Ganduje and the Final Coup against the 214 -Year Old Kano Emirate

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

Emir of Kano Muhammed Sanusi

• Ganduje Sings the Nunc Dimitis

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

For 214 years since the Kano State Emirate was established, there have been different attempts to whittle down its power. With what the Kano State Government has done to it now, it smacks of nailing the final coffin of a juggernaut that, over time, had resisted many attempts to cripple it. First was the Fulani conquest, followed by the British imperial invasion. There was also the shindig between Emir Mohammadu Sanusi, the grandfather of the present occupant of the Kano throne, and the Sultan of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello who was the Premier of Northern Region in the First Republic. The latest is the grinding move of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.

On Thursday, 8 May 2019, the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, gave assent to the bill passed by the Kano State House of Assembly on breaking up the emirate in the state. The implication of this is that Kano now has five emirates: Kano, Rano, Gaya, Karaye and Bichi, while the domain of Muhammadu Sanusi, emir of Kano, has been reduced.

This happened a day after the Kano State House of Assembly passed the bill approving the amendment of the Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs Law. In a motion presented to the House by the Majority Leader Baffa Babba, the House “unanimously agreed that creation of more Emirates will assist in job creation, dispute, and community conflict resolutions among others.” The passage of this bill paves way for the decentralisation of the Kano Emirate council thereby decentralising the power of Emir of Kano, Channels Television reports.

The Kano Emirate was a religious state in Northern Nigeria, formed in 1805 during the Fulani jihad, when the old Hausa Sultanate of Kano, according to historians, became subject to the Sokoto Caliphate. During and after the colonial period the powers of the emirate were steadily reduced.

Historians write that the Hausa Kingdom of Kano was based on an ancient settlement of Dala Hill. “While small chiefdoms were previously present in the area, according to the Kano Chronicle, Bagauda, a grandson of the mythical hero Bayajidda, became the first king of Kano in 999, reigning until 1063. Muhammad Rumfa ascended to the throne in 1463 and reigned until 1499. During his reign he reformed the city, expanded the Sahelian Gidan Rumfa (Emir’s Palace), and played a role in the further Islamization of the city as he urged prominent residents to convert. The Hausa state remained independent.

However, this independence changed with the Fulani conquest of 1805. In other words, at the beginning of the 19th century, Fulani Islamic leader Usman dan Fodio led a jihad affecting much of northern Nigeria, leading to the emergence of the Sokoto Caliphate. “Kano, as historians explained further, “became the largest and most prosperous province of the empire. This was one of the last major slave societies, with high percentages of enslaved population long after the Atlantic slave trade had been cut off. Heinrich Barth, a classical scholar who spent several years in northern Nigeria in the 1850s, estimated the percentage of slaves in Kano to be at least 50%, most of whom lived in slave villages. From 1893 until 1895, two rival claimants for the throne fought a civil war. With the help of royal slaves, Yusufu was victorious over Tukur, and claimed the title of emir.

The British Attack, according to Wikipedia

The British pacification campaign termed Kano-Sokoto Expedition set off from Zaria at the end of January 1903 under the command of Colonel Morland. British officers and N.C.O.s and 800 African rank and file. Apart from a company of mounted infantry and a few gunners, the whole force consisted of infantry. They were supported, however, by four 75-mm. mountain guns, which could if necessary be dismantled and transported by porters, and by six machine guns.

After sporadic fighting outside the walls of the fort, the British managed to penetrate the defensive parameters of the capital. Kano was mostly left defenseless at the time, the Emir, Aliyu Babba was away with its large contingent Cavalry for the Autumn Campaign at Sokoto. News of the British capture of Kano in February 1903 sent the Cavarlry in a long march to retake the city.

After successfully defeating the British in three encounters, on the 27 of February 1903, the Grand Vizier of Kano; Ahmadu Mai Shahada and much of the Kano Cavalry was ambushed at Katarkwashi. The death of the Vizier and subsequent capture and exile to Lokoja of the 7th emir of Kano; Aliyu Babba spelled the formative end of the Kano Emirate. The British made Kano an important administrative centre and kept most of the Emirates institutions in the form of the Kano Emirate Council subject to the British crown in a newly formed state called Northern Nigeria.

