The Boy Who Would Be King: The Inspiring Story of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

 

BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS

Sanusi Lamido Aminu Sanusi (Sabon Sarkin Kano, Mai Martaba Sanusi Lamido Sanusi) was born in the ancient city of Kano in northern Nigeria on the 31st of July, 1961. His grandfather was Sir Muhammadu Sunusi, the 11th Emir of Kano. He is of the Sullubawa clan of the Torobe Fulani. His father was Muhammad Lamido Sanusi, a career diplomat and technocrat who was the Nigerian Ambassador to Belgium, China and Canada, and thereafter served as the Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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EDUCATION

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He had his primary school education at the St. Anne’s Catholic Primary School, Kakuri, Kaduna (up to 1973 where he got his First School Leaving Certificate, FSLC) then he had his high school education at the King’s College, Lagos from 1973 to 1977. He was admitted in 1977 to the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna State where he finished with degrees in Economics in 1981 and later he was off to the International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan and got a degree in Islamic Law. He did his national youth service (NYSC) after graduating from ABU and later registered for his masters degree programme in Developmental Economics at the same ABU and he finished in 1984 with a distinction. From 1983 to 1985, he was a lecturer of economics at ABU. It was after his brief teaching career that he veered off to banking.

International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan.

International University of Africa, Khartoum, Sudan.

BANKING CAREER

Sanusi at the West African Financial Institute.

Sanusi at the West African Financial Institute.

He started his sojourn in the banking industry when he joined Icon Limited (Merchant Bankers) in 1985 and spent seven years. At Icon Limited, he gained experience in various fields as follows: financial advisory services, issuing house activities, privatization, debt conversion, marketing and credit. He later became the Area Manager of the Kano Area Office (North) before he tendered his resignation in order to pursue his higher education. This organization is a subsidiary of Morgan Guaranty Trust Bank of New York, and Baring Brothers of London.

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From 1991 to 1997, he was at the International University of Africa in Khartoum, Sudan where he was at first a student of Arabic before bagging a second Bachelor’s degree, in Shariah and Islamic Studies. He finished in Sudan in 1997 with a First Class Degree in Sharia and Islamic Studies with a strong elective in Arabic. By May 1997, he was back to banking as he joined the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, then newly-privatized, as a Principal Manager II in the Credit Risk Management Division. In January 1998, he was promoted to Principal Manager I and in December 1998, he was made the Assistant General Manager. In January 2002, he was promoted to the position of a Deputy General Manager and a General Manager, March 2005.

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In September 2005, he moved on to the First Bank of Nigeria as an Executive Director (Risk and Management Control). In January 2009, he was elevated to the post of the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of First Bank, becoming the first person from the northern region of the country to be appointed to such a post since the bank’s establishment in 1894 (as Bank of British West Africa). It is the oldest bank in the country. In the banking industry, he is widely respected and known for his contribution to the development of the risk management culture and control mechanisms. Sanusi was also the Chairman of the Kakawa Discount House and he was also on the Board of the First Bank of Nigeria (UK) Limited.

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LOVE, MARRIAGE AND CHILDREN

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Sanusi Lamido Daughters Children

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With his wife back in the days.

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BECOMING THE CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR

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His nomination for the position came on the 1st of June, 2009. Sanusi is popular for saying he never lobbied for the job and that he never even knew President Yar’adua when he nominated him. The Nigerian Senate confirmed his nomination on the 3rd of June after grilling him for three hours, some top bankers in the country made spirited moves to block his confirmation, he was already at loggerheads with the Chief Executive Officer of the Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola over the de-marketing of the bank. On the 9th of June, 2009, he was appointed the 10th Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, coming at a time when the nation was caught in the middle of lingering global economic crisis worsened by sharp drop in oil prices. Sanusi was believed to come on board with fresh strategies to salvage the economy.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi visiting the office of the Delta State Governor as CBN governor.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi visiting the office of the Delta State Governor as CBN governor.

But Sanusi had barely settled in at the Marble House as the CBN Governor than he started going ballistic. In a tone that could be translated to mean a criticism of the Yar’adua’s Seven Point Agenda, he said:

My view is that until we address the infrastructural problem in this country, we will not even begin to solve our problems. As a matter of fact, my view is that in the seven-point agenda, if we could just focus on two or three things and finish them up in the next four years, we will be far more effective in contributing to this country than focused on seven.

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When the heat was directed at him, Sanusi fired back that he did not beg for any job o…lol!

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On the 20th of February, while he was away in Niamey, Niger Republic on official duty, he was suspended from office by President Goodluck Jonathan. However, the suspension was mired in serious controversy as it is widely believed in the country that Sanusi was disengaged from his duties because he blew the lid over the $20 billion reportedly missing from the nation’s coffers.

 

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As the CBN governor, he launched a radical move to save the country’s major banks from what he referred to as an impending collapse. In August 2009, his ‘rescue’ of major commercial banks in the country (Afribank, Union Bank, Oceanic Bank, Finbank and Intercontinental Bank), involved injecting the sum of N400 billion naira to these banks as bailout funds. Sanusi did not just stop at injecting these funds, he also went ahead to fire the chief executive officers of these banks. In a nation where ethnic and religious tensions are always high, he was accused of nursing a hidden agenda in pursuing these executives from office. “We had to move in to send a strong signal that such recklessness on the part of bank executives will no longer be tolerated.” Following the dismissal of the bank executives, 16 senior bank officials were hauled before the courts on the charges of fraud, handing out loans to companies they invested in, giving loans to non-existing companies and even manipulating share prices in collusion with unscrupulous stockbrokers.

Sanusi went further to defend his policies stating that they were aimed at preventing the banking system from experiencing a major crisis. However, his detractors felt otherwise with some stating that it was because he had some personal scores to settle with some of the bank CEOs while some others felt he was doing the right thing. A group called the Renaissance Professionals launched a massive and unprecedented media campaign against him but he stated that he would not be cowed into not carrying out his duties. He further explained that the way forward was fighting the vested interests. He was grateful for the support he received from the Yar’adua presidency, the financial minister and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Sanusi supported the removal of the fuel subsidy. He argued that the process encouraged too much corruption and affects the rate of growth of the economy. Many Nigerians went vociferously against the removal of the fuel subsidy.

As the CBN Governor, he introduced a range of reforms which include:

-Mandatory change of external auditors after a decade.

-Compulsory retirement of chief executive officers who have spent more than 10 years in office.

-A tenure limit of 12 years of non-executive directors.

-Review of the guidelines to promote lending to the real sector.

-Abolition of universal banking and issuance of graduated authorization for licenses of international nature and regional levels.

-Improved coordination with the regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and the National Pension Commission (PenCOM) to institutionalize system stability.

-Restoration of stability in the foreign exchange and money markets.

-Improved investments in capacity building and process efficiency in the CBN.

Upon his return to the country after his suspension as the CBN governor, he was arrested and detained by operatives of the State Security Service and his international passport was confiscated. President Jonathan said he was suspended because he was indicted for financial recklessness by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), an accusation that Sanusi vehemently denied. On the 3rd of May, 2014, he was prevented by the operatives of the SSS from travelling out of the country via the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano State. His passport was then seized again despite presenting an order from a Lagos State High Court preventing the government from either harassing him or restraining his movement. The SSS counsel said his passport was seized over his investigation for allegedly sponsoring terrorism.

WHAT OTHERS SAY ABOUT HIM

Having said that, I would like to congratulate the people of Kano on the choice of His Highness Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as their 57th Emir. The story of Sanusi’s ascension to the throne of his forebears is interesting and will be told for several generations. As a child, Sanusi’s nickname was “crown prince”. From his primary school days, he did not hide his desire to become the Emir of Kano, and he occasionally suffered for it.

