Northern governors wade in as plot to depose Sanusi thickens

‘Sanusi not afraid to give up throne’


Unless reason is allowed to prevail, the days of Muhammadu Sanusi 11, as the 13th Fulani emir of Kano, is numbered. As a prelude to his eventual sack, the Kano state government has instituted a probe into the finances of the Kano emirate council. The Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Agency (KSPCACA) is handling the task.

According to the letter of summons signed by the agency’s Director of Operations, Sulaiman Gusau, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), and written to the emir, the traditional ruler is to explain how about N4 billion was allegedly misappropriated under his watch. The said money was to have been left behind by late Alhaji Ado Bayero, his predecessor. The probe is to cover the activities of the emirate since Sanusi took over as emir. Those invited, which were described as “junior civil servants and senior members of the Emirate”, would appear before the Commission on May 2, 2017. Gusau on behalf of the Chairman of KSPCACA, Alhaji Muhyi Magaji, signed the invitation letter.

But even before appearing before the probe panel, Sanusi has since denied the allegation, saying that he had only spent a little over N2billion since his installation. The probe, Saturday Sun learnt, followed a petition written to the Commission alleging that the emir had squandered over N4bn he met in the accounts of the emirate council.

Dismissing the allegations one by one, the Council, through its spokesman, Alhaji Mahe Bashir Wali, said the figures were inaccurate and wrong. Bashir Wali, a retired Deputy Inspector General of Police, told journalists at the palace that the present Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi 11 inherited only N1, 893, 378, 927.38, as against the sum of N4 billion that was being peddled by his traducers.

His words:  “Before the appointment of His Highness, the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi 11, CON, the Kano Emirate Council had the sum of N2, 875, 168, 431.17 under various banks as Fixed Deposit Accounts, out of which N981, 784, 503.79 was withdrawn and used during the late Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero on 7/2/2014 for the payment of Ado Bayero Royal City Project leaving a balance of N1, 893, 378, 927.38 with various banks.”

Beyond the probe 

Beyond the petition and the allegation however, Saturday Sun gathered that the government had for long been seeking means of getting at the emir, as he was seen as an “irritant” following his consistent criticism of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government. And since the Kano governor, Dr. Umar Ganduje, is today seen as Buhari’s man Friday, Buhari’s sympathisers had waited patiently for the governor to move against the emir.

By the first week in April, the emir appeared to have played into the government’s hand.  The last straw that broke the camel’s back which perhaps made him incur the wrath of the governor directly, was his decision to deride publicly, the move by the governor to invest in a light rail project. The project, which is worth $1.85 billion, was expected to be executed through foreign loan acquisition from Chinese Development Bank, which would finance 85 per cent of the contract sum.

The last straw

But Sanusi, while speaking at the Kaduna Investment Forum, KADINVEST, early in the month described it as a misplacement of priorities. “We have governors, they go to China and spend one month on a tour and what do they come back with, MoU on debts.

“China will lend you $1.8bn to build light rail. This light rail will be done by the rail workers from China. The trains will come from China. The engines will come from China. The labour comes from China. The driver is Chinese.

“At the end of the day, what do you benefit from it? Your citizens will ride on a train and when you ride on a train, in northern Nigeria, in a state like Kano or Katsina, where are you going to? You are not going to an industrial estate to work. You are not going to school? You are not going to the farm. You borrow money from China to invest in trains so that your citizens can ride on them and go for weddings and naming ceremonies.”

Less than 24 hours after the emir’s outburst, the governor’s supporters took to the social media, to lampoon Sanusi. And in less than a week, allegations of being a profligate began making the rounds, thus culminating in his probe.

Another monarch’s view

Speaking on the development last Wednesday, a prominent northern monarch told Saturday Sun that Sanusi has so far shown that he knows little or nothing about the Kano traditional institution, adding that he took so many things for granted.

“I am not bothered about the allegation of whether he spent money or not. All I am interested in is peace within the Royal family. And I personally made sure that happened. I visited him, and the children of the late emir, Ado Bayero.

“Sanusi’s first misstep started when he was made the Dan Majen Kano, that was when he started behaving like an emir, when there was still a sitting emir. He is married to the late emir’s daughter. Sanusi believed that Bayero betrayed his grandfather by accepting to be emir, after the grandfather’s deposition. But Sanusi should know that he only became the emir by chance. He would have been arrested on the day he was made emir, shortly before the announcement. It was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that saved him.”

