19th July 2024

The Approval Of Emirate Council Amendment Bill Introduces A New Face In Kano’s Political Structure

Laolu Afolabi writes on the dethronement of five Emirs in the Kano Emirate and the reinstatement of Emir Muhammadu Sanusi, who was deposed four years ago

On Thursday, May 23, 2024, the Kano State House of Assembly heard the motion on the Kano State Emirate Council Amendment Bill and eventually repealed the 2019 Law that allowed for the creation of the five separate emirates from the old Kano Emirates.

The development paved the way for the historic return of Emir Lamido Sanusi, who was dethroned on March 9, 2020.

The proposed amendment to the bill was brought to the floor of the House of Assembly on Monday, May 20, 2024, and the bill was considered and passed on Thursday, after successfully scaling its second and third readings.

The Deputy Speaker, Alhaji Muhammad Bello Butu, speaking on the amendment, said, “Repealing the law that divided the Kano Emirate into five separate entities would help revive the lost glory of Kano.’’

He further stated that “The division of the Kano Emirate into five reduced the capacity and dignity of the state at the national level.”

Immediately after he signed the act of the parliament at exactly 5.10 pm, Governor Kabir Yusuf of Kano State announced the reappointment of Sanusi as the new Emir of Kano, four years after he was deposed.

The emirs of the five defunct emirates who were affected by the new law and finally deposed were Alhaji (Dr) Aminu Ado Bayero, Emir of Kano; Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero, Emir of Bichi; Alhaji Ibrahim Abubakar II, Emir of Karaye; Alhaji Ibrahim Ibrahim, Emir of Gaya and Alhaji Kabiru Muhammad Inuwa, the Emir of Rano.

The governor, after signing the bill, asked the deposed traditional rulers to vacate palaces immediately.

Beyond the repeal of the law, “reviving the lost glory of Kano,” and “the division reducing the capacity and dignity of the state at the national level,” there had been intrigues and political dimensions to the Kano Emirate and whoever occupies the position of the Emir of Kano.

The Kano Emirate Council is important to the North and, since it was formed in 1903, after the British pacification of the Sokoto Caliphate, it has continued to maintain its relevance in the political and religious affairs of the country. The Emir of Kano is a first-class monarch and one of the great Islamic rulers in Nigeria. The leader of the emirate is among the four leading Islamic authorities, to wit, the Sultan of Sokoto, the Shehu of Borno, the Emir of Kano and the Emir of Gwandu.

To the Kano people, the attempt by the former governor of the state and now National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, to create five emirates out of the old Kano Emirate had reduced the political and religious power of the emirate in national affairs.

Kano holds the ace in determining the emergence of most leaders in the political history of the country. From the days of the First Republic till the last general election conducted in 2023, the votes from Kano had always influenced whoever wins the presidency,

In the build-up to the 2015 political season, the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, ran into troubled water after he axed the then-governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi. The reforms carried out by Sanusi in the CBN had received both criticism and appraisal from the industry. The Banker magazine recognised him as the 2010 Central Bank Governor of the Year, for his reforms and leading a radical anti-corruption campaign in the sector – the first of its kind during the financial crisis.

By December 2013, Sanusi, in a leaked letter to then-President Jonathan revealed that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation failed to remit $48.9bn of government oil revenue to the CBN. The disclosure led to a series of public investigations and raised the alarm on the $20bn NNPC scandal. Sanusi was suspended as CBN governor and in April 2014, he won a court case against the Federal Government, after he was detained and his international passport confiscated by the Department of State Service.

The suspension of Sanusi by the former president opened doors for a campaign against his return in the 2015 election. Latching on to the political advantage, having defected from the Peoples Democratic Party at the time to the newly-formed All Progressives Congress, the then governor of the state, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso, moved to install Sanusi as the Emir of Kano, following the death, on June 6, 2014, of the Emir of Kano, Alhaji (Dr) Ado Bayero, who reigned for over five decades.

By June 8, 2014, Sanusi, a grandson of former Emir Muhammadu Sanusi I, and holder of the traditional title of Dan Majen Kano (son of Emir-Maje), had emerged the new Emir of Kano and he was crowned on June 9, 2014. His ascension then led to widespread protests from supporters of Sanusi Ado Bayero, the Chiroman Kano (Crown Prince), the son of the late Emir Ado Bayero.

By the time the electioneering of 2015 took full shape, Sanusi had been firmly established as the Emir of Kano and his opposition to the government of Jonathan at the time gave the candidacy of former President Muhammadu Buhari an edge, not only in Kano State, but its spiral effects were felt in the North. In the result, the APC candidate polled 1,903,999 votes to defeat Jonathan, who managed to amass 215,779 votes in Kano State. A view of the 2011 election results showed that Jonathan had 440,665 votes, while Buhari, then of the Congress for Progressive Change, had 1,624,543 votes.

After the 2015 election, Sanusi became too powerful for the state. In his six-year reign before he was sacked as emir, Sanusi reinvented himself as a charismatic figure at the crossroads of tradition and modernity. There were many developments in the ancient town during the period, such as the drafting of a new Muslim family law and the construction of a 40,000 books library, among others. He promoted the Durbar festival internationally and was at the centre of Kano modernity, including kicking against early marriage for the girl-child.

He also angered some sections of the town when his daughter represented him at a royal event. Shahida, Sanusi’s daughter, represented him at the inaugural Chibok Girls’ lecture held by the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group. Shahida, who delivered Sanusi’s speech at the event held in Abuja, said representing the emir would be the first time a non-title holder or woman would do so in the North. In a video message to the group, Sanusi also defended his action and said he chose his daughter to represent him at the event because of her passion for gender issues.

