Emir Sanusi: Kings as Subjects

by Sheyi Oriade
Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi

If there is any credence to the notion that Mallam Lamido Sanusi’s appointment as the 14th Emir of Kano occurred with undue haste, in order to grant him refuge from the punitive intentions of his political enemies in the last PDP national government; then, his appointing authorities, in their haste, neglected to acquaint him with the terms and conditions of his enthronement. Principally, they forgot to advise him, that despite becoming a notable and influential king, he still remained a subject, subject to them. Subject to their oversight, subject to their strictures, subject to their edicts, and subject to deposal. How oxymoronic, that a king would be a subject!

Unusually for a man of Emir Sanusi’s cerebral nature, he did not consider the subject of his being a subject, one to be pondered upon. Rather, he let himself be driven by his proclivity to volubility. It never occurred to him on his enthronement, that his change in costumes necessitated a change in his normal customs. The notion that an emir’s utility lay more in being seen than heard, did not appeal to him.

Rather, he enjoyed pontificating and pronouncing upon profound and provocative issues at different public events. Not content with simply adding colour to these events, through his flamboyant finery and elaborate royal train, he chose instead to electrify such gatherings with his reasoned and seasoned views. Through which, he exposed the deficiencies of the political ruling class, highlighting their lack of foresight and penchant for misplaced priorities.

Perhaps he should have emulated the example of the world’s longest reigning monarch, the Queen of England. Who is known not to hold views of her own, regarding the British State. Even though she is Head of State. Her public remarks are always carefully tailored and delivered in a manner that avoids conflict with her government’s ministers.

Listening to Emir Sanusi opine about issues relating to the socio-economic neglect of his former subjects, no fair minded person would dismiss his views as lacking in validity or merit. As they touched upon issues of genuine concern and provided food for thought. Particularly, regarding the possible correlation between mounting insecurity and the socio-economic neglect of large numbers of Nigerians.

However, the question has to be posed, as to why he chose to ventilate such views publicly, rather than privately? Considering, that as a notable emir he had ready access to all elected politicians in his former, and neighbouring, realms. Or did he think that such an approach would have been less effective?

In choosing to speak publicly, rather than privately, on such subjects, there is the temptation to think that he might have been playing to the gallery in order to generate headlines. Particularly, when many of the socio-economic issues that he spoke about are the direct result, or derivative, of the feudalistic system, of which, he and other select elite, have been major beneficiaries.

It is possible that after Emir Sanusi took the throne of Kano, he came to the realisation that there are profound contradictions inherent in the institution of kingship in today’s Nigeria. For not only do kings remain subjects on their ascension, they become ‘prisoners’, too. Notwithstanding, the prestige, pomp and pageantry associated with kingship. There is an enlightening anecdote to this effect, recounted as follows: On meeting Nelson Mandela for the first time, the Queen of England, is reputed to have told him that he and she, were the most famous ‘prisoners’ in the world. The only difference between them being, that her ‘prison bars’ were made of gold and his were made of iron.

Being a cerebral emir, perhaps he became tired of the constraints and tedium of kingship. And it is not improbable, that he may have decided to provoke an outcome that would liberate him. He must have known that his chosen outspoken approach would set him on a collision course with Governor Ganduje. Knowing full well, that he would take the bait and react in the way that he now has. In fact, the handwriting had long been on the wall in this regard. And in this instance, there was no requirement for a Danielian prophet to decipher its meaning. The script was clear for all to understand. Governor Ganduje had placed him in the balances, weighed his perceived excesses and, found him wanting. Deciding that his days as an emir were numbered and that his kingdom would be given to another.

Now that his mind has been relieved of the weight of his elegant turban and his shoulders from the burden of his flamboyant robes, perhaps he will transform himself into a champion and advocate of the neglected masses in his former realm and realms beyond. Those whose plight he highlighted in some of his provocative public speeches. This would enable him to prove his bona fides to those who doubt the genuineness of his solicitude on their behalf.

Should he choose to do so, then he will have to work to reconcile the ongoing dialectical conflict between feudalism and modernity, as it affects his former realm. Teasing from it, meaningful solutions that will bring about positive change and life-enhancing benefits to his former under-served subjects. A task, which he should be able to accomplish. Considering that he was able, simultaneously, to reign on an ancient throne and, chair the board of a modern investment company, without contradiction.

But first of all, he will need to secure a definitive determination from the law courts, to resolve the conflict between the circumscriptive traditional conventions governing dethroned kings, and his constitutional rights to freedom of, movement, and expression, as a Nigerian citizen.

One thing is clear, however, that regardless of his new, relegated status, Emir Sanusi will not be silenced. Nor should he be. For he has much to say, that is pertinent to our national political discourse. And given his incurable propensity to pontificate and pronounce upon matters of political and public interest, no matter the cost to himself, it will take some doing to suppress him.

But perhaps more importantly, Emir Sanusi will not be silenced, because, he loves the sound of his own voice. And as it happens, so do many others, too.

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