Sanusi had always been broadminded and intelligent. A personal story will suffice here. In the early days of this newspaper, as with all newspapers, it was tough getting adverts, especially from bluechip companies and banks. Adverts from First Bank were particularly impossible for new newspapers. Within a year after we started, Sanusi was appointed executive director at First Bank. It was a big appointment for him. Before then, he was a general manager at UBA. Almost immediately he became executive director at First Bank, I placed a call to him and gave him the assignment of ensuring that LEADERSHIP start getting his bank’s adverts. When he appeared not to be succeeding fast enough, I went to Lagos to see him. He was very happy to see me and he immediately called the man in charge of advert placements to his office. When the man arrived, he introduced me as the publisher of LEADERSHIP and asked him why he was yet to start giving adverts to the paper in spite of his instructions. The man went through a litany of complaints. At a point, Sanusi got angry and told him, “Look my friend, I told you that LEADERSHIP is a national paper that is very popular with northerners and we need to advertise in it. If as ED and a northerner you will not take my word, get out of my office.” The man left and I jokingly told Sanusi, “It appears LEADERSHIP would have to wait until you become managing director before we can get First Bank’s adverts.” His response to me is the stuff for history books. He looked at me and said in Hausa, “Haba Sam, have you ever heard of a northerner becoming the MD of First Bank? Just pray that I should become CBN governor and then Emir of Kano.” We both laughed. I never discussed the advert issue with him again. Then, around October 2005, one of LEADERSHIP’s editors walked up to me and said, “Sir, your friend Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has been appointed First Bank’s MD.” I looked at him and said, “Get out my friend. That’s how you spread rumours.” He laughed and stuck to his position. I then said, “Anyway, let me call Sanusi.” I tried him several times but could not get through. I then sent him a text message asking him to call me. He did in less than five minutes. He told me he was in a board meeting in Dubai. I then told him that one of my editors had been spreading the dangerous rumour that he had been appointed the managing director of First Bank. He said it was true but he would fully take over in January 2006. “What!” I said. “What happened to the received wisdom that northerners do not get appointed First Bank’s MD?” He laughed and said we would talk when he returned.

And now wait for this… Even before Sanusi took over, the same man in charge of advert placements who had rebuffed him about a year earlier started passing lots of adverts to LEADERSHIP. When I told Sanusi this, we both had a good laugh.

Then, one day in late May 2009, Aniebo Nwamu walked into my office at about 10pm to declare that Sanusi had been appointed governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to succeed Charles Soludo. Everyone in LEADERSHIP knew Aniebo’s relationship with Soludo’s CBN. I immediately placed a call to Sanusi who confirmed that indeed President Umaru Yar’Adua had called him to inform him about it more than three weeks earlier. I immediately cut off the conversation so that he would not plead that the news should not be reported. I called in the editor and told him to lead the next day’s edition with the story. After the announcement was made, I called him to say “one more”, by which I meant his appointment as the Emir of Kano. That happened yesterday to the applause and jubilation of the entire country, except for a few misguided young men.

I told someone yesterday that if President Jonathan had not treated Sanusi so shabbily, he probably would not have been so favoured to succeed Ado Bayero. Whatever God destines must happen, no matter human machinations.

May God grant the 57th Emir of Kano a long and peaceful reign.

Ran Sarki ya dade! –Sam Nda Isaiah, LEADERSHIP

AWARDS, HONOURS, LAURELS AND RECOGNITIONS

-Vanguard Newspaper Man of the Year 2009.

-The Nation Newspaper Man of the Year, 2009.

-Leadership Newspaper Man of the Year, 2009.

-2011: Listed as one of the TIME 100 Most Influential People in the World.

-Speaker, Warwick Economics Summit, February 2012. Here, he talked about the reforms of the banking sector in Nigeria and the impact on the economy.

-He is a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN).

2010/2011: Central Bank Governor of the Year (global award category given by The Banker, a global financial intelligence magazine for his anti-corruption drive focused on saving 24 banks that were almost collapsing and pushing for the prosecution of senior bankers involved in the corruption, leading to the eventual imprisonment of two banking executives).

-2010/2011: Central Bank Governor of the Year for Africa (given by The Banker, a global financial intelligence magazine).

-Silverbird’s Man of the Year 2010.

-Tribune Newspaper Man of the Year 2010.

-On 22nd July 2010, he was honoured with 4th highest national honour in Nigeria, the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by President Goodluck Jonathan.

-In November 2010, he was given a special invitation by the United States Congressional Sub-Committee on International Monetary Policy and Trade to give testimony at a hearing on The Global Financial Crisis and Financial Reforms in Nigeria.

2010 Sardauna Leadership Award recipient.  

-African Leadership Person of the Year 2011.

-Forbes Africa Magazine Person of the Year 2011.

-Honorary doctorate degrees (University of Benin, UNIBEN, Science, Bayero University, Kano, BUK, Letters, Benue State University, Makurdi, Science, University of Jos, UNIJOS, Law and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Business Administration).

THE SHARIA SCHOLAR

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In addition to pursuing his career as a banker, he also took time out to learn about Islam, his faith, with a focus on the Sharia legal system. He bagged a degree in Sharia and Islamic Studies from the African International University, Khartoum, Sudan. He has delivered various speeches and papers on various issues from Sharia to women to the economy within the Islamic framework. In September 2000, he wrote a piece (actually an editorial) titled Shariah and the Woman Question in the Daily Trust. The piece is reproduced below:

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Ali Mazrui’s brilliant inter-view in Weekly Trust (18/8/2000) opened a new vista in the Shariah debate: the internal Islamic discourse aimed at ensuring that the on going Shariah project does not end up in the misapplication of Shariah and misuse of Islamic concepts as a justification for the entrenchment of latent or manifest interests.

Now that it seems clear that the various state governments of the Muslim North have affirmed their right to promulgate Islamic laws under the constitution, it is timely that Mazrui has reminded us once more that the Shariah, though a Divine law, is subject to human interpretation and is often not completely free from subjectivities.

Mazrui begins by summing up his major reservations in terms of what he calls “excessive legalism”, a pre-occupation with “is this halal (lawful) or haram (un1awful)”? Yet on a closer reading of the interview, one concludes that the term “excessive legalism” was used flippantly, possibly because of the nature of the medium. Shariah, by definition, is inseparable from legalism. However, what clearly emerges is that Mazrui objects to the tendency to see Islamic law as being in perpetual statis, the failure to exert the intellect in the quest for new definitions and the implicit assumption that the founders of the various schools of law have once and for all asked and answered all questions for all Muslims everywhere to eternity. In this, Mazrui hits the problem of the Muslim North in this regard right on the head.

The traditional educational system in the Muslim North, which forms the bedrock of Islamic scholarship revolves around a set of books introduced to the region by the Almoravids, centred on Maliki law, with the Mukhtasar of Sidi Ali as the magnum opus. Let me say that education itself is of a high standard. It is difficult and requires a strong sense of discipline and commitment. Yet despite all its strengths, it is bedevilled by all the usual problems linked to a stagnant system. It encourages rote learning, does not welcome imagination and most dangerous of all, perpetuates the myth that scholars living at some historical point have somehow transcended the limitations of mortal knowledge and offered solutions for problems they had no idea about.

The system confuses belief in the universal and eternal applicability of the Shariah with the need for a wholesale adoption of its historically-specific interpretation to meet the requirements of a particular milieu. This confusion in turn throws the Ulama into a cul- de-sac of sorts. If society changes and evolves, new questions are thrown up and, consequently, new priorities are set and options are re evaluated if Shariah is to be relevant. But the flexibility (muruna) and evolution (tatawwur) which are needed for the law to be applicable and relevant to every time and place are denied Shariah by the very failure to contextualize rulings (mazahib) in their historico- culturally specific milieu. We have thus foreclosed the option of academic space within which a discursive trend may evolve, strictly based on the herneneutics of Islam and not derived from or reducible to alien concepts, and on the basis of which we can amend, adapt, extend or abrogate previous rulings and priorities and arrive at new equally valid but more relevant ones.

