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Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II: Religion & tradition meets style & colour

Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II: Religion & tradition meets style & colour


Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation is not just a large land space. Embedded in that West African country are hundreds of cultures, traditions and a number of religious persuasions.

According to the country’s demographics, there is a largely Muslim north and a Christian south. In between these two there is a labyrinth of African cultural belief systems that dictate Nigeria’s very powerful traditional leadership.

Whiles the southern traditional system is almost fully grounded in only ‘tradition,’ the northern structure is markedly different. Different in the sense that it combines tradition and religion almost seamlessly.

So that even though some Muslims have disputed the term ‘Muslim chief,’ in Nigeria, the head of Muslims is the Sultan of Sokoto who is located in the country’s north west. He is referred to as ‘sarki Muslumi’ – the chief/king of Muslims.

There are Emirs i.e. traditional rulers dotted across the north. Among others, the Emir of Daura (president Buhari’s village), the Emir of Katsina, the Emir of Adamawa, the Emir of Borno, the Emir of Zazau in Kaduna, then in the central north is the Emir of Kano, the subject of this piece. The Kano Emirate is simply the stand out monarchy across Nigeria’s north.

How did the Kano Emirate come about?

The current occupant of the throne, Muhammadu Sanusi II, speaks about the Emirate in an interview with Forbes Africa on ‘My Worst Day At Work’ program.

“The Kano kingdom has been in existence for over a 1000 years, and my particular dynasty has been ruling Kano for over 200 years. And prior to the colonial administration and the post-independence government, this institution used to be effectively the government of the area.

“And the Kano emirate is contiguous with Kano State now, with 12 million people; the Emirate was much larger than what Kano State is today. There are two other Emirates Ringim and Dutse which were carved out of Kano Emirate when Jigawa State was created.

“So it is a role that basically is a religious traditional role but it is also one that has a tremendous amount of influence in terms of being an advisory role in terms of political authorities and collaboration in the delivery of public services,” he added.

The stylish Central Bank Chief before becoming Emir

But long before becoming Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi – then Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, served as Nigeria’s central bank chief. He is credited with mass reforms in the country’s financial sector. Sanusi till date continues to make presentations on the state of the Nigerian economy.

Under his leadership, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) investigated top bank chiefs and jailed a number of them. The CBN also took over a number of local banks as a measure of protecting depositors.

Over the time that he was CBN boss, Sanusi was reputed for his fashion sense within corporate circles. His appearance was almost predictable. He will either be wearing a bow tie or chairman Mao suit.

Muhammad Sanusi II is officially the 14th Emir of Kano, a religious and historic region in the center of Nigeria’s north. He ascended the throne after the death of his uncle Alhaji Ado Bayero who ruled as Emir for over five decades.

Six top facts about the Emir

a. He is a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor – the first northerner to hold the post.
b. He holds a degree in Arabic from a Sudanese university, all his other qualifications have been in Nigerian institutions.
c. He is chancellor of University of Benin (UNIBEN) in Nigeria’s Benue State.
d. He was named the first Forbes Africa Person of the Year (POY) in 2011.
e. Before becoming Emir, he had aimed for the post of African Development Bank (AfDB) CEO – which role is currently occupied by Akinwumi Adesina, a former Agric Minister of Nigeria.
f. He is the second most powerful Muslim leader, he ranks only behind the Sultan of Sokoto.

The Emir is also known for his unconventional views on society and religion. One of his most recent positions has to do with announcing a ban on polygamy especially for poor men.

He is on record to have said that there is a direct link between poverty and terrorism which has dogged especially the country’s northeastern Borno State. He said a law was being drafted to be presented to the Kano State House of Assembly in respect of restricting polygamy.

Shaban Abdur Rahman Alfa
Digital journalist
Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo

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