The day Emir Sanusi breached tradition

His Royal Highness Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has in recent times been in the eye of a raging storm in Kano. Apart from the state government whittling down his authority by creating more emirates from his kingdom, the Kano State’s House of Assembly has also set up a committee to investigate him for “misconduct”. According to a report, this was sequel to submissions made by  member, representing Nasarawa local government area, who among others, rebuked the emir ‘for sending his daughter to represent him in one of the functions organised by Bring Back Our Girls group in Abuja, describing it as inimical  to the tradition of the emirate council’. The legislator maintained, “There are many responsible emirate council members who could represent him at the programme; this is the first time we are seeing such in the historical traditional home”. This columnist here reproduces her account of that event. Read on.

  The Emir of  Kano and chairman of the  State’s   Council of  Chiefs, Alhaji Sanus Lamido Sanusi II, made history recently or rather broke the glass ceiling  when he mandated a non titled person to represent him at an event. What is more, he chose a woman, his daughter, Princess Saheeda, for it. In a conservative society, especially northern Nigeria, nay, the Northwest region where women are literally not expected to be seen or heard, this was quite a courageous decision. And the young princess represented her father creditably, reading his ‘provocative’ address fluently with good diction and adding a voice of her own thereafter, with her own thoughts which are no less thought provoking. When I tuned in to a live telecast of the inaugural lecture commemorating the third anniversary of the  abduction of the now famous Chibok girls, I could recognise those on the high table; Professor Grace Alele-Williams, former vice chancellor of the University of Benin and professor of mathematics education; Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, convener of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) group;  Hajia Aisha  Yusuf, co-convener of the BBOG group; a woman  representing mothers of the schoolgirls that are yet to return and a young lady who from afar, appeared like one of the 21 Chibok school girls that were released sometime ago by the Boko Haram militants.

   Indeed, my first thought was that this last mentioned lady was there to represent the girls (no pun intended) and that she was well dressed with a photogenic countenance on this occasion because she had to be well packaged for the public event that was being beamed live to the world. But alas, upon her introduction, it turned out that she is not just the ordinary, common, average Nigerian girl, sorry, lady, but one from a privileged background. She is a princess of the ancient and famous Kano emirate with its rich culture and history, daughter of the fiery Emir Sanusi who in recent times had been ruffling feathers of the establishment and elite in northern Nigeria with his calls that girls in the region be given greater breathing space, be well educated, be given a greater voice and greater participation in the development of the region and the country at large. Emir Sanusi had drawn a nexus between the under-development and pervasive poverty in the region, especially Northwestern Nigeria and its poor education status in comparison to other regions of the country. He buttressed his statements with facts and figures, statistics that show proportion of school enrolment, school drop-outs, withdrawal of girls from school for marriage, under-aged marriages, and research that reveals that girls marrying from age 19 have less health problems than those being married off at age 15 and below, that educated girls are better off and make better mothers than their non educated mates. And so on and so forth. 

  Although a member of society’s upper echelon who generally in Nigeria look the other way with royal aloofness while the common man and common woman wallow in abject poverty and sufferings, attributing the common man’s lot to providence,  Emir Sanusi’s frank remarks irked many of the elite in his region who severely criticised him, even calling him names. The emir says he is less bothered by the personal insults on him, noting that such attacks do not remove the problems he outlined. He added that he would not descend to their low level of mudslinging. This is quite dignifying. Princess Saheeda mocked the critics in this regard when she remarked, ‘when they go low, we go high’. Emir Sanusi urged his fellow elite to endeavour to get the people of northern Nigeria out of the poverty trap before it gets to a boiling point, before the upcoming new generation (who he called “Tigers”) charge at them. I dare say that Emir Sanusi Muhammadu  Sanusi II has sowed the seed for that new breed of northerners that would challenge the inherent injustice and work selflessly for a society where peace and justice reign. They shall be enlightened, broad minded new generation of persons with a new sense and new thinking who shall appear on the scene at the ripeness of time, armed with the truth as their sacred spear.

   Princess Saheeda appears to be taking after her father. Educated in both South Africa and Switzerland, she is asking questions of her own, “All these Almajirai what are we doing about them? Lots and lots of people besiege my father’s palace every day, women and children, asking for one thing or the other…’’  The story was told of how Princess Saheeda whilst still at school, slapped a male classmate in the full view of her classmates for disrespecting her by pushing back her head with his first  finger, something he had been doing,  apparently, with many of his other female classmates without any of them seemingly taking umbrage .

  Emir Sanusi reminds one of Suleiman the magnificent, the 16th century Ottoman Sultan. I am less concerned here with Suleiman’s military expeditions in Europe but more interested in how he changed the face of the Ottoman administration. It is said of him, “Suleiman the magnificent is remembered in Turkey as Kanuni, the law-giver. He completely overhauled the formerly piecemeal Ottoman legal system and one of his first acts was to lift the embargo on trade with the Sefivid Empire which hurt Turkish traders as least as did Persian ones. He decreed that all Ottoman soldiers would pay for any food or other property they took as provisions while on a campaign, even while on enemy territory. Suleiman reformed the system, dropping extra taxes imposed by his father and establishing a transparent tax rate that varied according to people’s income. Hiring and firing within the bureaucracy would be based on merit, rather than on whims of higher officials or on family connections. All Ottoman citizens, even the highest, were subject to the law. He instituted protections for Christians and Jewish citizens of the Ottoman Empire, denouncing blood libels against the Jews in 1553 and freeing Christian farm labourers from serfdom”.  Of course, Emir Sanusi cannot be compared with Suleiman the magnificent but he is sowing the seed for revolutionary changes in the north. When that seed will bear fruit, none can say for now.

  And the emir’s daughter let out a secret which is that though his father longed to be emir, he would “gladly” give up the throne for the truth. Ladies and gentlemen, here comes the reformist Emir Sanusi, the crusader who speaks with conviction, championing the unshackling of the talakawa from poverty and the emancipation of girls from ignorance.

Ikeano, a journalist, writes via [email protected] 08033077519

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