Below is a story published on this platform on the Sanusi vs Ahmadu Bello conflict, entitled:

“Persecution of the Sanusis: Like grandfather, like grandson”

Lamido Sanusi: Emir of Kano


Just as his grandfather, Muhammed Sanusi 1, was dethroned as a result of power struggle (hidden under the cloak of a probe) between him and Ahmadu Bello, the current emir of Kano is under political persecution

By Ademola Adegbamigbe

It was a dramatic denouement to a conflict that started months earlier. The setting was Government House in Kaduna in 1963 and the two characters that day were Sir Kashim Ibrahim, Governor of Northern Region and Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 1, grandfather of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (now Muhammadu Sanusi 11), the current occupant of that throne.

The two men exchanged greetings by shaking hands stiffly. Sir Kashim, with a probably shaky voice, delivered a bomb. Government had accepted to implement the recommendation of the probe panel, set up by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and the Premier of Northern Region, that Sanusi should be removed from office.

“Do you have any response to this?” Sir Kashim asked, without making eye contacts. Sanusi, with the gait of a stoic, answered with philosophical equanimity: “Nothing”.

Sir Kashim, thereafter, fished out a prepared resignation letter for Sanusi to sign. He did without shaking.


The Governor asked his guest further where he wanted to go into exile. Sanusi senior chose Azare, a city in Bauchi State. Like King Jaja of Opobo, Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi of Benin or Olowo of Owo, Oba Olateru Olagbegi who were banished outside their domains by the powers that be (the first two by the British colonialists and the last, by Governor Adeyinka Adebayo of Western Region), that was the beginning of Patriarch Sanusi’s journey into exile in Azare where he spent 20 years and died.

What happened in 1963 as a result of power tussle between him and Ahmadu Bello is repeating itself in 2017 between the northern political establishment and the current Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11. He too is to be probed, a situation of political deja vu. The Kano State House of Assembly has set up an eight-man committee, headed by the Chief Whip of the House, Alhaji Labaran Abdul, to probe Sanusi II. Just like such was directed at his grandfather, questions were being raised on alleged misconduct and alleged misappropriation of funds belonging to the Kano Emirate Council. The Speaker of the state assembly, Kabiru Alhassan Rurum accused Sanusi of spreading rumour on the trip of the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to China recently to hold discussions on a light rail project in the state, arguing that it “was capable of tarnishing the governor’s image, the state government and that of the assembly.”


Emir Muhammdu Sanusi 1, Ahmadu Bello and young Sanusi greeting their colonial officer guests

The speaker added: “The emir during his speech in Kaduna, alleged that the Kano State governor and his entourage, including me as the Chairman of the House Committee on Works, wasted one month in China seeking for a loan to construct the light rail project. The emir’s statement was not true, we spent only four days in China, and our visit was to find out the capacity of the company to handle the rail project. His allegation has brought a lot of insults to my person, the state government and the House of Assembly by the general public in and outside the state.”

The speaker took a dig at Sanusi for acting against tradition by sending his daughter who failed to wear the “full traditional regalia”to represent him at a function organised by the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group in Abuja, saying, “There are many responsible Emirate Council members who could have represented him at the programme. This is the first time we are seeing such in the history of the traditional home.”

The speaker still had more bullets to fire at Sanusi’s fragile frame, saying the traditional ruler had begun to introduce religious views that are, as ThisDay put it, contrary to the teachings of Islam, saying such things were capable of undermining the religion. Worse still, he charged that Sanusi was “getting involved in political issues, the misappropriation of the Emirate Council’s funds and making statements against President Muhammadu Buhari.”

While defending himself on the one hand, Sanusi used the police and the court, on the other, to arraign a renowned cleric, Sheik Nasiru Bazallah, before a senior Kano Magistrate’s Court for allegedly insulting him. Many Kano muslims and others in the north are actually not happy with Sanusi’s radical views and are ready to pour acid on his thyroid gland!

The prosecution alleged that the cleric tried to incite disturbances and defame the traditional ruler, alleging that the cleric acted contrary to Section 114, 392 and 399 of the Penal Code. According to the charges against Bazallah on May 8, 2017, Emir Sanusi lodged a direct complaint to the Kano State Commissioner of Police alleging that the accused on March 20, 2017, acted in a manner that defamed his character.

As reported by ThisDay, he further alleged that the Islamic scholar criminally gathered his followers at Goron Dutse quarters, “where he made statements to incite disturbances, defamed the character of the emir and impugned his integrity.”

Also, the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission is probing the Kano Emirate Council, which Sanusi chairs given the fact that he is emir. This development made the emirate to issue a statement claiming that contrary to the allegation that it had misappropriated N6 billion, it “had spent N4.3 billion since the enthronement of Sanusi as the Emir of Kano.” It added that at at the time Sanusi became emir in 2014, it had the sum of N1 billion in its account.

