Lamido Muhammad Sanusi II, a Profile of a Fulani Prince and Nigeria’s Top Banker.

Muhammadu Sanusi II, popularly known as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was born on July 31, 1961, in Kano to a Fulbe ruling class family of the Sullubawan clan. His father, Aminu Sanusi, was a career diplomat who served as the Nigerian Ambassador to Belgium, China, and Canada, and later served as the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was also the Chiroma of Kano.  His grandfather, Muhammadu Sanusi I, was the 11th Emir of Kano from 1953 until 1963 when he was deposed by his cousin Sir Ahmadu Bello.


After Childhood Qur’aanic studies and elementary schooling at St. Anne’s primary boarding school in Kaduna, Sanusi entered King’s College in Lagos, where he graduated in 1977. He then proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1981. Two years later, in 1983, he obtained a master’s degree in economics from the same University.

As a member of Toorobe (Sullubawan Dabo) clan and descendant of a clerical Muslim family that has produced many prominent Muslim scholars, Sanusi has also obtained a degree in Islamic law at the International University of Africa in Khartoum, Sudan.

Early Career

In 1985, Sanusi was hired by Icon Limited (a subsidiary of Morgan Guaranty Trust) and Barings Bank. In 1997, he joined the United Bank for Africa, working in the credit and risk management division. He rose through the ranks to the position of general manager. In 2005, Sanusi became a board member and executive director in charge of risk and management control at First Bank of Nigeria. First Bank is Nigeria’s oldest bank, and one of Africa’s largest financial institutions. In January 2009, he was appointed CEO. Sanusi was the first northern Nigerian to head the bank.

At the Helm of Central Bank of Nigeria

On June 1, 2009, Sanusi was nominated as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; his appointment was confirmed by the Nigerian Senate on June 3, 2009, during a global financial crisis.

Sanusi’s tenure initiated several extensive banking reforms. The reforms were built around four pillars: enhancing the quality of banks, establishing financial stability, enabling healthy financial sector evolution, and ensuring that the financial sector contributes to the real economy. Sanusi said that the crash in the capital market was due to financial illiteracy on the part of Nigerian investors.

He led the central bank in rescuing top tier banks with ₦400 billion of public money and dismissed their chief executives. He also introduced a consolidation process that reduced the number of Nigerian banks through mergers and acquisitions, in a bid to make them stronger and more accountable to depositors. He also advised the government to increase the level of investment in infrastructure.

His reforms received both criticism and appraisal from the industry. Sanusi has spoken at several international events attended by distinguished guests from the world of finance. The Banker recognized him as the 2010 Central Bank Governor of the Year, for his reforms and his leading a radical anti-corruption campaign in the sector. Sanusi is recognized in the banking industry for his contribution to a risk management culture in Nigerian banking. This feeling, however, was not shared by the then president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, who fired him from his job as Nigeria’s top banker in 2014.

Back to his princely origin

The Hausa Kingdom of Kano was based on an ancient settlement of Dala Hill. While small chiefdoms were previously present in the area, according to the Kano Chronicle, Bagauda, a grandson of the mythical hero Bayajidda, became the first king of Kano in 999, reigning until 1063. Muhammad Rumfa ascended to the throne in 1463 and reigned until 1499. During his reign, he reformed the city, expanded the Sahelian Gidan Rumfa (Emir’s Palace), and played a role in the further Islamization of the city as he urged prominent residents to convert. The Hausa state remained independent until the Fulani conquest of 1805.

Fulani conquest and rule

At the beginning of the 19th century, Fulani Islamic leader Usman dan Fodio led a jihad affecting much of northern Nigeria, leading to the emergence of the Sokoto Caliphate. Kano became the largest and most prosperous province of the empire. In January 1903 a British military expedition (termed British Pacification) was sent to Kano from Zaria. After sporadic fighting outside the walls of the fort, the British managed to penetrate the defensive parameters of the capital. Kano was mostly left defenseless at the time, the Emir, Aliyu Babba was away with its large contingent Cavalry for the Autumn Campaign at Sokoto. News of the British capture of Kano in February 1903 sent the Cavalry in a long march to retake the city. After successfully defeating the British in three encounters, on the 27 of February 1903, the Grand Vizier of Kano; Ahmadu Mai Shahada, and much of the Kano Cavalry were ambushed at Katarkwashi. The death of the Vizier and subsequent capture and exile to Lokoja of the 7th Emir of Kano; Aliyu Babba spelled the formative end of the Kano Emirate. The British made Kano an important administrative center and kept most of the Emirates institutions in the form of the Kano Emirate Council subject to the British crown in a newly formed state called Northern Nigeria.

