Home Opinion Kano’s Game of Thrones: Between Empty Shelves and Great Expectations (I)

Kano’s Game of Thrones: Between Empty Shelves and Great Expectations (I)

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By Ahmed Yahaya-Joe

“Making a comeback is one of the most difficult things to do with dignity.” – Greg Lake (1947-2016) ostensibly, reminiscent of the hidden agenda narrated in Genesis 27: 22, an obscure group known as, “Yar Dagwalen Jihar Kano” (The Electorate of Kano State) wrote on 5 February 2024 to Nigeria’s largest House of Assembly of 40 members;

“We write to plead and also draw the attention of the honourable members to the law that governs the additional Emirs in Kano State. Specifically, we would like to request a review and potential dissolution of the additional emirs and section that led to the creation of the four additional emirates.

It is our firm belief that consolidating the emirates into a single entity will lead to greater unity and progress for the people of Kano. This consolidation may serve to streamline governance and promote a more cohesive community for the betterment of all citizens.

 We acknowledge the rightful authority of the Kano State House of Assembly in the issue of emirate management. However, we humbly request your esteemed Assembly to revisit and reconsider the decision to remove HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from his throne. Our belief is based on the belief that his reinstatement will foster unity, peace, and stability within Kano State and its neighbouring communities.”

The battle for the soul of Kano did not start recently.

11 February 2024, marked exactly 120 years after the passing of Captain George Fanshawe Abadie, known also with the epithet, “Maijimina” as he is still fondly remembered.

He was a prominent multi-battle-tested British colonial soldier and astute political officer who died in Kano at the age of 30.

This was less than a year after Wambai Muhammad Abbas dan Maje Karofi with an epithet,  “Maje Nassarawa” was installed as Emir of Kano after a one-month probationary period on April 3, 1903 equivalent to the 5th day of Muharram, 1312 AH.

Abadie had acted as the go-between Wambai Abbas and remnants of the Kano’s nobility after the disastrous defeat of their cavalry at the Battle of Kwatarkwasi in present-day Zamfara State with the rampaging West African Frontier Force and its devastating Maxim guns.

Back then, the victorious invading forces were under the overall command of Colonel (later Lt. General) Thomas Morland (1865-1925), also known by the epithet, “Maimadubi” in the various renditions on the loss of suzerainty of the Sokoto Caliphate to the British.

Abadie, on behalf of the High Commissioner of the Northern Protectorate, Colonel Frederick Lugard, known by the epithet, “Muqqadam” handed over the administrative reins of Kano to Dr. Featherstone Cargill (1868-1959) remembered with the epithet, “Maigunduma” who became the first Resident under the new colonial order.

The widespread use of epithets in Nigeria’s most widely spoken language is because “Hausa anthropological cosmology reflects the worldview and belief system of the Hausa people based on their understanding of order in the universe.”

The accomplished schemer, Queen Cersei, reminds us in Season 1 Episode 7 of one of this century’s most-watched TV series, “When you play the game of Thrones there is no middle ground.”

As such the 14th Fulani Emir of Kano, Khalifa Muhammadu Sanusi II also known by the epithet, “Lamido Babuwa” has since successfully procured a valid court order from a Federal High Court of competent jurisdiction challenging his ouster and banishment.

As a major contending force, the merit of whether or not he has the legal right to reclaim the throne of his ancestors is as moot as it can get.

This makes the foundational basis of “Yar Dagwalen Jihar Kano” as instructive as the biblical scripture earlier referenced;

“The voice is like Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”

Kano tremendously matters. Whatever reverberates from that ancient urban conglomerate not only has far-reaching inter-communal and socio-economic influence but also political and national security implications for the rest of Nigeria.

As one of the most studied cities by what can be described by academic “First Eleven” there is an overwhelming need to understudy the dynamics therein beyond Dr. Adamu Mohammed Fika’s, ‘The Political and Economic Reorientation of Kano Emirate, 1882-1940” to Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman’s, “Nations, Nation-States and the Future of Mankind: Some Observations on the Historical Experience of the Formation of Kano in the 2nd Millennium A.D.” to even Dr. Ibrahim Tahir’s, “Scholars, Sufis, Saints and Capitalists in Kano, 1904-1974: The Pattern of Bourgeoise Revolution in an Islamic Society”, so on and so forth. 