At the level of praxis, the wholesale adoption of this law (or rather, this set of rulings) and its forced implementation on modern society has the effect of seeking to turn back the clock of history and revert us to the cultural conditions, value systems and even ideological priorities of medieval Arabia, that is, the context in which these rulings were first compiled. Nowhere is this evident as with the obsession of all modern attempts at implementing Shariah with the woman question. Of a certainty the- Prophet of Islam and the Qur’anic revelation did come up with guidelines for women in terms of conduct, dressing and the regulation of cross-sexual interaction. But there is no evidence that the Prophet (S.A.W) was as obsessed with the woman question as we seem to be or that it formed the cornerpiece of his message. By comparison, the degeneration of political values and the emergence of new, hereditary monarchies the Muslim world came with a shift in the focus of Islamic discourse in the realm of public policy. Scholars in the main, turned a blind eye to such issues as tyranny, injustice, corruption, abuse of office and the rights and liberties of the poor and weak (mustadh ‘afin). The emphasis became one of justifying new social relations such as the right to hereditary leadership, the supremacy of the Arabs or even particular clans among the Arabs over other peoples and the need to keep women (and slaves) where they belong at the bottom of the social ladder. The interest of the Holy Prophet and his companions where women were concerned lay in freeing them from bondage to man, giving them rights in marriage, inheritance, participation and economic empowerment as well as raising their status to one of equality with men as servants of the same true God, though allowing for male leadership in areas of joint effort, mainly marriage and the family. Subsequent interest, however seems to have turned to an attempt to return to the jahiliyya (ignorance) period and a gradual increase in the level of confinement of women and restriction of their ability to move in physical and intellectual space. If care is not taken, the wholesale adoption of the legal rulings and priorities of this milieu will lead to the religion of Islam being used as a divine license for inherently unfair gender relations which are a part of the Northern social formation.

Even a cursory student of Islamic history knows that all the trappings of gender inequality present in the Muslim society have socio-economic and cultural, as opposed to religious roots. The excessive restriction of women and other manifestations of male domination are no more an integral part of Islam as a religion than say the sanctification of the Arabic language and the tendency towards institutionalized racism which appeared in some of the literature of those days Muslim men, like all men everywhere, are the last to accept that gender inequality is a social contraption rather than a religious imperative. This is natural not only because men are the ultimate beneficiaries of this inequality but also because only those who are victims of injustice tend to see it and appreciate the absurdity of attributing it to God.

One possible approach to stimulating the male mind is to look at other institutionalized prejudices that led to rulings which the modern Nigerian Muslim can contextualize. As an example, let us take the great Muslim jurist, ‘lyadh ibn Musa. ‘Iyadh was a great and pious scholar on whom al-Nawawi relied extensively in his commentary on the Sahih of Imam Muslim. He is more widely known in scholarly circles in our country for his unmatched book on the Prophet (S.A.W) entitled al- Shifa. This book, along with the Qur’an is used for lessons during Ramadhan. The point which interests me here is that among the things considered by Iyadh as apostasy in Islam is to say that the Prophet was black! Now this simply sounds like a racist remark until you take time to contestualize it. In a society where slaves existed and constituted the lowest rung, and where most blacks were slaves, it was an insult to call a non-black “black.” It is something like calling a white man “nigger” in 19th Century America. The ruling therefore reflected the prejudices against “black” people in a particular context and can not be taken as the Sharia for all times. To have a clear picture, compare ‘Iyadh’s position with that of the contemporary Afro-American Muslim intellectual, Khalid al-Mansour. In his book, Betrayal by any other name, al-Mansour argues that the Prophet was black. He quotes the Prophet as having said, on his death-bed, “we must always remember the African Copt tribes, because we have their blood in us.” He also relies on descriptions of the Prophet as “large-mouthed and bluish coloured, with hair that was neither curly nor straight.” An Arab reader can be forgiven if he sees this as a racist remark.

Several instances readily come to mind. Ibn Taymiya, in his book, Iqtidha al-sirat al-mustaqim, seems to give implicit approval to a ruling that speaking a language other than Arabic by a Muslim who understands the language is a sign of hypocrisy. Some have also attributed to him a ruling to the effect that a black woman need not cover herself since, presumably, she is not attractive. Even geography played a role in rulings. Living in the deserts of the hijaz where only food-crops were grown on a commercial scale, the founders of the Maliki, Shafii and Hanbali schools restricted zakat payments to those crops. This means, since the Maliki school is the one adopted by Zamfara, that it can force a maize farmer who produces 20 bags to pay zakat while collecting nothing from large-scale farmers of cotton farmland and garlic i.e. the wealthiest farmers in the state! By constract, the founder of the Hanfi school who lived in the fertile country of Iraq with advances in agriculture from the days of the Persian empire ruled that zakar was payable out of any produce of the earth once it reaches a minimum nisab. This was only possible because Abu Hanifa knew that anything could be grown on a commercial scale. Political considerations and exigencies have also played a role in rulings from the earliest Islamic period. The selective reference to Tradition to legitimise the rule of the Quraysh by the companions, of Ali and the Prophet’s descendants by Shiites, or any component Muslim by the Kharajites (including women in one of their sects) etc. reflect underlying economic and political configurations. Our ideologies determines which of the Prophet’s sayings we give certainty, how we interpret them and therefore what our own understanding of Islam is. The point here is to understand that interpretation of Islam has never been in a vacuum. It has always been the product of a dialectical relationship between revelation and the objective reality of existence. While the sources we rely on for our law are impeccable, our use (or interpretation) of those sources is tinged with motives, prejudices and limitations. It is the sanctification of this interpretation, rather than the imperative of Islam, that results in fanaticism.

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Shehu Usman Dan Fodio himself spent a lot of time fighting for the liberation of women. In one of his Fulfulde poems, the shehu had this to say: “Some women are in trouble because their husbands think of nothing but sex – some men eat huge meals away from home without caring to know if their wives have enough to eat -they are hard by nature and fault-finding by disposition – they confine their wives too closely – they neither educate them themselves nor allow them to benefit from being educated by others – The Shehu did not encourage women to wander around aimlessly or in mischief, but he recognized that they should go out if the need arose, properly dressed. He says: “Womenfolk take heed! Do not do communal, farm work and do not assist in herding – cover yourselves up and spin the thread, you need to clothe yourself with if you visit the tombs of saints do not have arguments – if you have to go to the well to draw water, do not misbehave- if you meet in social occasion do not backbite or gossip – the best thing is to let men-folk go to the market, but if circumstances compel you to go, dress in a restrained manner.” Some of the things Shehu said about the men of his time are very familiar, almost as if he was writing about the contemporary northern man “they fail to dress, house and feed their wives adequately they – show favouritism between one wife and another – they revile their wives – and beat them excessively – they do not educate them and if ‘they’ divorce them, they spread malicious tales about them – others refuse to divorce unhappy wives.”

The image that emerges is that of a man concerned with the plight of the woman. He wants her freed from forced labour, from undue confinement. He wants her liberated from an unhappy marriage educated in the same manner as a man. Shehu Dan Fodio’s concern about the female like that of the Prophet (S. A.W) was driven by a desire to improve her lot. It was not primarily a concern with her as a source of temptation or an object of sexual desire which must be curtailed, locked up and separated from men in buses and on Okada.

Sanusi has also blasted the northern governors over their manner of implementing the sharia law. He accused them of focusing on the punishment aspect of the Islamic penal code and totally ignoring the material and welfare aspects of the people. He said: “…unfortunately, most of the governors of the states implementing Sharia have not been good examples of what the khalifa (leader) should be in terms of following the footpath of the prophet (SAW) and his companions in being committed to the welfare of the people.”

Sanusi also believe that the sharia law as it stands, has to be reformed. While writing in the 9th November 2001 issue of the Daily Trust following the death sentencing of Safiya Husseini over adultery, Sanusi railed:

“This will not happen because men will also die. If we stick to the law as inherited from the past, men of the present can impregnate us and deny us. Brilliant aren’t they, these men? They commit a crime in the 20th century with rooms and curtains and air conditioners available but can only be convicted based on a law of evidence made for the 7th century with people doing it in the open desert or makeshift tents. Four eyewitnesses to sex in NICON Hilton in 2001? So Bariya was whipped, Safiya will be stoned. Who next? All the men escaped because of lack of evidence. So long as men are not punished for impregnating women, nothing will change”. He further argued that stoning to death was not mentioned in the Quran, drawing fire from many of his readers. Sanusi pressed on saying: “I have been told by the scholars, the mallamai (who happen to be men), that I should give myself up and face death like a good Muslim woman. Doing this is a patriotic duty that will cleanse my society of corruption and purify me from my sins”.