Reminded that former Kano governor, now Senator, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso, too wanted him as emir, the traditional ruler thinks otherwise, saying “go and do your home work well. Are you aware that Kwankwaso had issued three queries to him before he left office as governor? If he indeed he wanted him, don’t you think he would have tolerated his excesses?  Tinubu actually made it possible.

“I am not in support of Tinubu’s exclusion from this government, because if Tinubu and the South-West had not supported Buhari, there was no way he would have been President. The truth is, Sanusi is taking on the President because of Tinubu. And those in the corridors of power know this fact.

“Again, I believe he should not have dethroned the Ciroman Kano (late Bayero’s first son). Kano people loved Bayero so much. Sanusi does not enjoy the kind of support Bayero enjoyed. So if he is removed today, nobody will protest because his public engagements negate the revered values and culture of Islam and the Kano people. He has displayed too much exuberance. If he survives this, I pray, he does, he should watch it and watch his back very well. He will be looking for trouble, if he tries to fight the family of the late Bayero,” the northern monarch, warned.

Chances of survival

There is no doubt that the object of the entire probe is the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi 11 and his throne. And as time clicks toward the eventual commencement of the probe, nothing, so far, has contradicted the fear that the plot is real.

Those who should know suspect that the whole script is intended to achieve either of two possible goals, namely “to harass him and thereby get him to speak less on government policies in the way he had done, which is not possible, because the Emir is naturally a very blunt person and is not the type that is going to be intimidated into silencing his views for whatever reason.”

“The second likely target of the probe by the Kano State Government Public Complaints and Anti Corruption Agency is to indict him, which means that the Emir would have no moral choice but  to vacate the post or be encouraged to vacate it invariably”, a highly placed source in Kano hinted.

Many observers told Saturday Sun that should this be the case, the monarch has a 50 – 50 chance of surviving his adversaries given that  the power to remove him is vested in the government of the day, which could easily be activated by the governor or even his Local Government Chairman carrying out the instruction of the governor.

The source, however, expressed worry that given the critical utterances of the Emir recently, he has lost a number of friends that should have stepped in and stop the probe.

He remarked that by the nature of the people of the North, many disputes of this nature had been resolved by the mere intervention of influential individuals and groups pointing out however that, “it does appear that many of those who would have made much impact on this matter are not so keen.”

“For example, one personality whose behind- the -curtain moves could have stopped the parties from going public, in my opinion, is the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar111. He has always successfully intervened in matters of this nature. But I doubt if he is very keen to come along for the following reason; his Sanusi’s utterances in recent times, the Sultan on several occasions had advised him to mellow down in his attacks, but he had not given ear to his fatherly advice”

The source explained that, “another possible institution that would have stopped the probe by the Kano State Government is the Presidency. But as you know, apart from their brief romance when Buhari was campaigning for elections and was leveraging on his attacks on the Jonathan administration, the relationship between Emir Sanusi and the Buhari government has not remained the same.

“Majority of the times, the target of the utterances of the Emir of Kano is the policies of the Federal Government and very painfully, he dismantles their very good policies before a local audience that they consider very crucial.

“A third group that would have exerted pressure on the Kano State Government on this issue is the Council of Ulama, which is a very powerful group in the state. But look at it this way, some of the social reforms that the Emir had been canvassing are in direct opposition to the ways and manner the Ulamas want things to be. The monarch’s social reforms agenda contradicts their very conservative position on this matter.”

Saturday Sun gathered that many Northern governors, some of whom are presently in China with Governor Ganduje for a Forum,  are not on the side of the Kano Emir. Apart from a few like Mallam Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, some of them are pressing for the probe.

“Informally, these governors influence themselves a lot and if two or three of the very powerful ones pull their weight together, they could stop the Kano State government from this probe. But the question you would ask yourself is if they would. Don’t forget that many of them are also victims of the reforms propagated by the Kano Emir. His strong and very convincing arguments present some of them as failures in their respective states.”

Northern governors intervene

Contrary to insinuations that the northern governors are up in arms against the emir, Saturday Sun can authoritatively reveal that the leadership of the Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF, led by the Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, is making frantic efforts to resolve the impasse.

Sources close to both the embattled emir and the NSGF secretariat told Saturday Sun that it would be in the interest of the north and Kano in particular, to get the matter resolved amicably, with one of the sources saying “Sanusi may have his excesses, but I think Kano and the north should be proud of him. You don’t discard such a calibre of an intellectual. How many traditional rulers can engage our Islamic clerics on Islamic best practices? I think they should just caution him on some of his public utterances especially, as they relate to government activities and politics. Removing him will amount to throwing the baby away with the bath water. Kano and the north will be the loser.”

