The new Sanusi

Thurday, April 13, 2017

The Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has assumed a new social outlook. Or so it seems. He is no longer content with irredentism of any sort. He appears to be breaking loose from the narrow confines of religion and region. This new disposition may have induced him to confront the oddities that have been afflicting his people. He is facing them frontally.

Sanusi is not happy with the state of affairs in the North. He is worried that the rest of the world is leaving the region behind. After taking a cold, hard look at the condition of his region, he has been forced to share some bitter truths with his people. That is why he has told them in clear terms that the endemic poverty and underdevelopment in their region are self-inflicted. That was quite amazing. It did not sound like the Sanusi, who had been a great defender of his people. But that was the Sanusi we saw at the just concluded Kaduna Investment Forum.

At the summit, Sanusi had cause to blurt out. He bemoaned the dismal state of human development indices in the North. He spoke with a heavy heart. He said the region was the weakest link of Nigeria. He said that we did not notice the aridity that northern Nigeria is because Nigeria as a whole is sustained by what he referred to as the oil-rich Niger Delta, the industrial and commercially rich Lagos and the commercially vibrant South East. Whereas the North constitutes the bulk of Nigeria's population, he regrets that it has the worst showing in the number of children out of school, in adult literacy, in maternal mortality, in infant mobility and in per capita income. All of this, he laments, make northern Nigeria the poorest part of the world. His position is that the north of Nigeria would become the poorest region in the world should Nigeria be divided.

As a way out, Sanusi wants his people to understand the meaning of monogamy. He is saying that every man in the region should not just embrace polygamy because Islam permits it. He also wants them to understand the benefits of child spacing. All of this, Sanusi reasons, will be possible if his people become less doctrinaire and less dogmatic in religious affairs. He also wants his people to jettison the decadent culture that has been vitiating progress among them.

Sanusi's treatise was clearly a lamentation. He said the huge population of the North was worthless. He asked: What is the purpose of a large population that is not educated, that is jobless, and that is unemployed? For him, the North is in the throes of poverty and underdevelopment not because of religion but owing to a dead and retrogressive culture. He wants his people to stop living in denial and challenge themselves intellectually and see what other Islamic enclaves have been able to achieve through education. It was the absence of education, for instance, that would make a governor to see a clearly medical issue, ravaging his people as an act of God. Sanusi is scandalised by this superstitious disposition of the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who said that his people were dying of cerebrospinal meningitis because of their sin of fornication. He ( Sanusi) holds that it is patently unislamic to reason the way Yari has done.

These constitute Sanusi's worries. They are the reason he is ill at ease with the state of the North. There is no doubt that Sanusi's worries and fears are legitimate. They represent the true state of affairs in northern Nigeria. To that extent, we sympathise with him. However, Sanusi, in expressing his worries, has almost thrown away the baby with the bath water. I dare say that the condition of the North is not all about derision. We are talking about a region that is blessed with a huge landmass that it has converted to advantage. Creation of states and revenue allocation are partially based on land mass. The North has benefited more than the South in this regard. Also, whereas the east of the country suffers from "land hunger", a situation that has partly led to migrations from the east to other lands, the North is sitting pretty with its vast expanse of land. Today, its population has been swelled further by the migrants from the East. Sanusi's Kano, for instance, lays claim to huge population because of the ubiquitous presence of the Igbo in the state. If you divest Kano of this migrant population, the state's number will be hugely depleted. Sanusi should remember that it was this huge population that Attahiru Jega deployed to advantage to swing the 2015 presidential election in favour of his Fulani kinsman. The huge population of the North, contrary to Sanusi's position, is, therefore, not entirely worthless.

Having said all that, the point must be made that Sanusi's ideological shift is both sudden and radical. That is why we did not see it coming. Anybody who is familiar with Sanusi's views on the issues under consideration cannot but shudder at the volte face. Before now, Sanusi was never known to be someone who presents the true picture of the northern situation. As governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, for instance, Sanusi's position on this matter was diametrically opposed to what it is today. At the thick of the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria, Sanusi said that the problem was being fueled by poverty in the region. This poverty, in turn, he said, was hitting the North because of the country's revenue allocation formula, which he said was skewed against the North. He argued that southern states of the federation received huge revenue allocations as against the pittance that was remitted to the North. He wants Nigeria to adopt a new revenue sharing formula that will not put the North at the lowest rung of the ladder. It is noteworthy that Sanusi, at that time, did not blame the problem on northern culture. He did not see poor educational attainment as the issue. He blamed the backwardness in his region on the Nigerian state.

When and how then did Sanusi come to the position he is assuming today? What has changed? Why do we have a new Sanusi before us? That is the issue before us. Sanusi's shifting positions are understandable. As governor of the CBN, Sanusi played the politics surrounding the vexed issue of poverty in the North. He used his official position to seek a position of advantage for his people. While he was doing that, he recruited foreign allies like Jonnie Carson, the then United States Assistant Secretary of State, who held then that the Nigerian government should establish a ministry for northern affairs, as a way of arresting the crippling poverty in northern Nigeria. Views such as this served their purpose then. Sanusi and his cohorts pushed for them. And it was fashionable to do so at that time. The introduction of Islamic banking in Nigeria under Sanusi, as CBN governor was one of the designs aimed at advancing this cause.

But it would appear that royalty is having a sobering influence on the once tempestuous Sanusi. As Emir of Kano, Sanusi is no longer as fiery, as controversial, and as political as he was as CBN governor. Having weaned himself of the irredentism of old, Sanusi is beginning to see clearly now. It is not too late in the day for Sanusi to eat his words. But he must be humble enough to admit publicly that he erred in the past. If he does that, those who followed him blindly then might also lose the scales that have been blurring their vision. Let Sanusi's latter day realisation trickle down. A holistic absorption of his new ways will help not only his people but the entire country.