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Published On: Tue, Jan 28th, 2020

On the Emir of Kano’s 21minutes Minna speech

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By Misbahu L. Hamza

The Emir’s speech in Minna recently was outstanding. As usual, this speech touches many ‘issues on jurisprudence, the decolonisation of education; the right to learn in indigenous languages, the responsibility of parents towards young children, early marriage, mindset, poverty and the need for religious preachers to stand for “truth” and “justice”.’
Anyone conversant with Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s writings in the past knows that his philosophy on these pertinent issues only shift a little. Sanusi has been, as he admits, very controversial. Yet, one may ask, why the much attention (read concern) now? Much concern by him and, more attention by people at his philosophy. And I think there are two explanations to this.
First is the timing and his medium of communication that changes now that he is an Emir. Sanusi was crowned Emir of Kano in June of 2014 after leaving CBN. The same year. Just a year after, the United Nations adopted the 17 Global Goals (SDGs) with the aim of ending all forms of poverty and and fighting inequality (between genders and wealth distribution). It’s the aim of the UN to have leaders as the major drivers of these goals and fortunately, they got the new Emir on board.
His (in) famous TEDx Talk “Overcoming the Fear of Vested Interests” in 2013 and legal battle with the federal government in 2014 got him praises from the intelligentsia and the poor. To his becoming Emir of Kano, he do lot of talking than writing. Some times from the pulpit, the influence of which can never be overemphasized especially in the ‘muslim north’. So, while in Nigeria he’s a subject of discussion among the youth and (some) academics on social media, at the same time the radio is giving him similar advantage among other huge population including traders in the market and women at home. He became “everywhere you go” and gets lot more audiences and attention. His ideas and philosophy are directly addressing the Hausa muslim population, in the style of the SDGs.
Second, Sanusi, born and raised in the elites’ circle arguably seem to be totally cut off from the reality of the common man before becoming an Emir. Most of his life, Sanusi never interact with the common man in Mandawari, Yakasai, Kabara or walli – his immediate neighborhood – to connect and truly know and have a feeling of what they read in Economics to be the division of a society based on social and economic status – classes.
It then come to pass. We now have a Muhammadu Sanusi II. The Emir of Kano. An office that brought him closer to the most vulnerable populations next to his door. Perhaps the Emir got his first nightmare when destitute people, men and women, began queuing up to his door. In truth, these people have been queuing at the Emir Palace in the history of Kano for basically same reason. But it’s no longer San Kano (late Ado Bayero of blessed memory); it’s Muhammadu Sanusi II who’s now in charge. It is him who’s to connect with them emotionally, listen to their stories and plea, to address their needs and be a judge between them. This is the point at which the Emir become face-to-face with the reality of the common man. And he was aghast. Hence, more upset with the system.
In his Minna talk which attracted lot of attention, again, highlighting the trouble with the north, the Emir made convincing arguments. Of course we know that, that report of Kano and Jigawa having the highest cases of drug abuse was doctored. But Katsina State having more out of school children? The poor performance of secondary school grads in Zamfara State? The relationship between ignorance, poverty and disbelief? All these can never be denied with the wave of a hand.
Poverty and disbelief are shackles which even the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam seek refuge in Allah from them. Ali bn Talib, the 4th Caliph in Islam use to say, had poverty be a man, I would have kill it. The ill effects of poverty is numerous to mention. It can lead to disbelief. I am a leaving witness of how some Fulani were converted from the Islamic faith in exchange for money and health care in Jos, Plateau state.
In the ongoing debate, only a few people are talking about the part of the talk saying “for islam to prosper, we need educated Muslims, we need Muslims who aren’t begging and standing on their feet” and few answering the question why is the muslim part of this country is most affected with those troubles? Why do we pick and choose his words only to disagree?
But I realized that some people disagree base on the data he presents. The Emir usually support his arguments with “facts” and figures obtained from the likes of UN, WHO, The World Bank (sources many people are skeptical about) and not anecdotes of his immediate ward. Could it be because he’s an academic? May be some of his critics would begin to take him serious when he adjust to arguing with local anecdotes. And from genuine local surveys which he can personally championed. “Thinking globally, acting locally”.
Whenever the Emir stand to speak of our problems in the north, however, he most times tend to turn a blind eye to the fact that we are suffering today not because of our individual choices as the ruled, but the greed, injustices and poor policies of our rulers. Just some of the issues he raised in his TED Talk. The Emir will do us great service, as an Economist and influencer, if he address the core of the matter. That instead of coding policies to restrict polygyny, age of marriage and the number of children a family should have, how about policies that will strengthen the socio-economic conditions. Reducing our population is not the main question. It is having policies that’ll cater for this already large population.
I do not want to be in the camp of those alleging the Emir as doing nothing to help his immediate society with the huge wealth in his possession. Most of the interventions of people like the late Ado Bayero (who is not the talking type) manifest only after his death. Even his critics were ashamed to learn of his great service to humanity. But now that we have a talking Emir, his interventions in walking the talk to curb our sorry state in the north will also be of interest to many. That’s another thing that will make his critics have a rethink.

Misbahu L. Hamza writes in from Kano and can be reached at

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