Sanusi who does not allow a missile fired at him without intercepting it mid-air defended himself that the two Rolls Royce he uses were, according to press report, given to him as gifts, while his friends in the banking sector provided the private jets he uses for his trips.

However, the agency, at a point, suspended the probe because, according to its chairman, Muhyi Gado, it could not continue as the House of Assembly was also carrying out the same exercise. In his words, “We are not happy with the coming in of the House of Assembly into this matter and we cannot continue doing the same thing with them; that is why we allowed them to do it themselves. You see many would rather see the House interference as purely political while our own has nothing to do with that. We do things professionally according to the dictate of laws.” Not a few Nigerians believe that the intervention of the Northern Elders Forum in the matter may be yielding results.

Setting up a panel to probe any individual holding any public office, either modern or traditional, is not a bad thing. However, analysts say the only trouble is that when those setting up a panel fly off tangent to delve into matters that have no bearing with alleged financial dealings. In other words, the speaker, in a feat of Freudian slip, veered into political matters that bear on Sanusi’s radical posture or statements that always roughen big feathers.

In fact, Sanusi was once quoted this way: “ My biggest hero is my grandfather. If there’s one person that has been a constant in my life it’s been him. Now, my father had one of the greatest influences in me. I remember one thing my father said to me; When I was 16 or 17, he said; ‘You know, you can divert a hundred things a young man wants to be, but all you need is to look at two to three things and you’ll be amazed at how by holding unto one or two simple rules, you’ll define yourself”. I think later in life I found that one thing to define myself, which is ‘Speak Truth to Power’. If you look at my entire life, all the problems I’ve had, have had to do with that. Whether it’s National Assembly’s 25% or Jonathan’s $20 billion or debates I had within the banking system. If you take a look at my articles, it’s always just telling myself that, ‘Look! You know what? No matter what the cost is, if this is the truth I’m going to say it.’ And that’s now what I’m known for and that’s how I hope to be remembered even after my death. You know, nothing else, just somebody who speaks the truth.”

True. In recent weeks, Sanusi has been blowing his to top against northern leaders for their conservative Islamic values, which, over time, have stood against development. In fact, he took a swipe at people who indulge in child marriage and, against the norm, advised against polygamy if there is no money to support such. Not a man to tolerate superstition in the age when other countries are making waves in high tech and modern medicine, Sanisi came down hard on the Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who reasoned that the meningitis outbreak was God’s judgment for the people’s sexual escapades! Sanusi advised fellow muslims to “stop allowing human beings appropriate their religion for selfish reasons.” He also threatened religious and traditional leaders in his domains to stop beating their wives, failing which they would lose their titles.

When Sanusi sent his daughter, Shahida to represent him at a Chibok Girls lecture in Abuja, the conservative muslims in the north were angry with him. At the function, she said, “My father is not afraid of giving up his throne if it stands in the way of speaking the truth. Those who think that my father would keep quiet because he wants to hold on to his throne, I think they don’t know my father. I know that he has always wanted to be the emir of Kano but to him, if it comes between what is right, what his conscience tells him and choosing the throne, he would happily give up the throne. My father has always been a part of one controversy or the other and it’s normal for us. We are not scared anymore.

She continued, “And honestly, he has been a source of inspiration and pride. He never fails to fight. He fights for progress, liberty, justice and equality. Those who think they know my father should know that he will never be silenced by blackmail and intimidation. He lost his position once as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and I remember his quote that you can suspend a man but you can never suspend the truth. I know he does not mind being the most unpopular emir so long he speaks the truth.”

Just as Sanusi is being probed now ( it is actually a political persecution), his grandfather Muhammed Sanusi 1, was dethroned as a result of power struggle (hidden under the cloak of a probe) between him and Ahmadu Bello. The old man also had problem with conservative northern muslims.

Muhammadu Sanusi 1 and Ahmadu Bello were great friends ab initio but their relationship became topsy turvy later. In an article by Ajiroba Yemi Kotun, entitled Road to Azare: How Emir Sanusi’s Grandfather Was Removed Due To ‘Jealousy’, published in The Nigerian Voice, originally on 23 May 2013, many factors were responsible.

