My attention was drawn to an opinion article in the Guardian of Tuesday, September 8, 2020 authored by a veteran journalist, Ray Ekpu titled: ‘’Where is Kano going to?’’ Mr. Ekpu is a respected journalist in Nigeria famously known with the Newswatch Magazine. I revere his opinion, having interacted with him right from my practicing days. And during my tenure as President of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), we have had cause to interact during the amendment of the constitution of the Nigeria Press Council and when the NUJ intervened in the acquisition of the moribund Newswatch magazine by the business mogul and publisher of National Mirror titles, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim and his turn-around team.
However, this time around we stand to differ. When I saw the piece with the above heading, I found it very hard to believe that this is coming from one of our respected senior colleague. I even questioned myself whether it is really him or that has he investigated the issues or is he really aware of what is going on in Kano? Though the article portrayed Kano glowingly from the start, it is obvious that Mr. Ekpu, for whatever reason, raised some issues which he is not fully informed which included the dethronement of Muhammadu Sanusi II, the sponsorship of marriages for indigent couples, the cold blooded murder of 74-year-old trader, Bridget Aghahime at Kofar Wambai Market, Kano and the conviction by an Upper Shari’a Court of a self-acclaimed musician, Yahaya Sharif Aminu.
While Mr. Ekpu claimed in the article that Sanusi was deposed in a constitutional democracy, he forgot to tell in the first place that he was imposed on the people of Kano in the era of the same constitutional democracy, a development that led to civic unrest in the old city. That was why when he was deposed, the people did not give it a hoot. The fact is that the people of Kano know their rights and the way to fight for it. Their confidence in the institution was restored with the appointment of Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero. Kano, which has been enjoying relative peace in the recent times, which also earned it the most peaceful state in the federation, is witnessing a new dawn with the change of guard in the Dabo dynasty. And for your information, though it is the fourth in the ranking of the Northern Nigeria Traditional institutions, Kano Emirate is the most revered and has its peculiarities. It has norms and traditions to protect. And any Emir that crosses the line will not survive.
The Kano Emirate Council under Sanusi is a subject of investigation over alleged financial misappropriation by the state Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission based on a petition by citizens. And as a public figure, the monarch is not immune to investigation which he failed to comply with. Under a parliamentary system, the Late Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello during the first Republic in 1963 dethroned and banished Sanusi’s grandfather to Azare in present day Bauchi state where he died in 1984.
Sponsorship of marriages for indigent couples which Mr. Ekpu appeared to have frowned at is not new particularly in a predominantly Muslim society. It is clearly in line with Qur’anic injunction which tells believers that even if they are poor they should protect themselves from immorality. It is on record that at a mass wedding ceremony for 1,500 couples held in May last year incidentally presided by the then Emir Sanusi in Kano, Ganduje expended over N300 million on the couple with startup capital for small-scale businesses.
It appears Mr. Ekpu is disconnected from the reality. By the content of his write-up, he is imperceptibly encouraging civil discontent in Kano by indirectly calling on youth to carry placards to the Governor’s office and protest a populist programme that has been conducted more than a year ago. I believe it has never been part of a journalists’ responsibility to either take side or instigate trouble. The administration of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has put in place concrete plans, sound programmes and projects aimed at providing succor to the youth which has provided ample opportunity for their engagement in education, agriculture, healthcare services and economic empowerment among others.
In the last five years, it has empowered more than 1, 200,000, 000 (one million two hundred thousand) youth in the state in the last five years. This in addition to the implementation of the state policy on free and compulsory education. On the unfortunate murder of Mrs Aghahime, it is to the credit of Governor Ganduje that he ensured the arrest and prosecution of the five persons accused of murdering her. That was the best he could have done in the circumstances he found himself before a Kano Magistrate Court eventually set them free after obliging the counsel of the state Attorney-General who gave a nolle prosequi for reasons best known to the legal minds. It takes Governor Ganduje’s leadership ingenuity to calm frayed nerves among a section the Muslims and Christian communities to avert a repeat of the infamous religious riots of the past for good.
You can as well take special interest in the issue of the killing of two Hausa settlers, including an indigene of Kano state in Oyigbo town, Oyigbo Local council by suspected members of Indigenous People of Biafran (IPOB) a few days ago in national interest.
It will be undesirable to join issues with you on the veracity of the death sentence slammed on Sharif-Aminu by the Sharia Court so as not to prejudice the matter to be ultimately determined by the Supreme Court. It also suffice to add that since the matter has to do Shari’a Law, you are not a competent person to make comment. It should also be noted that Sharia law had since been instituted as a main body of Civil and Criminal Law in Kano state since June 21, 2000 just as blasphemy is a criminal offence in both the Nigerian Civil Law and Shari’a Law. Even in predominantly Christian society, a European Court of Human Rights in 2018, upheld an Australian woman’s conviction for disparaging Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).
I beg to disagree with your position that the Sharia Law is in conflict with the provision of the 1999 constitution as amended. Ganduje would not have been setting a bad example over his posture to adhere to the dictates of the Sharia law since Section 275 of the federal Constitution allows for the creation of state Sharia Court of Appeals. It can be argued that the Constitution has implicitly reserved discretion to the states to create their own Sharia courts to act as courts of first instance. Section 4 (7) (a) of the federal Constitution allows state National Assemblies to legislate on “any matter not included in the Exclusive Legislative List” that enumerates the issues falling within federal jurisdiction. However when it comes to the application of Sharia, Sections 262 and 277 qualify this relative legislative freedom of both the federal and state National Assemblies to specific issues of personal law. Any expansion in scope would require constitutional amendment, which under section 9 (2) could only be passed with two-thirds of the votes in the National Assembly along with the approval of at least two-thirds of all states. As an adherent to the rule of law, Governor Ganduje would not want to be a law onto himself even after he came under pressure from the highly revered Muslim clerics in Kano to sign the death warrant. Rather, he summoned the courage to prevail on them to allow the long arm of the law to take its full course.
He has been working closely with all the relevant stakeholders that included the Nigerian Bar Association, which is also in support of court judgement, the Ulama and the academia before arriving at the decision.
Ganduje believes in the rule of law, and will respect whatever happens to be the outcome of the case at the Appeal or even the Supreme Court. The Kano state government under the able leadership of Governor Ganduje has, in the last five years, undoubtedly brought about good governance which has been of immense benefit to the good people of the state. His landmark achievements in education, urban renewal, poverty eradication, provision of heath infrastructure/facilities and even spread of general infrastructure across the 44 councils of the state remains a reference point. Therefore, for our respected colleague to know where Kano is going to, he needs to come to the ancient city to see for himself what has been achieved by the Ganduje administration so that next time when he writes, he will do it to inform. I am very sure he will be amazed by what he will experience during the visit.
• Garba is commissioner for information, Kano State.