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Nigerian kings vie for millennium throne


A king is barricaded in his palace, with hundreds of his subjects armed with sticks and machetes protecting him from would-be usurpers.

Another king, who was driven out of the same palace in May and is now living in an outbuilding down the road, has sent his lawyers to court in an attempt to reclaim his throne.

The war over the Kano Emirate is one of West Africa’s oldest and most revered kingdoms, and is part of a wider tussle not only for the ancient throne but for control of the most populous state in Africa’s most populous country.

The emirs of Kano once wielded absolute power, ruling over their subjects from elaborately decorated palaces in Kano, an ancient commercial centre south of the Sahara.

Today, while the rulers still sit on ornate thrones, wear silk robes and have courtiers fanning them wherever they go, their kingdoms are part of Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy, and they operate alongside the country’s elected officials.

Like the British monarch, they have great influence over their subjects but very little official power.

The conflict between the two emirs has become a focal point ahead of Nigeria’s 2027 presidential election.

Analysts say different wings of Nigeria’s elected government have picked their sides: local state governments back reformist incumbent King Emir Sanusi, while the federal government backs the more traditional ruler Emir Aminu, who is fighting to reclaim the throne.

Kano, a bustling city of 4.5 million people, has never had two heirs to the throne. Observers warned that tensions were so high that riots could break out. “We did not expect that someone would attack the emirate in this way,” said Ruqayyah Salihi Bayero, a palace historian.

The history of the Kingdom of Kano dates back to 999 AD. It was initially ruled by Hausa kings and, after the conquest in 1805, by Fulani Emirs. The throne is not hereditary; the king is chosen by the kingmaker and the Governor of Kano.

Emir Sanusi (formerly known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi) became emir in 2014. He is less traditional than his predecessors, who spent their days resolving local disputes.

Former Nigerian banker and central bank governor, occasionally appears in Louboutin shoeshe is highly educated and popular in the international elite business circles. Girls should be educatedwomen’s rights should be respected, and poor men should not marry multiple wives, but these views were not shared by his conservative subjects, who called him a “Western puppet.”

Northern Nigerian nobles wear towering turbans tied over their mouths to signify solemn silence. Emir Sanusi wears a turban, but he is outspoken. He has criticized politicians and Calling for corruption.

Soon after he became Emir, he forged a feud with the most powerful man in Kano State. Abdullahi GandujeThe then Gov. Ganduje was dubbed “Gandola” after he was filmed Stuffing in wads of dollars – suspected bribery — Wear a loose robe.

The governor hit back when Emir Sanusi criticised Mr Ganduje’s actions. Emir Sanusi may be more than 1,000 years old but the emirate is now part of Nigeria and Mr Ganduje is the top elected official in Kano state.

Mr Ganduje accused Emir Sanusi of “total insubordination” and used his power to remove the Emir from the throne. Mr Ganduje handed the throne to Aminu Addo Bayero, a relative and trusted adviser of Emir Sanusi.

Emir Sanusi was driven out of Kano and dumped in a village 300 miles away, he fled to Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, while the new emir took up residence in the palace. Emir Aminu was like the monarchs of old: he kept his mouth shut.

“He didn’t try to change anything,” said Abdulbasit Kassim, a historian who studies Muslim societies in West Africa. In contrast, he said, “Sanusi was a destroyer.”

The Emir of Kano rode a magnificent horse and wore a richly embroidered robe. If he wanted to take a sip of water in public, his guards would lift the red and green robe around him to protect his dignity and privacy.

But he could not make any policies, collect any taxes, or command any armies.

Despite this, Africa’s traditional leaders still command enormous loyalty, which politicians are often keen to exploit.

Abba Yusuf, who defeated Ganduje in last year’s elections, had vowed to restore Emir Sanusi to the throne if he was elected governor. On May 23, he sacked Emir Aminu and kicked his entourage out of the palace.

About 12 hours later, Emir Sanusi flew back to Kano on a private plane. Then Mr. Yusuf presided over a ceremony that was part coronation, part political rally. The two men sat together on a sofa colored in the Nigerian flag. As hundreds of Kano nobles cheered, Mr. Yusuf handed Emir Sanusi a letter confirming his restoration as emir.

One by one, the princes of Kano prostrated themselves on the carpet to pay tribute to the returning king, even those who had betrayed him. Emir Sanusi stood up and took the microphone.

“The emir should not glorify anyone,” he said. “But the governor is a hero.”

That evening, after the celebrations, Yusuf escorted Emir Sanusi back to the palace. Emir Sanusi’s son Ashraf documented their return home on Instagram. He used his phone to take photos of the interior of the palace.

Everything was gone: the curtains on the windows, the electrical sockets on the walls. Emir Aminu’s courtiers looted the palace.

Analysts say that although the restored king has the support of the governor of Kano State, the leaders of the Nigerian federal government have shown a preference for Emir Aminu. The spokesman of the Nigerian president denied that the federal government is biased towards any party.

Days after he was deposed in May, the taciturn king returned to the palace, escorted by government soldiers who housed him in what locals call the “little palace” — an annex to the main palace that serves as a guest house and is adjacent to the tombs of past Kano kings.

The father of Emir Aminu and the grandfather of Emir Sanusi, both former emirs, are buried here.

Currently, dozens of armed policemen are guarding Emir Aminu around the clock in the annex buildings. Until recently, hundreds of Emir Sanusi’s supporters also stood guard on the roads near the palace to support their king.

Emir Aminu’s legal representative, Aminu Baba Danagundi, said the correct procedures were not followed when Emir Aminu was removed from office earlier this year. “No one is above the law,” he said.

although financial crisisMany Nigerians have taken a keen interest in who will control the emirate.

“I despise Sanusi,” said Aminu Garba, a supporter of Emir Aminu, who remembered the emir once saying that a wife slapped by her husband should slap back.

“Aminu is creating drama here,” said Aisha Abdullahi, a recent graduate, adding that she supports Emir Sanusi because he is a friend to women.

Analysts say politicians play a very important role in the crisis ahead of the 2027 elections. Governor Yusuf is likely to run for re-election. His success may depend on whether Emir Sanusi can remain in power.

But observers say the federal ruling party needs Emir Aminu back on the throne to get enough votes in Kano.

“They have become pawns in a wider political game,” said historian Qasim.

Amir Aminu continues to fight a legal battle to be reinstated. So far, he has won most of his cases in federal courts, while state courts have sided with Amir Sanusi.

“We have to find a way to restore peace and stability to the country and the nation as a whole,” said Ms. Bayero, the palace historian.

Governor Yusuf has twice ordered the police to remove Emir Aminu from the palace annex and arrest him. So far, the police have refused to do so and recently ordered the hunters and vigilantes guarding Emir Sanusi to withdraw, leaving him alone and unprotected.

The old royal flag flies above the palace. Last week, Emir Aminu raised a replica outside the palace.

At present, the flags of the two countries are still flying.

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