Read it also here:

First is the radical modern Islam, represented by the Emir and the conservative, represented by the old guard. As pointed out in the article: “The Emir of Kano was the Muqqadam (Leader or High Priest) of the Tijaniyya Tariqa, a highly successful Islamic brotherhood with votaries in many parts of Northern Nigeria and an external inspiration in Senegal. Heavily patronized by the commercial class, the brotherhood was modernist in approach and it preached a creed of self-improvement without the crippling fatalism common to its rival, the Khadiriyya, which originated in Baghdad in the 12th century, and which was headed by the Sultan of Sokoto and largely bankrolled by the Sardauna. Despite the unserious religious differences between the two tariqa, and because the Sardauna considered himself the champion of Islam in the North, the leadership of a much more popular Islamic tariqa by the Emir of Kano was construed by him as a challenge.”

Ahmadu Bello

Another factor was political ego between Sanusi and Sardauna. As Kotun pointed out, Sanusi was one of those responsible for the success of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in the election of 1951, and was virtually a founding member of the party. He went further: “His emirate was the most single local administrative unit in the country and he ruled it with a firm hand. He combined both power and a handsome pay packet because his emirate was well endowed. In fact as far back as 1914, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi earned 14,000 Pounds a year when the Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Frederick Lugard (1858-1945) earned only 6, 600 Pounds. Sanusi was, in actual fact, treated as primus inter pares among the Emirs of Northern Nigeria despite ranking 4th after the Sultan of Sokoto, the Shehu of Bornu and the Emir of Gwandu.”

Kotun went further: “Even at one time, only the Emir of Kano was deemed important enough by Lugard to represent the North on his Nigerian Council of 1914 when he made Sarkin Abbas, the Emir of Kano, along with the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Gbadegesin Ladigbolu I, members. Coupled with the fact that he was a minister of state without portfolio and maintained a large palace in Kaduna over and above that in Kano. The mother of it all being that when Sir G.W. Bell, the Governor of the North, proceeded on leave in 1961, Sanusi, the Emir of Kano, acted for him. When the Sardauna himself became premier, he too treated Sanusi with consideration. Both men were well received by the Saudi King (1953-1964) Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (1902-1969), (who was named Prime Minister on 11th October 1953, but unlike his father King Abdulaziz, 1876-1953, was not a competent head of state), when they toured the Middle East together in 1958. No doubt, the two men were very close friends up until 1962.”

Problem started when Sardauna felt humbled when, after he and other dignitaries were seated at a public function at Race Course in Kaduna, Emir Sanusi, as Kotun narrated, stole the spotlight “by arriving in full splendour… and the whole assemblage had to stand up for the Emir in traditional homage and honour. It was just too much for the Sardauna to bear.”

The payback time came when (unlike Obafemi Awolowo who made Ooni Adesoji Aderemi of Ife the governor of Western Region) Ahmadu Bello did nothing like that. Rather, he made a beeline for the Borno axis and made Sir Kashim Ibrahim Governor of the North.

There was another case in 1959 when the North celebrated its internal self-government. The Emir, Muhammadu Sanusi, had calculated that he would sit in the ‘royal box’ with the Sardauna, the Sultan and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince Henry and Princess Alice, who had embarked ‘on a tour of Eastern Nigeria, the Southern Cameroons and Lagos as the Federation of Nigeria approached full independence and entry into the Commonwealth, beginning 12th May 1959, but he, as Kotun narrated, “was simply told to sit somewhere else.”

Another ground, according to him, was the Emir’s opposition to the provincial bill passed by the Sardauna’s government which culminated in the appointment of some House of Assembly members as provincial commissioners “who enjoyed not only the rank of ministers in the regional government, but were also given official precedence over the emirs.” Moreover, “It would seem that insult was added to injury when the provincial commissioner for Kano was a Sokoto man, one Alhaji Aliyu, Magajin Gari of Sokoto, who happened to be of Sokoto royal slave origin. For the Emir, this was the height of it.”

The Emir’s wallet was hit when Sardauna passed a land tenure law which transferred certain highly lucrative powers of land allocation from the emirates to the regional government. This, as Kotun put it, was too much for the Emir.

Although this other factor was personal, it went to worsen the relationship between the two men. One of Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi’s sons divorced his wife who was the daughter of the Emir of Gwandu, the Sardauna’s distant cousin, a matter which the Premier regarded as a slap in the face of his family.

Analysts believed that the probe instituted against old Sanusi was a smokescreen to get him out of the way. Will the old drama be re-enacted? That is the general question now beyond Kano!