Inside Details of Kano Emirship Tussle

Over the years, Kano Emirate remains one of Nigeria’s most revered traditional institutions. It wields significant power and influence on the people’s political, religious and social ways of life – immediate residents of Northern Nigeria – and the country as a whole. To many, Kano Emirate affirmed itself as traditional leaders’ most viable learning focal point. 

Despite its noble place in the conference of myriads and different Nigeria’s traditional institutions, Kano emirate, recently, has become a point of controversy. Emirs are being installed and removed under a glaring political might tussle which not only undermines Kano emir’s realm of power and command but also mirrors the dynamic socio-political landscape of the state. 

For instance, in 2020, Kano State Government, under present APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, dethroned Muhammadu Sanusi II alleging insubordination. Sanusi II was outspoken about government policies and embodied a progressive standpoint on social issues. But his removal sparked debates about the autonomy of traditional institutions and vulnerability to political egoism.  Following Sanusi’s dethronement,  Aminu Ado Bayero was appointed Kano Emir, marking a major shift in the emirate’s leadership. 

Each change of leadership within the Kano Emirate resonates deeply within the community and influences the political culture in not only the state but also most of northern Nigeria.

The emirate’s history of enthronements and dethronements serves as a reminder of the enduring significance of traditional rulers and the ever-present influence of political forces in shaping their destinies. Oftentimes, this comes with costly controversies.  

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2024 Kano Emirate Law 

Lawan Hussain, Majority Leader, Kano State House of Assembly on Monday 20th May 2024 sponsored a bill: Kano Emirates Council (amendment no 2). About three days later, Kano lawmakers passed the bill into law after a third reading during plenary on Thursday 23rd May 2024.  Also, Governor Abba Yusuf of the state assented to the bill on the same day. The law abolished the former 2019 Kano Emirates Council Law used to appoint Bayero and create four other emirates — Rano, Gaya, Karaye and Bichi. 

Legislative Process

The enactment of the 2024 Kano Emirates Council was done within about three days, making it difficult for the lawmakers to follow all laid down legislative processes for enacting and, or repealing a law. While Kano Emirates Council Law (amendment no 2) undergoes the first reading through to the third and gets Governor Yusuf’s assent to it, there is no clear evidence that a public hearing was done on the bills by the Kano House of Assembly. The absence of a comprehensive consultation process could render the law susceptible to legal challenges on procedural grounds. 

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2019 and 2024 Kano Emirate Laws Compared 

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Abdullahi Ganduje, former two-term Kano State governor signed the Kano State Emirate Law in 2019. It created an additional four emirates — Rano, Bichi, Karaye and Gaya. After about three years, Ganduje signed the Kano State Emirate Amendment Law 2023. He had also assented to an amendment to the law in 2020.  WikkiTimes learnt that the 2023 amended law has about 50 sections and more than 100 sub-sections detailing every bit of information about the Kano emir’s office and that of the four emirates.

However, the 2024 Kano Emirates Council Law (repeal) contains about six sections only. Unlike the Kano State Emirate Amendment Law 2023, the 2024 law did not explain the corporate personality of the emirate — to sue and be sued — and it was silent about the financial apparatus of the Kano Emirate – account and budget – for instance. 

 Where Tradition Clashes with Politics

The political conflict in the Kano Emirate tussle revolves around the contentious restructuring of the Kano Emirate, a move perceived by many as politically motivated. 

For instance, Muhammadu Sanusi I, the 11th Emir and grandfather of the current emir also had a rift with the northern regional government, led by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto. The rift culminated in the formation of a probe panel, ultimately leading to Sanusi’s resignation in 1963.

Muhammadu Inuwa, was appointed as the new Emir but passed away just six months into his reign. Ado Bayero, Sanusi’s younger brother was appointed and became the longest-reigned emir in the history of the Kano emirate after Sokoto jihad. But he also encountered political hostility.

Following the military coup of January 15, 1966, the emirs’ powers were curtailed, stripping them of full control over local government councils. The political landscape in Kano became even more fraught after the 1979 elections when the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) government, led by Governor Abubakar Rimi, clashed with Emir Ado Bayero. 

Rimi to Abba

A query issued by Governor Rimi to the emir incited riots in Kano in July 1981. To diminish the emir’s power, Rimi established new emirates in Gaya, Rano, Dutse, Auyo, Kazaure, Gumel, and Hadejia (now in Jigawa), elevating them to first-class status, equal to that of Emir Ado Bayero.

In 1982, Governor Rimi relocated the deposed Emir Sanusi from Azare in Bauchi State to Wudil, near Kano, heightened speculation that he intended to reinstate him. 

Relief for Emir Bayero came in the wake of the 1983 election, which saw the defeat of Rimi by PRP’s Aliyu Sabo Bakinzuwo later demoted all the emirs appointed by Rimi, restoring them to their previous positions.

