Typical of the Nigerian public space, once a new twist in the political order which affects any member of the leadership community manifests, it could generate reverberations that often trump many other national issues, no matter the latter’s significance. The recent dethronement of the former Emir of Kano Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS), by the Kano State government, is one political development which qualifiedly displaced many other national issues and enjoys enough inertia to last in the public domain for some time to come. Like a most predictable movie script, a rift between Ganduje as governor of Kano State, and Sanusi as Emir of Kano Emirate – two very powerful political factors, had been running with discerning Nigerians waiting for new episodes of the drama as the days went by. Last week Monday was however decisive, as the governor brought the hammer down on Sanusi, by dethroning the latter and thereby ending his stay on the revered throne of Emir of Kano. According to Salisu Yakassai, a Special Assistant to the governor of Kano State Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the reasons for Sanusi’s dethronement, included his acts of insubordination to the governor, and failure to appear in public functions organized by the state government.
Placing in perspective the causative factors to the dethronement along with the reactions flowing in its wake, it is indisputable that the last word on the matter has not been heard. Rather Alhaji Sanusi has simply been rolled over by Ganduje into another cycle of the former’s straddle on the soap box – this time in a capacity of an injured, loose cannon with an expanded ambit for asserting his freedom of expression. Meanwhile, all through Sanusi’s public utterances, he had demonstrated the aspect of his iconoclastic persona, especially during his days as the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), when he ruffled feathers with his then open challenge to the country’s orthodox political establishment. Meanwhile then as ever, all he was advocating was the need for change in the status quo. It is significant that he served as a voice from the status quo calling for change in the very system from which he was benefitting. This has been the unique selling point of his advocacy.
His eventual elevation to the throne of the Emir did not strip him of his convictions but only provided him a more profound platform for asserting his advocacy for change – this time in a most sensitive constituency the Northern feudal establishment which is still constrained by tradition to chase parity with the rest of the modernizing world.
It is indisputable that the Northern Nigeria as a political region, is always undergoing one form of change or the other. The question has been over the character, context, depth and pace of the respective change at any particular time. Meanwhile, given the vast expanse of land constituting the north and the wide variety of the constituent indigenous communities, changes cannot occur with lightning speed. This is just as the advocacy for such change in the North is not new and definitely predates Sanusi. Before him were individuals who had provided sterling contributions towards changing the political and economic fortunes of the north.
From the lessons of history, pehaps the foremost advocate for change in the North as a distinct political entity was the revered first premier of the region, Sir Ahmadu Bello. One of his greatest legacies was the integration of the various ethnic groups in the north into one distinct political unit. Others include Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the golden-voiced first prime minister of the country. Just as well, other advocates of change in the north can also be counted as such. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi happens to be just one of the latter day advocates of change, just as the drive for change in the country needs more apostles given the logistic and ideological challenges inherent in such a venture. Hence Sanusi always had good company in his enterprise. Why then is he having problems in his advocacy for change? The answer lies in strategy.
Change agents in any part of the world need platforms with which to reach out to their target audiences. Some adopt pacifist options while others adopt alternative approaches. A typical example is that of the horrendous Boko Haram insurgency in the north east which has adopted warfare to launch its advocacy. For Sanusi he need for his advocacy just a platform to speak to power. Hence he needed and used the platform of the Emir’s stool to launch himself into the public consciousness, and this he has achieved. From now on the Emir’s stool may not in the real sense matter much to him. Hence his loss of the throne may not actually be a strategic loss in the context of the pursuit of the change he advocates for the north. By the way is it not said that lions and eagles are caged not for their own protection but that of their likely victims. Except for some special dispensation, Sanusi may likely see himself in that mould. And that matters a lot for now and latter, now he is out of the cage of traditional strictures of a monarch’s routine.
Meanwhile from trending signals Sanusi’s new status is attracting convolutions of significance. In one vein there are insidious efforts to make his exile as punitive to him as possible while the same government deploys subterfuge to cover its tracks. Already as he remains banished to Awe town in Nasarawa State, his movement is confined with a complement of armed security forces recorded at about 40. At the same time, the Attorney General of Kano Ibrahim Mukhtar, has told the world that Sanusi was not banished nor quarantined anywhere. If Sanusi was a free man having been disengaged from the throne, what is the 40 strong security contingent, doing around him? Providing him with protective custody?
Among the takeaways from the Sanusi saga, is that the designation of traditional rulers as warrant chiefs remains closer to reality than any other title, like it was in the days of the colonialists, as their ascendancy into office and exit, statutorily demands the endorsement of governors – elected this time. And given the nature of electioneering politics in Nigeria with its kaleidoscopic fortunes, there are clearly more questions than answer on this matter.
In another vein the man’s plight of forced exit from the throne may have emboldened like-minded change agents who see in him a rallying point for their enterprise. Already the deposition of Sanusi has failed to enjoy unanimous endorsement from the Northern elite. This, is just in case Ganduje may have banked on the premise of sacrificing Sanusi to win goodwill among them. A pointer to this is because not many observers believe that Ganduje was not out to execute a personal vendetta against Sanusi to score a cheap political point of ‘I pass my neigbour’, in his high-handed action against the former Emir. Evidence of this is legion and is growing. Of significance is the fact that hours after the deposition of Sanusi as Emir, the Kaduna State government appointed him into two strategic offices, firstly as the Vice Chairman of Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA), that state’s investment promotion outfit, and later as the Chancellor of the Kaduna State University.
Throughout history, wise leaders have discovered the wisdom in not killing all self-appointed prophets who have struck a common chord with the masses, no matter their ‘nuisance’ value. Some leaders even appoint such vocal advocates of populist social themes, into positions of responsibility for public good and exercise discretion in frustrating them to fail in delivery of the dividends expected of them. Apparently, that option seems have been lost on Ganduje and his camp. Gradually the contest is shifting from a Ganduje versus Sanusi tussle for wits, to a Ganduje versus Northern change-agents war.
God, help Nigeria.