one instance where history must not be allowed to repeat itself. Yes, the Kano State government has the power to dethrone any traditional ruler within the boundaries of the state. And yes, the emir of Kano may have gone a bit far in his efforts to draw attention to those entrenched cultural forces that truly impede progress and socio-economic development of the North. But the answer, in my well considered opinion, does not lie in the wielding of the big hammer. Those who have been elected to govern and lead the people – governors, speakers, all – must have the large hearts to endure the indiscretions of the people and suffer the inconveniences of followership. That is the true quality of modern leadership as opposed to the awesome feudalism of old.
On balance, there is nothing in the utterances and the activities of this emir that threaten national security. For instance, those who are still stuck with the conservative interpretation of Islam and believe, falsely, that it is taboo to promote girl child education constitute more danger to the Northern society than the Muhammadu Sanusis of the modern world. Their actions have contributed in no little way towards the underdevelopment of the North with more than three million children of school age roaming the streets begging for food. They are not promoting Islam. If anything they tend to degrade it and give the false impression that that is what Islam is all about. Islam, I dare say, is not a retrogressive and conservative religion.
If a modern day emir of the people, not content merely by sitting on the peacock throne to receive homage and traditional gifts, decides to make more positive contribution to save his people from modern day slavery and conservative cultural bondage, the least the society can do is to give him support. A government that is transparent, progressive and has the interests of the generality of the people at heart has nothing to fear from critics, those who have a duty to speak truth to power and keep officialdom on its toes.
Emir Muhammadu Sanusi, like any other individual, may have his shortcomings. And Sanusi’s own, obviously, includes not knowing where to draw the line or where to apply the break. But it is not a life threatening character flaw. Definitely, not a sufficient reason to persecute him. The wise men of Kano, who are waiting to bring out their daggers, must apply the break for the sake of peace and stability not only of Kano State but of the North in particular and the country in general.