A royal feud threatens Nigeria’s heritage

In our series of letters from African journalists, the editor-in-chief of Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper, Mannir Dan Ali, considers why politicians have taken aim at one of the most influential spiritual and traditional leaders in the country’s largely Muslim north.

For the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi 11, 2019 looks set to be his “annus horribilis”.

This is because one politician in particular, Kano’s Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, is determined to go to great lengths to clip his wings – or possibly remove his entire royal plumage.

For more than 1,000 years, the position of Emir of Kano has been revered. Traditional leaders hold few constitutional powers but are able to exert significant influence as they are seen as custodians of both religion and tradition.

But last month, Mr Ganduje cut the historic Kano emirate into five. It left Muhammadu Sanusi II presiding over the smallest, though most densely populated, portion.

It is a move that diminishes the emir’s prestige.

Lamido Sanusi, a controversial former bank chief, came to the emir’s throne in 2014 after being selected by elders and then confirmed by the then-governor.

Like his time at the bank, where he was sacked after revealing that billions of dollars of oil revenue had gone missing, the 57-year-old has used his position to speak out on some matters. But his holier-than-thou attitude has upset some politicians.

The first sign that relations between the state government and the emirate were at an all-time low came shortly after Mr Ganduje’s re-election earlier this year.

A video began circulating on social media showing a crowd in Kano Government House forcefully removing a portrait of the emir and tearing it to pieces.

This happened just a few metres from the grand hall, which was specially built in June 2014 for the emir’s coronation.

Mr Ganduje narrowly won a second term in office – in fact the race was so tight it had to be re-run in some areas in March and his rival is challenging the result in court.

Now, the governor wants to settle scores with those he believes opposed his re-election. The emir is top of his list.

Many suggest the emir is in his predicament because he has defied a tradition that dictates that part of his turban covers his mouth so that courtiers speak on his behalf. –BBC

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