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The Politics of Sanusi’s Second Coming as Emir of Kano

An influential northern Nigerian traditional ruler returned to the throne amid celebrations from his supporters on Friday, four years after he was ousted from his palace in a bitter political dispute.

Muhammadu Sanusi II‘s reappointment as the emir of Kano follows a long-running battle that illustrated the difficult balancing act facing traditional monarchies in modern-day Nigeria.

Sanusi, a former central bank chief who ascended the throne in 2014, was an advocate for social change and criticised political and religious leaders in the mainly-Muslim north’s largest city.

But the emir was deposed in 2020 after being accused of disrespecting local authorities including former state governor Abdullahi Ganduje, whose re-election he opposed.

Sanusi — also known by his birth name Lamido — was temporarily banished from the 1,000-year-old kingdom to a small town in another state, a tactic similar to that used by British imperial officials to punish rebellious leaders during the colonial period.

On Friday current governor Abba Kabir Yusuf presented the emir with a letter of reappointment, dismissing a legal challenge to prevent his return.

“We… return him as the rightful emir of Kano to continue the good job he was doing for the good of Kano people,” Yusuf told officials and traditional chiefs at a ceremony in his office.

The Kano emir is seen as the second most senior Islamic ruler in Africa’s most populous nation, after the sultan of Sokoto.

The Emir and the Governor
Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf

Nigeria’s many traditional rulers lack constitutional powers but are important cultural custodians who often wield great influence over their followers.

Monarchies once dominated the region but the rulers now rely on regional governments for their funding and their succession is regulated by elected officials.

Their patronage can be key at elections, but their role remains ambiguous — and when Sanusi began to speak out some complained he was flouting the strict protocol of the palace.

The emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II pictured at his coronation in 2015
The reinstated Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, entered the palace in the early hours of Saturday in the company of Governor Abba Yusuf


Report courtesy: AFP

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