Son Excellence Monsieur Issoufou Muhamadou President De La Republique Chef De L’Etat invited Sarkin Kano Muhammad Sanusi II to Niger Republic to present his social reform program to the people of Niger so that they could exchange ideas. On April 9, 2018 all the leaders of Niger Republic gathered at Palais de Congress and listened to Emir Sanusi who explained his social reform program. This was a rare honor for any African leader and scholar. An exceptional intellectual, eloquent in Arabic, English, French and Hausa, Emir Sanusi, stunned the audience with brilliance and erudition of an Islamic scholar.
Sarkin Kano Muhammad Sanusi II ascended the revered throne of the Emir of Kano on June 8, 2014 following the death of Sarkin Kano Alhaji Ado Bayero (1963 to 2014). Sanusi was the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 2009 to 2014 when President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan suspended him obviously for whistleblowing activities that triggered widespread condemnation of the Government. Sanusi is one of the most knowledgeable and courageous public intellectuals in Nigeria’s history. He always takes a position, no matter how unpopular that was his problem with President Jonathan. Thus when he became the Emir of Kano, one of Nigeria’s most influential and conservative positions, people asked how could he reconcile this contradiction: outspokenness against vested interests and royal muteness.
As expected from one of Africa’s most successful technocrats, Sanusi declared when he became the Emir that he had a social reform program unlike most royals who are more interested in pageantry and elegant appearance. He promised to support social causes and not partisan political considerations. He set up a committee to advice the Emirate on social reforms headed by the Grand Imam of Kano, Professor Sani Zahradeen, first Professor of Islamic Studies in Northern Nigeria, former University Vice Chancellor and former University Pro-Chancellor. Members were drawn from the university, traditional ulama groups and civil society groups. Three sub committees on education, zakat and endowments and family law reform were inaugurated.
The family law reform initiative is the most controversial and it generated much attention. Sanusi has been outspoken advocate of reform before he became the Emir. During the Shari’ah debate he was a very vocal critic of the Northern Governors especially Ahmed Sani Yarima of Zamfara State who introduced Shari’ah Criminal Code in his state. He was vigorously involved in discussion on women’s rights. And because of his knowledge of the Shari’ah he became widely published contributing chapters to books and he participated in several conferences. Therefore he was well prepared for the reform. Most importantly his reform initiative is based on Maliki Jurisprudence unlike many other previous attempts in the West outside the mainstream Muslim community.
Emir Sanusi’s Muslim Family Law Reform is the first not only in Nigeria, but the entire Sub Saharan Africa and only a person of his intellectual caliber and charisma could have made such effort. It is a major contribution to Islamic Jurisprudence and the first in Hausa Language. The committee drafted the law for the Kano State Government to enact. It has not been presented to the State House of Assembly because of some controversial observations made by some preachers. The draft law known as Dokar Jihar Kano ta Zamantakewa da Rayuwar Iyali a Shari’ar Musulunci, has undergone several processes of discussions and reviews with the support of many experts in Shari’ah Family Law in and outside the state. The Shari’ah being a Jurist Law, is administered by the Qadi (Judge), who is expected to make judgments using its primary sources the Qur’an and the Hadith of the Prophet (SAW), as well as the secondary sources contained in the Malik Law books, whenever necessary. This draft family law makes it easier for the Judge but does not stop him from using the primary sources and the books written by Jurists and this is the meaning of this declaration in the draft law: “Alkali na da damar komawa cikin nassoshin Shari’ah da sharhohin malamai da ke cikin manyan littafan Shari’ar Musulunci wajen yanke hukunci akan duk kan tanade – tanaden da ke cikin wannan kundin dokar”. Apart from making it easier for Judges to make judgments the other objectives of the draft law include: sustaining love and care of married couples based on the Shari’ah, protecting women’s rights after divorce, reducing divorce rates in the community, protecting children’s rights and their welfare, protecting the rights of the orphans and promoting endowments according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW).
Emir Sanusi attended the general meeting of the stakeholders held at Bayero University as a participant. Some people welcomed the idea of the Emir’s openness while others spoke against it, because according to them he was lowering the mystic status of Sarkin Kano the most eminent leader of the Hausa people. He interacted freely and responded to questions. He also challenged entrenched positions that had no basis in Islamic Law. Understandably they were controversial issues. The most controversial that raised virulent outbursts were the minimum age of marriage and the conditions for marrying more than one wife. It is to the credit of those who drafted the law that only these issues were challenged vehemently. Unknown to most critics even the eighteen-years minimum age has basis in Maliki Law and it is not an exclusively western position. But mischief-makers use propaganda to spread falsehood that it is a western agenda. Later when some of the critics were pressured to send their written observations it became clear that their criticisms are mostly based on emotions and misconceptions because they had little or nothing to reject in the draft law. To further demonstrate their lack of focus, the BBC Hausa Service aired one them, a very inconsistent vocal critic of the draft law pontificating that people should not give birth to children they cannot maintain.
