Every Nigerian knows that in 2020, Sanusi Lamido was dethroned as the Emir of Kano. But do you know that his grandfather was removed as Emir of Kano? In May 1962, on the departure of the British colonial administrator and then Governor of Northern Nigeria, Sir Gawain Westray Bell (1909-1995), many people in the North and beyond including Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, late Emir of Kano and grandfather of the Ex-Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and former Emir of Kano felt that the Sardauna of Sokoto (1938-1966) and Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello (1909-1966) might follow the example of Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987), pointing the then Ooni of Ife, Oba (Sir) Adesoji Aderemi (1889-1980), as Governor of Western Region, by recommending an emir to be Governor of the North.
As the Shehu of Bornu, Alhaji (Sir) Umar Ibn Mohammed el-Kanemi (1873-1968), was well advanced in age, the lot easily thought either the Sultan of Sokoto, Sir Abubakar, or the Emir of Kano, His Eminence Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi would have filled the position with dignity. But Ahmadu Bello had different plans. Instead, he chose his best friend, Sir Kashim Ibrahim (1910-1990).
Let’s look at what caused the dethronement of Sanusi Lamido’s grandfather;
Emir Muhammadu Sanusi’s reign
Emir Sanusi, a man known to have his way as far back as to the time when his father was on the throne and he was Ciroma, was one of those responsible for the success of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) in the election of 1951, and was virtually a founding member of the party. His emirate was the most single local administrative unit in the country and he ruled it with a firm hand. He combined both power and a handsome pay packet because his emirate was well endowed.
In fact as far back as 1914, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi earned 14,000 Pounds a year when the Governor-General of Nigeria, Sir Frederick Lugard (1858-1945) earned only 6,600 Pounds. Sanusi was, in actual fact, treated as primus inter pares among the Emirs of Northern Nigeria despite ranking 4th after the Sultan of Sokoto, the Shehu of Bornu and the Emir of Gwandu. Even at one time, only the Emir of Kano was deemed important enough by Lugard to represent the North on his Nigerian Council of 1914 when he made Sarkin Abbas, the Emir of Kano, along with the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Gbadegesin Ladigbolu I, members.
Coupled with the fact that he was a minister of state without portfolio and maintained a large palace in Kaduna over and above that in Kano. The mother of it all being that when Sir G.W. Bell, the Governor of the North, proceeded on leave in 1961, Sanusi, the Emir of Kano, acted for him. When the Sardauna himself became premier, he too treated Sanusi with consideration. Both men were well received by the Saudi King (1953-1964) Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (1902-1969), who was named Prime Minister on 11th October 1953. No doubt, the two men were very close friends up until 1962.
The scores between Saradauna Ahmadu Bello and Emir Muhammadu Sanusi
From 1962 onwards, the Sardauna not only embarked on tours to non-Muslim areas of the North where people were being converted, sometimes by force, to Islam. He also began to assert himself much more aggressively in the North and seemed to feel that his position as Premier was that of a grand emir who was superior to all other traditional rulers in the North including the Sultan of Sokoto. Of particular interest was an incident which the Sardauna did not find funny one bit and which he considered an affront. It was during a formal occasion in the race course when the Emir of Kano stole the spotlight by arriving in full splendor and pageantry after the Sardauna had been seated and the whole assemblage had to stand up for the Emir in traditional homage and honour. It was just too much for the Sardauna to bear.
But it pleased the Emir so much to get back at the Sardauna in this way especially since he had thought that he and not Kashim Ibrahim was the most suitable man to be appointed Governor of the North, more so when he had acted in that capacity while the incumbent was away on leave in 1961. It seemed natural for him to have felt slighted by the action of the Sardauna. Other possible grounds of disagreement between them severally abound, one of which was in 1959 when the North celebrated its internal self-government. The Emir, Muhammadu Sanusi, had calculated that he would sit in the ‘royal box’ with the Sardauna, the Sultan and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince Henry and Princess Alice, who had embarked ‘on a tour of Eastern Nigeria, the Southern Cameroons and Lagos as the Federation of Nigeria approached full independence and entry into the Commonwealth, beginning 12th May 1959.’ But he was simply told to sit somewhere else.
