By Osa Director
A common proverb in Benin Kingdom says that a stone you see being flung at you from a distance does not blind you.
In essence, you have all the time in the world to avoid it (stone) doing any damage before it lands on target.
Dethronement was one stone Emir Sanusi Mohammad II saw coming, yet he could not dodge it. Sanusi with his blunt but fair outspokenness took on every segment, especially the conservative aspect of his people, tradition and culture.
He was a different kind of king, progressive thinker, and radical on the throne. By virtue of his ideological worldview, intellectual temperament and family history, Sanusi could not avoid the stone hurled at him. It was impossible!
It would not be out of place to consider the recently deposed Emir of Kano as a king who came ahead of his time.
He was urbane, dangerously brilliant, audacious and somewhat intellectually abrasive.
Indeed, on the throne of the conservative Kano Emirate, Sanusi was a true exhibition of the audacity of knowledge and change. He had a mission and was determined to achieve it.
A very manifest mannerism of Sanusi was his self-confidence and his deep pool of knowledge which he never shied away from impressing on anyone that comes across him. He is intelligent and never fails to let anyone appreciate that.
Gracefully too, he welcomes debates and interrogation of his postulations. That was what attracted me to the Sanusi persona.
In May 2003, I had gone to Malam Aminu Kano International Airport to board a Kabo Airline plane to Lagos.
I was in the company of my good friend, Mohammed Bello Adoke, who was then a young upwardly mobile practising lawyer in Kano. He later rose to become the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
As we both made to take our seats inside the aircraft, Adoke sighted Sanusi who was already seated. Both men embraced each other, exchanged pleasantries. We all decided to sit together. Sanusi was clutching a book, a very big book as if his life depended on it. The book was bigger than the flesh on his body. Adoke introduced me to Sanusi.
At the mention of my name, he was literally pumped up. He extended his hand for a warm handshake, saying “you recently lost a rare gem.”
He was referring to an opinion piece I wrote that week, published in Insider Weekly Magazine, where I was the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive.
The write-up was dedicated to my great father, who transited from the terrestrial to the celestial. He regaled me with every detail in that article and other stories I did before.
Till the time the aircraft touched down in Lagos, he was audaciously booming with the knowledge. Then, he was an Assistant General Manager (AGM) in a first generation bank, not the one he rose to become Chief Executive Officer.
Apart from Matthew Hasaan Kukah, he was the most consistent and prolific writer of Northern extraction who took on the task of writing newspaper articles and rejoinders regularly. He offered views and counter facts to everyone who misinterpreted the values, history and culture of the North, and Nigeria.
It was obvious Sanusi was a man on a mission, resolute and resolved in his strides. With the in flight exchanges between him and Adoke, which the latter always punctuated with the word, Sai Kai, it was certain that the Kano Emirate stool was the desired ultimate destination of Sanusi.
Therefore, it was not a surprise to see him rise from the ranks to become Chief Executive of a first generation bank, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and ultimately, as the Emir of Kano, in June 2014.
Also, neither did it come as a surprise too that the journey ended the way it did, at least for now.
There is no way the story could have been different with Sanusi. Being Emir in a conservative environment with strict traditional practices, the institution he was supposed to preserve and project was destined on a collision course with him.
Such collision was bound to happen for a man who cared less about his privileges and what could happen to him. He was driven by the desire to speak truth to power, to stir debates and discussions as a way of moving society forward and better. His ambition was to speak the truth as he knows it, based on evidential knowledge, and he did.
As Emir, he derobed the conservative and skewed interpretation given to some religious practices. With a Master’s Degree in Islamic Studies from Khartoun University, in Sudan, he was well-versed and grounded in Islamic precepts and laws. The influential Islamic clerics never liked him for that.
He strenuously condemned the almajiri system, which breeds streets urchins that are ready tools for causing mischief by the exploitative and manipulative elite class.
Sanusi II was in the forefront of advocacy for the girl child education. He abhors the marginalisation of women in the guise of inexplicable religious and cultural doctrines. He clearly admonished men to marry according to their financial capacity.
Consequently, he urged them to stop breeding children they could not take care of.
Not a few found his encouragement of women in the North to stand up for their rights and resist abuse by their husbands. He bluntly told them that if they were slapped by their husbands, they should retaliate with intensity as they were not slaves!
This statement was made at a public forum. Sanusi never hides to speak or grumble in private. He speaks publicly for all to hear. He encourages debates, and is never afraid to stir a hornet’s nest.
Although he never got his facts right all the time. After all he is a human being with no claim to infallibility. For instance, he raised an alarm that 40 billion Dollars was missing from the Excess Crude Account under President Goodluck Jonathan.
When confronted by Okonje-Iweala, he revised the figures downward to 20 billion Dollars. But when an international accounting firm audited the account, only 1.2 billion Dollars was not properly accounted for. Sanusi II never shied away from controversies and the need to speak his mind. He was powered by his conviction.
The elites of Kano failed Sanusi II. In spite of his dethronement, the Kano Emirate will never be the same again with the touch of the Sanusi II persona. The elites of Kano State clearly failed to see that Sanusi II was a pride to be managed, kept and preserved in their enlightened self interests.
Sanusi introduced class, truth and dignity to the traditional institution in Nigeria, especially in the North. As it is in the Senate which is fast turning into a political refuse dump for ex-governors who want to hold on to the pecks and privileges of power forever, the traditional institution in the North was fast becoming a warehouse where retired military personnel and high-ranking public officers with dodgy past were hibernating. But the deposed Emir was a class art! He has verifiable credentials and enviable public service records ornamented with intellectual competence.
It will take a long while, if at all, for Kano State to produce an Emir with the intellectual bravura and ccommanding presence of Sanusi II. Kano State elite are losers in this game. But the biggest losers are the poor, the weak and vulnerable in the society that he fought for.
Many are wont to condemn Governor Abdullahi Ganduje for the dethronement of the globally renowned Emir. Certainly, the governor could not have acted alone.
The public posturing between Emir Sanusi II and President Muhammadu Buhari seems too edgy on a closer observation. It is possible that one might have hurt the other intensely and privately before, with revenge on the agenda for the aggrieved party may not have heard the last word in this matter as banishment of an Emir of international clout and repute as Sanusi II to the suburb of Nasarawa State cannot stand in a constitutional democracy if challenged.
But for Sanusi II who is reputed to have noted that he prefers to be free without turban than be a slave in turban, it might just be freedom at last!
Osa is a lawyer and journalist based in Lagos.