Emir Muhammad Sanusi II made headlines last week because of his criticism of some government policies. The newspapers reported his keynote address at the Kaduna Investment Summit where he berated some of the economic policies of the Federal and State Governments. Since then the politicians bombarded the media with allegations and lies to tarnish his image and silence him.
They attacked his personality instead of the substance of what he said hence they were discursive, deliberately abandoning the entire context through excessive digression.
These adversaries did not fault any of the Emir’s positions on the misadventures of the governments he consoled. One of the most vocal, who was on a character assassination mission warned the Emir that what befell his grandfather would befall him if he continues to criticize governments. But he had to justify his position, by propagating the Northern Regional Government’s version of its injustice against Sir Muhammadu Sanusi. He also attempted through spurious allegations to damage the integrity of the Emir. Already some of this journalist’s phony allegations have gone viral.
There is need in this short essay for background explanation on Sullubawan Dabo Dynasty that has ruled Kano since 1819 to disabuse minds of the reading public because of the diatribe by the propagandist against Sir Muhammadu Sanusi. This is imperative for me as a student of his life and times. Most of the successive Sullubawan Dabo Emirs were better than their predecessors thus enabling the dynasty to survive all the vicissitudes of the last 200 years. None of the Emirs had a smooth ride especially since the imposition of the colonial rule and the assault of the counter elite of the post-colonial era. Sir Muhammadu Sanusi was an active participant in the transition from British over-rule to independence. This was because he was the greatest supporter of the NPC and without him Sir Ahmadu Bello (Sardauna) would not have become the Premier. John Paden’s authoritative biography of the Sardauna documented these facts (Ahmadu Bello Sardauna of Sokoto: Values and Leadership in Nigeria 1986).
Kano Native Authority was the richest in Northern Nigeria and Sir Muhammadu Sanusi like most other Emirs used its human and material resources to ensure the victory of the NPC in all elections. All the candidates who stood elections were his protégés including Ibrahim Musa Gashash who connived with others in Kaduna to bring Sir Sanusi down. Gashash had no background western education or even bureaucratic experience as an employee of the Native Authority. Despite these shortcomings Sanusi got him appointed as minister because he wanted to maintain the inclusive policies initiated by Emir Abbas (1903-1919) his grandfather.
The Kaduna ministers were against Sanusi because they felt he was too powerful. Paden argued that the Sardauna was put in a difficult situation and he wanted settlement and compromise but Muffett and the ministers have made up their minds. Paden (1986: 451) reports that: “the Sardauna later told Sule Gaya that if Sanusi had shown any remorse, they could have settled the matter”. Therefore, the whole issue was not in the interest of the Kano Native Authority or anything to do with fighting corruption. The inquiry was only used as a vehicle to actualize the agenda of removing the Emir. Some of the scholars regarded it as institutional clash between the Regional Government and the Native Authority. The Sardauna was determined to make the government superior to native authority as contained in his famous ‘1962 Declaration’ at the House of Chiefs. All Native Authorities big or small must be subordinated to the Government, which is the successor of the colonial state that defeated the natives. He declared: “History has repeated itself and indigenous sons have succeeded the British and therefore expect nothing from their own brothers other than cooperation”.
Islamic scholars like Shaykh Abubakar on the other hand believe that: Watau ya tsai da addini gwargwadon iyawa. Kuma duk abin da ya same shi, to ya same shi ne saboda addini. Wannan shi ne I’itikadi na gare shi. “To the best of his ability Sanusi adhered to the teachings of his religion. Whatever happened to him was because of his religious conviction. This is my opinion of him”. Shaykh Gumi also believed that the whole crisis between Sardauna and Sarkin Kano was engineered to divide the North and weaken it politically. So attempts to tarnish the image of Sir Muhammadu Sanusi and his grandson Emir Muhammad Sanusi II because of their religious conviction will never work.
As for Emir Muhammad Sanusi II he faced and overcame many challenges in his life. He was the best Central Bank Governor ever in Nigeria’s history as acknowledged by all the relevant global institutions. He confronted the Federal Government and it did everything possible to tarnish his image because he spoke against the corruption of the government. In the end he was suspended. He became the Emir. The opposition political party was happy when he spoke against the corruption of the Federal Government. His interview with the CNN was trailblazing and it was one of the major arsenals that demolished the sixteen-years of PDP rule in Nigeria. When the APC took over things began to change. Do we, expect Emir Sanusi to be a sycophant, who will only praise APC government? That would be dishonorable for a highly respected international statesman. Therefore whenever he was invited or asked about the economy he always said what he believed was correct. There is hardly any professional who faulted his position.
When Sanusi became the Emir he promised to support social causes and never be partisan in his politics. This is his major problem. To support social causes it means he would step on many toes. To be non-partisan, it means to always say the truth and therefore step on the toes of the ruling party that wants praise singing or muteness. Sanusi cannot be silenced because there are always people who want to listen and who want solutions to their predicament. How can one time best Central Banker in the world ever be silenced or relegated. In a sane world both the national and sub national governments in Nigeria will consult him as he is being consulted by others around the world because of his knowledge. Just a few days ago he was a Guest Speaker at Africa’s most prestigious foundation in Marakesh, Morocco none of the politicians attacking him can ever dream of being so honored to speak at such a forum. It is rather pathetic that politicians in his domain for selfish reasons are trying to destroy him, one of their most illustrious sons. But he will certainly out live them by Allah’s Will.
