STATE OF THE NATION...........Kano: The insolent meets the unthinkable
By Louis Odion, FNGE
It is perhaps a measure of the ethical pestilence ravaging the land today that Cecilia Ibru too has suddenly recovered her voice to rail and rant against beleaguered Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the mercurial but gravely flawed emir of Kano.
Breaking a decade silence in a Punch interview at the weekend, the grandma once glorified as the "Amazon" of the nation's banking world, would have us believe that she fell on SLS's sword in 2009 because the then Central Bank governor saw her as "threat" to his job.
In the said interview, Madam Ibru sounded more like the victim of a Herodian persecution. Nowhere in her jeremiad was there the slightest hint of contrition or remorse after what had otherwise been conclusively established as perhaps one of the most gripping tales of corporate heist, incest and debauchery ever seen within living memory in Nigeria.
Covering herself with the sectarian shawl of "born again" all along could not deliver her from the EFCC purgatory. She, in fact, caused the holy temple monumental unease when part of the diverted funds was tracked there.
To now sound so self-righteous, Madam Ibru must be assuming the entire nation suffers collective amnesia. While we are not in a position to confirm or disprove her claims of personal vendetta, there is however no denying her guilt in helping herself to depositors' funds in Oceanic Bank. Otherwise, why did she enter a plea bargain with EFCC then to forfeit some of the loot while retaining a generous morsel, obviously to help her cushion the trauma of a forced retirement?
Lurking further down the archipelago of ironies is the insecure Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje. How ironic that the punitive step against the errant Kano emir was orchestrated by a supposed moral cripple now perching on a fragile gubernatorial stool.
Yes, the man presently immersed in an enterprise as portentous as balkanizing the once single sprawling Kano emirate rooted in antiquity is ironically the same Ganduje whose mandate from the last election surely hangs precariously by a thread on account of a marginal win now subject of litigation.
Yes, the same Ganduje, around whose bulging pockets a horde of purulent flies have, despite thunderous official denial and lavish deodorization, continued to buzz suggestively over alleged hefty dollar bribes from some conniving government contractors.
What then sadly makes the emerging Kano story more of a fable of villains without any hero is that Sanusi himself inadvertently dug his own political grave. The undertakers apparently arrived last week with a hurriedly contrived law creating four new districts, bringing the emirates to five in what relives the haunting memory of a similar executive coup by a vengeful Abubakar Rimi against “recalcitrant” Ado Bayero in the second republic.
To further load the dark clouds against SLS, an extant probe has also been reopened to inquire into alleged mismanagement of N6b fund belonging to the emirate in oiling a lifestyle bordering on prodigality and ostentation, contradicting the very sermon of lofty principles he likes preaching in the public arena. So, there are already suggestions that, should he be found culpable, perfect grounds would have been laid for his dethronement summarily.
But in all of this, only the incurably naive would follow the insurgency Sanusi had more or less launched from the numbing comforts of the royal chamber soon after coronation five years ago and recklessly sought to sustain against the political establishment in Kano and lately the ruling party at the centre, and still wallow in the delusion that he could have survived much longer in that career of insolence without getting hit.
First, on account of their commission and induction, royal fathers (how much more of the first-class species) are supposed to be seen more and not heard in the public arena. In case Sanusi was ever in doubt, he should by now have realized that, regardless of the romanticization to the contrary by local tradition, the republican constitution clearly designates them as subordinated to local council authorities. One, their compensation packages salaries are drawn from the council treasury. A fact now triumphalist Ganduje, who had endured the humiliation of publicly carrying cement pan on his head to seduce voters on the eve of the dicey supplementary poll, has rubbed in by saying Sanusi should be reporting to the council chairman and not the Government House in Kano.
In a post which trended in the social media shortly after the tumultuous week of long knives in Kano, someone joked that Sanusi’s flowing Agbada had thus been reduced to a waist-coat - a poignant innuendo at his trademark close-fitting three-piece suit with conspicuous bow-tie while still in the corporate world. Perhaps, what remains to be added now is that his foliage of turban too has, by the same token, been adapted to an austere handkerchief.
As nominal custodian of tradition, the royalties are supposed to explore back-room channel to reach political leadership to express themselves in case they feel strongly about any public issue. The spectacle of a royal father mounting the soap box to make unrestrained commentaries - as we have seen of Sanusi since ascension - is, therefore, an aberration indeed.
