The 9 March dethronement of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II (Sanusi), by the Kano State government could result in a new candidate in the 2023 presidential race. Kano State’s Governor Abdullahi Ganduje ordered the removal of the Emir — the second most powerful traditional leader in the North — for what he claimed were acts of insubordination.
Sanusi has been having a running battle with the governor who is a member of the APC. In 2014 former President Goodluck Jonathan had sacked the then Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This was after Sanusi alleged that US$20 billion had gone missing from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which obviously angered Jonathan’s administration who responded by accusing him of financial impropriety.
Sanusi’s troubles with the Kano State government started before the 2019 gubernatorial elections after some of his statements made it appear that he wanted the PDP candidate, Abba Kabir Yussuf, to win rather than incumbent APC governor. The latter had the backing of the state’s1999-2003 and 2011-2015 governor, Rabiu Kwankwanso, who had appointed Sanusi as the new Emir. Kwankwanso defected to the PDP before the 2019 elections after a quarrel with Abdullahi Ganduje who had been his deputy when he was governor.
The governor and the APC did not take kindly to Sanusi’s apparent support for the PDP candidate. Kano is a vital state for the APC because it has the country’s second largest number of registered voters. In the past two elections Buhari has received his largest number of votes from Kano State which is an APC stronghold. Wanting the PDP to win the state was taken as an affront by both the governor and the Presidency which sanctioned Sanusi’s dethronement.
After his removal Sanusi was banished to a remote village in Nasarawa State. He quickly went to court to challenge his banishment as unconstitutional and the court agreed with him on 12 March. He has therefore since relocated to Lagos where his family is from and where he spent most of his life before becoming the Emir of Kano.
Since his dethronement there have been strong calls for the highly cerebral former Emir — who is widely admired by a lot of people in the Southern part of the country — to enter the 2023 presidential race. Sanusi has clearly stated that he is not going to challenge his deposition in court and that he has moved on, which many have interpreted as meaning that he may be interested in entering politics.
A new political permutation of him serving as the 2023 running mate for Bola Ahmed Tinubu — the APC’s national leader and south-west Nigeria’s political strongman — is now being touted despite the fact that both are Muslims. Nigeria’s Christians may find it difficult to vote for them when the Buhari Presidency — which is largely perceived as being pro-Islamic — ends and northern minority Christians would be unlikely to vote for such a pairing.
Sanusi II has also been called on to stand as president. This will be tough because he is unlikely to be given the presidential ticket of either the APC or PDP and, without it, it is almost impossible to win the Presidency.
Also, while Sanusi is popular on social media because of his outspoken nature, he is not so popular in the North and is unlikely to win sufficient votes if he were to stand as president. While he has criticised the ills of the Northern society, his critics point out that he has personally done little to change things other than talk. During his period as Emir he did not establish scholarships for Kano’s poor children or establish any training centres that would help women.