Why Emir of kano Muhammadu Sanusi was dethroned
One ground was the Emir’s opposition to the provincial bill passed by the Sardauna’s government which culminated in the appointment of some House of Assembly members as provincial commissioners who enjoyed not only the rank of ministers in the regional government, but were also given official precedence over the emirs. It would seem that insult was added to injury when the provincial commissioner for Kano was a Sokoto man, one Alhaji Aliyu, Magajin Gari of Sokoto, who happened to be of Sokoto royal slave origin. For the Emir, this was the height of it.
The leadership of the Emir of Kano and the Sultan had also stepped on the Sardauna’s raw place when they protested directly to the British Governor of Northern Nigeria about the interference in local affairs of Northern People’s Congress party stalwarts, thereby bypassing the Sardauna. For a man who neither forgot not forgave easily, the Premier was clearly not happy with both men.
Whatever the cause of friction between the two men, the Sardauna certainly did not like the arrogant air which the Emir of Kano affected whenever they were together. After all, the crime of an emir which bordered on injustice or even downright misappropriation and embezzlement was commonplace in those days and which could have been glossed over completely, not to say swept under the carpet and if necessary, perhaps, a private warning and verbal chastisement would have sufficed. But owing to the ‘beef’ between the two heads of the ruling aristocracy in the North, the Sardauna pressed home his attack as an opportunity to humble the Emir.
It was against this backdrop that the administrative board of enquiry into the affairs of the Kano emirate at the instance of the Saradauna recommended that the Emir of Kano should be dethroned.
How the Sanusi’s grandfather was dethroned
However, another matter that was of more immediate concern to Kashim Ibrahim as Governor of the North was the problem which was brewing in Kano that concerned an administrative enquiry into the financial affairs of the Kano Emirate. Needless to say, the report of the enquiry seriously implicated the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, in a series of improprieties and actions considered detrimental to order and good governance.
As it was more than obvious that the Premier would not shift his ground on the matter, Sir Kashim was left with very little choice. He, therefore, sent for the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, to meet him at Government House in Kaduna. After the normal exchange of greetings and pleasantries, Sir Kashim, at first dreaded how to begin and finally broached the subject of the enquiry, capping it with government acceptance of the recommendation of the board that the Emir should be removed from office, and asked him if he had anything to say. Sanusi simply replied, ‘nothing.’
Immediately after this, and having been taken aback by the Emir’s non display of emotion at the verdict, Governor Kashim Ibrahim brought out a prepared resignation letter for him to sign, which the Emir signed without a word. Then, the Governor proceeded to deliver the coup de grace when he quietly demanded to know where the Emir would like to go, into exile to which Sanusi replied, ‘Azare’, a small town in Bauchi province. And there he henceforth stayed for nearly 20 years before returning to Wudil about 6 kilometers from Kano.
Did former Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido follow the fate of his grandfather?
March 2020, Sanusi Muhammadu Sanusi ll was removed as Emir of Kano by the government of Governor Umaru Ganduje. Reason: His alleged “disrespect to the office of the governor and other government agencies.” Alhaji Usman Alhaji, the Secretary to the State Government, said the removal was “with immediate effect.” The emir’s action, according to Alhaji, “violated the part 3 section A-E of Kano state law.” His removal, “was in line with consultation with relevant stakeholders” and a new emir was announced later.
In 1963, the people saw the Emir’s dethronement as an insult to the people of Kano. This victory, at once, signaled to all other emirs that the Premier Ahmadu Bello was a Babanemir and would not brook any challenge to his own power which he saw as being independent of the support previously given him by the emirs. The fear of the Sardauna soon became the beginning of wisdom and he seemed to be saying to the emirs: ‘Follow my religious and political direction if you wished to retain your positions.’ The question of who was in charge was no longer in doubt. The Sardauna retained control and his prestige increased all over the North and nobody dared cross swords with him again.
Was it a political smoke screen? Did they get Sanusi Lamido out of the way just like his grandfather so rhat Ganduje will have an upper hand in the state?