This ‘fight to the finish’




It was Kano State Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf’s spokesman Sanusi Bature Dawakin Tofa who, at the weekend, introduced the very unhelpful phrase “fight to the finish” in the national political lexicon. Speaking on Arise TV, he characterized the on-going tussle over the emirship of Kano in this manner, supposedly as a fight between Kano State Government and Federal Government, the former on the side of Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, the latter on the side of Emir Aminu Ado Bayero. I am choosing my words carefully because at the moment, no one is sure who is the rightful Emir of Kano.

Ordinarily, last Thursday’s ruling by Justice Mohamed Liman of the Federal High Court, Kano should have made matters clearer, but the headlines of twenty Nigerian print and online newspapers, radio and tv stations and news agencies left everyone confused as to the import of the ruling. Some said the court removed Emir Sanusi; others said the court restored Emir Bayero; still others said the court left Kano without an emir; while the state’s Attorney General firmly declared that the ruling preserved Sanusi as the emir of Kano.

Big lawyers who waded into the matter also provided different interpretations. I think the most honest one was constitutional lawyer Prof Auwalu Yadudu who said the ruling was confusing. On the one hand it kind of upheld the amendment to the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law passed by the Kano State Assembly, which sought to abolish the five emirates created by former state governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. It however quashed all actions taken by the governor thereafter to give effect to the amended law, most notably by restoring Emir Sanusi to the throne. To further muddle matters, the judge was said to have granted a stay [of what?] pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal, and he simultaneously transferred the case to another judge because he has been elevated to the Court of Appeal. I don’t know what the courts’ rules say, but I think former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu was let off the hook in his corruption case because the High Court judge who convicted him had earlier been elevated to the Court of Appeal.

Anyway, all these matters should ultimately be sorted out, if not at the Court of Appeal, then at the Supreme Court. Any side that loses at that level should appeal to God. Trouble is, it could take years to sort out, as happened in many chieftaincy disputes in various parts of the country. The only cases that take longer than chieftaincy disputes to resolve in the courts are land disputes; I once read about a land dispute in Rivers State that languished in the courts for forty years!

The other trouble is, since the Kano emirship tussle appears to be a highwire political dispute between NNPP, which rules the state and APC, which controls the Federal Government, politicians are not going to wait for the courts to resolve the matter before they thoroughly muddy the waters, like Sanusi Bature did at the weekend. He was the second Kano State government official, and the third Kwankwasiyya chieftain, to throw the gauntlet at Federal officials on this matter. Last month when it all started, state Deputy Governor Comrade Aminu Abdulsalam Gwarzo accused National Security Adviser to the President Malam Nuhu Ribadu of orchestrating the return of Emir Aminu Bayero to the state in a private jet and of providing to him security and even military cover to enter and take over the emir’s Nasarawa mini palace. Ribadu did not take kindly to the charge and he threatened to sue the deputy governor, who publicly withdrew the allegation and apologized.

Ok, two quick observations stemming from that. One, after that fiasco, I thought KNSG officials will learn to mind their language lest they worsen the crisis, but that was exactly what Sanusi Bature did by characterizing the imbroglio as a fight to finish. He had good cover though, because a few days earlier, while speaking during the inauguration of a rural roads network in Madobi Local Government, Kwankwasiyya national leader and NNPP presidential candidate in the 2023 election Alhaji Rabi’u Kwankwaso uttered some harsh words. He said, among others that, security agencies were backing Emir Aminu Ado-Bayero; that the Federal Government was listening to the wrong people in making decisions on the emirate issue; that Federal Government is trying to declare a state of emergency in Kano State and remove its elected authorities, and that, “We will not fold our arms and watch enemies of the state destroy the peaceful co-existence of our dear state…Some people from Kano, who are enemies of the state, are the ones advising the Federal Government on how to take over Kano through a state of emergency. This is madness of the highest order that the good, peace-loving, and committed people of Kano will resist.”

