Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Kano State governor and one of only three state deputy governors since 1999 that somehow succeeded in taking over from their principals, whenever he manages to make the news, does so mostly for the wrong reasons. Four examples would suffice. One, it wasn’t enough that Ganduje fell out with Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the governor made it impossible for his erstwhile principal, the man he served as deputy for eight years and ministerial aide for four years, to even visit his constituents – the police had to advise Kwankwaso to stop visiting Kano in order to avert violence. Two, Ganduje had, in a $5million bribery allegation, been shown in a babariga. number of video clips, stuffing bales of dollar notes in his billowing Somehow, the Kano Assembly killed investigations into the case despite Jafar Jafar, The Editor of Daily Nigerian, testifying to the authenticity of the video clips. Three, the Kano governor’s re-election was marred by controversy following massive violence and snatching of ballot boxes in the rerun polls. Four, Ganduje’s hurried creation of four new emirates from Kano is the latest of the governor’s missteps into the pit of negative publicity.
For a man who has master’s and doctoral degrees in public administration, it is strange that Ganduje did not bother about the long-term negative impact of his decision on the institution of the Kano Emirate, with its long tradition of protest in the name of the talakawas, its proud history of aristocratic power relations, and its rich culture of fusing together Hausa, Fulani and Arabic mores over the last one thousand years. The Kano Emirate is much more than a province of the Sokoto Caliphate following the 1805 jihad of Usman dan Fodio and the Fulani conquest of most kingdoms in northern Nigeria. Before the dan Fodio jihad, the Hausa Sultanate of Kano had been in existence from as far back as 1349. And before the Hausa Sultanate, Kano was an animist kingdom dating back to before 1000 AD, and having in 999 as its first king, Bagauda, grandson of Bayajidda. Kano Emirate became the largest and richest province of the Sokoto Caliphate, having grown, long before British colonization and the creation of modern Nigeria, as a centre of commerce, slave trade, Islamic education and civilization.
Why did Ganduje decide to balkanize the Kano Emirate and whittle down an important symbol of the caliphate’s magnetic attraction? Many have explained this away to the outspokenness of Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, his censure of woolly policies, his impatience with bad governance, his criticism of political exploitation of Islamic injunctions, his campaign for educating the girl-child, and more crucially, Ganduje’s loss of the polling units in the palace and Kano municipality in the recently concluded governorship election, an indication in government circles that the emir supported the opposition PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) candidate. What is not in doubt is that, in substance and form, the state government acted in bad faith while creating the four new emirates. The Kano Assembly passed the bill within 72 hours, even omitting public hearing, a critical process in law making. Barely two days after the Assembly passed the bill, Ganduje signed and gazetted it, installed the emirs without the pomp associated with such ceremonies, brazenly ignoring a court order to suspend all actions on the matter. He could not hide what seemed an apparent trade off with the Kano Assembly by also signing into law a life pension bill for the speaker and deputy speaker. The whole drama captured Ganduje at his worst in political vileness and viciousness.
It must, however, be made clear that traditional rulers are public officials paid with public funds. Indeed five percent of local government allocation is constitutionally dedicated to the welfare and upkeep of traditional rulers. Before Ganduje’s recent creation of four new emirates therefore, five percent of allocation to 44 local governments had been under the purview of the Kano Emirate. Those who understand the behind the scene politics in Kano believe that the on, off and on investigation of the Kano Emirate finances by the state anti-graft agency may be Ganduje’s game plan to use Sanusi to nail Kwankwaso. The late Emir Ado Bayero was said to have declined Kwankwaso’s request for for some funds said to be about N4billion from the emirate. Shortly after then President Goodluck Jonathan’s unceremonious removal of Sanusi as CBN governor in 2014, Kwankwaso, backed by then opposition APC (All Progressives Congress), appointed him Kano emir in what was widely interpreted as a slap on the ruling PDP, indeed a sliding tackle of then president. The whispering campaign in Ganduje’s camp is that Kwankwaso may have succeeded in getting Sanusi to release the fund after the emir’s inauguration. As Kwankwaso’s very loyal deputy at the time, the thinking is that Ganduje would have more than a passing knowledge of whatever transpired. Were the energy, haste and disobedience of court orders in Ganduje’s desperation to create new emirates any guide, it is doubtful if the agency investigating the emirate’s finances would not already be working from the answer. Whatever may be the outcome of the investigation, what is unbelievable is the governor’s inability to separate the institution from the person of the emir. After all, whoever is appointed emir holds office at the pleasure of the state governor. Like the late Kano State governor Mohammed Abubakar Rimi once explained in an interview, the governor has the power to dismiss, remove, indict or suspend an emir for committing an offence.
