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Updated Mar 11, 2020

Muhammadu Sanusi II, the emir of Kano in northern Nigeria, was deposed by state authorities on Monday over alleged “disrespect to lawful instructions”, according to a government press statement. Born Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, he was the second-most senior Islamic authority figure in Nigeria.

Sanusi formerly served as the head of Nigeria’s central bank before ascending to the throne as Kano’s emir in 2014. During his time at the bank, he developed a reputation as a no-nonsense modernizer who regularly criticized government corruption, but allegations of graft were levied against him as well. He was removed from his position at the bank in February 2014 after accusing the state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation of failing to remit US$20 billion to the state treasury.

The Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II (C) arrives to attend the mass wedding of 1,520 couples at the city's central mosque on February 26, 2017
The Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II arrives to attend a mass wedding of 1,520 couples.

Emirs hold no formal constitutional powers, but they maintain great influence over their subjects, owing in part to their institutions existing in Nigeria centuries before the first Europeans arrived. Prior to his removal, Sanusi had been butting heads with Kano’s regional governor Abdullahi Ganduje, whom he accused along with other religious and political leaders of failing to provide for the region, widening an existing wealth gap between Nigeria’s impoverished majority-Muslim north and wealthier majority-Christian south. The Nigerian government provides state funds to the emir institutions, which Sanusi is accused of misappropriating for personal ends, a charge he denies. Unlike past instances of state authorities deposing an emir, Sanusi’s removal did not result in violence or protests from his supporters.


Why It Matters

Nigeria’s Kano province, one of the poorest in the country, is the birthplace of the founders of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf and Abubakar Shekau. They were radicalized in part due to what they saw as a clear oppression by the Nigerian state against its Muslim population. Then as now, Kano’s poverty stood as stark proof of the Nigerian government’s negligence, continuing a practice of exclusion and suppression of Muslims in Africa that Boko Haram argues is a continuation of oppression that began under the colonial era. Sanusi’s removal may serve as easy propaganda for Boko Haram recruitment, using the argument that Sanusi’s reform efforts were ineffectual to suggest that only the organization’s violent jihadist methods will bring prosperity and security to Nigeria’s Muslims.


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