Emir Sanusi reform vision is holistic. There are so many out of school children in Northern Nigeria and particularly in Kano State, which has the largest population. Despite lamentations and previous efforts Almajirai are still abandoned and even those who acquire higher level of traditional Islamic education are considered illiterate. Why all these? Emir Sanusi is determined to find the solution hence many people are attracted to his reform initiative. As an economist, social scientist and Islamic scholar, he realized the major cause of crisis is the break down of the family therefore it must be protected using the instrument of the law. Archaic customs that retard progress must be removed. Girls must be allowed to go to school. Emir Sanusi deserves credit. This is because one of the vocal critics of the minimum age of marriage later wrote to the committee urging it to criminalize any one who does not allow his daughter to complete senior secondary school. But he does not want minimum age of marriage. This is the irony, six years of primary and six years of secondary school and what is the minimum age of entry into primary school. This clearly illustrates that critics now agree that a small girl cannot be married off without schooling, which is a major breakthrough for the reformers.
There is little or no difference between Northern Nigeria and Niger Republic. Both are predominantly Muslim and are faced by the same environmental challenges caused by global warming, rising population and weak economic base. Both the President of Niger Republic and Emir Sanusi realized that these challenges are very daunting and the State alone cannot overcome them. Emir Sanusi has charisma and knowledge to lead the reform. The success depends on the credibility of the reform. Sanusi is widely respected in both Northern Nigeria and Niger Republic. During the visit to Niger Republic he was given rousing reception at the palace of Sultan of Dosso who is the leader of the traditional rulers of the Republic. The great Zawiya of the famous Shaykh Abubakar of Chiota received him warmly with mammoth crowd of thousands of people along several villages leading to the Zawiyya. It was the same thing at the Zawiyya of Shaykh Shuaib in Niamey where both the Shaykh and the Emir spoke exclusively in Arabic. Very few traditional rulers possess such erudition and eloquence.
Emir Sanusi’s vision of a prosperous harmonious Muslim society is what makes many patriotic people to respect him including President Issoufou Muhamadou. His approach is to deal with the problem from the root and not the symptoms. Muslims are suffering from exclusion in education through institutionalized cultural barriers. Sanusi is the most passionate advocate of dismantling these barriers. He has become a major advocate of using mother tongue in education and several international media outlets have made commentaries and analysis. He has also called for complete integration of Islamic and Western education, Muslims can no longer afford to have those learned in Islamic subjects categorized as illiterates because of the colonial legacy.
Anyone who knows Emir Sanusi knows that he does not believe in blame game he wants the Muslim to take responsibility and move forward from the post-colonial laxity. He had earlier charged the Center for Islamic Civilization and Interfaith Dialogue of Bayero University, Kano to initiate the translation of books of sciences to Hausa Language as the Abbasid Caliph Mamun did during his reign, when he ordered the translation of Greek works to Arabic. That was how the Hellenic works were preserved and later used during the Renaissance. He spoke on this at the Palais de Congress with much excitement from the audience. There are over 150 million speakers of Hausa Language making it the most widely spoken African Language. Sanusi argued that there is no reason why professionals cannot be trained in this language and it is only possible if the language becomes an educational language. This is the task he wants the intelligentsia to take up. And no one has ever put it as eloquently as he did at the Palais de Congress.
Emir Sanusi is not a high and dry intellectual. He is involved at every level that would bring development to his people. As the Chairman of Babban Gona, Emir Sanusi is a key stakeholder in this high impact, financially sustainable and highly scalable social enterprise, which is partly owned by farmers. It developed the agricultural franchise model with partners that include Nestle, BMGF, DfID, AGRA, Skoll and Rockefeller Foundation. It franchises thousands of mini farmer cooperatives in Kaduna, Kano and Katsina States and it intends to expand to Jigawa, Bauchi and Plateau States and to cover at least one million farmers by 2025. Sanusi believes in improving the life of the rural farmers and making them pay Zakat and also contribute to endowments that would support scholarship as the Ottoman society did for centuries. He spoke on how to use the resources to develop education, using Mosques where classrooms are not available. He attended the Islamic Development Bank meeting in Tunis a few days before the trip to Niger Republic, and among other things he discussed was the financing of Babban Gona and another project in Kano. He is indeed an asset for both Nigeria and Niger Republic because of his global business network.
The President of the Republic of Niger, his Government and the citizens greatly honored Sarkin Kano Muhammad Sanusi II with their hospitality, brotherhood and above all reception of his ideas. This is indeed a source of pride for the people of Kano and a great encouragement for those who have been advocating for reform. President Issoufou Muhamadou and his Government listened to the Kano Emir attentively as he expressed his ideas and have decided to implement those reforms, because they are compatible to the teachings of Islam and the progress of the people of Niger Republic. People are now earnestly waiting for the enactment of the Kano State Draft Family Law. Kano being the area with the largest concentration of Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, it would greatly contribute to the renaissance of the Muslims in the entire African continent. President of Niger Republic envisaged this, from the social reform project of the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II.