Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the new Emir of Kano, is living his dream. Not too many people in recorded history have enjoyed such transposition as the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, who, at 53, is already a collector’s item. Soft-spoken but with a decisive, unyielding and self-assured personality, Mallam Sanusi, whose public and corporate life has been very impactful – besides the controversial whistle-blowing role he undertook in respect of the NNPC accounts, will, for a long time, remain a major talking point in corporate governance and public accountability in Nigeria.
The question that readily comes to mind is whether Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the rambunctious banker and corporate giant, and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano, will be idem sonnas. In other words can this new Emir of Kano remain the same iconoclastic and defiant Mallam Sanusi we all know? I am tempted to foretell that he will remain forever forthright, open-minded and askance. I do not see how and why he should hive and corral himself or shut his active and intellectual mind from the sociopolitical-cum-economic challenges of this highly demanding country. Despite the ruling People’s Democratic Party’s warning for the new Emir of Kano to shun politics, the office of the Emir does not seem to have the wand to depoliticize or tame Mallam Sanusi’s activism.
One thing I am confident about – based on certain understated facts to which I am privy – is the new Emir’s ability and capacity to play a leading role in bridging the North-South divide. The Mallam Sanusi that I know is a complete gentleman who is committed to justice, fairness and the common good. He is loyal to his friends and fair to his competitors. He hardly perceives rivals or opponents as foes; he respects their views, accommodating their contestation of his own opinions. He is detribalized and egalitarian. Quite unlike the facade he projects, Mallam Sanusi is humble and respectful. He is a patient listener who, even in telephone conversations, is quick to defer to his interlocutor. Because he is confident, brave and altruistic in his interventions in debates – public or private, he comes across as dismissive and assertive. But, I am yet to see an activist and social commentator who does not bear that label.
As a writer and social commentator, Mallam Sanusi has borne his mind on many critical and volatile issues so much so that one can safely describe him as an open book. It is against this backdrop that I’d like to allay the fears of those who believe that the man will use his new position to take revenge on those who have crossed his path. The Mallam Sanusi I know is too decent and disciplined to take that route. To cowards and weak people, vengeance is a tool or weapon – certainly not to sterling characters like the new Emir of Kano. The People’s Democratic Party is understandably worried that the new Emir will work against its interest in Kano, but I have every reason to believe that the gentleman will steer clear of partisan politics and concentrate on his onerous duties of restoring peace and commerce in the corporate capital of the North.
I am by no means presenting the new Emir’s testimonial. The effort here is to present the portrait of the man that I know, and to urge all Nigerians to give him the benefit of the doubt and allow him settle down to the business of handling and managing the traditional, cultural and spiritual life of the people of Kano. There is always a gap between media profiling of personalities and the real persons themselves. On this note, I recall my first encounter with Alhaji Mustapha Haruna Jokolo in 2005. I had sought to interview him. With no exception, all those I had asked for their assistance to facilitate the meeting advised me against my mission. He was variously described in negative terms just to discourage me from meeting him. But the more the discouragement, the higher my anxiety to meet him. By a stroke of luck, a young man facilitated the meeting. The first five minutes with Alhaji Jokolo fitted his picture on the public canvass; but thereafter, I discovered a brave, intelligent and friendly gentleman. I spent five hours with him, and at the end of the meeting, he gave me over twenty well-sown native dresses and provided me with two vehicles and escorts to take me back to Abuja. I still hold him very dearly and still respect his courage. Like Jokolo, the new Emir of Kano may be wearing his heart on his sleeves. He is never ambivalent and hardly expresses apologies over his beliefs and views.
Instead of distracting him with malicious speculations, I’d expect all those concerned to seize the opportunity of having a man with a global outlook and exposure on the throne of Kano to build a firmer and more expansive bridge across the North-South divide. Mallam Sanusi can play a crucial role in redirecting Nigeria to the path of one indivisible and united country. Nigeria has invested too much in him to surrender him to the Kano Emirate. The sixth sense he acquired from managing the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, should be useful and vital in finding a lasting solution to the divisive nature of religion and regional politics.
Instead of striving to depoliticize the new Emir of Kano, it will serve the interests of the country if he is employed as a catalyst for social re-engineering and construction of the crucial intellectual infrastructure for the Nigeria of our dreams.