Some recollections on Rimi’s attempt to diminish the Emir of Kano

There is a lot of buzz currently over the programme by the Kano State Governor, Ganduje, to dismantle Kano Emirate and contain the influence of its Emir. For the younger generation that might not know much about the earlier attempt by the late Governor Abubakar Rimi to do same, I offer today some recollections of what happened. First a word on the context and politics of the period.

Kano, the birthplace of Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), Aminu Kano, Isa Wali and so on; and later of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) has been the spear head of radicalism in Northern Nigeria. As is clear from the Sawaba Declaration of 1950, central to Kano’s radicalism is the class struggle between the talakawa and the aristocracy. The second paragraph of the Declaration announced:

“That owing to this unscrupulous and vicious system of administration by the Family compact rulers and which has been established and fully supported by the British Imperialist Government, there is today in our society an antagonism of interest, manifesting itself as a class struggle between the members of the vicious circle of Native Administration on the one hand and the ordinary Talakawa on the other.” The radicals promised to deal with the aristocrats when they got power and their desire was satisfied in 1979 when PRP got power in Kano State. Let me state at this point that I was in the radical camp and have been opposed to the way in which the aristocracy in Northern Nigeria oppressed the talakawa on behalf of the then Northern Peoples’ Congress so my sympathy at that time was with Governor Rimi.

Today, its legitimate to pose the question of who Rimi represented, the talakawa or the new technocratic elite. On coming to power, Governor Rimi established the only cabinet in the country at that time in which all members were university graduates and none of them was a historic NEPU militant. They were also young, in their thirties, except two elders – Bibi Farouk and A. Tofa who were in their forties. In contrast, the Kano State House of Assembly was composed of NEPU militants, most of whom were illiterate in the Latin alphabet. Aminu Kano was furious that Rimi established a cabinet of technocrats, rather than radicals and a great divide emerged in the party as PRP “tabo” separated from PRP “santsi”. The Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) stepped into the ring and recognized the Aminu Kano faction as the genuine PRP in January 1981. Rimi had to prove he was on the side of the radicals and the pathway he chose was to deal with the Emirate aristocracy represented by its revered Emir, the late Ado Bayero.


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On 1st April 1981, Governor Rimi created four new Emirs that were declared to be co-equal with the Emir of Kano – Auyo, Dutse, Gaya and Rano. It was not an April Fool joke. The Emirs were becoming a crowd in the old Kano Sate as the other Emirs of Second-Class status namely, Hadejia, Gumel and Kazaure were also promoted to First Class status. Abubakar Rimi then declared Emirs to be “mere public servants working under the directives of their Local Government Chairmen.

On 7th April 1981, the Secretary to the Kano State Government, Sule Yahaya Hamma dispatched a query to the Emir, which is worth quoting at length:

“I am directed by the Governor of Kano State, Alhaji M.A. Rimi to write to you and express his displeasure and that of his government in the way you relate to or respond to government instructions… The community expects of you as a matter of right to show respect to constitutionally elected government which is the vehicle of exercising the popular sovereignty of the community which is provided for by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It has thus been observed by the government that since the inception of this administration in 1979, there had been series of acts that appear to indicate you deliberate disrespect to the government of Kano State.

a) That on the 2nd of October, 1980 in a celebration marking the first anniversary in office of the Kano State House of Assembly, a stone-throw away from your palace, you disregarded the government invitation and refused to show up;

b) That it has been observed by the government that you have without authority extended your 1981 annual leave beyond what was approved for you by the government.

c) That you refused, in spite of invitations, to attend or send representation to the installation ceremonies of the Emirs of Gumel, Auyo, Dutse, Gaya and Rano. You may recall that the Governor of Kano State sent the Commissioner for Local Government and the Secretary to the State Government to meet you and discuss these issues on the 3rd June, 1981;

d) That it has been observed that you undertake several trips either abroad or within the country without the permission of the Governor.

In the circumstances therefore, I have been directed by the Governor of Kano State to request you to forward your defence in 48 hours and to show cause why disciplinary action should not be take on you.”

The next day, Mansur Kankarofi, Kano State Secretary of the National Party of Nigeria, the ruling party at the Federal level issued a press statement: “the people of Kano will not allow one of our most respected institutions to be eroded by irresponsible people who by sheer political accident happen to be in the control of the Kano State Government.” The affair had completely left the terrain of Kano radicalism and had been instrumentalised in a vicious battle between the NPN and the two factions of the PRP.

On 10th July 1981, thugs attacked and killed 34 people and burnt organisations they felt were articulating government propaganda including Kano Radio and the Triumph newspaper offices. The thugs searched for and assassinated Dr. Bala Mohammed, political adviser to the Governor who was writing the Whitepaper that would have led to the removal of the Emir. According to the report by the Justice E. A. Fernandez Judicial Commission of Inquiry, the Nigerian Police Force watched the mayhem and refused to intervene to stop the killings. Clearly, the Federal Government in power at that time wanted to teach Governor Rimi a lesson and they did. Back to the present, let’s walk back from the politics of brinkmanship in our dear Kano.


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