In response to the news making the rounds that northern governors were bent on getting the emir sacked, one of the governors told Saturday Sun that “the story is not true. On the contrary, we are working hard to resolve the issue.”

Sanusi and his idiosyncrasies

But for politics, there was certainly no way a Musa Kwankwaso would have preferred a Sanusi, as an emir of Kano, at a time, he (Kwankwaso) was in firm control of power and politics in the state. Sanusi left United Bank for Africa, UBA, for First Bank Plc, because of the then Kano State governor, over his refusal to apologise to him for disparaging him and his government on the pages of newspaper.  It all started in 2001, Sanusi in his usual manner had criticised Kwankwaso’s handling of Kano state’s affairs. The government responded through its Finance Commissioner then, Dr. Hafiz Abubakar.

But in Sanusi’s response, he had taken both the governor and the commissioner to the cleaners, describing the state’s economy under Kwankwaso as one of  “Ajinomoto” or “Kafi Zabo” economics.

He had among other things said: “The first point in our discourse is the honourable commissioner’s insistence, in both the Daily Trust and the BBC interviews, that the N719 million “Governor’s lodge” being constructed in Abuja is an ‘investment’ for the people of Kano State. Dr. Hafiz is surprised that being an economist, I am yet unable to see the value of this “investment”. Consideration of this issue should reveal the extent of the honourable Finance Commissioner’s grasp of elementary Economics.

“An investment, to be considered a wise one (as opposed to a foolish one), must meet three criteria in both ‘common sense’ and Economics. First, it must be acquired in an efficient and cost-effective manner ( i.e there must be value for money); second, it must be such as one can reasonably expect an appreciation in its value over time; finally, the investment plus the gain thereon should be reasonably projected to be realizable.

“Let me give an example of such a project. The Zamfara State Government is constructing on its own plot in Abuja a hotel at a cost of N500 million. Although I have reservations on the project on grounds of reflecting misplaced priorities, I nonetheless concede that it is a wise investment, which meets all the above criteria. As a banker, I know from information available to me on similar projects that N500 million is roughly the cost of building and furnishing a good 3-star hotel with 60-80 rooms, sporting and healthcare facilities and conference centre. If the hotel in question meets these criteria we may conclude that it is being established at a reasonable cost.”

Kwankwaso was so enraged that he threatened to withdraw the state’s account from the UBA, if the bank does not ask Sanusi to apologise. Sanusi’s employers asked him to apologise, but rather than apologise, he threw in the towel. That was how he joined First Bank Plc.

The Ado Bayero factor

At the office of the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Agency early in the week, several sources told Saturday Sun that the current probe was a response to information made available on the social media, which itself was a fall out of the internal crisis within the palace.

While dismissing the insinuation that the Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje was directly behind the probe following the monarch’s criticism of some government policies,  a  very senior officer of the Commission told Saturday Sun that  investigation emanated from  petitions  generated by sympathizers of the former Emir of Kano, the late Alhaji Ado Bayero.

“There is an allegation that there was a N4 billion in the account and there is a counter to that allegation that the new Emir never inherited such an amount of money from his predecessor. As such, there was a need to look at the merits of the claims and counter claims and nothing more.

A number of the sympathizers of the old order, Saturday Sun investigation shows, are hopeful that should there be a vacancy on account of the probe, it would afford Kano people an opportunity to correct the mistake of the past and fulfill the wish of their late Emir “to enthrone one of his sons as his successor.”

Several sources who spoke to Saturday Sun agreed that such ambition was no longer feasible the way they imagined it while advising them to forget the past and look forward. “The children of the late Emir no longer command the primary position and sympathy they enjoyed soon after the demise of their father”, one of the sources added.

It was pointed out that “they are not close to the present governor of the state, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje to win his sympathy in this regard, including the fact the replacement of the former President  Jonathan by President Buhari means that they had lost the influence of the centre, which they once enjoyed. They also forget that there are a lot of people within the palace today who are equally qualified for the throne and who, given any vacancy, stand a better chance than ever to emerge as the choice.”

Uneasy calm

There is no doubt that with the development, the ancient city of Kano is on the edge. There is a huge fear among the people of the state who believe that another eruption is not what is needed in the state for now.

