The hallmark of a public intellectual is consistency — Somebody, who doesn’t talk from two sides of the mouth depending and is not bothered whether a narrative favours him or not. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is one of such persons. You don’t need to like or hate him to enjoy his essays, because they breathe life of their own separate from the man, who in the past two decades has remained an issue in national discourse.
In his new book, For The Good Of The Nation, Sanusi brings together over 35 essays that are evolving pictures of the past few years of chicanery of barbarity in the political space. These essays are presented to the public or written at various times, addressing a myriad of issues, ranging from politics, polity, Islam, identity, history and nationhood. They reflect the vision of a writer at the top of his game.
Some of these essays are not only Sanusi’s finest, but they as well are portrait of a highly intelligent and principled man doing his best with integrity and grace.
His literary, political and managerial reputation all grew in tandem, thanks to his regular columns in ‘Daily’ and ‘Weekly’ Trust and frequent contributions to such other papers as a critic, essayist and commentator on national issues.
The years spanned by this collection — 1999-2021— were monumental ones for him, years in which he rose to the peak of trado-cultural evolution, by becoming the emir — On March 9, 2020, the governor of Kano state removed Sanusi Lamido Sanusi from his position as Emir of Kano, which is usually regarded as the second or third most important Muslim traditional ruler in Nigeria. Briefly under what amounted to internal exile in a neighboring state, Sanusi sued in the federal courts for his freedom. He won, and the Federal government did not intervene to block the judgment. He has now moved to join his family in Lagos. There is speculation, especially among some Nigerian expats, that he is looking to launch a political career, perhaps even contesting for the presidency in 2023.
Now to the book, it opens with a four-paged foreword written by Nasir el-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State. There is something about the foreword: It captures topical issues and sentiments of Sanusi.
For somebody who knows him so well, it was not a surprise to have a glimpse of Sanusi tilt to people’s side. He says, “anyone that desires to learn the plain truth about our country, its contradictions and the ways out of our national quagmire”.
But it is in Professor Pius Adesanmi’s (of blessed memory), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi: Man and Delegated Intellect, that we begin to glean while Sanusi may have become a contributor in national discourse.
Divided into five parts, the first part is titled, Identity, Politics & Democracy. In this part, there are 11 essays. However, it is the first essay, titled, “Issues in Restructuring Corporate Nigeria”, a 1999 piece, Sanusi addresses the need to restructure the Nigerian superstructure, delineating the individual parts and the nature of limits of their connectivity, its objective and subjective variables.
The 25-page essay looks at what restructuring means to different people in the national polity. Sanusi argues that it has been made popular because of indiscriminate and lugubrious use by the most vocal sections of the Nigerian elite.
For Sanusi, the loudest proponents are those sections of the elite who are incapable of imagining a nation that is greater than their tribes.
He says the “elite are only comepeting for vested political interests, which he has no stake. They are interested in which positions and perks they should be be entitled to as their share of the national cake.”
The essays in this collection include, Issues in Restructuring Corporate Nigeria, Values and Identity in the Muslim North, On the Islamisation of Politics and Politicisation of Islam, Muslim Leaders and the Myth of Marginalisation, Nasir el-Rufai and Islam in the FCT, In defence of Reverend Father Kukah, The Northern Cross in Nigerian Politics: Ethnic Bigotry and the Subversion of democracy, Islam, Christianity, and Nigerian Politics: A tribute to Thomas Paine (1737-1809).
“The tragedy of Nigeria does not lie in its population, or in its resources Our tragedy lies in the lack of a truly nationalists and visionary leadership, an elite that harness the diverse streams that flow into the melting pot called Nigeria.”
Sanusi argues that the northern bourgeoisie and the Yoruba bourgeoisie have exacted their pound of flesh from the Igbo since the end of the Civil War, and, “If this issue is not addressed immediately, no conference will solve Nigeria’s problems”. Sanusi, a Muslim Fulani, is “convinced that we tend to exaggerate our differences for selfish ends…” (p. 25).
In the 509-page book, he seeks to salvage Islam from cloyed perspectives and defends its application when righteous. One thing that runs through this book, needless to say, is his firm belief in the pan Nigerian project, which explains why he challenges orthodoxies that encourage ethnic subservience, and mapping out strategies to save the floundering ship.
Values and Identity in the Muslim North, On the Islamisation of Politics and Politicisation of Islam, he talks of politicising Islam to gain some popularity and “in some cases, turning Muslim youth into vandals and dropouts with little hoping of building a life of their own, not to talk of leading society to the path of progress.”
In this essay, essay, he takes a strong stand on deprivation and marginalisation, holding steadfastly to the fact that the elite have used marginalisation myth to deny the poor of what should have come to them.
In the second section, which treats issues such as The Shari’ah Debate: A Muslim intervention, Thinking Aloud: How not to debate the Shari’ah, Between the Shari’ah and “Barbarism”, Democracy, Human Rights and Islam: Theory, Epistemology and the Quest for Synthesis, Shariahcracy in Nigeria: The intellectual Roots of Islamic Discourses and others, Sanusi talks about Shari’ah, Islam in Northern Nigeria, justice and poverty in the region.
Sanusi x-rays the stereotype of the northern Muslim in Nigeria as a never-do-well and charts a new part for the Ulama to mobilise the citizens towards economic empowerment.
In the third part of the book, The Hudood Punishments in Northern Nigeria: A Muslim criticism, Shari’ah and the Woman Question, Class, Gender and Political Economy of “Shari’ah” and Amina Lawal: Sex, Pregnancy and Muslim Law Sanusi addresses gender related issues, especially as it affects women in Muslim, taking into account comparative jurisprudence.
He proffers answers to questions bordering on class and gender as they relates to the political economy of Shari’ah, plus sex, pregnancy and the Muslim law.
In the fourth section, Islamic Theology, Western Philosophy and Predestination: A comment, Jihad: Revolutionary Islam and Nigerian Democracy, The True Believers ‘ and Anti-intellectualism: The opportunistic Roots of Neo-Fundamentalist Criticism,
The Milk of Human Kindness: An intellectual engagement wit the intellectual challenged, Muslim communities in a multi- religious milieu: Some reflections on Madiman Constitution, Non-Muslims in a Contemporary Islamic State, The West and the Rest: Reflections on the Intercultural Dialogue about Shari’ah and Islam, Tolerance and Religious Conflicts from Theology to social science Sanusi looks at Islamic theology and philosophy.
In the concluding part (interviews), the 14th Emir of Kano and former CBN governor, says on the way forward for Nigeria”… we need to address those issues that keep us back… So, engaging the moment is critical, rather than spending time thinking about the future without doing anything concrete at the moment.” For the Good of the Nation is a must-read for all.
No doubt, the book is a magnificent tribute to the probity, consistency and insight of SLS’s topical writings… And more remarkable, self-portrait of a public intellectual.
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