All the people hired by politicians to write against Emir Sanusi in newspapers and social media are mostly propagandists. They never discuss the issues he raised but engage in character assassination. This is the weapon of the politicians. But we must reclaim our humanity and the right to common sense by insisting on discussion on issues that affect our lives not character assassination. As a world class intellectual Emir Sanusi’s contributions to public discourse are so many but could be narrowed to only three in this short paper: social problems of Kano, economic policies of national and sub national governments and northern society and its incidence of poverty.
Emir Sanusi is the first Emir in Nigeria’s post-colonial history to attempt social reform in collaboration with a university and the wider civil society. For the first time an attempt has been made to document the Muslim Family Law in a single volume to assist judges, lawyers and the wider society. The scholars from the university and the wider Islamic scholarly community drafted eighty-page document using the sources of Shari’ah as contained in the books used for centuries by Muslim scholars. The major areas of disagreement could be narrowed to only two issues: minimum age of marriage and conditions for adding another wife (polygamy). But they were hyped and made to over shadow the other provisions, which are also equally important. The documentation is a major achievement since no one ever contemplated such an attempt. And the irony is that none of the critics will ever give his daughter’s hand in marriage before she completes the secondary school. Only the poor remain in this cycle. But the active students of the clerics were criticized the draft law and continue to assault Emir Sanusi in the social media attacking his personality ignoring the benefits of this scholarly endeavor and the labor and erudition of the Ulama who are members of the committee that drafted the document.
The second area, which generated greater controversy, is the economic sphere. Emir Sanusi is a gold fish in economics that could not be hidden. He is sought after, all over the world. Yet in his home country the politicians for selfish reasons are fighting his ideas. The Emir’s speech at the Kaduna Investment Forum is the immediate cause of vituperations of propagandists sponsored by politicians. The Emir was polite and only invited the attention of the national and sub national governments on debt servicing since the Federal Government is spending 66% of its revenue on interest payment. This is unhealthy and when you are in a debt hole you don’t dig deeper, this is simple common sense. You don’t need to pile debt for future generations. States are currently struggling to survive because of crippling debt and without Federal bail out many cannot pay salary. On the rail project the Emir said it is fine but let it be a private sector initiative since the state cannot pay. The private sector cannot invest in any venture that is not viable. Is the light rail project of any economic value? This is the question that people need to ask rather than launch personal attacks against the Emir for speaking politely and raising questions of economic value.
The third issue is about Northern Nigerian society. The Emir’s statement was completely turned upside. What he did was self-criticism of the state of northern society, but the propagandists are claiming, that he has abused northerners. No one can claim that he loves the north more than Emir Sanusi in writing and speech. I will give a few examples. When the Shari’ah was launched in Zamfara State and the southern press launched the worst attack and there was no single private daily newspaper in the North. It was Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who took up the debate in defense of Islam and the North on the page of The Guardian the flagship of the Nigerian press.
Those writing now against him don’t have the knowledge and diction to confront the Lagos press. When General Muhammadu Buhari’s 1984-1985 Regime was attacked as having no foundation in economic theory he came to the rescue with his wealth of knowledge. When ethnic chauvinists attacked the Fulani he obliterated their arguments with superb eloquence. When Shehu Danfodio and our Sokoto heritage were attacked he silenced the intellectual minions.
Emir Sanusi used socio-economic facts to invite the attention of northern elites on the predicament of the region while the politicians and propagandist use warped ideas. The Emir used the statistics on the incidence of poverty in Nigeria to elucidate his message but it fell in the deaf ears of inept politicians and ignorant critics. All the northern states except Kwara (23.7%) and Kogi (26.4%) have poverty incidences higher than the national average of 46%. The bottom three; are Jigawa (88.4%), Yobe (90.2%) and Zamfara (91.9%) even Kano is terribly poor with 76.4% incidence of poverty. The top three states with lowest incidence of poverty are Lagos 8.5%, Osun 10.9% and Anambra 11.2%. At the regional level the South West has the lowest incidence of poverty 19.3%, followed by South South 25.2% and South East 27.3% all lower than the national average (46%) while the two northern regions have higher incidence of poverty North West 80.9% is the worst followed by North East 76.8% and only the North Central 45.7% is below national average but higher than all the Southern Regions. These facts are available online at http://www.databaseforall.org/dashboard/ophi/index.php/ Is it not the height of insensitivity for any northern leader to claim that the north is not backward and we should keep praising ourselves for being poor when the world has moved on?
People forget so easily. Emir Sanusi has never boasted of his achievements in the Central Bank yet because of the gullibility of the northern audience the incompetent politicians are even questioning what he did at the CBN. I challenge any Nigerian to tell the public any person who held the position of a Minister or CBN that did more than what Sanusi did in 56 months. His job was to keep the Nigerian economy healthy and depositor funds safe in banks. He did that more than any other person that occupied that position hence the universal accolades accorded him. In the area of corporate social responsibility his legacy is yet to be surpassed by any corporate leader.