The 7th Emir of Kano, who was in Sokoto when Kano was occupied, was captured, and exiled to Lokoja where he died in 1926. The British immediately made Kano an important administrative center in Northern Nigeria.

Kano Emirate

The role of the Kano Emirate steadily grew in the new Northern Nigeria. In the 1940s administrative re-organization restored the consultative status of the ancient Taran Kano or council of Nine, this receded the status of the Emir as the Sole Native Administrator and instead made him the head of a Native Authority.

Also in the 1940s Northern Nigerian agitation for independence from the South led to a national re-organization that made Nigeria a Federation of Independent and autonomous regions Kano became the fulcrum of a new Northern political class that emerged to fight against perceived southern influence. In 1950 the Northern Elements Progressive Union emerged in Kano as the first political party in Northern Nigeria, it was swiftly followed by the emergence of the Northern People’s Congress and other smaller political parties.

In 1963, allegations of fraud and misappropriation were laid against the Emir of Kano Sanusi Bayero. A panel headed by DM Muffet later found evidence of misappropriation and recommended the resignation of Sanusi. Immediately afterward, Emir Sanusi abdicated and was replaced by his uncle Inuwa Abbas who reigned for only nine months before his death. The abdication of Sanusi led to the agitation of Kanoan Independence and led to the emergence of the Kano People’s Party.

Inuwa was succeeded by his nephew Ado Bayero who reigned for 50 years before his death on June 6, 2014.

Emir of Kano

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was selected to succeed his granduncle, Ado Bayero, as the Emir of Kano on June 8, 2014. His appointment was controversial, with some believing that it was a politically-motivated move to avoid fraud charges from his tenure at the central bank. Many expected Bayero’s son to succeed him as emir and protested Sanusi’s appointment. He has been crowned Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II on June 9, 2014, the 14th Emir of Kano and leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi order, the second-most-important Muslim position in Nigeria after the Sultan of Sokoto, leader of the larger Qadiriyya Sufi order.

Lamido Muhammad Sanusi II receiving the letter of appointment as the Emir of Kano
Socio-political views

Sanusi has been criticized by conservatives in Northern Nigeria for making several comments on socio-political issues impacting the region. He has called for an end to child marriage, building more schools instead of mosques, and infrastructural development. Sanusi has called for population planning and has said that polygamy is increasing poverty in the region. Sanusi has also advocated for family planning to solve the almajiri.1

Clash with state government

During his reign, Sanusi spoke out on government policies, breaking with royal tradition. He criticized the government of misplaced priorities. In 2017, the emirate council was under investigation for corruption. Many saw this as retribution over the comments he made. The investigation was later called off by the state legislature following intervention by the ruling class.  In 2019, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje signed into law the creation of four new emirates. This unprecedented move saw Sanusi’s traditional domain as emir reduced. According to the law, the Kano emir will only preside over 10 local government areas out of the 44 in the state. In March 2020, the state legislature launched a new investigation on Sanusi for violation of traditional practices, this was coming after a high court ruling restraining the corruption investigation against Sanusi.

Sanusi Dethroned

On March 9, 2020, Sanusi was deposed by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje. Sanusi was in his private residence in Gidan Rumfa when he learned of his removal while waiting for state officials to formally serve him the deposition letter a contingent of police, military, and security operatives stormed the palace. In a video, Sanusi accepted his deposition as a divine act and urged his supporters to remain calm and avoid bloodshed. He also urged them to declare bay’ah (oath of allegiance) to his successor Aminu Ado Bayero, and stated “It is a thing of pride that made us to rule and end in the same fashion as the Khalifa,” in reference to his grandfather Muhammadu Sanusi I, who was also deposed and exiled in 1963.

Sanusi was later informed of his exile from Kano to Nasarawa State. Initially wanting to serve his exile in Lagos with his family, his request was denied and was later escorted out of the palace under heavy guard to a military airbase. His lawyers subsequently announced they are going to challenge his arbitrary exile in court. Sanusi was then flown to Abuja, en-route to Loko in Nassarawa. On March 10, 2020, he was relocated from Loko via police helicopter to Awe a remote local government area in the state. On March 13, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered the release of Sanusi, he subsequently left Awe together with Governor Nasir El Rufai to Lagos,  after leading Friday prayers in full regalia.

