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Dele Momodu: Of Outsiders And The Bereaved



Fellow Nigerians, the story you are about to read is out of the script of the latest melodrama in our dear beloved country. The setting is the famous city of Kano but the stage extends to different parts of the beleaguered nation. Let’s give a little background to the play and its author. This is what is referred to as the sociological approach in Literature.

My interest in Kano is more than casual or accidental. As a young man, I was titillated endlessly about its groundnut pyramids. Then I read so much about its most famous politician, Mallam Aminu Kano, the proverbial friend of the poor. Then I met and fell in love with one of the City’s most charismatic and incredibly handsome politicians, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi. I would later know and interact with its most celebrated and richest citizen, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, who practically dragged me to be the Master of Ceremony at his daughter’s wedding. I also visited Kano several times at the invitation of the icon of Diplomacy, Ambassador Plenipotentiary Chief Antonio Deinde Fernandez (aka Ajinijini Ogun, and The Garsan Fulani) whose wife Halima, The Baroness of Dudley, hails from Kano.  Of course, I am friends with one of the Princes, Nasiru Ado Bayero, and met his powerful dad, The Emir Alhaji Ado Bayero, at home and abroad. My last but not the least attachment to Kano was in the choice of my Vice Presidential candidate in 2011. I picked Dr Yunusa Tanko, now Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria.

Naturally, the death of The Emir of Kano would attract attention and generate feverish interest because of the special place Kano occupies in Nigeria. I did a tribute as soon as the news broke last week. I also tried to reach out to my friends in Kano. By last Saturday, the race for the selection of the new Emir had started in earnest. I knew it was going to be a straight fight between the children of Alhaji Ado Bayero and Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the man who never pretended about his interest in ascending the throne. It had long been foretold that this was his ultimate dream in life. Someone called me to ask if I knew whether the APC had sympathy towards SLS and if Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso was going to favour him. Since I didn’t have an immediate knowledge of what was going on, I called a few contacts to pick their brains.
Anyone who has followed my column would have known that I have never been a big fan of SLS. I respect his brains but found his bullish nature a bit off the wall. I had stated this clearly in my write-ups and his acolytes had descended mercilessly on me for daring to challenge their idol. That is not unexpected in a country like ours. But I later realised that while his supporters were ready to fight his enemies, the man himself was a gentleman whose only weakness is being too emotive. I experienced this side of him when we ran into each other a few months ago in the elevator at the Lagos Intercontinental Hotel and we exchanged pleasantries. He couldn’t help saying “Dele, your pen is too wicked!” but in a friendly manner. He even asked his personal assistant to give me his complimentary card. This preamble is intended to make a personal confession that I thought an Ado Bayero would be less controversial and probably more likely to get selected since the traditional institution is usually conservative.

By Sunday morning, all ears awaited the announcement from the Kano State Governor. At a stage tweets started flying that Governor Kwankwaso had picked the Ciroma of Kano, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi Bayero. I refused to retweet until I was absolutely sure. As if to complicate the suspense, a tweet came from the PDP congratulating the Ciroma as the new Emir. To worsen the matter, a tweet also purportedly came from the Twitter handle of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi congratulating the Ciroma as well. There was total confusion and pandemonium at that stage. But I got different vibes and feelers from different sources. I was told some influential APC members including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Lion Heart Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, had mobilised comprehensively behind SLS, for obvious reasons. Kano controls the largest voting population in Nigeria ahead of even Lagos. Whichever party controls the soul of Kano would most likely reap bountiful harvest at the polls. It is plainly useful to have the Governor as a member of your party and a sympathetic Emir as your quintessential father figure.

I succeeded in speaking to Nasiru Bayero in the middle of this hullabaloo. And he was his usual calm and affable self. I commiserated with him on the death of his father and asked about the rumour that was spreading like wildfire. He assured me no announcement had been made and that his family would abide by whatever decision though he wished his most senior brother would win the tussle. He talked about something that I always believed in, Destiny. He said it was impossible to be an Emir unless you were destined to be. And that the good of Kano was top priority and not personal ambition. We said our goodbyes and promised to catch up soon. I was indeed touched by his uncommon simplicity and candour in the face of what must have been a very difficult moment for his family.
I spoke to another friend who told me the delay in announcing the new Emir was because the Federal Government was definitely interested in the matter and was ready to wield the big stick against both Kwankwaso and SLS. I asked what would happen to them and the person said all cards were on the table including the impeachment of the Governor as well as the dethronement of SLS. I felt my friend was carrying the joke too far and told him so. I said though I was not particularly keen about SLS, I will fully support him if he wins and will openly oppose any attempt by the Federal Government to destabilise Kano and the North by moving against SLS. My position is predicated on the fact that I believe power belongs always and ultimately to God. I hate when humans oppress, suppress, harass, intimidate and generally coerce fellow human beings into absolute submission. I love under-dogs and despise tyrants and aspiring dictators. I possess a natural proclivity for defending the oppressed. This was the reason I agreed to march on the streets of Abuja with others when the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan suffered his own oppression in 2010.