On the 16th March, 2002, he published an article in the Weekly Trust newspaper titledThe Muslim Woman and Family Law: Philosophizing The Debate, and it is reproduced below:

The desire of Muslims living in various epochs in different parts of the world to base their social order on Islamic principles has been a major stimulant to the evolution of discourses on Islam and modernity. Noel Coulson believes that law has at least two distinct traditions. In “the classical tradition,” the “law postulates the eternally valid standards to which the structure of state and society must conform.” The second view is one that sees the law’s function as one of answering social problems and is, consequently, “shaped by the needs of society.” He then follows up with a critical comment:

“The needs and aspirations of society cannot be, in Islam, the exclusive determinant of the law; they can legitimately operate only within the bounds of the norms and principles irrevocably established by the divine command. And it is precisely the determination of these limits which is the unfinished task of legal modernism.”

What follows in this section is an analysis of this insightful statement, with a view to clarifying my own conception of the modernist project in Islam and its relation with (on the one hand) the classical tradition and (on the other) the political economy of modern Muslim societies. I trace the root of the debate to divergent conceptions of the epistemic subject and discuss the political dimension of this ontological debate. In subsequent parts of the article, I examine the relation between Muslim family law and subjectivity and follow up with a discussion of the topic in the Nigerian context.

Islamic modernity and the question of the subject

At the level of epistemology, the conception of all Islamic laws as a static body of knowledge revealed at a point in time and space and binding upon all Muslims to eternity in its revealed form has since been subjected to strong challenge. The study of the history of the evolution of law by Orientalist scholars, in particular, has led to a greater appreciation of the role played by individual lawyers or mujtahids in its formulation. The recognition of the mujtahid as subject is only a first step towards applying general philosophical principles to Islamic knowledge. The attempt by traditional scholarship to arrest the evolution of Muslim law by “closing the gates” of ijtihad or independent legal reasoning, for instance, effectively confers on the founders of Schools of Law the status of “disembodied” subjects who have asked and answered all questions for all time. This, in turn, conjures the image of the transcendental subject, immune from history. The entire discourse of Islamic modernism, from Jamal al-Din al-Afghani onward, has focussed on the need for new ijtihad. In philosophical terms, it is a demand that Muslim thought recognizes at the minimum the subject in its Hegelian construction as a finite, concrete object of history, whose knowledge and capabilities are bounded by the realities of historical existence. The belief in an unworldly metaphysical subject, be it in the form of the Cartesian cogito or the Kantian Moral Subject, presupposes the tenability of man standing above history, conquering all spatio-temporal limitations. The rejection of this humanism takes the form of arguing for an “embodied” subject, existing “concretely and materially in the midst of the world” and “influenced, affected and conditioned by history.”5 Indeed long before Hegel, the importance of reading scripture and narratives in the light of concrete history was stressed by the Muslim historiographer, Ibn Khaldun.

The nature of Islamist modernist discourse renders the term “modernity” problematic in terms of the images conjured with regard to what became known as “Modern Philosophy” in Europe. If Descartes marked the beginning of modernity in western philosophy, the principal epistemological revolution of his Meditations lay in what became known as the Cartesian Dualism, which sees human beings as made out of the union of two incommensurable substances, res cogitans (thinking substance) and res extensa (extended corporeal substance). By claiming further that the rational soul cannot be derived from matter but is, rather specially created by God, Descartes sets the stage for his metaphysical view of human beings.7 From there, it was a short step to the emergence of a new “Archimedean Point” for knowledge and ethics: Man (with a capital M). Man became a transcendental, narcissistic subject at once of this world and above it, at once capable of cognition of his circumstances and immune from them. Although Descartes himself took pains in the Meditations to “prove” the existence of God, modern philosophy after him simply took the birth of man as marking the death of God.

No argument that discountenances God as the foundation of knowledge and of ethics can remain within the ambit of Islamic discourse. Modernism in Islam is therefore neither humanism nor secularism. The irony in Islamist discourse is that it is the classical tradition (or, more correctly, the neo-fundamentalist tradition) in the form it came to take as advocacy for the fixity and eternal validity of the totality of Islamic law, which is comparable in a sense to European humanism. By pretending that the historical interpretations of jurists have eternal validity, this tradition treats the early lawyers in much the same way man came to be seen in modern philosophy, even though in theory, the concept of infallibility of any man other than the Prophet was denounced by mainstream Sunnism. The principal difference is that Muslim scholarship never abandoned God as the prime metaphysical source of existence, knowledge and values.

In challenging this conception of knowledge and ethics, the modernist trend in Islam is closer to what is now referred to as post-modernism, with some pertinent qualifications. It shares with all of Islamic thought a retention of belief in God, and in the ultimate metaphysical source of revelation. However, by insisting that the early lawyers were embodied subjects and thus limited in their capacity to know by their spatio-temporal existence, modernism in Islam challenges the static totalisation of Muslim discourse and opens the door to change.11 The movement of humanity in space and time leads to a dialectical process of interrogation and counter-interrogation between law and the social. The law continues to demand that society conform to its core values while society demands of the law relevance to its changed situation.

Thinking of the contact between Muslim law and modernity in these terms is useful as a basis for understanding the broad outlines of what is referred to in this paper as “modernist” thought in Islam. A number of those I refer to as modernists would agree with the interpretation of the distinctive feature of their oevre while rejecting the modernist label. Fazlur Rahman would for instance not object to being presented as a critic of neo-fundamentalism (which he calls “post-modernist fundamentalism”). However, while he sees neo-fundamentalists as obsessed with a hatred for anything western, “modernists” to him are also haunted by the west through attraction. In classing Rahman as a “modernist” along with ‘Abduh and Rida, for instance, and radicals like Qutb and Shariati, the taxonomy is purely based on epistemology. What they have in common is a belief in the undeniable impact of subjectivities and discourses shaped by history on the evolution of law and consequently in the need for reinterpretation of law in modernity. It seems to me that, at least in theory, there can be as many approaches to the study of Islam and modernity as there are conceptions of the critical elements constitutive of subjectivity.

In developing a critique of traditional thought, reform-minded thinkers have been conscious of a need to maintain an essential link with basic sources. To the extent that a writer considers himself bound by faith to the primary sources of the law, or (in the case of the non-Muslim) recognizes the role of the sacred texts in defining the possible limits of knowledge, the debate is not unbounded and the epistemic chain not disrupted. The modern attempt must found itself on some link, no matter how tenuous, with the original sources for it to have legitimacy. What this means in reality is that the engagement between the classical tradition and modernity has been on the first level one of defining the limits of that which is human, and that which is from God. This is the essence of Coulson’s statement quoted above.

In certain cases, reform has involved attempts at changing the ground rules of jurisprudence, by redefining the extent to which a particular source is binding, or narrowing the scope of its application or even meaning. Modernist thinkers like Muhammad ‘Abduh and Rashid Rida adopted a salafi approach of narrowing the scope of binding law to the Qur’an and authentic sunnah (or traditions). Rida, in particular, was deeply involved in hadith criticism, contending that even where a tradition had a sound chain of transmitters (isnad), its content should be rejected if found to be rationally or theologically objectionable.14 Sudanese Republicans led by Muhammad Mahmud Taha further narrowed eternally binding sources to the revelation before the hijra (migration) of the Prophet to Madina. Revelations after the hijra were historicised and considered a specific application of law in a particular context. Taha’s thesis is that the law in its Madinan stage represented God’s response through the Prophet to the specific needs of the Muslim community in time and space, pointing as evidence to the differences in temper of the two revelations (pre and post-hijra). Daniel Madigan seems to endorse this position through his hermeneutic examination of the Qur’an’s own references to itself as a kitab. He argues that contrary to the general belief that the Qur’an considers itself as a completed book, the term kitab in fact means it considers itself an ongoing process of divine “writing” and “rewriting” as God’s authoritative response to actual people and circumstances. Fazlur Rahman insists that the traditional view fails to take cognizance not only of the general conditions of Arabia at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an but the specific historical situation to which a particular revelation was addressed. It is only by separating the historically specific from the general that we can understand the Qur’an’s own weltanschauung and maintain its coherence and internal consistency. Bassam Tibi18 has suggested that the Islamic jurist of today can learn a lot from the European concept of “the legal norm,” which “has an existence independent of social reality within its fundamental sphere of validity.” He borrows the term “flexibilization” from German juridical debate to support his thesis that “recourse to the same laid-down law can have a different content in different times and different systems.” Tibi’s thesis, like Rahman’s, revolves around historicisation of Islamic jurisprudence and reinterpretation of divine texts in a changed spatio-temporal context.

