Opinion: The Case FOR Sanusi Lamido Sanusi As Emir Of Kano [Part 11]


On Sunday the 8th of June, former Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS), was announced as the 57th Emir of Kano, succeeding the revered late Ado Bayero. Like most people, I was shocked but pleasantly surprised at his selection, as just hours earlier ‘official’ congratulatory messages had publicly been extended to the late Emir’s eldest son, thereby unofficially confirming Sanusi Ado Bayero as the new Emir. It turned out that the premature felicitations were an “error” and that deliberations were till underway to choose from a list of three nominees: Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (the Dan Maje), Sanusi Ado Bayero (Ciroma) and Abbas Sanusi (Wambai). The nominees were screened and compiled by four (4) kingmakers after a careful assessment, as has been the tradition for centuries.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi having built a successful banking professional career outside the emirate needs no introduction here other than to say he has publicly stated his desire to be emir, and is tagged as polarising due to his penchant for speaking his mind and sticking to his convictions, qualities that depending on who you ask are either virtues or vices for an Emir. But more on this later.

Sanusi Ado Bayero, a lawyer, is a career royalist and has reportedly been groomed to succeed his father. He is perceived as reserved and was known to be close to his father, the late Emir. As a result, people’s affection towards Ado Bayero is projected on him.

Abbas Sanusi, SLS’ uncle, is the oldest surviving son of the late powerful Emir Sanusi I (SLS’ grandfather). He has for decades been the strongest member of the Kano Emirate Council and was rumoured to have colluded with Abacha to depose late Ado Bayero and have himself enthroned. So his ambition is well-known.

The kingmakers certified all three eligible, having met all criteria; the most important of which being they’re all descended from Emirs. All nominees are of Abdullahi Bayero’s lineage – the father of late Ado Bayero and Emir Sanusi I. (Emir Sanusi, the eldest son and successor of Abdullahi Bayero decided not to use Bayero for reasons not known). It would then appear that no choice would be a wrong one. Far from it!

Immediately after the announcement of SLS, pockets of protest around the seat of the emirate centred within the ancient walled city of Kano, which now constitutes 4 of Kano’s 44 LGAs, erupted. Now, this is to be expected considering the late Emir was so loved and ruled for 51 years, a period in which almost 80% of present Kano population either came of age or were born. Most have either never experienced or do not have a conscious memory of the death of an emir and the succession power tussle that follows; people did not know how to react. A contributing factor to this confusion is the royal tradition of immediate succession, which doesn’t allow a lot of time for people to grieve. This makes it difficult to differentiate between grief over the loss of revered Emirs and dissatisfaction over succession issues. In reality, these are entirely different things. But the system is what it is and people have a right to be sentimental up to the point that they do not try to change facts or fabricate information.

When opposition to SLS persisted beyond certain constituencies and into what I considered saner climes, I decided to sample opinions and let myself be convinced. After all, I thought, since the choice has been made and in my eyes no rules were broken, the onus is on the “bamayis” to convince me of Sanusi’s unsuitability. I only had one condition: I will accept “I just don’t like him” but all other arguments must pass the common sense test. Easy right?

After speaking to a number of people, most of whom were quite adamant that the decision be reversed, I found an overwhelming consensus among dissenters. The kind of consensus that makes you wonder if they were indoctrinated into rejecting the new Emir, for the arguments were illogical, mostly emotional and monumentally ironic (if they were songs they would be sung by Alanis Morissette!). I address the main ones below.

1SLS’ selection is somehow a betrayal/disrespect of the memory of late Ado Bayero – The biggest irony of this argument is that it is mostly made by people who think the Emirate is still very influential, relevant and can play a vital role in society. Yet, they advocate a selection process that makes being the son of late Ado Bayero the deciding factor, disregarding all other considerations. The memory of late Ado Bayero is beyond desecration. Such is his mark on history. His family will rightly be transferred all the reverence and respect he has earned throughout his legendary reign but not subjects. Subjects aren’t transferred by fiat. Within the confines of royal tradition, subjects are only transferable through the process of succession, following the selection of a new Emir from ALL the eligible candidates. Reducing honouring late Ado Bayero to ensuring his son succeeds him when father-son succession isn’t one of the conditions minimises his legacy. This argument is more emotional than the rest and, I suspect, is rooted in an inability to separate grieving the loss of a great man from dealing with the inevitability of the change that will follow a long and remarkable reign. Considering its emotional nature, this view may be very temporary.

