Amid the political undercurrents already defining the 2023 presidential contest, dethroned Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi might consider electoral politics, though power alternation would be an impediment to his presidential aspiration, former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Sir John Campbell has said.
Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR), has forecast a presidential nomination between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Sanusi citing uphill conditions power alternation and religion factors have foisted on Nigeria’s presidential politics since democratic transition in 1999.
He explained these possibilities in a blog post on the website of CFR with a title, “Lamido Sanusi: A Man of Nigeria’s Past and Possibly Its Future.”
Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje had secured the approval of the State Executive Council to dethrone and banish him to Awe, a community in Nasarawa State, a development that ignited protracted public discussion about the legality of Ganduje’s decision.
Sanusi had contested Ganduje’s decision to banish him in a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. The court subsequently declared Sanusi’s banishment illegal and unconstitutional, thus putting an end to home confinement that he was placed for about four days.
With the decision of the federal court, reports, especially among some Nigerian business class, had suggested that Sanusi might kick-start a political career, perhaps even contesting for the presidency in 2023.
Beyond political permutation around Sanusi’s dethronement, Campbell observed that Sanusi might want “to enter electoral politics, though his way forward is not clear,” citing different factors that often defines Nigeria’s politics.
He wrote: “Sanusi is popular among the captains of Nigeria’s modern economy, just as he is among international business people. He appears especially popular among Nigerian expats, both those living abroad and those returned home.
“Hence, Lagos would appear to be his natural political base. But Lagos, mainly its political class, is dominated by the Yoruba, Nigeria’s second biggest ethnic nationality. It is hard to see them making room for a northerner, especially a critic of the political economy from which they benefit.”
On the national level, Campbell observed that Nigeria’s system of political alternation, or power shift between Christians and Muslim and between north and south, obviously plays against the dethroned monarch.
Even under the British colonial administration, former US ambassador observed that the northern, Muslim, political class feared domination by the much wealthier and more advanced south, a condition that has entrenched the tradition of power alternation in the last 21 years.
More categorically, Campbell explained the fear of the northern political class, which he argued, had long dreaded exclusion from government and hence from the wealth that accrued to those that capture the state and can access oil revenue.
The former US envoy said: “Power shift, in response to those fears, was an important part of the 1998 to 1999 transition from military to civilian government. In principle, after eight years under President Buhari, a Muslim from the north, it will be the Christian South’s turn in 2023.”
Among Nigerian expatriates and in the internationally oriented business community, however, Campbell observed that it had been increasingly said that Nigeria “no longer needs power alternation to stay together.”
He explained the high-level politics that played out in the pre-election presidential election when former President Umara Yar’Adua, a Muslim president, died in office on May 5, 2010.
He said the supporters of former President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian and southerner, played down the power alternation when he ran in 2011, though it was ostensibly the turn of the north at the presidency. Jonathan, as vice president, was meant to finish Yar’Adua’s first term and then make way for a northern Muslim to run in 2011.
“The aftermath of those elections, however, when it was clear that Jonathan had won not least by rigging, were marked by horrific bloodshed in the north; riots that started against Jonathan’s victory morphed into rival Christian-Muslim pogroms with a strong ethnic dimension.”
In 2015, Campbell explained how the political class across political leanings nationwide joined together “to ensure the election of Buhari, thereby restoring power shift. In 2019, still the North’s turn, both major political parties fielded northern Muslim presidential candidates.”
Ahead of the 2023 permutation, Campbell observed that some of the leading contemporary Yoruba politicians are Bola Tinubu and his successor as governor, Babatunde Fashola. Both are Muslims and southerners.
Rhetorically, the former US diplomat pondered about the possibility of a southern ticket with Sanusi as a vice-presidential candidate, which according to him, was a possibility.
With the power alternation factor, however, Campbell deduced that the way forward for Tinubu, Fashola, or other Muslim presidential candidates “is not clear. Since 1993, the South’s Christian majority has become much more politicised and uncompromising.”
Specifically, Campbell argued that the centrality of power alternation to Nigeria’s presidential politics “narrows the scope of the possible in Nigerian politics along with growing radical Islamic movements in the north, narrows the scope of the possible in Nigerian politics.”
He predicted the power alternation factor “throws up an Osinbajo-Sanusi ticket, indeed a dream for the business community in 2023. Osinbajo is a Christian Pentecostal preacher, also with a positive international reputation.”
Largely regarded as a rather unique figure in Nigeria, Sanusi’s enthronement as Emir of Kano occurred shortly after a stint as the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the Yar’Adua presidency and its successor, Jonathan presidency.