By defining the limits of that which is from God, and therefore considered eternally binding, all of the interpretations, additions, commentaries, opinions and embellishments falling outside these limits are open to interrogation. The debates on the position of the sunnah (prophetic tradition) and ijma’ (consensus), as well as questions on the nature of prophetic infallibility (or in Shiite discourses the infallibility of the Imams) all go to the heart of precisely what may or may not be subject to change. Khomeini’s theory of the Guardianship of the Juris-Consult, for instance, opened up this debate among Shiite scholars because it extended to the faqih the rights of the Imam and resulted in the revival of man as a metaphysical source of law. In this sense, Khomeini is not an Islamic modernist thinker since his faqih, like the Cartesian cogito or the infallible Pope of medieval Catholicism, is effectively a transcendental subject. An important distinction between Khomeini’s jurisprudence and its sunni corollary, however, is that Khomeini’s faqih lives in the time of those for whom he interprets the law.

It is clear from the above that Islamic modernism can never be a completely different narrative from the classical tradition. Both traditions accept, implicitly, the existence of God as the Transcendental Source of being, knowledge and ethics. Most scholars in both traditions also accept the position of at least part of the prophetic tradition (or sunnah) as Undictated Revelation (wahy ghayr matluww). To this extent, Islamic modernism therefore also differs from post-modernism. While it does share with post-modernism a belief in the death of the humanist subject in all those areas identified as human constructions, it is not completely anti-foundationalist, and it certainly does not degenerate into the fragmentationalist posture that cedes to man the right to define his own private morality. The tendency of certain strains of post-modernism to degenerate into moral relativism and fragmentation is antithetical to all Muslim thought. Similarly, the concept of a liberal state, which as described by Terry Eagleton is ethically neutral21 and whose task is to create an environment in which every citizen is free to pursue his/her moral preferences without hindrance is rejected by Islam. Islamic ethics is metaphysical and does not recognise multiple versions of the truth. However, in a number of cases, there is a dispute on what precisely constitutes a correct apprehension of this truth hence the conflict between modernism and tradition.

Subjectivity and the political

The attempts to break away from historical formulations and reinterpret the law in time and space are reflective of a desire to escape man as a transcendental subject. However, without a specific conception of subjectivity, a critique of humanism merely results in replacing one metaphysical discourse with another. This immediately raises a question ever so central to the entire debate, but always in my view brushed aside or conveniently ignored. My principal thesis here is that it is doubtful, as noted by Caroline Williams, if the question of the subject can be viewed in isolation of the structure of the political. The reality of discussions on subjectivity is that epistemological issues are folded into political ones leading to a politicisation of ontological questions.

Even a cursory examination of the debate between “modernity” and “tradition” within Islam would show that ultimately, the central questions that define the contested arena are socio-political in nature. Many of the questions deal with human rights (including the rights of religious minorities in a Muslim state), the position of women in the family and society including their economic and political rights, the class character of the state and questions of social and economic justice. There is also a second equally important issue. The debate within the Muslim world (including within sub-Saharan Africa) is no longer one held between western educated, “modernist” Muslims and traditional ulama without western education. The call for implementation of sharia in mainly secular emergent states is a matter determined by political forces, many of which are represented by western educated Muslims with an overtly religious political agenda. Of recent, these movements have degenerated into what Olivier Roy refers to as “neo-fundamentalism.” As argued by Roy, Islamist movements have not abandoned the populist theme of a “return to Islam.” What has changed is that

” the revolutionary project of ideologically transforming the society is being replaced by a plan to implement the sharia and purify mores, while the political, economic, and social realms are challenged only in words. Women are denied participation in political life. The right to individual interpretation (ijtihad) has been surrendered. Today’s Islamism, from which both political reflection and ascetic elitism have disappeared, focuses all its actions on filling daily life with morality and establishing the sharia. It replaces discourse on the state with discourse on society “

This picture of neo-fundamentalism, so vividly painted by Roy, is found in places like Nigeria where the “Islamisation” project is limited to implementation of Sharia penal code, defining the place of woman in public space and denying individual Muslims the right to ijtihad. In an unprecedented act of comedy, one of the state governors in Northern Nigeria has decided to spend part of his poor state’s meagre resources on the purchase of turbans to be worn by secondary school boys as part of their uniform. Neo-fundamentalism has appropriated what Coulson called the “classical tradition” in discourse for its political instrumentality, and thereby seeks to create a totalised, self-enclosed world view in which dialogue is arrested and dissent anathematized as being at variance with the truth. Whenever I use the term neo-fundamentalism in this paper, it is to be understood in the sense defined by Roy.

My thesis is that at its core, the debate on the question of the subject is largely a contest for political space. Many “conservative” scholars in reality seek nothing but the restoration or entrenchment of social relations and political structures inherited from the past. Many modernists seek to challenge these structures. The conflict between Iranian ulama led by Khomeini and Mutahhari on the one hand, and radical and liberal scholars like Shariati and Bazargan on the other was just one example. In January 1985, the leader of the Sudanese Republicans, Ustadh Mahmoud Taha was executed for “blasphemy” by a government in which the Islamic Front led by Dr Turabi was a major participant. Taha had declared, among other things, that the “Islamic” laws of September 1983 “violated Islam itself” and made it repugnant; that they were enacted to terrorize the people into submission and that they discriminated against non-Muslim citizens who represented one-third of the country’s population.

This position also holds true for debates on Muslim personal law. In northern Nigeria, which is the area of interest in this paper, there has been over centuries an intermingling between cultural practices and Islam to the extent that in many cases, Muslim men and women take as a religious duty that which is a product of Hausa or Fulani culture. This is true of Nigeria as it is of the rest of the Muslim world where often, as noted by Eva Rosander, “the line between indigenous custom and Islam is often ambiguous.” According to this view, “local history and culture contribute to the religious practices and beliefs of Muslims around the world,” leading to the perception of “tradition” as an “essential part of the local Muslim heritage.” Joseph Schacht goes so far as to assert that “the laws which rule the lives of the Muslim peoples have never been coextensive with pure Islamic law, although this last has always formed an important ingredient of them.” Although, like Rosander, Schacht’s focus is on custom as the overriding reason for this, in reality “custom” itself is but a pseudonym for the dominant ideology or world view in society. As argued by Ayesha Imam, “societies characterised by class, gender, racial or other forms of hierarchy are supported and legitimated by ideology.” Imam’s analysis of subjectivity is important for our purposes not least because her research was conducted in a concrete setting in Muslim Northern Nigeria. Three of her principal arguments will be mentioned here.

First, Imam shows that Discursive Formations “produce ‘knowledges’ which are given by the terms of the discourse itself and which pre-empt the space for and possibility of other ‘knowledges’ to be produced.”35 Second, she affirms that “analysis of subjectivity is not limited to ideology as systems of ideational representations,” but includes what is implicit in modes of action “in specific and concrete social structures.” Finally, she argues in the specific case of Hausaland that “Muslim identity was already part of the constitution of subjectivity” but the possibility always exists for the articulation of a particular law or practice as a constituent of Muslimness by the dominant discourses. In what follows, we will examine the interplay of the factors discussed in this section in constructing discourses in Muslim family law in general, and in Nigeria in particular. 

On the 29th of March, he continued the piece as follows:

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ANALYSIS

Subjectivity and the political

The attempts to break away from historical formulations and reinterpret the law in time and space are reflective of a desire to escape man as a transcendental subject. However, without a specific conception of subjectivity, a critique of humanism merely results in replacing one metaphysical discourse with another. This immediately raises a question ever so central to the entire debate, but always in my view brushed aside or conveniently ignored. I begin from the premise that it is doubtful, as noted by Caroline Williams, if the question of the subject can be viewed in isolation of the structure of the political. The reality of discussions on subjectivity is that epistemological issues are folded into political ones leading to a politicisation of ontological questions. I will explain.

Even a cursory examination of the debate between modernity and “tradition” within Islam would show that ultimately, the central questions that define the contested arena are socio-political in nature. Many of the questions deal with human rights (including the rights of religious minorities in a Muslim state), the position of women in the family and society including their economic and political rights, the class character of the state and questions of social and economic justice, etc.

But there is a second equally important issue. The debate within the Muslim world (including within sub-Saharan Africa) is no longer one held between western educated, “modernist” Muslims and traditional ulama without western education. The implementation of sharia in mainly secular emergent states is a matter determined by political forces. A number of movements have emerged in the Muslim world with an overtly political religious agenda. Of recent, these movements have degenerated into what Olivier Roy refers to as “neo-fundamentalism.” As argued by Roy, Islamist movements have not abandoned the populist theme of a “return to Islam” What has changed is that

the revolutionary project of ideologically transforming the society is being replaced by a plan to implement the sharia and purify mores, while the political, economic, and social realms are challenged only in words. Women are denied participation in political life. The right to individual interpretation (ijtihad) has been surrendered. Today’s Islamism, from which both political reflection and ascetic elitism have disappeared, focuses all its actions on filling daily life with morality and establishing the sharia. It replaces discourse on the state with discourse on society 7

This picture of neo-fundamentalism, so vividly painted by Roy, is found in places like Nigeria where the “Islamisation” project is limited to implementation of Shariah penal code, defining the place of a woman in public space and denying individual Muslims the right to ijtihad. In an unprecedented act of comedy, one of the state governors in Northern Nigeria has decided to spend part of his poor state’s meagre resources on the purchase of turbans to be worn by secondary school boys as part of their uniform. Neo-fundamentalism has appropriated what Coulson called the “classical tradition” in discourse for its political instrumentality, and thereby seeks to create a totalised, self-enclosed world view in which dialogue is arrested and dissent anathematized as being at variance with the truth.

My thesis is that at its core, the debate on the question of the subject is largely a contest for political space. Many “conservative” scholars in reality seek nothing but the restoration or entrenchment of social relations and political structures inherited from the past. Many modernists seek to challenge these structures. The conflict between Iranian ulama led by Khomeini and Mutahhari on the one hand, and radical and liberal scholars like Shariati and Bazargan on the other was just one example. In January 1985, the leader of the Sudanese Republicans, Ustadh Mahmoud Taha was executed for “blasphemy” by a government in which the Islamic Front led by Dr Turabi was a major participant. Taha had declared, among other things, that the “Islamic” laws of September 1983 “violated Islam itself” and made it repugnant; that they were enacted to terrorize the people into submission and that they discriminated against non-Muslim citizens who represented one-third of the country’s population.

This position also holds true for debates on Muslim personal law. In northern Nigeria, which is the area of interest in this paper, there has been over centuries, an intermingling between cultural practices and Islam to the extent that in many cases, Muslim men and women take as a religious duty that which is a product of Hausa or Fulani culture. This is true of Nigeria as it is of the rest of the Muslim world where often, as noted by Rosander, “the line between indigenous custom and Islam is often ambiguous.” According to this, we note that “local history and culture contribute to the religious practices and beliefs of Muslims around the world,” leading to the perception of “tradition” as an “essential part of the local Muslim heritage.” Schacht goes so far as to assert that “the laws which rule the lives of the Muslim peoples have never been co-extensive with pure Islamic law, although this last has always formed an important ingredient of them.” Although, like Rosander, Schacht’s focus is on custom as the overriding reason for this, in reality “custom” itself is but a pseudonym for the dominant ideology or world-view in society. As argued by Imam, “societies characterised by class, gender, racial or other forms of hierachy are supported and legitimated by ideology.” Imam’s analysis of subjectivity is important for our purposes not least because her research was conducted in a concrete setting in Muslim Northern Nigeria. Three of her principal arguments will be mentioned here.

First, Imam shows that Discursive Formations “produce ‘knowledges’ which are given by the terms of the discourse itself and which pre-empt the space for and possibility of other ‘knowledges’ to be produced.” Second, she affirms that “analysis of subjectivity is not limited to ideology as systems of ideational representations” but includes what is implicit in modes of action “in specific and concrete social structures.” Finally, she argues in the specific case of Hausaland that “Muslim identity was already part of the constitution of subjectivity” but the possibility always exists for the articulation of a particular law or practice as a constituent of “Muslimness” by the dominant discourses.

In subsequent parts of this paper, we will examine the interplay of the factors discussed in this section in constructing discourses in Muslim family law in general, and in sub-Saharan Africa in particular.

Muslim family law as discourse

Muslim family law, static as it has been in Nigeria, has witnessed many changes in the Arab world and the Indian sub-continent where the spread of modernity, the emergence of educated women and the strengthening of subaltern feminist discourses have led to cracks in the dominant paradigm. The lack of dynamism in countries like Nigeria is a reflection of a general state of intellectual stupor and the dominance of a quasi-feudal, patriarchal discourse particularly in the Muslim North. It is becoming increasingly evident that not only among politicians and ordinary Muslim men and women, but also among the scholars, there is complete ignorance of the possibilities which exist and the actual changes taking place in family law in other Muslim lands.

In this section of the paper, I intend to discuss three key areas. The first is the nature of texts (nusus) in family law and how they are particularly susceptible to subjective interpretation and deployment. The second is a brief review of the nature of change in family law in the Muslim world and the basis for such change. Finally, I will indicate that in Nigerian Muslim history, there have been periods in which reform-minded scholars engaged dominant discourses. However, for much longer periods, the traditional view has held sway and this view is not being challenged by the logic of contemporary neo-fundamentalism. I will then conclude the paper by predicting the direction discourse is likely to take and proffering suggestions for strategy.

Subjectivity and engendered exegesis

Many of the Qur’anic verses dealing with family law are stated in a language that has made them susceptible to subjective interpretations. For example, the verse endorsing polygamy has been read by most of the traditional scholarship as endorsing polygamy subject only to the man not fearing that he will be unable to deal equitably among several wives. On the other hand, some have insisted that the permission to marry “two, three or four” is explicitly “conditional on the fear of behaving inequitably with .the orphans or husbandless girls in their charge.” Similarly, the same verse enjoins justice between the wives. While in most of Muslim history, this has been left to the conscience of Muslim men, legal reforms in certain countries have transformed it into positive law insisting that a man show proof to a court of his ability to maintain wives equitably before entering into a second marriage.

Another example is the verse “men are qawwamun over women for what God has made some of them excel others and for what they spend out of their wealth.” The Arabic term qawwamun has been translated by many, including Ibn Kathir, to mean men are the “bosses” of women. Al-Tabari also discusses many interpretations and concludes that the most appropriate is that men are in charge of or responsible for women. In a famous ruling in the 1980s, the Supreme Court of Pakistan20 examined various translations of the word including “rulers,” “masters,” “holders of sovereign power,” “persons having authority,” etc but held that many were inaccurate. The court ruled that Qawwam is a derivative of qawama and means provider, supporter or furnisher for another with a means of subsistence. The judges considered Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation of the word qawwam as “protector,” and that of Arberry as “one who manages the affairs of women” to be more in accord with the subsequent part of the text. Dahlia Eissa has argued that sexual stereotyping played a role in many exegetes rendering of this word and two others in the same verse, qanitat (“obedient women”) and nushuz (“disobedience”). Her principal argument is that the acceptance by jurists of the patriarchal social order of the Muslim ummah in the seventh century influenced the interpretations of the law which invariably “classed men as leaders and protectors of women, who were classed as infantile and sexually vagrant.” The argument is that the notion of gender supremacy is a pre-Islamic ideology revived in early Muslim thought after the prophet’s death. This was both as a return to Arab custom and as a result of the entry through conquest of highly-stratified, patriarchal feudal peoples like the Persians, for instance. In the words of Riffat Hassan:

” we have clear evidence that both Islam and the prophet made a tremendous amount of effort to emancipate women. Soon after women again became victims of the massive weight of all kinds of inherited traditions. I feel that Islamic tradition has inherited the anti-feminist bias that you find in the Jewish and Christian traditions on the one hand, and the Greek and Hellenistic traditions on the other, as well as the pagan Arab cultural biases against women, so that they all got compounded.”

The point here is that the dominant discourses, coupled with the positioning of the subject, have been central to the interpretations of texts in Islamic jurisprudence. In the 1920s, Nazira Zin al-Din conducted her own indepth study of the Qur’an, hadith and exegesis. She pointed out that in many cases, the traditional interpretations of the texts were different and even contradictory and insisted that women were in the best position to interpret their own rights from texts. Her two books, al-Sufur wa ‘l-hijab and al-Fatat wa ‘l-shuyukh have been described as “perhaps the best scholarly studies available of Islamic texts and their interpretations dealing with women.”

As is to be expected, the debate on the exegesis of verses dealing with women in personal matters is only part of the general discourse on women in Muslim society. The same process of questioning the authenticity of texts or the objectivity of exegetes has been going on in the analysis of the rights of women in public space. Imam’s work dealt primarily with women’s seclusion practices in Northern Nigeria. There has been, to give another example, robust debate on the authenticity and exegesis of Abu Bakra’s narration from the prophet to the effect that “a nation which places its affairs in the hands of a woman shall never prosper.” I have elsewhere reviewed the various interpretations of the hadith and critiqued the traditional position on woman and political leadership.

These examples are by no means exhaustive but they serve the purpose of showing how some commentators have analysed the role of male subjectivity and gender stereotyping in the construction of Muslim discourses. It only remains to restate that although a number of texts have been interpreted from a misogynist perspective, many of the injustices against women are the product of custom and have no relation to the law. Schacht makes the point that “we find that even in the field of marriage, divorce and family relationships, actual practice has been strong enough to prevail over the spirit, and in certain cases over the letter of religious law, either depressing the position of women or raising it.” Coulson also posits that there has been a “tendency .to exaggerate the picture of Muslim wives labouring under the heavy shackles of the traditional law.” The fact, according to him, is that “this was often not so much the direct result of the terms of the law itself as the responsibility of society.”

What follows is a brief review of some of the reforms that took place in Muslim family law as a result of the emergence of modernist discourses, with a view to drawing lessons for sub-Saharan Africa.

On the 23rd of July, 2003, he wrote a piece entitled, ‘The Sharia Debate and Construction of a ‘Muslim’ Identity in Northern Nigeria: A Critical Perspective’, and it is reproduced below:

I have argued in this paper (and several others) that neo-fundamentalism does not offer an alternative world-view to the Nigerian state and that it reinforces a “Muslim” conception of society, that fundamentally favours the elite and men to the detriment of the poor and women. On the other hand, the original sources of Muslim law have served as a source for an egalitarian ideology that seeks to establish a State based on social justice and to improve on the condition of woman and broaden the scope for her participation in society. I will here present the general theory underlying my criticism, and explain its relevance to the construction of a neo-fundamentalist identity in Northern Nigeria.

I begin from the premise, established among Critical theorists from Gramsci, Althusser and Poulantzas to Foucault, Chomsky and Sa’id, that all societies and social systems stratified on the basis of class, gender or race are supported by ideology. Ideology is false consciousness, which must be privileged for man to continue accepting a state of alienation. Only under the influence of ideology does man of his own volition accept a status of inferiority to another man, welcome his own exploitation and deprivation by fellow men, and indeed become a willing advocate and promoter of the very system in which he is alienated. Ideology could be a promise of freedom, or a sense of a false equality and democracy, or even the promise of a better life after death to those who endure patiently in this world the privations visited upon them by the members of the hegemonic class, in both Civil and Political Society.

At a certain level, therefore, religion is ideology when interpreted in such a manner as to legitimate and help perpetuate a structure of society that is inherently unjust, and it is the duty of all those who wish to alter objective conditions of existence of the people to confront this ideology and expose the falsity of the consciousness being constructed as a necessary step toward re-igniting the inherent potential within every man and woman to struggle for freedom and justice, and a more egalitarian society.

In her doctoral thesis on seclusion practices for women in Northern Nigeria Ayesha Imam drew on post-structuralist thought and Discourse theory in general as the basis for theorizing the construction of Muslim identities in the region. I will here stress three key elements in her thesis and explain their relevance to the discussion on hand:

Imam posits that Discursive Formations “produce ‘knowledges’ which are given by the terms of the Discourse itself and which pre-empt the space for and the possibility of other ‘knowledges’ to be produced.” It therefore follows that the interpretations of “Islam” privileged by members of the hegemonic class will be those interpretations that do not undermine it. So long as Islam is reduced to amputating the hands of goat thieves and stoning pregnant divorcees among rural women it is stripped of its revolutionary potential as a system that challenges corruption, injustice and extreme social and economic inequalities. Also related to this, established alternate interpretations of law, such as the views expressed earlier on the necessary pre-conditions for the hadd, as well as the theory of the “sleeping foetus” and other built-in protectors for women in Maliki Law are not popularized and their ventilation is discouraged and vigorously opposed.

The second point made by Imam is that “analysis of subjectivity is not limited to ideology as systems of ideational representations” but includes what is implicit in modes of action “in specific and concrete social structures.” By examining the implication of this “discourse on Society” rather than the “discourse on the State”, we can divine the beneficiaries and losers from the neo-fundamentalist project. The poor thief will be amputated while the corrupt public officer, whose crime is more damaging to society, escapes. The poor woman who gets pregnant is convicted for adultery or fornication while her male partner who never gets pregnant escapes. The possibilities in law for improving the condition of women and giving legal backing to moral injunctions pertaining to their rights in society, in marriage and in divorce etc. are not exploited and focus is on their seclusion and veiling and general “proper conduct”.

The final point made by Imam is that in the specific case of Hausaland “Muslim Identity was already part of the constitution of subjectivity” but that the possibility always exists for the articulation of a particular law or practice as a constituent of “Muslimness” by the dominant Discourses. And this goes to the heart of the subject under discussion. Muslims exist in northern Nigeria. But what does it mean to be a “Muslim” in northern Nigeria today? The neo-fundamentalist project turns the northern Muslim into a reactionary supporter of the status quo. The popular project in the north, in a tradition started by Mallam Aminu Kano and the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) in the First Republic then later with the Peoples’ Redemption Party (PRP) in the Second Republic, has now been abandoned. It is no longer politically correct for the alienated northerners (the Talakawa) to confront those responsible for their alienation (since “political correctness” is itself a relative concept). Rather, they masses are to support their “leaders” as they struggle for survival and political space, and launch their strategy for regaining control of the Nigerian State.

The debate is not religious. It is ideological. Those who criticize neo-fundamentalism do not criticize Islam, but the particular interpretations being privileged and the Identities thus constructed, which will only perpetuate existing structures in the Discursive Formation.

Conclusion

The Shari’a debate did not form the beginning of the construction of Muslim and Christian Identities in Northern Nigeria, and religious crisis certainly did not commence with the implementation of the amendments to the law in 1999 in some northern states. However the reforms have played a major role in the constitutive process as they are carried out within the coherent logic of a neo-fundamentalist perspective. The essential elements of this perspective are its unconscionable silence with regard to the alienation of the majority, particularly the women, and its excessive focus on criminal law and fighting immorality in Society, which are not matched by a zealous “purification” of the immoral State. It privileges the Discourse on Society over the Discourse on the State.

The construction of a “religious” Identity based on this perspective will serve to undermine the revolutionary project of freeing the people from their state of alienation in three ways. First, it creates a mythical identity between the interests of the people and those of their oppressors, thus providing the northern Muslim elite with a platform for political negotiation over the control of the State. Secondly, it creates a false consciousness in which the poor northerner sees religious virtue in being an active participant in the perpetuation of his own alienation. Finally, it divides the Nigerian people and accentuates religious difference (in the technical sense of a mutual constitution of Identities of discursive moments through the logic of differential relations) and a sense of “Self” and “Other”, possibly leading to an escalation of the kinds of conflict that preceded it.

The resultant “Muslim” Identity therefore fashioned the existing Discursive Formation, and its ideological character can be inferred from the actual practice of those implementing Shari’a in a concrete historical setting. The role of radical criticism is to contest the monopolistic claim of this Identity to “Muslimness” and thus create the space for the construction of new “Muslim” and “Christian” Identities, which take full cognizance of the reality of alienation and co-operate with a view to altering that sensible and objective reality not because, but in spite, of their metaphysical differences.

His works include:

Institutional Framework of Zakat: Dimension and Implications (seminar), Kaduna, 2000.

Basic Needs and Redistributive Justice in Islam – The Panacea to Poverty in Nigeria (seminar), July 2001, Abuja.

-Usman, Ekeh and the Urhobo Nation

-Islamic Theology, Western Philosophy and Predestination

-Democracy, Rights and Islam: Theory, Epistemology and the Quest for Synthesis, 8thAugust, 2003.

-Muslim Communities in Multi-Religious Milieux: Some Reflections on the Madinan Constitution, 14th October, 2003.

In 2000, while discussing redistributive economics in the light of Islam, he said:

‘…in our society…this principle has been completely subverted with public officers growing rich on the public treasury. For many of them, wealth is not a reflection of any kind of physical or intellectual endowment, it only reflects the will to steal.’

While speaking at a networking dinner for Muslim professionals in July 2004, he said:

“Whatever one gets in terms of wealth or position is made possible by God for the good of others and therefore, we should not attribute it to our own power, intelligence, status or connections. God gives wealth or positions to whom He wills and takes it away whenever He wills if and when one fails to properly utilise it.”

THE GIDEON AKALUKA CONTROVERSY

On a Boxing Day, the 26th of December 1994, an Igbo Christian spare parts seller named Gideon Akaluka was decapitated by a marauding band of Muslim extremists in the ancient city of Kano, where Sanusi is now the paramount traditional ruler. He was accused of desecrating the Holy Qu’ran, the Muslim sacred text. He was arrested after his wife allegedly used pages of the Qu’ran as toilet paper for her baby. Akaluka was not allowed to defend himself or face a competent court of law. He was simply beheaded by fundamentalists who broke into the Kano Central Prisons at Goron-Dutse and his severed head was placed at the end of a stick and paraded round the streets of Kano by his jubilant attackers who then boldly went ahead five months after to issue leaflets warning non-natives of Kano to either ‘quit or face the wrath’. We breed beasts of the most barbaric nature in this country. He died a helpless victim of senseless mob violence in a nation where the justice system is corroded. Akaluka’s murder is believed to have been one of the factors that precipitated the bloody clashes on the 29th of May, 1995. Sanusi’s name is often mentioned in this case but there is no evidence to demonstrate his involvement despite my extensive search for details, nothing to even show he was truly jailed in Sokoto by General Sani Abacha. Anyone with any evidence should kindly forward to me so I can add it.

BECOMING THE KING

On the evening of the 8th of June, 2014, Rabiu Zakariya, Secretary to the Kano State Government announced that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has been selected as the new Emir of Kano, debunking earlier rumours that Sanusi Ado Bayero, the eldest son of the late Ado Bayero had been selected. The 14th Fulani Emir of Kano, he would later assume the name Emir Muhammed Sanusi II, with the appellation of His Royal Majesty. Shortly after the announcement, protests broke out in various parts of Kano State, schools were closed down and he had to spend a while within the confines of the Kano State Government House. On the 14th of June, it was announced that the new king would go on a three-day solitary ritual in a dark room called Dakin Duhu.He was to be locked up in the room for 72 hours without having access to anyone. The essence of the tradition is said to enable him to seek spiritual support for the challenges that lie ahead.

Sanusi-Lamido-Sanusi-As-Dan-Majen-Kano-Entourage_Naijarchives

Sanusi-Lamido-Sanusi-As-Emir

INTERESTING THINGS ABOUT SANUSI LAMIDO SANUSI

-He can behave in a way that many will term erratic, eccentric or simply outlandish. A very good example of this was when he wore a voluminous traditional garb to office as the Central Bank Governor.

  • He is a fan of Arsenal FC. Arsenal-Fan-Sanusi-Lamido-Sanusi

-Sanusi can be quite combative and outspoken. For example, in October 1998, a group of young northern leaders (they were called the ‘Young Northern Turks’ including Sanusi) gathered at the Arewa House in Kaduna where they thoroughly blasted the northern political elders. The Turks put the blame of the north squarely at the doorstep of the old political leaders whom they accused of senseless tribalism. Sanusi and his ilk were ferociously against rotational presidency. They accused the northern elders for going around with ‘expired ideas’ and for collaborating with violent military dictators (ostensibly referring to Babangida and Abacha).

At the event, which was attended by the likes of Professor Jubril Aminu, General Garba Wushishi (rtd), Group Captain Usman Jibrin, Alhaji Falalu Bello (Managing Director, Inter-City Bank), Alhaji Ahmed Dasuki, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma and the patriarch and chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, Alhaji Abdulrahman Okene (Okene supported Abacha’s self-succession bid), Sanusi took his time to fire the elders they felt were the problems of the north. Sanusi specifically blasted Balarabe Musa saying the call for power shift was ‘undemocratic, divisive and tribalistic.’ Sanusi and his clique, like Usman Bugaje, voted for a balanced federalism, revenue formula and good governance. Also present at the event was Dr. Attahiru Jega, former chairman of Academic Staff Union of Universities. Sanusi also rubbished and lambasted corrupt southern politicians and stated that they would only support a southern politician based on the idea of fairness and not outright political blackmail. That was in 1998 and then, he was just a principal manager of the Credit Risk Management Division of the United Bank of Africa (UBA).

-In September 2001, while still a manager at UBA, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi lashed out at the planned construction of a N770 million naira government house in Abuja (not in Kano) for the Kano State government at a time when the taps in Kano State were not running. The government, headed then by Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, threatened to in turn pull out its money in UBA vaults if UBA refused to sack Lamido. He was the highest-ranking person from Kano State in UBA.

-Sanusi is a proponent of liberal monetarism and the Washington Consensus. He is also known for voicing out liberal but somewhat controversial issues, such as the application of DNA tests in sharia law. Sanusi also stoked the anger of many when he stated that the stoning of adulterers and adulteresses was enacted by the Muslim caliph, Umar bin Khattab.

IMF's Christine Lagarde called Sanusi the most intelligent man in Nigeria.

IMF’s Christine Lagarde called Sanusi the most intelligent man in Nigeria.

-He once referred to the late scholar, Sheikh Ja’afar as a ‘glorified almajiri’. An almajiri is a term used to describe beggars and the destitute in Nigeria.

-In 2002, he wrote a piece titled Buharism: Economic Theory and Political Economy.In the piece, which he posted on the internet and also got published in Daily Trust on 20th August, he stated his personal opinions of the economic policies of the 20-month military regime of Buhari. In his another piece, Adulteress Diary, he stated among other things, that early marriage was a cause of VVF, prompting several rejoineders. In January 2003, in an interview with the Daily Trust, he stated that the sharia has improved the moral standards of Muslims.

-In 2012, he was made the Dan Maje Kano.

-Although many Nigerians think Sanusi will make a good presidential material, he has dismissed the idea, saying he prefers to be the Emir of Kano. Telling Adamu Adamu, a journalist with the Daily Trust, he said: “It might be a good idea for Nigeria, but for me, Adamu, it is Gidan Dabo.” When the idea of becoming the Governor of Kano State was mooted to him, he stated the same thing. Sanusi’s long-standing has been to ascend the same throne from which his grandfather was deposed.

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