Sanusi Under Fire

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After stirring the hornet’s nest on the negative impact of Islamic conservatism in the north, the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II‎, is now under the fire from the northern establishment, writes Tobi Soniyi

If there is anything the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11 is known for, it is the fact that he does not shy away from controversies.

As governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, he courted controversies by the way and manner he handled the restructuring of banks. In Africa, most governors of central banks will not speak against the government under which they serve. But not Sanusi. He wrote a letter alleging that $49.8 billion oil revenue was yet to be accounted for by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). As a result of this letter, his tenure as CBN governor was terminated when in February 2014 President Goodluck Jonathan placed him on suspension.

So, when he decided to take on the authority in the north, Sanusi was merely behaving to type. Not many were surprised when he chose to speak on issues that were considered a ‘no go area’ for Muslims, not to talk of an Emir.

Before he spoke in Kaduna, Sanusi had called on all religious and traditional leaders to refrain from beating their wives, adding that they would lose their titles if they do so.

Although, what Sanusi said was not news to southerners, what is news is that, a highly placed northerner is saying it loud and clear. What did Sanusi say that the authority in the north are now calling for his head? Speaking at an event organised by the Kaduna State to attract investors to the state, Sanusi said: “We are in denial. The north-west and the north-east, demographically, constitute the bulk of Nigeria’s population, but look at human development indices, look at the number of children out of school, look at adult literacy, look at maternal mortality, look at infant mortality, look at girl-child completion rate, look at income per capita, the north-east and the north-west Nigeria, are among the poorest parts of the world,”

According to him, the poorest of the poor live in the north.

He said: “As far back as 2000, I looked at the numbers, Borno and Yobe states, UNDP figures, Borno and Yobe states, if they were a country on their own, were poorer than Niger, Cameroon and Chad. “Nobody saw this because we were looking at Nigeria as a country that averages the oil-rich Niger Delta, the industrial and commercial-rich Lagos, the commercially viable Southeast, and you have an average.

“Break Nigeria into its component parts, and these parts of the country are among the poorest, if it were a country. And we do not realise we are in trouble.”

Sanusi also used the occasion to criticise Buhari’s economic model on the same day government approved the economic recovery plans. He said: “The Federal Government of Nigeria is spending 66 percent of its revenues on interests on debts, which means only 34 percent of revenues is available for capital and recurrent expenditures.

“That model cannot work. If you look at the 2017 budget of the Federal Government, I sometimes wonder what Nigerian economists are doing? In the 2017 budget presented by the Federal Government, the amount earmarked for debt servicing is in excess of the entire non-oil revenue of the Federal Government, but that is not the problem. The problem is that it is a budget that is even going for more debts.”

Sanusi did not stop there. He took on the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari whose state was being ravaged by meningitis. The governor was reported as saying that God sent the decease to punish people for their sins.

Sanusi said: “A governor actually said it was caused by fornication? If Nasir El Rufai sits with investors in London or Abu Dhabi and tells them what he is doing, they will come and invest here. There is a battle of ideologies going on. A real battle without bombs of bullets being thrown (my words). We should stop allowing human beings appropriate our religions for selfish reasons.”

The Zamfara governor would not go down without a fight. He described Sanusi as an hypocrite living large while his people suffered.

In his response, the governor accused Sanusi of hypocrisy, saying he cared less about poverty level of his people – He also advised Sanusi to practise what he preached rather than throw accusation at others

In a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Communication, Mr Ibrahim Dosara, the governor said that Sanusi was riding on Rolls Royce while his subjects were in face of palpable poverty.

The statement reads: “For those who consider the emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II to be anything but a first class intellectual, a consummate banker and a bona fide member of Nigeria’s royalty, the last couple of weeks were a dizzying spectacle of mixed messages on integrity, royalty and wisdom.

“Within a perimeter of weeks, HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II, whose royal tentacles and social networks traverse the length and breadth of this country, lambasted the nation’s economic framework, the northern elite, sub-national leadership especially the governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, and the traditional institution of marriage.

“With due respect to our highly revered traditional institutions and royal fathers, as a blue-blooded family member himself, Hon Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar holds the emir in very high esteem.

“He believes that the emir as a brother and co-occupant of elite positions in Nigeria, he could advise governors and those in positions of authority in several chains of communication that are richly available to him. But he preferred the public platform, for reasons best known to him.”

The onslaught did not stop there. He was accused of squandering N3 billion of Kano emirate’s money on buying two Rolls Royce and on hiring chartered flights. Sanusi was also accused of “kissing, holding and romancing ladies in public” with the picture of him hugging a woman in public.

But unfazed, and not known for shying away from controversy, Sanusi replied his critics with more threats. He said: “Those who are opposed to my views or think I am a problem have a much bigger problem to deal with in the next generation of the Sanusis.

“They are far more radical, they are far more progressive, they far more committed and they are far more fearless. So, it is time we address all these issues before these tigers come on the scene.”

Sanusi was born into the ruling Sullubawa clan on July 31, 1961. He started his education at St. Anne’s Catholic Primary School, Kakuri, Kaduna, where he obtained his first school leaving certificate in 1973.

His father, Alhaji Aminu Sanusi, was a permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs in the 1960s.

Sanusi is the grandson of former emir of Kano and Islamic scholar, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi, who was deposed and banished in 1963.

A Lagos boy, the emir attended the prestigious King’s College, Lagos in 1972-77.

He got a bachelor of science degree in economics in 1981 from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

In 1983-84, he did a master’s in economics at the same university, focusing on monetary policy.

He actually started life as a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1983 after his national youth service in Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba).

His private sector career began at ICON Limited (Merchant Bankers) where he was for seven years, working in corporate finance, treasury services, credit and marketing, attaining the position of Area Manager, North in1991.

In 1997, he got a first-class degree in Sharia and Islamic Studies (with an elective in Arabic) at the International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan.

On his return from Sudan, he joined United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc as a Principal Manager (Credit Risk Management) and by March 2005 he became a general manager, with expertise in Risk Management.

First Bank of Nigeria Plc made him executive director (risk & management control) in 2005 and was appointed the bank’s CEO in 2008.

His tenure at First Bank ended after only six months as former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua made him governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Those seeking to understand what drives the emir should listen to her daughter, Shahida. Representing her father at the first annual Chibok Girls lecture in Abuja, she said her father would gladly let go of the throne if it stood in the way of the truth.

According to her, Sanusi had dedicated his life to the truth. She said had her father had always wanted to be the emir, but believed in the truth.

She said: “My father is not afraid of giving up his throne if it stands in the way of speaking the truth. Those who think that my father would keep quiet because he wants to hold on to his throne, I think they don’t know my father. I know that he has always wanted to be the emir of Kano but to him, if it comes between what is right, what his conscience tells him and choosing the throne, he would happily give up the throne. My father has always been a part of one controversy or the other and it’s normal for us. We are not scared anymore.

“And honestly, he has been a source of inspiration and pride. He never fails to fight. He fights for progress, liberty, justice and equality. Those who think they know my father should know that he will never be silenced by blackmail and intimidation. He lost his position once as the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and I remember his quote that you can suspend a man but you can never suspend the truth. I know he does not mind being the most unpopular emir so long he speaks the truth.”