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CLOSE-UP: Muhammad Sanusi II: The philosopher who became king — and reformer

CLOSE-UP: Muhammad Sanusi II: The philosopher who became king — and reformer
April 07
08:08 2017

We must love our children, but never be afraid to teach them. We must be prudent and economic, but never with the truth. We must be diplomatic, but never with the taboos that underdevelop our people.

This is the philosophy of Muhammad Sanusi II, the emir of Kano, who ruffles feathers anytime he puts his opinion in the public domain.

On Wednesday, he delivered the keynote address at the second edition of the Kaduna Investment Forum. As always, he raised the bar of public discourse and got the nation talking about the people, again. Who is this Sanusi with arguably the loudest voice of reason in the country?.

He is a teacher, a banker, an economist , a religious leader, a father, and a king. An attempt to profile him would exhaust an ocean of ink and dry a river of oil-paint. His controversies are too strong to ignore, the dusts he raises are too potent to disregard and his perception of sensitive issues are too brilliant to walk over.


Born into the Fulani Torobe (Sullubawa) clan of Kano on the July 31 1961, Sanusi is the son Aminu Sanusi, a career diplomat and technocrat who served as the Nigerian ambassador to Belgium, China and Canada. His father later served as the permanent secretary of federal ministry of foreign affairs. He is also the grandson Muhammadu Sunusi, the 11th emir of Kano, who was deposed for, basically, speaking his mind.



Sanusi and Hakeem Bello-Osagie at a Kings College event

As Sanusi said on Wednesday, King’s College, Lagos produces all the Nigerian progressives and intellectuals — while Barewa College produces the conservatives.

Sanusi learnt from the class of teachers who produced Adetokunbo Ademola, former chief justice of Nigeria; Keem Belo-Osagie, chairman of Etisalat Nigeria; Alex Ekwueme, former vice-president of Nigeria; Anthony Enahoro, former minister; Ibrahim Gambari, United Nations representative; Lateef Jakande, former governor of Lagos State and former federal minister of Works and Housing; Odumegwu Ojukwu, head of State of the defunct Republic of Biafra and Atedo Peterside, former chairman of Stanbic IBTC.


Sanusi graduated from King’s College Lagos in 1977 and attended Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria where he bagged a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1981. Like many other kings from Kings College, Sanusi obtained a master’s degree in Economics at ABU (1983) and was an instructor at ABU from 1983 to 1985.


Diezani Alison

Diezani the untouchable

Sanusi was nominated as governor of the central bank of Nigeria (CBN) by former president Musa Yar’Adua, and confirmed by the senate in June 2009. After his confirmation, Atedo Peterside, founder of IBTC, who introduced him to a team of bankers in London said Sanusi is known to speak the truth at all times.

“Sanusi Lamido Sanusi a seasoned and knowledgeable economist and professional banker/risk manager with impeccable credentials, including, notably, integrity and a penchant for telling the truth at all times,” Peterside said.

In his capacity as the governor of the apex bank, Sanusi  introduced the concept of Islamic banking, a non-interest oriented banking system, which raised a lot of controversies, especially from the Christian fold.


This was at a time where there was religious tension and unrest in the country as there was the belief that there was an attempt to “Islamise” Nigeria. However, Sanusi maintained that the initiative was that of Chukwuma  Soludo, his predecessor, adding that he was only building on the foundation.

He stood his ground, asking anyone who was not satisfied with the concept to challenge it legally. His defiance saw the birth of Jaiz bank, the first non-interest bank in Nigeria.

Sanusi penchant for the truth would later put him in trouble with the leadership of former  president Goodluck Jonathan. Sanusi had discovered that many billions of dollars were missing from government coffers and he wrote the president.

Diezani Alison-Madueke was at the centre of it all, and according to him, “nobody who had touched Diezani had survived”. Knowing this, Sanusi went ahead to touch the untouchable.




Sanusi the CBN governor

After raising alarm on the historic “missing $20 billion”, Jonathan called for Sanusi and asked  him to resign. He said Sanusi will leave government or he (Jonathan) will leave government.

“From then I knew I had signed my equivalent for death warrant. But I said I was not resigning. He got very angry and said whether you like it or not, you’re going to leave that office, I cannot continue to work with you, either you or I will leave government,” Sanusi revealed after leaving office.


His journey as the CBN governor came to an end in February 2014, when Jim  Obazee, the then executive secretary of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC) championed his suspension.

Former president Goodluck Jonathan had sacked him on recommendation from the FRC,  which accused Sanusi of financial wrecklesness. Jonathan, Obazee and Sanusi are all out of government — one gracefully, others otherwise.



Sanusi Smiling

Sanusi, the Emir

In June 2014, Sanusi succeeded his grand uncle, Ado Bayero, as the 14th emir of Kano,  following the death of the latter. His appointment which  raised much controversy was termed a political attempt to save him from alleged fraud charges during his term as CBN governor.

It was also argued that Bayero should have been succeeded by his son. But Sanusi, who is of a royal lineage was also  due to be king, and was deemed fit to lead his people.

Old habits die hard. As a king, Sanusi has not repented from his manner of speaking truth to power at all times. Despite reservations from the Royal Clan and the presidential quarters, the activist in this King is not giving up any time soon.


Sanusi Osinbajo

Osinbajo, Sanusi, Segun Awolowo and ooni of Ife

Though a Muslim and a forefront leader at that, Sanusi has made some calls that clerics have referred to as a challenge on the jurisdiction of Islam. But the Emir would not stop ruffling feathers in norther Nigeria.

