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Ramadan heralds new probe for Nigeria’s Emir of Kano

By Eromo Egbejule, in Lagos
Posted on Tuesday, 7 May 2019 18:03, updated on Wednesday, 8 May 2019 10:48

The lavish lifestyle of the Emir of Kano, a traditional leader, has riled the state's governor. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

The holy month of Ramadan began on a good and peaceful note for many Muslims around the world, but not for Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the former Central Bank governor who is Emir of Kano, in northern Nigeria.

Officials of the Kano State Public Complaints and Anti-corruption Commission have reopened investigations into allegations of corruption against Sanusi, at the supposed behest of Umar Ganduje, governor of Kano and its most influential citizen.

Sanusi, who was recently named to the board of MTN Nigeria, has been Emir of Kano since succeeding his late grand-uncle in 2014. The flamboyant monarch is regarded as one of the top three in the hierarchy of traditional rulers in northern Nigeria.

  • His ascension to the throne came after he was controversially suspended as central bank governor by former president Goodluck Jonathan over $20bn that went missing earlier that year.
  • Two years ago, the Kano state parliament suspended a probe into Sanusi’s lavish spending and alleged misappropriation of council funds. The affairs and needs of the Emir and his council are funded by the emirate council, which has done the same for previous emirs for centuries now. The investigation was suspended after vice-president Yemi Osinbajo and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote – who is also from Kano – intervened.
  • The payments being looked into span the years 2013 to 2017, going back even before Sanusi became Emir. While he himself has not yet been questioned, four of his staff have been.
  • Legislators in the Kano state House of Assembly are also considering a bill to create more emirates in the state, which would reduce the Emir’s constituent territory.

Pot calling the kettle black

Ganduje’s feud with the Emir stems from the latter’s often sensational comments about Northern leaders. The outspoken Sanusi had criticised the governor’s many foreign trips and romance with Chinese contractors.

  • Interestingly, more than five videos showing Ganduje stuffing wads of dollar notes into the folds of his robe – alleged kickbacks for infrastructure contracts – surfaced in 2018 and almost marred his election during the March 2019 polls.
  • The former Central Bank governor is believed to have backed opposition candidate Abba Yusuf of the PDP in the elections, which analysts say were marred by violence and widespread intimidation of voters.
  • Yusuf is a political godson to Ganduje’s foe and former benefactor Rabiu Kwankwaso, the ex-governor who is still apparently on good terms with Sanusi.

Does Ganduje stand a chance?

It will be a hard task to dethrone the Emir. Should Ganduje and his band of killjoy lawmakers take the easier route of creating new emirates, they will successfully weaken his influence and leave him as a glorified district head, thus stripping away the powers of what is historically one of Africa’s most celebrated royal positions.

Bottom line:

The royal father will have to fast steadily this Ramadan and pray for a déjà vu: to triumph like his predecessor Ado Bayero. In the 1980s, the then governor Abubakar Rimi, in a bid to settle scores with Bayero, created new emirati councils to whittle down the Emir’s powers. Rimi’s successor reversed the action a few years later.

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