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MSII: The Nagging Modernist


By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu

Abuja (Sundiata Post) — Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus lived between 155 and 240 AD. He was a conservative theologian who became more popular as Tertullian. He is recorded by history as founder of western theology though he was of Berber origin and lived in Carthage, which was then, part of the Roman province of Africa. In the study of history of the Church, he is noted as an early Christian apologist and a polemicist against heresy. One of his most famous quotes is “the first reaction to truth is hatred”.

The quote now summarises what Alhaji Mohammad Sanusi II, until this moment, incumbent Emir of Kano, is faced with. Not many people saw the radical modernist in him while he was at First Bank. A few liked his charismatic approach to altering the status quo in the banking system when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (as he then was), yanked him off First Bank and made him governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. His initial actions at the CBN fuelled rumours that he was going to take a plunge into politics and may be, seek to become president someday. He, however, told the Financial Times in a detailed interview that his only ambition was to become the Emir of Kano. He achieved it. That seemed the final cap on his ambitions. In his most recent comment on his Instagram page, he said: “As far as I am concerned, I can tell you that I have achieved my ambition. I have no further ambition in life and I am not willing to move an inch in the name of looking for any revered status.”
Between banking and traditional monarchy, Sanusi was a perfect fit for the Emirship. Banking is conservative. The traditional stool is more conservative. Given the storms he caused the administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, with his open criticism of some policies of the administration, many had thought becoming an emir would keep him away from the public and retire him into a medieval palace where he would be attended to traditionally and shut out of the problems of society. But he has proven that though his turban hides his mouth, he would still find a way to exercise his fingers and translate what worries his mind through the keyboards of his gadgets.

The problem, however, is that MSII is speaking out where his predecessors kept quiet. He is speaking truth to power and many of those who opposed him, while he critiqued government policy during Jonathan’s administration, are lauding. They laud him not because the emirship has changed him, but because he is speaking openly and daringly, the truth that political leaders of his region refuse, or deliberately, hide from their society. He is going beyond the bounds of his current office. He is breaking protocol. He is breaking tradition. He has refused to be cocooned by the conservativeness of his office. They laud him because he is rebelling against established order in his part of Nigeria.

At the height of the Boko Haram insurgency, many northern leaders, who voiced their support for the sect, had said openly that its members were fighting poverty and injustice. And in every report, or literature, authored on why Boko Haram was possible, poverty and lack of education were always pointed at as culprits. And that was reason there was a North East Development Commission Bill? Wasn’t that also reason we had the Presidential Initiative on North-East? Wasn’t lack of education reason we had a national policy on educationally advantaged and least advantaged states? Isn’t that reason we have an embarrassing different set of entrance qualification into unity schools for people of the North-East? Is the education index in the north not the main reason Jonathan built of 125 almajiri schools and also ensured that every state had a federal university? In essence, what else was new in what MSII said about situation in the north?

The fact is that leaders of states in the north don’t seem to like a challenge on their “constituted authority”, which is what MSII’s actions seem to mean to them. By working to clampdown on him, none has accused him of telling lies against the north and her leaders. All they have accused him of was ‘insulting leaders’. What MSII is, however, doing is conscientising people of the north and seeking to liberate them from the suffocating hold of their leaders on their future. Ask, is it that it is convenient for governors to foot the bills for mass wedding, scripture recitation competitions but hardly find money to sponsor quiz and debate competitions among schools? Is it more rewarding to make school kids to memorise all the tenets of religion than taking them through expository inquests in science and tech? A northern friend had told me that some parents in the region are happier if their 10 year old boy could take 100 cows into the grazing field and return with exact number, than having him ‘waste’ time in school.

As a student of comparative religion, I came across such things as Islamic archaeology, Islamic architecture, Islamic philosophy, Islamic finance, medicine and other branches of study that derives from the Islamic perspective. We don’t see such in Nigeria. A look at Dubai, where interestingly, many leaders of states in the north have bought homes, shows how liberating of society an expanded worldview could be. United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt etc are Muslim nations. The contrast is that our governors, from the north, travel to those countries to import doctors and other experts. But why they refuse to borrow some sense and seek to liberate their people is something that beats imagination. Religion is actually liberating and frees the mind to explore. Unfortunately, we have a religious culture, exclusive to northern Nigeria, which seems to suggest abhorrence of knowledge and anathemises the need to ask questions. This is different from lack of respect for elders. Elders have their place in every society. However, young people are curious. Curiosity excites the mind to ask questions. Questions mean that someone is seeking to know. Quest to know, also means taking a step away from the status quo. Is this encouraged by northern leaders? The expressions say otherwise.

I have the feeling that a liberating knowledge will lead to a major revolt in the north; especially when young people, who have been condemned to poverty and blighted future by their leaders, come to realise that their own people have held the reins of federal power for a greater part of the independent Nigeria. I fear that this is what those opposed to MSII want to prevent. Let northern youths begin to ask questions. They need to be told, and in clear terms, why they were handed dishes to go beg for alms, instead of schools, books and pen? They need to know why their governors would rather dash them wheel-barrows and carts instead of schools buses. (Adamawa state governor, Jibrilla Bindow, had said in September 2016 that Almajiri schools built by Jonathan are expensive to maintain).

Quite often, we hear northern leaders make reference to the population of the north as high. They regale in their conclusions that north is very populous. Besides, they drive more births and use population to bargain for more allocation from FG. But they refuse to realise that an uneducated population is a ticking bomb. Edward Kallon, Resident Representative of the UND, said at the national launch of the Human Development Report 2016 in Abuja that: “in Sub-Sahara Africa, women, girls, rural dwellers, ethnic minorities have fewer opportunities than the rest of society. Also, youths, children from poor households and people living with disabilities are less likely than others to have improved human development conditions. Similarly, people living in poor countries, conflict and disaster afflicted areas face more constraints in attaining sufficient levels human development than others”.

This is what should bother leaders everywhere, and specially, the north, not how respectful MSII is of public office holders and the sort. The best way to stop MSII’s mouth from nagging is to reverse the trend that makes him talk.

(Uchegbu, a renowned journalist, wrote from Lagos).

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