Poor men should not marry more than one wife

He has called for a reform of northern Islamism, asking the region to denounce its 13th century practice of the religion

One controversy raised is his proposition to enact law that prohibits “a poor man” from marrying more than one wife. His justification was that they breed children who become thugs, due to lack of care.

“We have all seen the economic consequence of men who are not capable of maintaining one wife marrying four, producing 20 children, not educating them, leaving them on the streets end up as thugs and terrorists,” he said.

This stance was confronted by heavy criticism. Aminu Daurawa, Kano state commandant of Hisbah, a religious police outfit, said it violates the Quran.

Don’t build mosques build schools for the girl-child

He is also a staunch girl-child education advocate, who has asked the northern elites to stop building mosques but focus on building schools for the girl-child.

“I’m just tired of people coming to me to say I want to build a new mosque. You know, we keep building mosques and our daughters are illiterates,” he said in January, 2017.

“So, my appeal is that if you really want to help Kano, don’t come to me with a request to build a N300m mosque because I have enough mosques everywhere. And if I don’t have a mosque, I’ll build it myself. If you really want to help, go and educate a girl child in the village.”

He stated that over 50 percent of girls between the age bracket of 18 and 20 given out in marriage in the north cannot write or read, emphasising that the state has enough mosques and there is no need for new ones.

Sanusi to  Imams, traditional  rulers: Beat your wives, lose your titles

Sanusi and Rulers

Sanusi and some northern elders

The no-nonsense king had also told religious and traditional heads in Kano, that wife beating is now an offence, and anyone who does so, will lose his or her titles.

“You should all come back to your senses and stop these barbaric acts because we will not allow this to continue in Kano,” he was quoted to have said.

“I have warned all district heads, village heads, ward heads and imams to also desist from the bad habit of beating their wives and whoever among them is reported to me to have beaten up his wife, would out rightly lose his title.”

Calls for birth control and family planning

How dare you call for birth control? How dare Sanusi not call for  all he adjudges right and developmental for his people. Sanusi has also called for birth control and taming population explosion in the north.

“The age at which girls get out of school and married, the number of children that they have; having babies every year.The number of wives people marry when they cannot maintain them and their children,” Sanusi said in Kaduna on Wednesday.

“These subjects have been tabooed, but we cannot fix the north and get investments into the north until we confront these subjects”.

Northern Nigeria Must abandon the 13th century mindset of Islam

Sanusi The Emir!


Less than  24 hours ago, Sanusi added the last straw of controversies; he told northern Muslims that the rest of the Muslim world has moved on. He urged northerners to desist from creating an “Islamic society that never existed”.

He said books preaching love were being burnt in northern Nigeria, calling for better interpretations of Islamic views, which can drive a better life for women and the girl-child.

“We need to understand the roots of the problem of northern Nigeria. Burning books, it happened in Kano, what is the crime of those books? They were writing about (love), and love apparently is supposed to be a bad word,” he said.

“In a society where you don’t love your women and you don’t love your children, you allow them to beg, you beat up your women, why should anyone talk about love?

“We have adopted an interpretation of our culture and our religion that is rooted in the 13th century mindset, that refuses to recognise that the rest of the Muslim world has moved on.”


Sanusi WIve and daughter

Sanusi’s wife, daughter, and Sa’adatu

Sanusi was accused of marrying an underage himself, when he married the teenage daughter of Aliyu Musdafa, the Lamido of Adamawa in 2015.

A family source however told TheCable at the time, that “to call an 18-year-old woman a child and spread propaganda about ‘child marriage’ is nothing but mischief taken to another height. In Nigeria, the legal age for marriage is 18”.

Despite the fact that she was of marriageable age, according to Nigerian law, Sanusi decided not to consummate his marriage until his new bride is done with her studies in the UK — by 2019.

She is currently studying economics at the University of Buckingham in the UK.

Also true to his preaching, Sanusi three wives before Sa’adatu Barkindo Musdafa are all well-educated.

Sanusi II’s first wife, Sadiya, who is a daughter of the late emir, Ado Bayero, holds a bachelor’s degree in education (history) from the Bayero University Kano (BUK) and speaks Arabic.

The second wife, Maryam, holds a BA (combined honours) in Arabic and Islamic studies also from BUK and is about completing her dissertation for a master’s degree in education from the University of Abuja. She speaks Arabic and Italian.

The third wife, Rakiya, has an LLB (law) from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) and an LLM from the University of London.

Love him or loathe him, men like Muhammad Sanusi II are rare diamonds in our pool of stones.


  1. Fatima
    Fatima April 07, 09:15

    Educative…Beautiful piece..

    Reply to this comment
  2. Mamman Bako
    Mamman Bako April 07, 09:26

    Am sure about this opinion. However God speed to the Emir as he tries to reorient muslims in northern Nigeria.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Prof Ken Ozoemena
    Prof Ken Ozoemena April 09, 15:03

    The emir is indeed a rare breed. It is always a pleasure to read this great son of our land. I have always admired his intelligence. I am very glad that The Cable and many other reasonable Nigerians see him the way I do. If I have my way, I will make him the president of Nigeria.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Ibrahim Bashir
    Ibrahim Bashir April 15, 08:17

    He is man of God who speak the trust at all time.

    Reply to this comment
  5. im a nob
    im a nob May 20, 09:49

    Un roi examplaire

    Reply to this comment

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