Kano: One Emirate, Two Emirs


Kano is known as Northern Nigeria’s commercial headquarters. It is the bubbling nerve centre of business activities that attract players from countries bordering Nigeria to the North. It is also the seat of Kano emirate, one of the largest emirates in Africa, stretching to all the 44 local government areas of Kano state.

Kano is steeped in history and the people are proud of their traditional heritage. The traditional institution which dates back over a thousand years has gone through upsets since year 999 when it was established by Bagauda and survived to the present day.

Presently, the city and the emirate are in turmoil and witnessing a scenario that has neither been recorded nor envisaged. Today, Kano is one emirate with two emirs, neither of whom has an undisputed claim to the throne.

The present turmoil has its legs in the recent past. The deposition of the 14th Emir, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje in March 2020 was a case of political vendetta masked with the charge of ‘insubordination’. It was obvious that Ganduje was getting at Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso under whom he served at two different times as Deputy Governor.

Their longstanding political alliance had turned into a rivalry and Sanusi who was installed by Governor Kwankwaso in 2014 was likely to support his comeback to political reckoning in Kano through his godson, Abba Kabir Yusuf.

If the reason for the deposition of Emir Sanusi was flimsy, the promulgation of a new Kano State Emirs (Appointment and Deposition) Law which balkanized the emirate and created four additional emirates – Rano, Karaye, Gaya and Bichi, was insensitive. It is a road earlier walked by the firebrand former Governor Abubakar Rimi during the Second Republic, but which ultimately did not stand the test of time.

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Rimi raged loudly against the traditional institution and famously said he regarded then Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, as any other public officer who is subject to his disciplinary measures. He never recovered from that face-off, politically until he resigned from office, to be replaced by Abdu Dawakin Tofa. It would take Tofa’s successor, Sabo Bakin Zuwo, to revert Kano to its status as one Emirate under Bayero.

Fast forward to 2023: Abba Kabir Yusuf of Kwankwaso’s New Nigerian People’s Party triumphs against Nasir Yusuf Gawuna, Ganduje’s annointed candidate of the All Progressives Congress, and replaces Ganduje as Kano Governor. Barely a year in office, the state decides to repeal the Ganduje law, effectively dissolving the new emirates and restoring the old Kano Emirate. It was a popular decision which many saw as a corrective act. The recall of Sanusi as emir, to replace Aminu Ado Bayero who was installed by Ganduje, was a logical conclusion of that restorative act, but that is where Abba Kabir Yusuf got stuck.

He probably didn’t reckon that Ganduje who is now national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress at the Federal level, would enlist the presidency in the battle to save his most profound legacy in office. Against all known conventions, President Tinubu has deployed federal might in thwarting the state government decision to install Sanusi as the 16th emir.

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In the past 5 weeks, sordid things have happened in Kano state. While Rano, Karaye, Gaya and Bichi have seized to exist as emirates, Kano has returned to one big emirate but rather than have one stool, two now exist de facto. While Sanusi reigns from Gidan Rumfa, the Emir’s official residence, Ado Bayero who is being propped up by the federal authorities, holds court in the Gidan Nasarawa, which used to house royalties visiting the Sarkin Kano from outside the state.

There is no record of such absurdity since 1807 when Shehu Suleiman dan Aba Hama from the Fulani Mundubawa clan led the Jihad of Usman dan Fodio in Kano, to 1819 when Shehu Ibrahim Dabo from the Fulani Sullubawa clan established the Dabo dynasty which subsists till date.

As if in cahoots with the federal authorities, the courts have added some questionable decisions to the mix. While a restraining order had surfaced after Governor Yusuf announced the appointment of Sanusi as the new emir to replace Ado Bayero, a Federal High Court in Kano last week set aside all steps taken by Kano state government to repeal the Kano Emirates Council Law, which it relied upon to re-appoint the 14th Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II as the 16th Emir of Kano.

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The initial restraining order had flowed from the action of a kingmaker in the former Kano emirate, Aminu Babba Danagundi, the Sarkin Dawaki Babba who challenged the propriety of the law and asked the court to declare it null and void. Implicit in the recent judgement is that the appointment of the Emir of Kano hangs in the balance following the court order for status quo to be maintained.

It is indeed the season of anomie with the Tinubu administration getting involved in all manner of local disputes that ought to be states’ matters. Just like in Rivers State the federal-controlled police have been deployed to prop up the political interests of former Governor Nyesom Wike who now serves as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Tinubu’s actions in Kano is perceived to be furthering Ganduje’s interests.

It all looks like the federal authorities are concerned with due process and the maintenance of law and order. But behind that façade, however, is a deep interest of two of the President’s allies and a plan to frustrate actions that may impact the President’s interests in those key states in 2027.

Will Kano ever return to the old normal or will that traditional heritage be sacrificed on the altar of political calculations for 2027?

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