In civilized climes, the institution of the monarchy, despite the practice of constitutional democracy, is promoted and honoured because it is a window to the past. The Japanese Emperor for instance, is described in the country’s 1947 Constitution as “the symbol of the State and the unity of the people”. As Head of State, he performs essentially ceremonial duties, swearing in the prime minister and inaugurating the National Diet (Japanese parliament). Though the Japanese Emperor exercises no executive powers, but because he is a symbol of the history and culture and traditions and beliefs and glory of the people dating back to 538 AD when the current imperial family is believed to have been around, he is revered, by the government, and the people. And in the United Kingdom, the British Monarch is the most prominent royal in the world. This is down, primarily, to the reverence the British royals are held by the governments, the institutions and the people of Britain. Also a constitutional monarch like the Japanese emperor, the Queen performs basically ceremonial duties. Although she’s the Commander-in-Chief in addition to being the Head of State, the Queen has no executive powers. But then, major decisions in the cabinet, in parliament, and in the armed forces are taken in her name. She embodies the glory of the British Empire dating back to the 16th century.
Perhaps because the past is an anchor to the present and a peep into the future, the British and the Japanese have mastered the art of turning their royals into global brands, commercializing their history, culture, tradition and religion in the process, and turning the institution of the monarchy into major revenue earners for their countries. Since the royals in both countries are idols of popular imagination, they exercise silent but immense powers, attracting to their palaces world leaders, culture icons, movie and music stars, award-winning writers, and heroic personages. Both governments generate millions of revenue from ticket sales to tourists on daily visitation to palaces, and from sales of merchandise which have imprinted on them, images of the emperor (Japan), or the queen (Britain). Since the monarchs in both countries embody national identity, they are the engines of tourism growth with attendant benefits to their countries. Even in China where the monarchy became completely irrelevant when the Communists took over in 1949, the government still understands its institutional symbolism. The Forbidden City, the imperial palace and home of the emperors and their households between 1420 and 1912, has become a major centre of global attraction. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 980 buildings therein, constructed over four years and covering 72 hectares, advertise the grandeur of traditional Chinese architecture, inspiring several works of art, and depicted in movies, literature and other art forms. It attracts an annual average of 15 million tourists.
Nigeria has many traditional rulers who preside over institutions rich in history, and in culture, and dating back to centuries, and in some cases millennia, of ancient empires and kingdoms and city-states. Ooni Orisa Ife. Alafin Oyo. Oba Benin. The Sokoto Sultanate. Kano Emirate. Zaria Emirate. Obi Onitsha. These and a few others have the necessary ingredients in arts and culture and history and tradition to operate as constitutional monarchs to the benefit of the state. As it were, we love copying systems that work in other countries, and when we do, we copy blindly without considering our local peculiarities. We copied presidential democracy from the United States, and in doing so, we couldn’t be bothered about a constitutional role for our traditional rulers, ignoring the fact that the original operator of that political system had no institution of monarchy in their history. We neither fashioned some constitutional duties for our monarchs as in Britain and Japan, nor did we bury that institution altogether as in China. In the circumstance, traditional rulers operate in a limbo, which creates room for unscrupulous politicians to rub their noses in the mud and trample on that institution with impunity. The failure to have a well defined constitutional for traditional rulers can best be described as the original sin.
The Kano Emirate, though tall in history and culture, has been further uplifted by Sanusi’s education, intelligence, knowledge, network, reach and carriage. Were Ganduje a smart politician and forward-looking leader, he would have found a way to leverage on Sanusi’s capabilities, and his local and international contacts, harnessing them for the benefit of the people and the state. At the end of the day, whatever his administration may end up achieving would be to his credit. Sad, Ganduje chose pettiness over vision.