Dr. Muhammadu Uba Adamu (1935-2020) widely acknowledged to be the most accomplished Kano-born scholar in 1968 published Some Notes on the Influence of North African Traders in Kano” which he followed up 30 years later with Further Notes on the Influence of North African Traders (1998)

 Barely a year later, in 1999, he presented to the public “Confluences and Influences: Emergence of Kano as a City State”. By 2011, he published in Hausa “Sabon Tarihin Hausawa” – A New History of the Origin of Hausa People.

Arguably, none of these aforementioned eminent academics have adequately captured the undercurrents of historic tension in Kano like Sir Bryan Sharwood-Smith, then Provincial Commissioner, 1950-1952.

Upon assumption of office he quickly discerned the root cause of longstanding disaffection amongst prominent sections of the populace culminating in outright opposition and hostility to established order as he elaborately explained in his 1969 memoirs;

“When in 1807, Alwali, the last Hausa ruler of Kano, was killed in battle by the Fulani, the conquerors entered upon his estate and the estates of the old Hausa nobility.

 All high offices of state and all posts of responsibility passed to the leaders of the four Fulani clans that had led the revolt.

All that was left to the native Hausa, their nobility either expelled or exterminated, was their ancestral heritage, and trade.

But these attitudes were of the past, and though the older men were content with their commercial pre-eminence and remained loyal to the Emir, who always treated them with courtesy, the younger men, imbued with the explosive ideas that were now world currency, had other thoughts.

They resented the plain fact that the Fulani families looked upon them as social inferiors, in no wise suitable for alliance by marriage in the male line and certainly ineligible for any post of importance in the local administration.

Here, indeed, was dynamite. But it was to take me nearly a year to persuade the Emir that there could never be peace and contentment in Kano until he and his house had come to terms with the Hausa merchant community in whose hands rested the real wealth of the city.

 I contended that, as a first step, he should at once appoint one of the most influential of the Hausa merchants to his council as an adviser on commercial matters and that he should try to persuade the leaders of all communities to make common cause for the sake of public peace and the general prosperity, for there was a dangerous spirit abroad.

At last, despite the opposition of the group of elderly reactionaries that haunted the inner courtyards of the palace, the Emir was prevailed upon to appoint one of the most outstanding figures in the Kano business world at that time, Alhassan Dantata.

Openly acknowledged by the principal Hausa traders as their leader, Alhassan had from very humble origins risen to a position of great wealth and influence.”

No doubt, Sharwood-Smith also known by the epithet, “Maiwando karfe” had paradoxically aligned himself with the dictates of Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio (1754-1817) who in retrospect admonished, “One of the swiftest ways of destroying a kingdom is to give preference of one particular tribe over another or show favor to one group of people rather than another.”

While inadvertently,  “Maiwando karfe” shattered any notion of the widespread misnomer that has come to be known as Hausa-Fulani, agreed, there was a little-known albeit very important intersection between the contending ethnicities;

“In Kano, Suleimanu died in 1819 and his successor, Dabo, was chosen from another lineage.

Dabo faced local revolts led by rival Fulani. For three years he campaigned throughout Kano before he was secure. Dabo’s praise name, “Cigari” (conqueror) aptly summarizes the basis of his rule.

To secure the support of non-Fulani subjects, Dabo wrote Sultan Bello asking permission to employ old Habe titles and offices of Kano as machinery for its administration, together with essential insignia and procedures of Habe rule.”

-Historical and Cultural Conditions of Political Corruption among the Hausa (1964) by M.G. Smith

On 22 November 2018, a non-religious memorial event took place in honor of Prof. Anthony Kirk-Greene at the University of Oxford. Before the passing of the 93-year-old also known by the epithet, “Baturen Kirki” who had been a senior lecturer and tireless researcher at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, mentoring several generations of Nigerian leaders and academics in the process.

At the event the Kano monarch, Sanusi II clearly stated;

“One of my dreams has been to return the (Kano) palace to being a center of learning. By the time I became emir in 2014, I owned a reasonable number of books mainly on economics, development, Islamic studies, and philosophy.

The books are being cataloged. The plan is to leave them as the Emir’s Palace Library, under the management of Bayero University, Kano (BUK).

When this process is complete the books will be available as part of BUK Library assets which will be a research-only library.

 The university will have librarians in the palace in charge of the books and in the future, we hope to have reading rooms and an auditorium for academic conferences.”

But since the summary ouster of the 14th monarch the Kano palace library shelves have been emptied bare by its outgone chief tenant.

The moral here is on Pulaaku (the Fulani embodiment of ethics) aspect of “Neaaaku” – Dignity.

Or more appropriately, lack of it.

To continue in part II

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