Alhaji Ado Bayero made history by becoming the youngest Emir of Kano in 1963 at the age of 33. Educated in Arabic studies, administration and agriculture, Ado Bayero worked as a clerk with the Kano Native Authority and the Bank of West Africa in pre-independence Nigeria. In 1956, widely respected for his clarity of thought and purpose, he was elected to the Northern House of Assembly. But he relinquished this position when he took over from his brother as Chief of Native Authority Police.
In 1962, two years after Nigeria’s independence from Britain, he was appointed Ambassador to Senegal. He gave up his diplomatic career to become the ruler of his people. For over half a century, he presided over traditional and religious affairs in Nigeria’s most populous state. Without argument, he was one of the most respected traditional rulers in Nigeria.
His role in Nigeria’s affairs has been hailed by all. Over the years as Nigeria galloped from one crisis to another, he remained the shock absorber – stabilising a very volatile city and country. He worked to bridge Nigeria’s religious, ethnic and regional divisions. In 1967 when a civil war began in Nigeria, many of the largely Christian Igbos were living in Kano at that time. Alhaji Ado Bayero took a considerable risk in deciding to shelter some of the Igbos and others who were likely targets. He was quoted to have said that “we helped them first to leave Kano and after the war to settle down again in their homes. We knew the war was temporary. We knew we would live together again as brothers and sisters. So we did what we saw fit for the sake of safety and continuity of our lives together.”
For Ado Bayero, his religion was his life. In the years he served as Emir, he faithfully attended to the religious, judicial and practical needs of his people. A very disciplined leader, he drew inspiration from the many books he read, both in English and Arabic. He was a man of deep spiritual conviction who argued that if all believers practised their faith in the way they lived, there would be far fewer problems in today’s world. In 1987, for instance, following religious violence in the neighbouring state of Katsina, he hosted a conference organized by Moral Re-Armament which aimed to foster better understanding between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.
The Emir spoke from the same platform as the retired Bishop Kale of Lagos and the Anglican Bishop of Kano. With one voice they called for greater unity among Nigerians. Hoping that more leaders might catch this vision, the Emir hosted a follow-up conference in 1988. This included many traditional rulers, who as custodians of Nigeria’s culture know how to pass on the message of unity. His death has robbed Nigeria of a great patriot.
To step into his big shoes is the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who has been appointed the 57th Emir of Kano. This appointment has come with rancour. Given the sensitivity of the exalted office, the volatile nature of Kano, Lamido Sanusi’s own controversial background and the politicking for 2015, this is widely expected. There have been demonstrations on the streets of Kano and even some acts of violence.
We call on the new Emir to be magnanimous in victory. He should embrace all, opponents and supporters. For those demonstrating against his appointment, we call on them to give the new Emir a chance. He is there by the will of Allah.