In this case, I saw SLS as the victim and was ready to jettison our past hostilities to support him. I was particularly worried and saddened by the fact that Nigeria had bigger problems to confront. I couldn’t imagine the fact that a government that had the issue of Chibok and the abducted girls in its hands would find time to fight the installation of an Emir in Kano. I will never get tired of pleading with our President to discard the many hawks around him who believe he should fight every war no matter how dirty and petty. A strong man should never waste his arsenal on minor skirmishes when there are bigger battles ahead. The President of Nigeria is too big to be duelling with subordinates at the flimsiest excuse. The President should just concentrate on his job and let his good works speak volumes for him. If he truly performs no one can deny him his glory because truth may be delayed but it is constant.
I was undergoing this internal monologue when the news broke that SLS was the choice of the Kano Government out of the three names submitted to the Governor. I expected our President, as father of the nation, to be the first to officially congratulate The Emir of Kano designate but the message of felicitation never came. Instead there were staccato messages coming from Abuja that confirmed the earlier threats that the Federal Government was ready to hit back in full force. If I still imagined it was a stupid joke, I heard protests had broken out in some parts of Kano and the police had barricaded roads leading to the Emir’s Palace.

What instantly struck me was that this was similar to how the President had refused to congratulate Governor Rotimi Amaechi after winning the Nigeria Governors Forum election for a second term in office. Had he embraced Amaechi then in the spirit of no victor and no vanquished perhaps PDP would be intact today. But our President chose to support the breakup of the forum for whatever gain, I still don’t know. Anyone who knows Amaechi well would have known that contrary to the perception of being arrogant, he was just a stickler for principle and justice. He had spoken to a group of publishers last year about his readiness to reunite with the President after Nduka Obaigbena asked him frontally about it but those profiting from their fight made it impossible for him to do so.
It’s the same way, as I understand, SLS was fond of the President. This was demonstrated during the fuel subsidy riots in 2012 when he went all out to defend the full subsidy withdrawal attracting abuse to himself from many. I had also witnessed the way he promptly jumped up to pick a call from the President while we lunched at the Oriental Hotel years back hosted by the erstwhile Managing Director of Bank of Industry, Evelyn Oputu, with the then American Ambassador, the extraordinary Robin Renee Sanders, in attendance.  SLS spoke fondly of his “boss”.  What could have gone wrong? Your guess is as good as mine. SLS apparently stepped on powerful toes by alleging stupendous mismanagement of our oil revenues. He had touched the tiger by the tail and the gladiators made sure he was booted out.

For the past six months, SLS had been practically floating in the Nigerian polity and was uncharacteristically taciturn. This should have shown his enemies that the man had eaten and swallowed  humble pie after being rubbished by them. But these warriors never know when to stop fighting. They were out to draw blood and pummel him mercilessly. His passport was confiscated. A barrage of allegations surfaced in national newspapers chronicling his horrendous financial mismanagement and reckless spending. All they did was to criminalise him in the media but he was never tried or convicted except in their own courts.  Unknown to us all, God was going to unleash His joker on us all.

This week, SLS ascended the throne of his forefathers unexpectedly. The import of it must have caught his traducers unawares. Rather than bow to the will of God, they chose to fight and flex their muscles. On Monday, I got through to the Prince of Ile-Ife, Adetokunbo Sijuwade, who had left Kano Sunday evening. We spoke at length about the unfolding saga. He was very sad about the turn of events. The late Emir was his dad’s best friend and he wished for the spirit of the great man to rest in peace. I told him his influential and highly respected father needed to step in immediately before politicians rubbish the memory of his good friend of several decades.
By Tuesday, I knew many forces were trying to intervene and resolve the debacle. Everyone was worried that if Kano was set ablaze, it may spread to many parts.

I was elated when I saw the picture of Alhaji Aliko Dangote paying homage to the new Emir. I thought as someone very close to the President, that should have opened a line of dialogue and doused the tension. But the standoff persisted until yesterday when I ran into Prince Adetokunbo Sijuwade and he informed me of efforts to achieve peace in Kano. Later in the afternoon, reports came that the matter had been resolved amicably between The President and The Emir. The Emir was allowed to move into his palace. But later in the evening, a serving Minister was said to have made fresh allegations against the appointment of SLS. Things are as volatile as ever and only God knows how this would end.
I only wish this government understands that the price of peace is often cheaper than the cost of war. Let’s appreciate all those who are working for peace and pray that the warmongers will eventually cool temper.
Long live the King. Long live SLS, the charming Emir of Kano.


Dele Momodu Write the Pendulum For Nigeria’s Thisday Newspapers, Email: [email protected]


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