The Emir of Kano stool is, unarguably, the most entrenched one in the space of traditional authority in Northern Nigeria. It oozes Kano itself in terms of flamboyance and wealth that defines the emirate as well as the city. That stature of the stool and, by implication, of every occupant is, interestingly, always the source of trouble because it necessarily attracts attention from the powers that be. In this wise, it is difficult not to cite how a previous Emir of Kano clashed with the powers that were. It is even more interesting that the Emir in question is the biological origin of the Emir who has just gotten into trouble. The temptation is to quickly conclude that history is repeating itself. But the analogy about history repeating itself is only a chronological view of history which ignores the view of history as a narrative which, like all narratives, is about power. Therefore, the reference to history repeating itself can only be an interpretation of what is going on as a major struggle for power.
What has become the standard wisdom here is Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje as such an unforgiving player who choreographed the conflict to the stage where he could have his pound of flesh. Uhm! But Ganduje alone could not have successfully removed Muhammed Sanusi 11, the former activist banker now banished to Nasarawa State where a fellow All Progressives Congress, (APC) governor of Ganduje is on hand to make the isolation as painful as possible or the former Emir makes things even more difficult for a Ganduje. A world man such as Sanusi Lamido could be the “too hot to handle, too cold to hold”, to quote musician MC Hammer’s musical number there.
Beyond Ganduje are other powerful constellations who might be divided on what to do with Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as Emir of Kano but whose direct and indirect endorsement must have been worked on and obtained. Among these must be President Muhammadu Buhari, the governors of the emiral North; the other most entrenched members of the traditional authority and definitive elite of the Muslim North. A not so popular Governor Ganduje cannot just wake up and toss around an Emir of Kano, particularly one whose advocacy could be said to be building a base for him very fast among the dispossessed in the Muslim North and far beyond that even as his advocacy is also what has been alienating him among his colleague emirs, many of whom are uncomfortable with his frank admission of crisis.
Dr. Junaid Mohammed, a typical ‘devil may care’ PRP ideologue since the Second Republic but whose recent pronouncements critique that pedigree has let it be known in a recent interview that ex-Emir Sunusi 11 asked Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to consider him for the Vice-President slot should President Buhari not recover enough to be able to exercise presidential powers when he was sick in 2016. Ordinarily, that is the sort of information that a Vice-President might not release to his boss because it can bring the system down and no Vice-President would want to bring down the system. But, if Osinbajo, for whatever reasons, told Buhari that the former Emir made such a request, then the former Emir’s fate was sealed. He might have lasted this long because people like Buhari, unlike others in his position of power and authority, are never in a hurry to put an ‘enemy’ in his place. It is a very interesting study in power scripts when one looks at the timing of Dr Junaidu’s interview and the fact that no one, to the knowledge of Intervention, tried to refute or respond to the interview.
Even if the Buhari dimension were out of it, Emir Sanusi 11 would still have been a magic worker to survive Ganduje. Not with the Ganduje – Kwankwaso war in Kano politics. Emir Sanusi got the job because Kwankwaso was at the helm. That is the stuff one hears around Kano. The implication is that the Emir was a Kwankwaso creation, automatically an enemy once Kwankwaso and Ganduje fell apart. In a country where power is never clothed but exercised in the most brutal manner, it would have been too much to expect Ganduje not to hit back, particularly after the then Emir made statements that were open to interpretation as anti-Ganduje statements and, therefore, pro-Kwankwaso stance in the run up to the 2019 elections in Kano.
So, a power sense of history repeating itself may not be far from the truth of the situation provided power is not understood as just coercion but also the structural, institutional and discursive dimensions. In this clash of the former Emir and the governor, coercive power, (use of police and other security agents to relocate the former Emir out of the Palace and out of Kano) was the final phase. But much earlier than that, the discursive dimension went on for long on the pages of social and traditional media where each camp articulated why the Emir should go/should not go. Without discursive power, coercive power can hardly work. Even the military has realized that and hence the war practice of embedded journalism. It is not so that the selected journalists will do propaganda for the military. No. The idea there is for the journalists to begin to see the justification for everything a military formation does to its enemy as the journalists suffer the things that an army at war suffers.
Back from that digression, what might anyone say are the lessons from this encounter in relation to the antagonists in Nigerian politics? Sounds like an outlandish question to ask about a clash which has just started. It is possible to bundle a Sanusi Lamido Sanusi out of the Emir’s Palace in Kano but it is not possible for anyone at all to decide what happens next. The quick appointment of a scion of the Ado Bayero legacy might have its master stroke potentials but the point about Sanusi Lamido is that his significance and insignificance is beyond now or himself. The contingency of meaning is such that it will be stupid for anyone to say his chapter is closed because he is out of the Palace. His chapter looks certainly over as far as the Palace is concerned unless a protracted judicial tussle over it opens but the Palace is one of many other possibilities for one of the very few who can fit into too many roles both at home and abroad.
It could turn out a faulty, misleading analysis or conclusion but it seems Kano has accepted what has happened as an act of God. Many people in Kano are using nearly the same vocabulary in reacting to the development, calling for calm and submission to the will of Allah. Of course, there have been outcries, some of them already on display on international media networks from members of the not-too-well-to-do Kano society who have been beneficiaries of ex-Emir Sanusi’s philanthropic interventions with distribution of food stuff and other assistance from his personal fortunes. That is generally considered to be a novelty from a serving Kano Emir from time immemorial. Quite a number of observers feel that the ex-Emir or Emirs should not be treated in terms of arrest and exile in this modern era, calling the measure a relic of the colonial legacy.
As much as the drama has just begun and no lessons can be drawn yet, something suggestive of the emiral North’s unpreparedness for an internal critic within the establishment would tend to stand out. How did it not strike the Northern establishment, if it is still there and if it has a soul, that an Emir of Kano of a Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s make is a big public relations for it? Is it possible that a faction exists within that establishment which thinks so but was overwhelmed by the powers that be? How does this North of drastic punishment for ‘deviants’ contrast with an Obasanjo presidency that brought nearly everyone of his harshest critics from Yorubaland to government, including Bola Ige, Wole Soyinka’s daughter, Richard Akinjide’s daughter, a grandson of Chief Awolowo and even a Femi Fani-Kayode who had already dismissed Obasanjo as an Arewa plant. This alone doesn’t exonerate the Obasanjo regime from responsibility for the ruins of his economic ideology but isn’t there anything to learn from this, whatever might have informed that imagination behind the practice then?
It may be possible to block an Mvendaga Jibo and restrict him to the Benue space as a punishment for annoying a Northern fraction but might the North always succeed in this when it involves a world man such as a Sanusi Lamido? Only God and time will tell!