Obviously, Sanusi’s tragic flaw from outset was assuming he could continue his activist hobby in an institution statutorily structured to be reticent in the modern political order. Nothing in his sustained garrulity and feisty disposition on the throne suggested he ever learnt any lesson from his earlier summary dismissal as CBN governor under the Jonathan administration after making public a disclosure of missing billions of dollars in oil receipts that unmasked his then employer as nothing short of a common bandit.
True, such iconoclasm would really sound populist, even patriotic. Just like his claims sometime ago that some fat cats sitting in high places in Abuja were making a kill weekly by allegedly coaxing the CBN governor to allocate a sizable amount of dollars to them at concessionary rate which was then round-tripped in the black market at a premium. Not forgetting also his righteous indignation expressed following reports of shameless trafficking and racketeering in APC tickets for American dollars in the last convoluted primaries.
But regardless, Sanusi ought to have known that, as a “public officer” himself (since he draws salaries from public purse), there would be consequences. Populism has its own peril. Given his own unique circumstance, SLS could, therefore, only be cultivating martyrdom. With the official clipping of his wings last week, the flamboyant hell-raiser from the ancient Kanuri megapolis should have realized that it is not always granted that he who volunteers his head to crack open the communal coconut will still be in a conscious state to partake of the consequential feast.
In hindsight, it would now seem that nice as Sanusi’s activism might have appeared or sounded, the motive was nonetheless self-serving. He clearly showed too much of a partisan hand in the recklessly open flirtation with his old benefactor, Rabiu Kwankwaso of PDP, in the titanic battle for Kano’s political soul in the last general elections. So, it could then be said that the truths told were for the wrong reasons.
His loyalty to Kwankwaso was obviously in appreciation of the extraordinary role the latter played as sitting governor in 2014 in directing the process that led to his selection as emir. And when Jonathan’s hyperactive goons barricaded the palace against him, it was Kwankwaso who provided him sanctuary in the Kano White House until power changed hands in Abuja on May 29, 2015.
But like all lotteries, Sanusi should know that his stake would go down with his failed candidate in the Kano sweepstake. Quite uncharacteristically, he started sounding reconciliatory after Ganduje was declared winner like a frightened child, perhaps now sensing the ominous presence of political swordsmen at the palace gate.
No surprise then that, once news filtered in that APC won the supplementary election days after the cliffhanger of March 9, Ganduje’s supporters who had endured sleepless nights reportedly started their celebration by first smashing Sanusi’s official portrait hung in the State House.
In the final analysis, it may yet be premature to term Ganduje’s action as fait accompli. Similar step against Bayero by Rimi was eventually reversed by the succeeding administration. Should power change hands tomorrow in Kano, there is a high possibility that the new ruling party may want to undo what Ganduje has done. But ultimately, it is the traditional authority as a sacred institution that gets diminished by this game of thrones.
Itemuagbor: The power of idea
The local folks ululated over brick and mortar. But the homeboy, Mike Itemuagbor, saw beyond the undulating hills of Okpekpe. Bringing the power of idea to bear in sports, the PASMODI boss would then go ahead and force the hitherto little-known community in the northern district of Edo State onto the world's athletics map.
Back in 2013, it sounded rather quixotic initially when Itemuagbor broached the idea of a continental marathon following the construction of a network of roads that made the settlement on the hills accessible. True to his character, he set to work quietly.
Eventually, those in doubt earlier could not but salute his prodigious energy and ingenuity following the monumental success recorded by the maiden edition. With world-rated athletes converging on the rustic town, global spotlights undoubtedly riveted, even if momentarily, on Edo in particular and Nigeria in general through the lens of all the major international sporting media on the ground.
Of course, such activities redounded in the local economy as a boom in demand for hotels and eateries in Auchi and environs signaled full capacity utilization for days.
Six years on, the Okpekpe road race has become a big brand. In response to popular demand after the first edition, opportunities were created in the subsequent outing for local talents to be included with special prizes created for them. From take-off till date, Itemuagbor only draws token support from government as the event is largely sustained by private-sector funding earned through his career spanning over two decades in the sports marketing distinguished by diligence, tenacity and high integrity. These three qualities would, without hesitation, be attested by anyone who knows Mike at a personal level. I do.
This year’s edition is next week. To gauge the popularity of the Okpekpe race, you only need to feel the energy of the present buzz in the national and international airwaves ahead of the D-day.
Surely, ideas rule the new world.