The Friday appointment of four additional emirs in Kano State by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has significance beyond the perceived move by the governor to get at the controversial Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II.
Before the governor’s action, Kano, as a geographical and cultural entity, has maintained single rulership since the establishment of the Sokoto caliphate in 1804. It was, therefore, no surprise that Ganduje’s action generated anxiety and anger in equal measure.
Speaking to State House correspondents on Friday, Ganduje defended his government’s swift creation of four additional emirates.
“It is not vendetta, I am not against him (Sanusi). In fact, he is supposed to be reporting to the local government chairman according to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the governor was reported as saying.
But even as Ganduje struggled to defend the happenings in the state, the actions of his government, in partnership with the Kano State House of Assembly, have left no room to take the governor’s words.
It is public knowledge that Ganduje has barely had a good relationship with Sanusi for most of the last four years.
Sanusi was appointed Emir of Kano in 2014 by Ganduje’s predecessor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. Ganduje was then Kwankwaso’s deputy.
But since the coming of Ganduje as governor in May 2015, the emir and the governor have been in a frosty relationship.
The Sanusi-Ganduje Fiasco
The cold war between Governor Ganduje and Emir Sanusi has been long coming.
Sanusi came to the position from his former position as the governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank.
He attained fame and notoriety after his open accusations against the then Goodluck Jonathan administration on the management of the country’s oil revenues.
He was fired from the job in a controversial manner, which generated widespread condemnation, including from the then All Progressives Congress (APC), Ganduje’s party.
Sanusi came into his new role as a traditional ruler with the same attitude.
He generated controversies with his utterances, often criticisms directed at government’s policies and actions.
At least on two occasions, Sanusi passed a harsh verdict on Buhari’s economic policies as it relates to foreign exchange, alleging at one point that the government was breeding corruption.
When Ganduje travelled to China in 2017 to ink a $1.8 billion light rail agreement with China EXIM Bank, the emir used the rostrum at the Kaduna investment summit to tongue-lash the decision.
Insiders say Ganduje took those criticisms with no excuses. He saw the criticisms first against Buhari, on whose political goodwill he wanted to run again for office, and against himself as an affront. He decided to deal with the critic within.
When the Kano Public Complaints Anti-corruption Commission went after the emirate council’s finances, it was clear to all that the governor had risen to axe Sanusi.
While the probe was on, the government ordered its halt citing intervention by prominent Nigerians and reconciliation between the governor and the emir.
The 2019 politics
While the dust from the 2017 removal threats was yet to fully settle, politicking for the 2019 elections began in earnest.
Through rumours and leaked conversations, it was widely believed that Sanusi had no space in his heart for Ganduje and President Buhari. Those who peddled the perceived stance of the emir back it up with his past utterances.
Not one to keep his traducers guessing, the emir changed the pattern of his criticism by passing veiled comments and innuendos.
In the build-up to the polls, Sanusi addressed a sermon that was widely reported in which he was only short of calling out Messrs Buhari and Ganduje.
In what many interpreted as an indirect de-campaigning of Mr Buhari, the emir charged electorate to go after competent candidates, arguing that those who have only integrity as their selling point should not be trusted with public office.
In the same sermon, the emir lampooned politicians he described as selfish who promoted brigandage to achieve their political goal, charging people to reject such individuals. Government’s fixers in Kano did not take the comments lightly.
Perhaps sensing what was cooking, the emir, in an address at the Mambayya House in Kano after the elections, said persons in positions like him should not turn heads at wrongs because of fear of losing their posts.
“You will do wrong and emir would keep quiet because he is scared that he could be removed. This is what kills the land. Positions are never permanent. Every emir should know this. If emirship is for life I wouldn’t have become the emir, there was someone before me.”