2. SLS’ name was ‘sneaked’ onto the list – This is perhaps the most illogical argument of all. I think it’s partly based on perceptions that SLS’ claim is not legitimate simply because most are too far removed from his grand father’s reign. They neither remember nor care that his father, a crown prince (Ciroma, ironically the same title as Sanusi Ado Bayero), was also set to succeed his father only to be bypassed for late Ado Bayero via Muhammadu Inuwa after Emir Sanusi I was deposed. To think that the grandson of an Emir, son of a crown prince, and most accomplished member of the royal family who was raised by and married to the daughter of late Ado Bayero would not make a list of contenders is just incredible. According to this story, the new Emir did not make the 1st draft but was sneaked in at the behest of Kwankwaso, who reportedly told the kingmakers to show respect for Emir Sanusi I’s lineage by including SLS on the list. Never mind that one of the kingmakers, Muhtar Adnan, the father of former finance minister and current World Bank ED, Dr Mansur Mukhtar, was involved in the selection of 3 emirs (counting SLS) and is beyond intimidation at this stage of his life. Never mind that Kwankwaso in the presence of all the kingmakers and the media said SLS was not just on the list but his name was first. Never mind that none of the kingmakers showed any sign of disagreement with the governor!

The fact is late Ado Bayero’s uncommon humility and patience has covered up a lot of the deficiencies of typical royal behaviour. It is easy to forget that royals are very proud, sometimes arrogant people who would not be coerced.

But let’s even entertain the idea that these kingmakers who come from an era where the emirate had executive and judicial powers have somehow been coerced into submission by this nobody from Madobi (Consistent with the mindset of all royals the world over, the Kano royal also thinks there are only two classes – royals and masses. And that includes the governor!). And let’s, for a moment, entertain the notion that SLS’ name made the list just to appease the Sanusi lineage and that Kwankwaso and the kingmakers lied to the world. Why were there then 2 names (out of 3) from this lineage – Abbas Sanusi and SLS? Did things suddenly change from appeasing Sanusi’s lineage to disrespecting Ado Bayero’s?

3. Kwankwaso has politicised the Emirate – This argument would have made sense if the new Emir didn’t have a legitimate claim or if any succession rules were broken. Father-son succession has never been automatic (in the last century only SLS’ grandfather, Emir Sanusi I, directly succeeded his father) and is currently not a condition. The fact that SLS made a list of suitable candidates chosen by the custodians of the process (kingmakers, who, by the way, aren’t getting any bad rap for this) is good enough for me.

Politics may have played a role in SLS’ emergence but it has done so for almost a century. It was politics that led to the dethronement of Emir Sanusi by Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello; it was politics that led to the transfer of the throne to his uncle, an already aged Muhammadu Inuwa; it was politics that led to the ascension of a young Ado Bayero who the Sardauna felt at the time shared his vision for an upcoming northern Nigeria. You could say Sardauna thought late Ado Bayero a progressive at the time. Again, the irony!

If politics played a part here it did no more than it has done in the past and it is not the only motivation. This decision is too expensive and politically unrewarding for Kwankwaso to make solely for political reasons. Consider this: if SLS’ selection is entirely political and since politicians make decisions for political gains, how can SLS repay Kwankwaso? SLS isn’t overwhelmingly popular in a way that can favour the APC, at least not in the short-term – before 2015, Kwankwaso’s time of need. Moreover, SLS’ propensity to be fiercely independent makes him a very risky political bet. It’s not like Kwankwaso can remove him or wait for his tenure as Emir to expire if his requests are denied. Why then would Kwankwaso risk it all if he did not believe SLS to be the better man?

4. SLS is elitist, capitalist and too ‘hip’ – SLS’ support for subsidy removal earned him a dan jari hujja (capitalist) tag in Kano. That the nation’s top banker responsible for economic decisions would be expected to do anything else is baffling. To point out that his support for subsidy removal was purely professional is to state the obvious. But more importantly, the Emirate is not getting SLS the economist or the CBN Governor the same way it didn’t get Ado Bayero the policeman or the diplomat. What ‘capitalism’ will manifest as in an Emir will likely be a determination to eradicate endemic laziness, support community and human development projects, etc. – a determination to not just be for the talaka but to reduce the number of talakawa. I am not sure these are bad things.

Some say he is too loud and ‘hip’ for Emirship in an attempt to stereotype him as an outsider for daring to excel outside the royal family. This might carry a bit of weight if not for this bit of irony: the late Ado Bayero was also ‘hip’ at  the  time of his ascension. He was an established professional outside the emirate in the same way we consider SLS an outsider today. He was the 11th son of Abdullahi Bayero and figured, with the odds not in his favour, he should have  a life outside the emirate. But being emir was his destiny even though at the timeCiroma (SLS’ father) and oldest son of Emir Sanusi who had just been deposed 3 months earlier was considered an ‘insider’.

5Bringing the Emirate into disrepute – This is the most baseless argument of all. The notion that the enthronement of SLS somehow risks the reputation of the emirate as a traditional institution and custodian of culture is just absurd. Simply remembering that he is by acclamation an Islamic scholar and a man of proven integrity who spent his formative years in the traditions of the institution under the tutelage of late Ado Bayero disabuses one of that notion. This is one of those arguments I simply can’t imagine anyone that considers SLS a legitimate contender and grandson of Emir Sanusi I would make. With this particular set, there is no reasoning. If SLS does not add to the prestige of Kano Emirate I can’t fathom how he will take away.

