How Nigeria’s kings misplaced their energy

Emir SanusiImage copyright Getty Images

From emirs to kings, Nigeria’s conventional rulers are more and more being humiliated by politicians – and mocked by younger individuals who see them as representing an archaic establishment.

The newest instance of this was the brutal dethronement of the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II.

The state governor invoked his constitutional powers to depose the emir after accusing him of “insubordination”.

No-one is aware of the variety of monarchs in multi-ethnic Nigeria however there appears to be one ruling over each inch of land, typically placing them at loggerheads with the politicians who’ve constitutional authority.

Nigeria’s conventional leaders retain enormous affect in lots of components of the nation however latest occasions have made some younger folks query the function of the monarchy within the 21st Century.

Mr Sanusi is probably the most high-profile of a number of instances within the final 5 months during which politicians have publicly introduced monarchs to heel or the actions of some conventional rulers have led folks to query their relevance.

Colonial-style exile

Mr Sanusi was eliminated for “total disrespect” of establishments and the governor’s workplace, the federal government stated.

But in reality, his elimination was the fruits of an extended tussle with Kano state governor Umar Ganduje, a strong determine inside Nigeria’s governing All Progressives Congress (APC) social gathering.

Muhammad Sanusi II


Muhammad Sanusi II

Deposed Emir of Kano

  • 1961born into Fulani royal household

  • 2009grew to become governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria

  • 2011named in TIME journal’s listing of influential folks

  • 2013acquired award for selling Islamic banking in Nigeria

  • 2014sacked for alleging that $20bn (£12bn) income was lacking

  • 2014grew to become 14th Emir of Kano

Source: BBC

Those near him say the emir anticipated his elimination however not his banishment to neighbouring Nasarawa state which his attorneys described as an “archaic practice” of the colonial period.

After gaining a courtroom order, he has regained his freedom however the method of his elimination and subsequent detention confirmed the actual steadiness of energy between politicians and conventional rulers.

“There is no way you can reconcile the feudal gathering of traditional kinship with the application of a modern republican constitution,” stated Dr Jare Oladosun, an affiliate professor of historical past at Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University.

He stated it was an insurmountable contradiction and favours the scrapping of the monarchy.

“You cannot have both, only one,” he stated.

For many, Mr Sanusi’s elimination confirmed what they’ve lengthy suspected – that the nation’s monarchs are solely symbolic heads with no actual energy.

Don’t shake your head when the governor is talking

Nigeria’s structure has no function for conventional rulers however they’re nonetheless broadly revered as custodians of each faith and tradition.

And this may be seen as a type of energy.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Several myths concerning the oba of Benin say magic makes him indestructible

Olutayo Adeshina, a professor of historical past on the University of Lagos, stated that by pledging to respect the tradition “by protecting, preserving and promoting traditional values”, the Nigerian structure recognises the essential function of conventional leaders.

“Traditional leaders possess some latent power which politicians are afraid of, hence the tension between the two.

“If they aren’t related, the politicians would ignore them. But you ignore them at your personal peril,” he said.

But anyone who watched a video widely shared on social media in January would question whether politicians still have much respect for traditional leaders.

A king in the southern state of Rivers was publicly ridiculed for shaking his head while governor Nyesom Wike was speaking.

The governor ripped into the mortified king in a gathering of traditional rulers, provoking laughter from those in the room.

“You simply [go] and put on one thing that’s larger than you… to breach protocol.”

The governor was mocking the monarch’s traditional robe and elaborate crown.

Brawling kings

In the same week that emir Sanusi was removed in Kano, traditional rulers in south-west Ekiti state were embroiled in a face-off with the governor after he appointed an oba (Yoruba king) to head the traditional council.

A group 16 local obas were not pleased with the “interference” and stayed away from state functions, drawing a stern letter from the governor who accused them of insubordination.

In November 2019, Nigeria’s Supreme Court dethroned another oba, in Oyo state, declaring the process of his ascendancy to the throne illegal.

Samuel Adebayo-Adegbola, who was the Eleruwa of Eruwa, had spent 21 years on the throne before he was forced to step down on the grounds that he was not a member of one of the town’s two ruling houses whose turn it was to produce a successor in 1994.

The throne remains vacant.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Adeyemi III is a respected traditional leader in south-western Nigeria

But it is not always the politicians casting aspersions on the monarchy in Nigeria – the actions of some traditional rulers have also put them in the spotlight.

In February, the Oluwo of Iwoland, Abdulrasheed Akanbi, a flamboyant and controversial oba in the south-west state of Osun engaged in a public brawl with another monarch, Dhikrulahi Akinropo, Agbowu of Ogbaagbaa.

Tempers flared at a meeting to settle a land dispute and Oba Akanbi is currently serving a six-month suspension for his part in the altercation.

‘Traditional trendiness’

But some monarchs are determined to remain relevant.

Oba Akanbi’s Instagram page is an album of very colourful pictures and in one post he talks about “21st Century Kings”.

“You assume Kings cannot “Swag”!! 21st Century Kings like me will catch you unawares!!! You acquired all of it unsuitable by considering kings are simply ‘previous raggedy, unhappy wanting, cannot dance, working with voodoo, scary wanting, cannot have enjoyable and solely boring!!!” he posted.

But such “conventional trendiness” has not caught on among young people and many took the opportunity of the emir’s dethronement in Kano to criticise the monarchy.

“Kings that don’t have any authority, no armies, combat no wars, bear no accountability for the event or prosperity of their area.

“Yet we indulge in this pitiful fantasy of them being the all powerful as Kings who did all these and more in the days of yore. Too funny,” this consumer stated.

This consumer needs them “dismantled” solely:

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Nigeria’s diminishing monarchy

Nigeria’s monarchs, from the southern coastal states to the horse-riders within the north, have been as soon as omnipotent.

A Yoruba oba might summon any girl – younger or married – and pronounce her one in all his wives, whereas kings in japanese Nigeria had the primary style of the brand new yam earlier than their topics might eat of their very own harvests.

Between the 14th and 19th Centuries, these monarchs handled the Portuguese and British, buying and selling in slaves, palm oil, groundnut, and led their folks to warfare.

But one after the other these kingdoms have been crushed by the British because the completely different nations that make up present-day Nigeria have been introduced collectively to be dominated as a single territory from 1914.

The obligations beforehand carried out by conventional leaders have been handed on to native directors appointed by the colonial authorities.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Two of Nigeria’s most revered conventional leaders, the Ooni of Ife (centre left) and the Sultan of Sokoto (centre proper) at a state operate

Some monarchs nonetheless carry out helpful non secular features together with settling land issues, minor chieftaincy disputes and different not-too-serious issues.

They additionally wield appreciable affect over native voters and politicians immediately turn into pleasant to them at election time.

“It is actually a sign of cultural progress to leave certain things behind and drop the excess baggage of an archaic institution that has outlived its usefulness,” stated Mr Oladosun.

He argued that the affect of conventional leaders within the grassroots is as a result of “we have retained them”.

Without any constitutional backing, Nigeria’s monarchs who want to stay on the throne should grasp the artwork of staying out of the best way of politicians who management energy.

“Native intelligence is what traditional leaders need, it would help them realise when to speak and when to keep shut and generally keep them out of trouble,” Mr Adesina stated.

Most monarchs in northern Nigeria have turbans overlaying their mouths – a sign maybe that the ability of survival is in being seen quite than heard.

But this was one thing the outspoken Mr Sanusi was by no means in a position to do.

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