Sanusi Lamido Sanusi: Questions, Lessons from the Travails of the Philosopher-King

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi: Questions, Lessons from the Travails of the Philosopher-King

Monday 9 March, 2020 was a day to be remembered by all the actors involved in that singular act that dominated discussion for almost the rest of the week. It was the deposition of the former Emir of Kano, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. The major points of arguments ranged from the appropriateness of the removal to the rightness or wrongness of such sudden sack. Mapping the actors and determining the protagonist or antagonist of the very popular film was not a difficult exercise. It was easy to know who belonged to which side.

It is Wednesday, 18 March, 2020 and exactly ten days after the former Central Bank governor was  removed from office. The noise that accompanied the removal seems to be abating. Time has come for sober reflection for those who might want to learn from the odyssey of a man whose life ambition, after his meritorious banking career, was to lead his people at the grassroots, came to power, spoke truth to power and eventually lost to power. The question is to whose loss was Sanusi’s six year-reign in Kano? The man? His traducers? Kano’s? Or the generality of those whose joy was to see quality leadership at all strata of the society?

A Flashback to Six Years ago

To have a proper understanding of the issues at stake, it is important to play back and reflected on what happened before he got to the throne which eventually defined how he left the throne of one of the most powerful emirates in the North. In 2014, SLS emerged the 14th Emir of Kano on the wings of his friendship with the then governor, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso and even the incumbent who was then the deputy governor. The forces, who were then domiciled in the All Progressive Congress, ensured Sanusi rose beyond the Goodluck Jonathan-led federal government’s machinations to become the emir. He had earlier fallen out with the then president by his disclosure of missing N20billion petroleum money from the government coffers and other scathing remarks concerning governance under the PDP government as CBN governor. So, there is no way anyone could divorce his earlier emergence from the intrigues of politics and political manouvering. Rabiu Kwankwaso and Umar Ganduje fell out with each other and the house that brought Sanusi to the throne became divided.  That was the beginning of the former CBN governor’s travails.

The Philosopher-King’s Sins

Apart from the division in the camp that brought him to power, Mallam Sanusi was accused of working against the interest of the Kano State Government under the leadership of Governor Ganduje. He was said to be loyal to Rabiu Kwankwaso, his friend and former governor, who has also crossed to the PDP. He was also said to have become too partisan for a monarch in a conservative emirate such as Kano. Ganduje and his supporters were of the opinion that the defeat that almost greeted his second bid to rule Kano State again had the fingers of the former Emir. That the APC lost in the emirate palace during the governorship election was enough evidence to nail Sanusi, they reasoned. Not only was he accused of working for the opposition party in the state alone, he was also said to be against the APC-led Federal G0vernment. A good example of this was the common “integrity versus competence” sermon he was said to have delivered shortly before the 2019 presidential election. Sanusi was widely quoted  to have said :

“It is not always easy to have a leader who has both integrity and capacity to govern — two important qualities of a leader. If a leader does not have both integrity and capacity to govern, choose the one that has the capacity to govern because his capacity to govern will benefit the people while his lack of integrity will be his own harm. If you choose a man who has integrity without capacity to govern, his lack of capacity to govern will harm the people while his integrity will only benefit himself.”

The sermon generated a lot of controversy and divergent interpretations. The commonest meaning ascribed to this statement especially by partisans of the APC extraction and their supporters was that the opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar should be voted for despite the narrative of his dented integrity at the time. The statement was made at a time when the Buhari-was-not-competent narrative was viral. Mallam Sanusi was reportedly accused of supporting the forces that sought to unseat the incumbent occupiers both at the state and federal level.

Apart from partisanship, Sanusi’s outspokenness also drew him no mean number of enemies. He was reputed to have been more outspoken than the average emir. The emirate throne was designed for people who would see more and speak less. However, the philosopher king would have none of that. He criticized not only government policies but also detrimental societal practices. He spoke against irresponsible polygamy practised by the poor. He condemned the Almajiri culture and the relegation of the girl-child prevalent in the north. He attacked poor government decisions on forex, loans and other governance issues. He was not liked by the powers that be. He is cerebral. He is fearless. He is reputed to speak truth to power. All of these were his undoing. And he lost the throne.

Sanusi’s deposition: Whose loss?

Beyond the analysis of the events culminating in the eventual dethronement of Mallam Sanusi, it is critical to examine the aftermath of such a colossal loss of such a cerebral mind from the throne of the Kano emirate. Here, we had a man that was well educated, well travelled, well connected and wealthy too. So, it is difficult to imagine the influence he could have had against some of the identified problems known with the north. So, who loses as a result of the dethronement?

A lot of arguments have been generated on this question. People have answered this question based on their biases. To supporters of the former emir, those who hounded him out office are the losers. To them, the inability of the Kano power brokers to tolerate Sanusi has denied them the chance to work with an emir that will see and tell them the truth. But, a counter question to this is – could Sanusi have been able to tolerate himself if he were Ganduje?

For others, scale of loss tilts towards the dethroned Emir. His inability to temper his outspokenness has denied him the opportunity to prove critics wrong that his lineage is a poor manager of power. As it was for his grandfather, so it is for him. Both were dethroned from the Emirate palace. This could count against the ambition of anyone from their lineage in future royal contests. These set of people believe that SLS should have transited from an activist to an advocate. They  are of the opinion that he could have used his connections, exposure, network and position to rally the north against many of the problems confronting the region. As an example, the campaign against the Almajiri system could have received a great boost with the former emir leading the charge from Kano and extending collaborative hands to other traditional rulers in the region.

They rued the lost opportunity of what a king who combines the powers of the palace and that of the Minbar could do if he was able to retain the seat. At the palace, he has royal powers. In the mosque, he has the ears of the congregation. He could have deployed this combination to make the fate of Kano and perhaps the North better. They argue that his lack of tact in relating with a governor whose tenure is not beyond three years from now led to the deposition.

From the consideration of the issues involved, the loss is that of the society. It is an unfortunate situation of the intellectual, the cerebral and the courageous being unable to read the meter of the powers and sustain their hold on power. The SLS  case is a lesson for all power seekers to understand the dynamics of power and manage such for the betterment of the society.

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