A Message for the Emir of Kano By Olusegun Adeniyi
It was not, and definitely could not have been the intention. But President Goodluck Jonathan did the Kano Emirate a favour by the manner in which he dealt with Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who was named the new Emir of Kano on Sunday. Because if Sanusi had completed his tenure as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria without the humiliation he had been made to endure in the last couple of months and had been named the Emir of Kano only a few days after such a glorious exit from the apex bank, he probably would have carried with him to the throne an unhelpful swagger and hubris.
Having grown up to believe in hereditary privileges, Sanusi, despite his incredible intellect and broad worldview, had this predisposition that tended to suggest that those of them born into royalty were a breed apart. However, when I met him sometime in April this year at his Lagos residence, it was a subdued (and evidently humbled) Sanusi that I encountered while our interactions suggested that his travails must have taught him significant lessons that should serve him well as the Emir of Kano.
While some commentators are wont to dismiss it as nothing but anachronistic relic of an era gone by, if there is anything to buttress the point that the function which the traditional institution fulfills in the political order is still important, it is the manner in which Sanusi emerged as the favoured candidate for the throne of Kano last weekend. The level of interest shown by both the ruling party (that would send out a diabolical congratulatory message at a time the process was yet to be concluded) and the opposition (whose leaders desperately laid siege on the Kano State Government House) would make for a Nollywood blockbuster. But now that he has achieved his life-long ambition, I hope Sanusi will recognise that he occupies a delicate position that requires maturity, wisdom and fair-play for him to succeed. And he cannot allow himself to be hijacked by any political tendency, if he is to fulfill his mandate as a Royal Father.
By all accounts, Sanusi was a successful CBN Governor who throughout his tenure maintained a stable exchange rate while bringing inflation from double to single digit. It is also to the credit of Sanusi that the nation’s banking system survived the 2009 global economic meltdown without any loss of deposits by bank customers. That, however, is in the realm of banking. As a modern Emir in a democratic dispensation, Sanusi’s interactions will not be with figures or for that matter with some subservient subjects but rather with fellow citizens. Hence the degree to which the people of Kano submit to his authority and ultimately revere him will depend on what kind of traditional ruler he wants to be.
But there is a critical issue that needs to be quickly resolved. It has to do with Sanusi’s imbroglio with the Federal Government which led to his suspension from office as CBN Governor. What is particularly worrying for now is the seeming attempt by some powerful people, with the connivance of the police, to cause what could be a big crisis in Kano if common sense does not prevail quickly. I was with Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso yesterday afternoon in Abuja and he told me that up till now, the police still lay siege on the palace ostensibly in an attempt to prevent Sanusi from gaining access. This is dangerous and I hope the people behind such gambit would understand the implications of what they are doing, especially in times like this, and in a potentially volatile city like Kano.
According to Kwankwaso, (who recounted for me the violent drama that played out in the bid to retrieve from the palace symbolic royal items–the twin spears, a pair of ostrich-feathered shoes, the royal hat, a short knife, a sword and the official royal robe of the late Emir Ado Bayero), not only was last Sunday afternoon riot instigated and sponsored, some Kano politicians who claim to be representing the Federal Government are encouraging a particular candidate who lost out in the selection process not to concede. It is these same forces that are behind the police blockage of the Emir’s palace. Given the security implications of such a prolonged impasse in a city like Kano, I hope the president will intervene on the matter so that Sanusi can access his Palace before the situation degenerates into violence.
Notwithstanding, what the events of recent days reveal very clearly is that Sanusi already has his job cut out for him though the protests that greeted the announcement of his name as Emir can easily be understood within the context of palace politics. And there is nothing unusual about it. For instance, when Sultan Sadiq Abubakar of Sokoto died in 1988, there were rumours then (obviously sponsored) that Alhaji Ibrahim Muhammadu Maccido (who would much later ascend the throne before dying in 2006) had been selected by the kingmakers. Without waiting for the official confirmation, some people ran to the radio station to make the announcement even before the process was over. At the end, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki (who would later be deposed) emerged the Sultan and riots erupted. Ultimately, common sense prevailed and the same will happen in Kano, especially since all the contenders are members of the same Fulani family where cousins are also most often brothers-in-law!
