As Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II exits/

As it turns out, President Muhammadu Buhari knew nothing about the crisis in Kano State. 

No, not that crisis, in which he personally saved Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, from the ethical and political flames of being seen on video illegally stuffing millions of dollars into his baban riga.  I am talking about the governor routing Muhammadu Sanusi last week from his perch as Emir of Kano.

According to a statement by the presidency, Buhari was minding his business and knew nothing about the matter. 

How credible is that, given the explanation by former Head of State Abdulssalam Abubakar that the 11-person reconciliation committee he led on the matter had submitted a report to him? 

That committee had been established last December by some Northern elders and governors, following which it submitted a report to the President.  According to Abubakar, the committee believed the objective had been accomplished. 

It is strange that Buhari knew enough about how big bribes work to determine that Ganduje could not be a corrupt man, but not enough of the Kano conflict to have been a part of it. 

Nonetheless, the former CBN governor, who is well-loved on the international scene for his sophisticated style and his elegance on the microphone, was immediately gone as emir, banished by a man he despises to a village in another state.

For me, the issue was always that although Sanusi achieved his childhood dream by becoming the Emir of Kano, he never understood how out of place and out of time that “achievement” was, nor how much the institution he was a part had become part of the Nigerian mess. 

The question is whether Sanusi should not have hankered for the political leadership of Kano, where he would have had the chance to influence not just that state but the entire nation, rather than the trappings of the Emirship where he knew he could not eat and talk at the same time.

But he liked his own narrative: he may have become a traditional ruler, but he still knew economics.

But the challenge of Nigeria—to find men who can go beyond the talk—has never changed.  Or for men who, opting for a life of admonition and advocacy, know they cannot afford the dangers of poor personal example.

This is where, next to the uniformed forces, particularly the military, traditional rulers have in the past two generations inflicted some of the greatest carnage on Nigeria as they blackmail formal state authorities for power, position and privilege. 

For them, there is no compromise on a lavish lifestyle, no matter how hypocritically and shamelessly out of touch it may be with life around them.

And that lifestyle is incomplete without more wives—not from marrying widows or divorcees—but teenagers.

And breeding, as only traditional rulers can because, well, they can “afford it,” the same language that our kleptocrats use to justify schools for their children abroad and medical treatment for themselves, while they subvert our structures at home. 

And yes: large, expensive limousines, particularly of the vintage variety.  The more expensive the better. 

The former Emir does not need people to sympathize with him, or advocate for him.  Not only can he preach the sermon, he can take care of himself. 

As always, it is the country which is to be pitied; it has enough of powerful people who can look after themselves.

What Nigeria needs is someone powerful enough who can preach a sermon that is not hypocritical or self-serving; someone who can lead a fruitful debate on such issues as lowering the cost of governance outside how it may benefit them personally. 

Issues such as how we can change our selfish orientation to public service.  Such as human capital development.  Such as greater investment in healthcare, education, electricity and transportation.

And how do we, when such investments are made, ensure they are completed according to specifications, including schedule?

How do we ensure that the separation of powers in our constitution becomes a reality, and does not continue to be implemented as a suggestion?  How do we ensure that the executive branch does not continue to champion inefficiency and corruption? 

How do we bring the rule of law to life, over the rule of men?  How do we make institutions—not men—combat corruption and abuse of office?  How do we change our massive and inefficient civil service?

As CBN governor, for instance, Sanusi Lamido talked about the NNPC problem.  One decade later, NNPC continues to operate as it has always done, with little oversight or accountability despite celebrations by the executive of a “successful” implementation of the TSA. 

Because as we always knew, the challenge was never whether it was PDP or APC, Governor or Emir, North or South, but of who has, and who has not.  Who has a voice, and who has none.  Who believes, and who merely preaches. 

That said, I am happy to welcome Sanusi Lamido to life without the turban, and back to his banker’s suits.  He may be without his Kano title, but this is simply a different location in the same ethical jungle.   

In this jungle, in January 2014, I reflected on the then CBN governor’s donation politics.  Among others, he had arbitrarily donated N4bn to Bayero University, Kano; N10bn to Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto; and N500m to the University of Benin.

He also donated to a town: one town.  N100 million, to Kano. 

The Emir-to-be was exercising power, Nigeria-style.  Sadly, it is the way we do it when we have control. 

But we can and must do better.  We must enthrone the rule of principle.  And of merit.  And of quality. 

That is the way societies leap: by working to let superior minds and hands take control and lead the way.  By seeking to ensure that the viciousness and malice of the vilest do not become the law of the land.

Unless we do this, and are humble enough to dream beyond ourselves, we are no better than the animals we lampoon and demonize.

[This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials].