SLS vs. Society: The Challenges of Ambitions

by ahjotnaija


The reality that Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS) is the authentic and latest Emir of Kano is gradually settling in on us all. The shocker of a lifetime, which his carrier and political detractors suffered, is hopefully now being halved with passing days. I am fortunate to be one of those who was positively surprised. In fact, I can say I was fulfilled that SLS finally realised his ambition to ascend the throne of his forefathers with his installation as the 16th Fulani Emir of Kano. It is like the mythical triumph of right over wrong, and good over evil. In short, the rented crowd of protesters must by now have dispersed into their various hiding holes waiting to be rented by another troublemaker. Their disgraceful outburst of anger in the name of mass protest against the choice of the Kingmakers must finally find a resting place because they had no justified cause to be angered in the first instance.

A closer consideration of the actions of the protesters and particularly of their paid vanguards sheds light on the ills of a society, in which the reward of a deservingly achieved ambition is seen to be abnormal. There is no other way to put it. It needs no repeating that in the larger society, namely Nigeria, mediocrity is quicker fatly rewarded than meritocracy. This was the case when the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had already congratulated the son of the late Emir of Kano, although the choice of the new Emir was yet to be made public. The political permutation of the PDP would understandably prefer the installation of a mis-choice rather than the person of SLS. Thus, the hurriedly mal-conceived congratulatory message. Although, this was later withdrawn, but the weighty message intended for the populace had been disseminated.

The Nigeria Government would certainly not want to feign ignorance on the protocol for the selection of the Emir of Kano. In any case, if she did/ still does, the Governor of Kano gave a lead on how this is usually done. In what can be said to be a reprimand for ignoramus, who felt/still feels the choice of SLS was wrong, he said the name of SLS was not only among the nominated names, SLS’s name was in fact on top the list of candidates for the Emirship stool. What more is there to haggle over since the people have un-mistakenly spoken through the Kingmakers. Saying that SLS is primus inter-peres would matter-of-fact be an understatement. No other candidate on the list beat his qualification! What on earth would anyone have against the choice of a man who is, putting it humbly, overqualified to be Emir? Well, only in Nigeria would one find angry protesters who are mad because the right choice for the new Emir of Kano was made.

Let’s go a step further in critically considering events in the course of SLS emergence as the latest Emir of Kano. From various Facebook comments and posts, the mood of the people is divided into camps. There are those are pleasantly surprised/pleased on SLS appointment. I belong to this camp. There are those who are mildly/highly disappointed his appointment came about. Among this latter group were anti-SLS elements, who would have preferred to have him jailed for perceived fraudulent activities and corruptible tendencies while he was Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). One can only thank goodness while having a good laugh that the expectation of these curious types were put to shame.

One must however not loose sight of the fact that the expectation of these elements and their subsequent reactions are not un-Nigerian, really. They are offspring of a country whose yardstick of meritocracy is highly blurred, distorted and ultra-corrupt. To be fair, there is sincerely none. Nigeria is a society where largely speaking anything is allowed in its public space and conscience so long it is not done correctly. In fact, one can and in many instances must be punished/made a scapegoat if one decidedly chose to swim against the torrent of the societal norms and values, as was the case in the suspension and eventual replacement of SLS as the Governor of CBN. Only in rare cases can one be punished for actually been on the wrong side of the law in Nigeria, say for instance, for wrongful accumulation of wealth or diversion of public funds for personal use. And it needs be underlined even that this form of punitive step is highly selective and can be a very good political punitive measure- a tool in the hand of a political punisher wield against perceived and real political opponents (enemies).

More on the lack of a meritocratic standards in the country, as in appropriate yardsticks on who deserves what, when, how and why. Nigerians certainly know this situation exists and that it is a threat to common-sense and a development of a humane society, but I am not really unsure that they do give a damn of the resulting jungular consequences. After all, they have lived/still live in the system that daily confirms they are worth far less than an European dog or an American dairy-cow, yet the system is preferably maintained than see it forcibly crumble to give birth to a new and acceptable one. This explains why a Nigerian would get for example a job which s/he deserved after all (in fact in most cases s/he is overqualified for the job by Nigerian standard!), but all the way through to getting the job he would never be sure he would get it or that someone as qualified as her-/himself would get the job. Actually, s/he never believed he could get it in the first place. He had only applied by “faith”! I mean, one can be happy/grateful for getting a job, even if one deserves/ is going to get the said job all the same, but the level of uncertainly that exist in the Nigeria labour market in view of non-existent jobs and a collapsed/collapsing societal structure would beat the imagination of anyone. This is a country that works only for politician, political bigwigs, their educated and uneducated thugs and dubious paid agents.

Understanding the wind of protest, bad talks on many social media and whines of a disappointed many over the appointment of SLS to his new office as Emir goes further to confirm the long-imbibed implicit culture of mediocrity and the conscious promotion of a life-by-jungular-standards. Undoubtedly, the protesting young and old adults alike are the obvious consequence(s) of what is/must be expected in a country like Nigeria. In a saner atmosphere, no one would ever have wanted a different person to occupy the stool of the Emir other than SLS. He has not only fulfilled the most important selection criterion, namely being a Prince of Kano, he is simply the best one can ever wish for in the moment!

Still on same issue, I spoke with a friend who was just as appalled as I was over comments emanating from certain quarters that SLS was simply too ambitious. In fact, one PhD student even accused him of pride. She was of the opinion that he was not humble enough in that his had never for once hidden his desire to become Emir! I gave in to my holy-anger so much I almost got a heart attack! Since when did it become a crime to be ambitious? Ambition in any form, so far it does no harm, first, to public/general interest, and secondly, to personal goals/choices/interests of others, is legitimate. In short, there can be nothing illegal, too much or over-exaggerated in the pursuit of a positive ambition. SLS’s ambition to be Emir is praiseworthy and good. This is a man who knew what he wanted and went for it; all his life. He is a role-model. In fact, one should and must promote this positive culture of self-confident citizenry and ambitious populace in Nigeria. A people that is not frightened to dream positively and pursue it with all might available to them, legally, personally and possibly humanely! The society must as a matter of duty ensure this is also possible. Nigeria is far away from being a society worthy of this qualification in view of how she manages her affair. This is unfortunate but true.

In the light of the emulation-worthy character of SLS and the sharp contrast the Nigerian state represents when placed against the former, one cannot but talk about the Nigerian President, who is, putting it fairly, a stark opposite of what SLS embodies. Really, the Nigerian President is at this point in time a very good example of an unfortunate offshoot of the Nigerian state. However, one must be very careful not to end up ostracising too quickly this extremely very unfortunate example. It must be said that President Jonathan is only unlucky to be a prominent figure, and being the President of the country, a vanguard-figure in the pack of millions of self-confident-/ambition-challenged citizens. Mildly put, these citizens can be said to be ambitious, but not fired-up enough to realize them. They have given in to this implicit culture of disgraceful humility/mediocrity because they wanted to be society and norm-conform. They do not want to be seen to be too ambitious.

It will be very helpful to pursue further the case of President Jonathan and his eventual ascension to power at national level. His campaign narrative is a very good example of how depraved our value culture has become. Nobody would feign ignorance that the country believed at large that President Jonathan had to be a God-ordained candidate for him to have been so lucky all his life. He was never ambitious or too ambitious to be anything, yet all these things fell upon him per chance, certainly by divine chance! Particularly when he was about to reach the peak of his political career, i.e. becoming the President of Nigeria, there could be no further confirmation/explanation of his extremely lucky personality other than a divine one. He campaigned on the theme of luck and sentiments, he cashed in on the elusive dreams of many Nigerians waiting to be favoured by fate/luck/undeserved chance (just name it!) and he won! His near big victory in the last presidential election is s stark confirmation of a country whose value system is jsut a little short of a disaster! Of course, it needs no repeating that many religious leaders, particularly the prominent ones, gave their consent/blessing to this unfortunate narrative. One would not have expected a different message from them though. They have always catched in on the people’s gullibility!

That being said, worthy of mention is another possible consequence for ambitious and upright citizens in a country represented in the picture above, namely Nigeria. Such people find themselves standing before an impossible task achieving whatever they set their heart to do. They confront a hinderance in what is a society’s criminalization of ambition! In fact, if not well equipped, a country like Nigeria would not shy away from openly devouring these people. The country and her valueless norms see such people as threat to laid-down order/rule-of-the-game. In a sane society, this is wrong. Only the opposite is justified and the case in an insane atmosphere. Nigeria is not totally insane, but definitely cannot be referenced as a sane one altogether.

The political machination of the past days which eventually culminated in the choice of SLS as the latest Emir of Kano cannot be left unmentioned. Fortunately, it played out to his favour. A different outcome is imaginable, and that would the case if the son of the late Emir had emerged Emir. There were rumours the leading opposition party, namely the All Progressive Congress (APC) swayed in heavily, so that the political pressure did not allow a different outcome. This is not incredible/implausible going by the premature/ill-advised congratulatory message from the ruling party’s camp to the wrong candidate. A quick allusion to how the choice of the PDP vice-presidential candidate emerged less than twelve years ago might refresh our memory of the workings of politics in the Nigeria contest. One must always be ready for the unexpected; even the vice-presidential candidate at the time never imagined he could be chosen! He was the incumbent’s joker and shocker for the stronger, most-touted and nearly-larger-than-life choices Nigerians had expected! In this matter too, i.e. in the choice of the new Emir of Kano on the demise of the the old, the choice of the PDP was glaringly different from that of the APC. It might be indeed correct that the Kingmakers had the name of SLS on top of the list, but leaving it at that alone, those of us who were pleasantly surprised with the choice of SLS might have been given the shocker of a lifetime in the emergence of a different, and undoubtedly far less worthy/qualified choice. One can only thank goodness for a choice well-made despite the politicking. It had not always worked out to favour the right/qualified candidates.

On a final note, there has been speculation on the implications/consequences of an SLS Emirship on the forthcoming presidential election in 2015. This cannot be ignored in view of the despicable role played by the presidency in SLS recent persecution as CBN Governor into his emergence as king of the city with the highest number of votes in the country. Moreover, it is an open secret that the occupant of that stool prides himself as being heir to a tradition which far outdates the presidency of Nigeria, thus more relevant and important than the latter. One is best advised to keep fingers crossed while this interesting epic-like development nears an equally interesting end. The end is really still far from near!