6. He’s not the people’s choice – Reports that SLS is not popular should be taken with a grain of salt. While it’s true that there have been protests, these have emanated from expected areas, specifically the 6 LGAs closest to the seat of power where the late Emirs sons are district heads. With or without the princes’ approval, their supporters can decide to protest against the new Emir’s emergence. It’s noteworthy that there are 38 other LGAs with large populations as Kano has one of the largest rural populations in Nigeria. And considering the fact that Kano’s rural and urban political dynamics usually run counter to each other, it is reasonable to expect SLS is popular outside the metropolis. This is not to say that SLS isn’t unpopular in some quarters or that he is the most popular among the contenders. But new Emirs seldom are. Reaction towards them generally tends to range from indifferent, to mixed to negative. Overwhelming popularity is earned and SLS will have every opportunity to earn it. Popularity during the selection of an Emir, in as much as the choice is not overwhelmingly rejected due to glaring deficiencies/personal failings (in which case the contender will fail other conditions anyway), is irrelevant. Prospective Emirs only need be popular enough for the Kingmakers. Competence, experience, education and lineage are the decisive conditions for selection and SLS emerged having scored better than other contenders.


There are a lot more fringe anti-SLS arguments making the rounds but the 6 outlined above make up the overwhelming majority of the ‘grievances’. Most of the arguments have nothing to do with SLS’ merits, and the very few that do are based on fabrications, misconceptions or unverified information. They are illogical, arbitrary arguments by a section of the population that has decided for itself who it wants as its Emir and would not be convinced otherwise. While a part of this rejection stems from not knowing how to react to the first succession in the lifetimes of many, some of it is due to a misplaced sense of loyalty, the feeling that support for SLS is a betrayal of the legacy and memory of late Ado Bayero. It doesn’t matter that SLS has a claim or that he is at least equally qualified. It doesn’t matter that, considering the dire challenges facing northern Nigeria, selecting a new Emir is too critical a decision to be based entirely on sentimentality.

To argue that the throne should be left with late Ado Bayero’s family just out of respect for his legacy is to diminish his sons as individuals by denying them the dignity of being assessed on their own merits; it is to diminish the throne by dismissing and undermining the important role it has the potential to play in the lives of people in an increasingly insecure and underdeveloped north that requires cultural, traditional and religious leadership now more than ever.

I am happy SLS emerged but had Ciroma been chosen I would still have supported him without hesitation realising that I’m helpless in this matter – public opinion has never swayed a royal succession. It is not a democratic process. It is rather a traditional process that selects based on criteria that at any point in time multiple individuals will satisfy. To claim that selections aren’t subjective is to be naïve. Choosing Emirs has always been ‘hit or miss’ considering the small sample size and the handful of people who get to decide. But it what it is. So, unless the rules change, if you don’t complain when you get your preferred choice, you shouldn’t when you don’t. This realisation makes me even more grateful to Kwankwaso and the kingmakers for making what is in my opinion (and I’m open to being convinced) the right decision perfectly in accordance with the rules as they stand.

My support for SLS came instinctively and the reasons are straightforward: The Emir of Kano has control and influence over a massively influential traditional network that is severely underutilised at the moment. Though ceremonial, the emir’s words can sway public opinion and have profound effects on a wide range of things, from affecting the success of projects like vaccination programs, to galvanising support for human and community development initiatives, to attracting international aid and investment. A progressive Emir like SLS can overhaul this traditional structure and unlock its potential as an effective outreach network that can be used to address some of the pressing challenges facing the state and region. Given he has been successful in everything he has tried his hands on, I have no reason to believe he will fail.

Of course SLS is not perfect. I do worry there might initially be moments of minor embarrassment, particularly regarding his proclivity to be argumentative and blunt but I believe the emirate will tame him and he will learn to control the urge to the ‘rightest’ man in the room (In most cases this wouldn’t be a problem since he will be spending a lot of time in the palace where he will be so bored he would wish someone would challenge him). On a more serious note, the emirate council has a strong precedent of taming Emirs. An emir is as likely to effect radical changes in traditional royal affairs as the POTUS is likely to alter US defence policy working with an opposition congress. It is a very conservative culture – this is why I think that “bringing the emirate into disrepute” argument is pure BS. All in all, I think he will make a great Emir; his positives by far outweigh his negatives, and, crucially, his personality and experience are just the set of qualities needed right now.

The people of Kano are very passionate and emotional. Nothing proves this better than the drastic about-turn to support SLS by a significant number of royals, religious leaders and the general public over the past 24 hours, suddenly realising that he is zabin Allah (God’s choice). It is only a matter of time; Kano will eventually come around and fully support its Emir. Sometimes, in a state of emotion, logic takes a back seat, but eventually, when passions dissipate, common sense prevails.

May His Royal Highness Emir Sanusi II have a long and prosperous reign, may he strive to attain the lofty ideals of the great late Ado Bayero and Emir Sanusi I, and may he be guided rightly.


Article read and culled from Aguntasolo Blog with the Permission from the Editors


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