The Challenge to Usman Danfodio’s Emirate Legacy in Kano, By Mahmud Shuaibu Ringim

NEWS DIGEST – Professor Naniya from Bayero University traces the historical evolution of Kano’s emirate administrative structure back to the successful jihad led by Shehu Usman Danfodio across Hausa land in the early 19th century. Before this transformative period, Hausa communities were governed as city-states, with the authority of kings confined within the city walls. Today, remnants of these walls and gates can still be found in cities like Kano, Katsina, and Zaria, while historical cities such as Rano, Karaye, and Gaya retain artifacts reflecting their ancient heritage.

During the colonial era, the British administration introduced provinces and Native Authorities, utilizing the indirect rule method through the emirate system, which proved advantageous for colonial governance. Subsequent Nigerian political administrations, including both civilian governments during the First Republic and later military regimes, continued to uphold and benefit from the established emirate system. The emirate system remained largely undisturbed even after the local government reforms of 1976.

The current crisis in Kano’s emirate structure marks a significant challenge to the established order, hinting at a resurgence of the Hausa city-state administrative model that predates Danfodio’s jihad. Similar attempts to alter this structure were made during Nigeria’s Second Republic under the PRP government led by the late Abubakar Rimi. However, subsequent political changes reverted to the Danfodio’s emirate framework, echoing historical patterns albeit without previous judicial intervention.

Presently, the judiciary finds itself entangled in this crisis, drawing parallels to past legal disputes such as the Gongola State Government vs. Umaru Abba case, which reached the Supreme Court. The outcome of that case, as articulated by JSC Obaseki in Tukur vs. Government of Gongola State (1989) ANWLP (117) 517, provides a pertinent judicial precedent that some argue should inform the ongoing legal proceedings concerning the Kano Emirate.

Recent involvement of security agencies in Kano raises concerns of federal government intervention, potentially exacerbating security challenges in the state. Actions such as converting the Emir’s residence into an Eid praying ground and incidents of mistreatment against Emir Sanusi within Kano Municipality underscore escalating tensions. The Kano State Police Command has issued warnings against further disorderly conduct.

A headline in The Nation newspaper dated June 17, 2021, cited federal sources distancing the government from any involvement in exacerbating security breaches in Kano. This may indicate efforts by the federal government to disassociate itself from the unfolding situation, following statements attributed to former Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.

Political processes should be conducted without acrimony. The ongoing power struggle in Kano, crucial for securing its substantial voting bloc in 2027, should be pursued through constructive achievements that address citizens’ needs effectively.

The current situation in Kano suggests a quasi-displacement of elected governance, with security matters increasingly managed beyond the state government’s control, potentially undermining governance coherence and collaboration with the governor’s office. This shift could diminish the governor’s authority over state security decisions, which traditionally fall under federal purview and are now influenced by court directives, creating a security dilemma in the state.

Allowing the establishment of chiefdoms resembling pre-emirate city-states poses a threat to the broader emirate system in Northern Nigeria, potentially undoing the legacy of Fulani conquests and reverting power dynamics among Hausa states. This perspective, once articulated by the late Bola Ige, draws parallels to ethnic conflicts in other regions.

Upholding the constitutional principles of horizontal and vertical separation of powers is crucial. Matters of chieftaincy affairs should rightfully remain within the purview of state governments and their judiciaries, headed by the Chief Judge. Allegations of human rights violations arising from the dissolution of laws that created additional emirates should be approached cautiously to prevent further escalation.

The creation of parallel emirate structures, backed by security agencies, risks fostering animosity and division, undermining long-standing communal harmony. It is imperative to prioritize peace and tranquility in Kano, ensuring that the interests and well-being of its people prevail.

Mahmud Shuaibu Ringim
Halim Consulting Ltd