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Human Rights Lawyer Responds To Dethronement Of Emir, Rips Unconstitutionality

By Emmanuel Ogebe


A phone rang in the tiny office in which we were meeting with the president. It was startling as I hadn’t seen a landline in Nigeria in ages besides the ones you see in a hotel room.

From the president’s demeanor and the one sided conversation we could hear, it was clear that something momentous was happening.

I couldn’t wait to exit the villa to find out what part of National history I had unwittingly been privy to from that jangling phone which I now realized was the president’s “Hotline.”

President Jonathan Goodluck quietly acknowledged the intel update from the person on the other end of the line and uttered a few words “that’s between them.”

After our brief meeting, I wanted to dash to my hotel to check out and head back to the USA and of course learn who “them” were that the president was talking about.

Instead I was ushered to the First Lady’s room by my friend and colleague who told me it was mandatory for us to see her. My curiosity would have to wait.

Strangely, the First Lady’s waiting room was more full than the president’s and the wait was longer – even though it was a weekend.

Finally I made an excuse to go and check out and bolted for the airport therefrom. It was then I was finally able to get the real news of what the call was about.

The President was being briefed that there were violent protests in Kano over the installation of Sanusi Lamido who many felt usurped the rightful heir to the emirate.

What I had witnessed was the president refusing to interject federal might into a state’s rights issue.

Later I was to learn that the reason the president could not meet our US delegation the previous night was because he was in a high level meeting where he was under pressure to refuse to allow Sanusi Lamido to become Emir.

There were concerns expressed that he would become an untouchable and deadlier critic of the president if he attained that position but President Jonathan refused to meddle with a preemptive strike against Sanusi.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan

That day, I had two impressions of the president who I was meeting for the first and only time in my life.

First I found him amiable and affable. He had a good sense of humor and was decent company to be with.

However when we withdrew into a closed door meeting to discuss terrorism and my suggestion that the administration do more about victim care, I was frustrated that he seemed somewhat cavalier towards such a serious matter insisting he was more focused on rescuing the Chibok girls.

However he did subsequently establish the Victim Support Fund a month after our meeting – an institution that remains his legacy to date.

Today as I hear that Sanusi has been deposed as Emir under the presidency of Buhari no less, much as I was highly critical of President Goodluck Jonathan even more than of Buhari, I must give him kudos for not thrusting himself into Sanusi’s Emirship matter.

History is slowly vindicating President Jonathan on many fronts in his lifetime. Like biblical David, he had the opportunity to takeout his hunter in the cave but he chose not to soil his hands in blood.

Next I wish to comment on the reports that Sanusi has been arrested and banished from Kano state which raises several concerns:

1. Banishment was a tool used by British invaders to unseat legitimate indigenous authorities such as King Jaja of Opobo so they could dominate his domain. By what power and what means and in what capacity is the Governor of Kano banishing a Nigerian citizen? Is he an invasive external colonial force?

2. Banishment is alien and unknown to the Nigerian Constitution which guarantees freedom of movement and association. Indeed, the Nigerian embassy in USA sought to revoke my Nigerian passport for my exercise of my constitutional freedom of speech in human rights advocacy and I have sued them for this violation of my constitutional right to a passport.

3. The evil White apartheid regime in South Africa “banned” individuals. That unjust and racist system has been dumped on the garbage heap of history and popular participatory democracy for all instituted in its place. Therefore the question arises – how is the banning of Sanusi obtainable under Nigerian democracy?

4. The Kano state government claims Sanusi was rude and his removal necessary to preserve the “sanctity, culture, tradition, religion and prestige”.

The above are not crimes under Nigerian law, and furthermore, punishing a person for religious reasons is a violation of Nigeria’s constitutional secularity.

If the Emir is a religious leader, why was he arrested by the Nigerian police and not the Hisbah religious police in Kano?

This mixing of state and religion is unhealthy and unconstitutional.

5. The elevation of this class in-fighting above the serious issues facing Nigeria today shows that Nigerians face a deadlier homegrown misgovernance virus than the corona virus.

In 1996, I wrote to the then Head of state General Abacha urging him to resolve the issue of the annulled June 12 presidential elections which affected all Nigerians just as he had resolved the issue of the Sultan of Sokoto (whom he deposed and banished) which affected only a section of the country.

Gen. Abacha then had me abducted, tortured and detained for several months.

While Rome burns, or in this case, Nigeria burns, the President’s NSA and Chief of Staff are fighting and a Governor and Emir are fighting while Boko Haram is waxing strong. Who then is fighting for Nigerians in this government?

And above all what systems are being practiced here because this banishment is certainly not within contemplation of the Nigerian constitution? If Kano State is doing this under Sharia law, they should explain fully to the Nigerian people whether or not they are co-participants in our constitutional democracy.

It should be recalled that even Saudi Arabia, the holy seat of Islam, quarantined its princes in a hotel under arrest for corruption and not banishment to the outer darkness.

Where do these uneducated politicians get their directions from?

Emmanuel Ogebe, ESQ

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