His view in Contemporary Issues


In 1997, Sanusi received a degree in Sharia and Islamic studies from the International University of Africa in Khartoum. He has contributed to the debate about Sharia in Nigeria. He explains that “belief in the universal and eternal applicability of the sharia with the need for wholesale adoption of its historically specific interpretation to meet the requirements of a particular milieu.”

He has argued that although the collection of zakat is a state responsibility, it may be the responsibility of the federal government rather than the emirs of Northern Nigeria. Sanusi has adopted the mainstream position that zakat is an instrument for redistributing income, arguing in favor of giving the role of redistribution to the government.

Sanusi’s position has two underlying themes: Islam is concerned with delivering justice and should not be a tool for self-seeking political agendas, and the Wahhabist rhetoric of fundamentalists counters genuine Muslim interests. He explains that Sharia is not divine but religious, and is neither uniform nor unchanging.

In November 2014, after Sanusi urged his followers to fight Boko Haram, the Great Mosque of Kano was bombed, with over 150 casualties. In December 2014, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau accused Sanusi of deviating from Islam and threatened his life. Sanusi replied that he is “safe with Allah”, and likened Shekau’s extremist comments (describing Sufis as unbelievers) to those of the heretical Islamic preacher Mohammed Marwa.2

Corruption in Nigeria

As central bank governor, he led a radical anti-corruption campaign, dismissing Cecilia Ibru and other bank heads who had mismanaged customer deposits, and (in the case of two senior bankers) imprisoned. According to Sanusi, there was no choice but to attack the powerful and interrelated vested interests who were exploiting the financial system. Sanusi has spoken on numerous occasions in favor of removing the fuel subsidy. He cites the high level of corruption engendered by the practice, the inefficiency of subsidizing consumption instead of production (leading to slower economic growth), and the fact that the government borrows money to finance the subsidy—taxing future generations so present Nigerians can consume more fuel.

Sanusi revealed that Nigeria lost a billion dollars a month to the diversion of funds under the Jonathan administration. The PBS segment quoted American and British officials that former petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke might have organized a diversion of $6 billion (₦1.2 trillion) from the Nigerian treasury. Alison-Madueke said Sanusi made the allegations due to her refusal to get him appointed as president of the African Development Bank, which Sanusi rejected. In 2015, Alison-Madueke was arrested in London. Sanusi has criticized Buhari’s anti-corruption war, arguing that his administration’s foreign exchange policy is creating a nouveau riche class and promoting the rentier economy.

  • Commander of the Order of the Niger
  • In 2010, The Banker recognized him as the 2010 Central Bank Governor of the Year (worldwide) and Central Bank Governor of the Year for Africa.
  • In 2011, Time magazine listed him on the 100 most influential people of 2011.
  • In 2013, Sanusi was honored at the third Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) in Dubai for his advocacy in promoting Islamic banking and finance during his tenure as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
  • In 2015, Sanusi received the Global Leadership in Islamic Finance Award as the fifth GIFA Laureate, following Tun Abdullah Badawi (2011), Sultan Nazrin Shah (2012), Shaukat Aziz (2013) and Nursultan Nazarbayev (2014).
  • In 2018, Sanusi received an honorary doctorate from the Nile University of Nigeria
  • In 2019, Sanusi received an honorary doctorate from SOAS University of London

1The almajiri challenge involves out-of-school children who are sent, often by their parents, to Islamic clerics to live and learn Quranic knowledge but often end up begging and doing menial work on the streets. Millions of almajri children roam Northern Nigerian streets amidst efforts of local and federal authorities to solve the problem.

2 Mohammed Marwa (died 1980), best known by his nickname Maitatsine, was a controversial preacher in Nigeria. Maitatsine is a Hausa word meaning “the one who damns” and refers to his curse-laden public speeches against the Nigerian state.  His militant followers are known as the Yan Tatsine.

3 Rentier capitalism is a term currently used to describe the belief in economic practices of monopolization of access to any kind of property (physical, financial, intellectual, etc.) and gaining significant amounts of profit without contribution to society.

Bello Bodejo’s fight for the Survival of the Fulani Pastoralist

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