Within the context of Nigeria’s socio-political development, however, perhaps what makes Sanusi’s ascension to the throne of Kano epochal is the timing. At a period when there is an ongoing conversation about the role the traditional authority can, and indeed, should play in the efforts to restore peace and prosperity to the Northern region that is practically lying prostrate as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, Sanusi has come at the right moment. That was what former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) was alluding to in his letter to Sanusi: “You should cultivate all and exclude none…Your immediate duty is to rally the people to support the government in fighting terrorism and unrest. You should also bring your wealth of experience in assisting the economic revival of the state and the country.”
While the challenge of terrorism is national, even global, the role of the traditional authority is very central to the attempt to find a lasting solution to the problem of insecurity in our country. Given that an Emir is generally regarded as both a traditional and spiritual authority, Sanusi’s extensive knowledge of Islam and Islamic jurisprudence puts him in a good stead to confront our current challenge. Yet his immediate task is a multiple one.
First, he has to assuage the feelings of the presidency in Abuja that he intends to place the exalted office of Emir of Kano above partisan considerations. Second, he has to rise above the immediate constrictions of a purely theocratic conception of his new office. An open reconciliation to the secular essence of the Nigerian federation is perhaps the most important prerequisite for peace and harmony. This requirement is imperative not only for the Emir of Kano but for all wielders of traditional authority in major cities of Nigeria’s increasingly diverse urban centres. In that regard, it is my hope that Sanusi’s exalted position and the network of friends all over the country, particularly in the south will provide a much needed bridge for our national understanding and harmony.
All said, it is noteworthy that I did not start this piece with the customary congratulations. It is deliberate. Since I consider Sanusi a brother, I don’t think it would serve any useful purpose for me to join those who can only see the glamour of the office now bestowed upon him without also looking at the enormous responsibility it also carries. Nevertheless, congratulations are indeed in order and I wish His Royal Highness, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, a prosperous reign on the throne of his forefathers.
Dora Nkem Akunyili (1954 – 2014)
When in the course of our second encounter in April 2002, then Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the late Prof. Dora Akunyili, knew I had two daughters, she instantly said: “Your next child must be a boy.” And she did not stop at that, she sent me a book that contained “bedroom prescriptions” on how to have a male child. Of course, I never opened the book which I gave to the first person that came to my office, requesting for it, following the publication.
I considered the whole idea rather hilarious and in a piece I did later that year on the societal fixation about the male-child, I had in passing made this comment: “…I have always assured her (Akunyili) that I will follow the experiment, with the cooperation of my wife of course, when the time comes. The implication, as I have repeatedly told her, however, is that if it fails and I end up with another baby girl, then I may be forced to write a petition to President Olusegun Obasanjo that the NAFDAC boss has given me a fake ‘prescription’…”
However, as it would turn out, my next child, born on October 1, 2003, turned out to be a boy. Apparently believing her “prescription” did the magic, Akunyili not only became the godmother to my son, she extended the affection to his siblings such that whenever she was in Lagos, she would send her aides to pick the three of them for weekends at her Ikoyi guest house. That was how I started hearing “Grandma NAFDAC” so frequently in my house. But on the national plane, Akunyili was a remarkable woman who changed the face of drug administration in Nigeria.
At an international conference on drug counterfeiting early this year, Dr. Ramankant Gudal said it was Akunyili who alerted the Indian authorities to the prevalence of drug counterfeiting in their country. According to Gudal, “…in September 2001, we had the India-Africa health conference where Dr. Dora Akunyili, as DG of NAFDAC, strongly complained that from India and China sub-standard and counterfeit drugs are entering Nigeria. Everybody was stunned. Immediately after her speech, I spoke and said we do not want the substandard drug dealers and counterfeits in India. I requested her to pass on to us whatever information of such exporters they have and assured her that we would take stringent action against them to stop such activities…”
Although NAFDAC was established by Decree 15, 1993 (as amended) to control and regulate the manufacture, importation, exportation, distribution, advertisement, sale and use of food, drugs, cosmetics, chemicals, detergents, medical devices, and all drinks, nobody at NAFDAC took this mandate seriously until Akunyili assumed office in 2001 and decided to change the course of events. And with her, we saw how the courage and tenacity of one purposeful leader could make a difference in a society. It is true that Akunyili’s public career did not end with NAFDAC. But for me, and most Nigerians, that was essentially what defined her and for which she would forever be fondly remembered. On a personal note, my children will also forever cherish the memory of their “Grandma NAFDAC”. May God comfort the family she left behind.
Okonjo-Iweala @ 60
The Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will be 60 tomorrow. A remarkable woman and global citizen, Okonjo-Iweala is without any doubt one of the most accomplished Nigerians of this generation and a true patriot. I wish her all the best that tomorrow offers.
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