Historians in the state are quick to recall that the last time the Emir of Kano, the late Alhaji Ado Bayero was queried in the 80s by the Abubakar Rimi administration, Kano State went up in flames.

Although these two historical periods may differ, security sources are worried that the present probe of the finance of the Kano Emirate Council would stretch the peace of the state.

“The present probe has the capacity to lead to the suspension of the Emir, if he is indicted. And when that happens, then there is no way we can predict what will happen next”, the security source declared.

One of them added that “One huge mistake many people are making is to conclude on the surface that Emir Muhammad Sanusi is not popular simply because when he was crowned a few years back, he was not seen as the preferred choice.

“Those who think like this may be wrong. Time takes care of so many things. Our judgment is that the Emir of Kano has since endeared himself to his immediate surroundings with his welfare programs to the people around him at a time of huge poverty and hunger in the state. He has won many ordinary people to his side.

“Too, his social reform programme is well received, some of this has given voice to the voiceless majority in the region. I tell you many of these people see in him as the best thing that has happened to their lives.”

Another senior security source also told Saturday Sun that “many people may not have noticed that the Kwankwassiyya camp is largely in support of the Emir.” The group, he stated, represents almost half of the politics of the state today and is largely populated by young people who are prone to wild reactions.

“So, we are also looking at that angle too as we try to analyze the security implications of the probe going out of control.  We are praying that the whole probe is not factored into the Kwankwasiyya, Gandujjya trouble that has also divided the state”

Another reason for fear, according to the security officer, is the cast of characters involved in the confrontation. He noted that, “At the centre is an Emir, who is hugely connected, financially independent and bold.  If he chooses to fight back, there is no doubt that he would be able to fight those fighting him. He is not the type that can be easily humbled”

Already, there are indications that the security arrangements in the state would be strengthened ahead of May 2nd when those invited would appear before the Commission for questioning.

Mixed reactions

About a week before the probe became public, the National President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Alhaji Abubakar Mahmoud, SAN  had urged the elite in the region to be open to debate on issues that affect the people of Northern Nigeria.

Apparently throwing his weight behind the Kano monarch over his recent utterances, the one- time Attorney General of Kano State, cautioned the North against, “silencing views that are contrary to existing wisdom.”

Speaking in the same vein, a former boss of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Arch Aminu Dabo urged the Emir to continue to speak for the people of the region as there were many issues in the region begging for attention.

In a recent interview, a former member of the House of Representatives, Dr Junaidu Mohammed, however cautioned the Emir against the habit of condemning certain people in order to get kudos from the Lagos Press.

“That cannot continue indefinitely because if he wants to insult his exalted position by coming down to play politics with it, certain people are going to take him on and show him the road. For anytime he makes some of these reckless statements, there should be a counter. And if he brings disgust and a sense of negative attitude towards the institution of traditional institution, so be it.

On his comment on the Kano light rail project, Junaid said “Honestly, I don’t know much about the light rail project but I believe that he has access to the governor of the state who incidentally is one of the two people who made him the Emir, and could have gone to see the governor and tell him his views about the rail project. He can also write the government.”

Sanusi’s premonition

Sanusi had always wanted to become the emir of Kano. He is the emir today. But early this month when the whole brouhaha about his public appearances and criticism of government policies took a different dimension, the former CBN governor, appears prepared to go, after all, he has achieved his life time ambition.

This indication came about two weeks ago, April 14, to be precise, when his daughter, Shahida Sanusi, who represented him at the first annual Chibok Girls lecture in Abuja, told the audience that Sanusi would gladly give up the throne if it stands in the way of truth.

“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.

“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.”

Last line

However, following the intervention of prominent Nigerians, especially leadership of the NSGF, Sanusi, Saturday Sun authoritatively gathered, is already reconsidering his initial hard line position on giving up the throne. This, it was further gathered was responsible for his refusal to join issues with the state government since the probe started.

“We would have granted you the interview. But Seriki (Sanusi) has been advised not to stoke any further controversy over the matter. So I am sorry. Efforts are being made to resolve the matter. Thank you for your concern,” one of the emir’s relations, told Saturday Sun, when pressed for an interview on the raging controversy.

From all indications, if the peace moves fail, Sanusi will equal his late grandfather’s record, as a deposed emir. But unlike his late grandfather, if Sanusi is eventually dethroned, he would certainly bounce back to reckoning.