The emir of Kano
Banker v Boko
LAMIDO Sanusi was never afraid of offending. “I love controversy”, the Muslim leader said earlier this year. “If you think there has to be change…you need to step on a few toes.”
Mr Sanusi lived by that mantra as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, embracing reform and rooting out corruption. He was sacked in February after claiming that some $20 billion of oil revenues had gone missing from government coffers. The powers-that-be were irked when, only four months later, he was made emir of Kano.
Emirs, traditional leaders of the north, wield great influence and the Kano post is the second-highest ranking of all. They usually stay out of politics. But once installed in his palace, Mr Sanusi has been catapulted back to the centre of another national crisis: this time, the insurgency in Nigeria’s north. He caused a stir last month by calling on Nigerians to arm themselves against the Boko Haram insurgents waging jihad on the state. Residents should not wait for help from the military, he was reported as saying. They should “acquire what they need to protect themselves”. Police angrily said this was a “call for anarchy”.
Civilians are already playing an active role in fighting the insurgents through local vigilante groups. Mr Sanusi echoed a growing feeling among politicians that, as the military fails, arming civilians may be the best way to secure the north, said one well-placed analyst who requested anonymity.
Mr Sanusi has been as exposed to the vengeance of the insurgents as he was before to that of the government. On November 28th suspected Boko Haram militants attacked the central mosque in Kano, next to his palace, killing at least 130 worshippers with bombs and guns. Mr Sanusi was quick to say that the assault took months to plan and was not provoked by his comments. Either way, the attackers had singled out the mosque, possibly expecting him to be there (as it happened, he was overseas).
Mr Sanusi is not the first emir to speak out against Boko Haram’s extremist brand of Islam, nor to be targeted for doing so. The emir of Gwoza was killed by gunmen earlier this year. Two others narrowly escaped with their lives in the attack. Mr Sanusi came back straight after the Kano bombings and led prayers at the mosque the following day. He said: “We will never be intimidated into abandoning our religion.”
Article Originally Published by the Economist Magazine