Sanusi also spoke out against government policies, breaking with royal tradition. He criticised the government for misplaced priorities and, by 2017, the Emirate Council was under investigation for financial irregularities. Many believed that the probe was because of his stand against the policies and administration of then-Governor Ganduje. The investigation was later called off by the state legislature, following intervention by the ruling class.

The rift with Sanusi made the governor lose his popularity among the elite in the state. In the build-up to the 2019 election, Ganduje was in the heat, as the political situation was not favourable to him. He believed Sanusi’s opposition was shoring up the base of his opponent. The presidential election saw President Muhammadu Buhari coasting home to a comfortable victory over Abubakar Atiku of the Peoples Democratic Party, despite the influence of Kwankwaso in the state. But two weeks later, Ganduje won his return election by sheer luck. The election was termed inconclusive and a rerun was ordered in some local governments. It was not smooth sailing to win the second term. At the end of the day, Ganduje polled 1, 033,695, while his rival, Kabir Yusuf of the then PDP, polled 1,024,713 in a keenly contested election. Ganduje won the election with less than 10,000 votes.

On May 8, 2019, the then Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, having defeated his opponent and a few weeks before his inauguration for a second term, signed the law which allowed the creation of four new emirates; Bichi, Rano, Gaya and Karaye out of the old Kano Emirate. The move saw the partitioning of Sanusi’s traditional domain as Emir.

According to the law, out of the 44 local government areas in the state, Sanusi as Emir of Kano will preside over 10 local government areas; with the four new emirates dividing the remaining 34 local government areas. In March 2020, the state legislature launched a new investigation against Sanusi for what it termed a violation of “traditional practices,” after a high court ruling had restrained the corruption investigation against him.

On March 9, 2020, Sanusi was dethroned by then-Governor Ganduje. The governor also announced in his place the appointment of Dr Ado Bayero, the son of the late emir, as the new Emir of Kano. The Kano State government gave the reasons for the dethronement of Sanusi. Among the reasons, The PUNCH learnt, were alleged insubordination, refusal to attend official meetings and breach of Kano Emirate Law.

Before the announcement, members of the Kano House of Assembly had engaged in a free-for-all over an attempt to remove the Emir, though the government’s statement announcing the dethronement said it was a unanimous decision of members of the State Executive Council.

“This removal is made after due consultation with the relevant stakeholders and in compliance with Part 3 Section 13 of the Kano State Emirate Law 2019 and other reasons stated above. The Emir of Kano is in total disrespect to lawful instructions from the office of the state governor and other lawful authorities, including his persistent refusal to attend official meetings and programmes organised by the government without any lawful justification which amounts to total insubordination. The removal was reached to safeguard the sanctity, culture, tradition, religion, and prestige of the Kano Emirate built over a thousand years,” the statement was quoted.

Sanusi was reportedly in his private residence in Gidan Rumfa when he learnt of his removal, and while waiting for state officials to formally serve him the deposition letter, a contingent of police, military, and security operatives had stormed the palace. His grandfather, Muhammadu Sanusi I, suffered the same fate as he was deposed and exiled in 1963. Sanusi was moved to exile in Awe in Loko, Nasarawa State, against his choice of Lagos. He was escorted out of the palace under heavy guard to a military air base and flown to Abuja, en route to Loko in Nasarawa State, He was relocated to Awe, a remote local government area in Nasarawa State, on March 10, via police helicopter. In March, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the release of Sanusi and he subsequently left Awe together with the then-governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. He had been a private citizen since.

The 2023 election saw the return of political control of Kano State to Kwankwaso, as his party, the New Nigeria People’s Party, won the governorship election. Governor Kabir Yusuf did not hide his plan to revisit the Kano law and return Sanusi as emir. Watchers of the event in the state knew it wouldn’t be long before the emirate law amendment conducted by the Ganduje administration would be repealed. Some believed the plan was shelved in anticipation of the judgment of the Supreme Court.

In a live interview on a Hausa programme aired on local radio in Kano State after the Supreme Court victory for Governor Yusuf, Kwankwaso expressly stated that the issue of the creation of new emirates in Kano State by former Governor Ganduje must be revisited by Governor Abba Yusuf. He said the government of Yusuf would definitely review the “dethronement and balkanisation of the Kano Emirate.”

He said, “Honestly, it is one of the things that nobody has sat with me to discuss so far, but I am sure we are going to sit and see how to go about it. Whether it’s going to be allowed, restructured or whatever, it will definitely be revisited. Whatever is supposed to be done will be done. There are a lot of things involved and this might even be a trap, who knows? But the truth is that all these things were not done in good faith, or with good intention. They were done with some bad intentions which every one of you here and our listeners are aware of.

“Sometimes you come with things that are good and they turn out to be bad, while sometimes you bring things that are bad and they turn out to be good. But all I know is that I was not consulted as of now, but we will come to discuss and see what would be done,” he said.

Also, while delivering his appreciation speech on his victory during a rally at Fili Mahaha on his return to Kano after the Supreme Court verdict, Governor Yusuf was obstructed severally by supporters, chanting, “Sabon Gwamna! Sabon Sarki!” meaning New Governor! New Emir! They also sang songs and chants calling for the reinstatement of Sanusi as the Emir of Kano.

On Thursday, May 23, the Kano State House of Assembly officially passed a bill dissolving all the five emirate councils in the state and returning to the old order pre-Ganduje era. The repeal of the 2019 law by the Kano State House of Assembly marks a significant turning point in the state’s political and cultural landscape. By reversing the division of the Kano Emirate into five separate entities, the Assembly signalled a return to traditional structures in a bid to reaffirm Kano’s historical prestige.

As the state transitions back to the old emirate structure and Emir Sanusi returns in the saddle, the implications for Kano’s political, cultural, and religious spheres will be closely watched, and the game for the 2027 election is now unfolding.

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