The second observation is, even though the NSA has denied being the Federal power behind Emir Aminu Ado Bayero and has forced KNSG to backtrack on the charge, anyone can see that there must be an enormously powerful Federal hand, at least as powerful as the NSA, who is pulling the strings. Kwankwaso’s long diatribe appeared to be pointing fingers at former state governor and current APC national chairman Abdullahi Ganduje. Ok, Ganduje will certainly be the last person to like what the Kwankwasiyya people are doing, dismantling the four new emirates he created, removing the emir of Kano he appointed and restoring the emir he deposed for insubordination and for taking sides with his Kwankwasiyya foes, who were then in PDP.

While Ganduje is chairman of the ruling party, he is not a Federal Government official per se and could not be the one who is dishing out orders to the security agencies in Kano to protect Emir Aminu Ado, up to and including providing military escorts. Who really can send soldiers to guard a palace without the permission of the President, who is the commander-in-chief? The Presidency however denied Kwankwaso’s allegation that it is plotting to declare a state of emergency in Kano. I tend to believe its denial if for no other reason than that, since 2004 when President Obasanjo declared a state of emergency in Plateau State and removed its governor and state assembly for six months, it is now commonly agreed that such power is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 in Atiku Abubakar’s case that president, vice president, governor and deputy governor can only be removed by one of four ways expressly stated by the 1999 Constitution, i.e. resignation, incapacitation, impeachment or death.

In 2013 when President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three North Eastern states to fight Boko Haram, he wanted to remove their governors and state assemblies, appoint Sole Administrators and take over their treasuries but Speaker Aminu Tambuwal stood firm, saying the president had no such power. Now, even if the President has no constitutional power to sack Abba Gida Gida and his lackey state assembly, the Federals have enough power to make things very uncomfortable for the governor. The biggest tool in their arsenal is control of security agencies, all of them including the police, intelligence agencies, military, Customs, Prisons, Immigration, Civil Defence and even Road Safety. The only forces at the state governor’s disposal are Hisbah and KAROTA, plus hastily mobilized Yan Daba thugs.

It was a wonder therefore that following last Thursday’s confusing court order, Governor Abba Yusuf upped the ante in this struggle by ordering the State Police Commissioner to eject Emir Aminu Bayero from the Nasarawa mini palace, which he said was to be demolished for planned renovation. The governor relied on his constitutional description as chief security officer of the state, but he knows fully well that that description is hollow because Compols take their final orders from Force Headquarters, not from State Government Houses. FHQ appoints, deploys, pays, equips, disciplines, promotes and removes a Compol, so how can he obey anyone else’s orders? Compol Usaini Gumel promptly declared that he will not comply with the order, saying he has five conflicting court orders on his desk. Instead, he reinforced security at the mini palace. Governor Yusuf has many advisers but they apparently didn’t remind him of an episode during the June 12 1993 crisis, when someone went to court and asked it to revalidate the election that General Babangida annulled. The judge said “a court does not make an order in vain.” A governor too should not give an order in vain.

This episode will provide ammunition to both proponents and opponents of state police. While proponents will argue that the constitutional provision of governors as chief security officers of their states can only have meaning if there is state police, opponents will say that this is exactly the fear, that governors will use state police in furtherance of political vendetta. One would have thought that Governor Yusuf has learnt his lesson from hasty demolishing of buildings. In his first week in office, he demolished many structures, ignored the counsel of former governor Ibrahim Shekarau to properly probe the allocations,  and KNSG ended up with a bill to pay billions in compensation to some of the demolished property owners.

I do not have any privileged information, but I suspect that in the past year, a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion took place between Federal and Kano State chieftains regarding this matter of Kano emirship. While abolishing the four new emirates and restoring Muhammadu Sanusi II to the throne was a key [widely suspected but not publicly stated] Kwankwasiyya election plank, maintaining the new emirates and especially maintaining Bayero and keeping Sanusi off the throne is an irreducible political minimum for the Kano ACP, which happens to be a much-appreciated component of the Tinubu coalition. No wonder that both sides are dug in, security agencies are sucked in, the courts are sucked in, and the once exalted Kano throne has become a ping pong in this fight. There is no use in telling either side to back down. How is it all likely to end? Most probably, it will be stuck in the courts for years to come and Kano will have one Federal and one state emir at least until 2027. Just as Governor Yusuf, his deputy and all state officials regularly pay homage to Emir Sanusi, I suspect that Federal officials visiting Kano will soon begin to pay homage to Emir Aminu Bayero. The confusion will be complete.

Related Articles