The current controversy between Emirs Sanusi and Bayero began in 2019 when Governor Abdullahi Ganduje divided the historic Kano Emirate into five smaller emirates, ostensibly to decentralise the power and influence of the Kano Emirate. But critics argue this action was a retaliatory measure against Emir Muhammad Sanusi II, an outspoken critic of the governor’s policies. So, the 2024 Kano Emirates Council Law (Amendment no 2) assented to by Governor Yusuf recently clash underscores deep-seated tensions between traditional authority and political power.

The Fulani Dynasty 

The Kano Emirate’s lineage can be traced to two clans: Mundubawa and Sullubawa, descending from Shehu Suleiman Abahama and Ibrahim Dabo, respectively.

In 1805, Shehu Suleiman Abahama of the Fulani Mundubawa clan led Usman dan Fodio’s Jihad in Kano, overthrowing the nearly eight-century-old Bagauda dynasty. He then pledged allegiance to the Sokoto Caliphate and became the first emir of the Kano Emirate.

Shehu Ibrahim Dabo, from the Fulani Sullubawa clan, became the khalifa of Emir Suleiman in 1819 and established the Dabo dynasty, still ruling Kano for over 200 years.

His sons, Usman I Maje Ringim, Abdullahi Maje Karofi, and Muhammadu Bello, reigned successively from 1846 to 1893. Bello’s son, Muhammadu Tukur, ruled from 1893 to 1894.

British Role

In 1903, when the British captured the city, Kano faced its one of its leadership struggles under Fulani rule. Emir Aliyu Abbas, returning from his visit to Sokoto attempted to retake Kano but was defeated at the Battle of Kwatarkwashi. 

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The British then installed his brother, Muhammadu Abbas, as emir. Aliyu Abbas fled north but was captured by the French and handed to the British, who exiled him.

Muhammadu Abbas reigned from 1903 to 1919, followed by Usman II from 1919 to 1926. Abdullahi Bayero, noted for promoting Islamic education and trade, ruled from 1926 to 1953. 

Muhammadu Sanusi I, father of the current Emir Sanusi II, was emir from 1953 to 1963 and was the first to be dethroned by the government. His successor, Muhammad Inuwa dan Abbas, had a brief reign in 1963.

Ado Bayero, ruling from 1963 to 2014, had the longest reign in Kano’s history, witnessing significant political changes and earning a massive funeral turnout.

Muhammadu Sanusi II (his first reign) succeeded him from 2014 until 2020 when Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje deposed him. Sanusi II was the second to be dethroned after his grandfather, Sanusi I.

Aminu Ado Bayero became the 15th Emir ruling from 2020 to 2024 then came again Muhammadu Sanusi II (second time).

A Chat With Emirate Historian

For Malam Ibrahim Hasaini Dawakin Tofa, a Kano emirate historian, said it’ is history that appears to be repeating itself.

He recalled that after the death of Emir Muhammadu Bello in 1893, Muhammadu Tukur was installed as the new Emir of Kano among ten princes. However, Tukur faced rebellion and was forced into exile, eventually being succeeded by Aliyu Babba.

In an interview with WikkiTimes, Dawakin Tofa explained, “Tukur forcefully returned to Kano (Wudil) with the influence of the Sultanate in Sokoto, which was then acting as the federal government. This led to an 11-month dispute, culminating in Aliyu killing Tukur.

He added, “It is a tradition among the people of Kano to remain loyal to an emir established by the government.”

The historian emphasized that two emirs can’t coexist peacefully, saying, “One will eliminate the other.”

He further noted that after the colonial masters arrived, Aliyu was moved to Lokoja. The two emirs who succeeded him also faced uncertainty, as Aliyu was still alive and could potentially return to the palace at any moment.

Dawakin Tofa highlighted that only Muhammadu Sanusi I, who vowed to abstain from royal activities, brought peace to his successor, Muhammadu Inuwa.

Thus, he said “Aminu Ado Bayero might be mistaken if he expects peace while Muhammadu Sanusi II is alive. History is repeating itself, and no emir can succeed a living emir and have peace in his reign.”

Dawakin Tofa, however, urged the rival factions to lay down their arms and support the reinstated Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II for peace and development in Kano.

The Situation

Currently, there are at least four different litigations that have been instituted in a power tussle to wrestle the throne.

A Kano kingmaker, Aminu Babba Danagundi and the 15th Emir, Aminu Bayero initiated their legal actions at the Federal High Court, Kano whereas Emir Sanusi II and Kano State Government instituted legal actions at the Kano State High Court.

So far, only one case was decided in favour of Bayero about his fundamental human right where the Kano government was fined 10 million.


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