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Sanusi: The Last Emir

In both historical and real terms, the dethronment of Emir Sanusi marks a significant event in the history of emiral authority in Kano, one whose consequences will continue to echo long after the principal actors are gone.

I think, Governor Ganduje’s dastardly actions notwithstanding, Emir Sanusi was caught in a web of his own contradictions. His emergence (and eventual dethronment) as emir of Kano was one of those circumstances where fate and politics crossed each other’s path at the wrong point in history.

Equipped with the education, exposure and temperament to preside over a 21st century nation-state, he instead chose to become an emir whose authority and influence are largely symbolic and ceremonial.

Ever since his ascension to the throne, the stage was set for such implacable ending. This is because, the type of public role he envisioned (and struggled to carve) for himself is incompatible with royal life.

Added to this was his nostalgic decision to model his reign after that of his grandfather, adopting the name and style of the latter and further creating a foreboding sense of fatalism that guided him to this fate.

For that to happen, fate does not need a certain Ganduje, all that it require is a political authority because Emir Sanusi’s collision with political power is inevitable, a matter of when and not if. That’s why in the few months he spent as emir with Kwankwaso as governor, he was queried twice over disagreements with the state government.

It is obvious that Emir Sanusi’s biggest contradiction is his attempt to cast himself as a royal revolutionary, an activist emir that is far ahead of his time.

But revolution and royalty don’t mix, they only explode. All over the world, even in constitutional monarchies, royals are expected to lead a life of relative quietude and discretion.

To Emir Sanusi, he wanted to become an activist Amir who is not hindered by the traditional gag of the amawali. That he’s coming immediately on the back of the reign of the legendary Ado Bayero makes it all the more inauspicious. His people are accustomed to seeing rather than hearing their emirs.

In spite of those contradictions, Emir Sanusi occupies a higher moral pedestal than his ‘dethroners’ will ever dream of. And above all, his vision of the society closely aligns with mine, and with that of all lovers of progress for our people.

My differences with Emir Sanusi pale into comparison to my differences with Ganduje who was caught stashing dollars in his Babbanriga, with neither the courage to admit and apologize for his crimes nor the decency to resign from office.

When he chose to speak the truth to power while being one of them, I believe Emir Sanusi was fully aware of the potential consequences of his choices and actions. Either through sheer courage or fatalism (over his grandfather’s fate), he was willing to pay the ultimate price.

Even in the last few weeks of his reign when the reality of his dethronment became manifest as Ganduje’s schemes appear unrelenting, he carried on with a sense of divine resignation.

More disturbing was the manner Ganduje went about his misadventures, by first balkanizing the emirate into five smaller emirates and significantly eroding its royal reputation.

The fact that any politician in power could depose a first class emir and disfigure a historic emirate with such ease and arbitrariness should send shivers down the spine of every northern royal. By that singular action, Ganduje delivered a blow from which the emirate will never fully recover.

Ganduje couldn’t have attempted or succeeded in that without the active connivance of rival members of the Kano royal family. Both sides of the royal family have their fair share of blame in this crisis, for allowing themselves to become willing tools at the hands of politicians.

At the end, with the splitting of the emirate into 5 smaller emirates, they end up losing the very emirate they were fighting so hard to rule.

For Emir Sanusi, this is obviously the beginning of another interesting chapter. Because even outside emirateship, Emir Sanusi will continue to divide opinions along very sharp lines. Many people see the emir as a symbol of reform in a region wallowing in the abyss of poverty and underdevelopment.

His supporters see him as a royal eccentric and reformer, who is out to redefine emirship in the 21st century.

On the opposite side, there are those who see him as symbol of contradiction, straddling between his aristocratic reality and his Marxist learning, between royal profligacy and progressive advocacy, between unbridled elitism and privileged egalitarianism, the evidence of which is too overwhelming to be denied.

Caught in a web he could not break from, Emir Sanusi’s reign has ended, just as it started, through politics. At the end, the Emir paid a huge price as a royal revolutionary. If it were in the past when emirs had real power, he will make a great emir given his erudition and the visionary prowess to roll out reforms that are capable of pushing his backward subjects forward.

But today, the reality is quite different, and he will be remembered more for his glittering reign than for his role in the history of Kano.

Even as the throne is taken away from him, Emir Sanusi’s reaction to his dethronment has become a royal class act that’s reserved for the history books. His manner of acknowledging his deposition letter and his video address to the people accepting his dethronment and calling for calm demonstrate those pristine qualities that transcend the realm of emiral power. That to me, is Emir Sanusi’s biggest victory as the Last Amir of a once united Kano emirate.

By Ahmed Musa Husaini

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