On Tuesday, the country woke up to a dramatic event in Kano, one of Nigeria’s most vibrant commercial cities and a hub of political power. Power struggle led to the dethronement of the celebrated Kano Emir, Alhaji Sanusi Lamindo Sanusi II, and his subsequent banishment to Nasarawa State, the same day by Governor Umar Ganduje for “disregarding the office of the governor”.
He was first taken to Loko, a coastal town in Nasarawa Local Government Area located about 230 km from Lafia, the Nasarawa State capital. Hours later, the state governor after an emergency meeting with traditional titles holders in the state and spurred by the intervention of some prominent Nigerians, moved Sanusi to Awe town, 84 kilometres from Lafia.
Sanusi’s presence exposes deprivation in Loko
Loko, a historic colonial town, still very much looks like in the colonial era because amenities that characterise modern towns are not available there. But the Sanusi visit exposed the plight of the people and the failure of successive Nasarawa State governments to deliver dividends of democracy to the people. Sanusi was caught up in the pathetic infrastructure deficit in the town, which triggered his movement to Awe, and for the first time in many years, he went close to taste what it means to live in poor, rural communities.
Daily Trust Saturday visited Loko to feel the atmosphere that might have prompted the sudden change of location less than 24 hours after he was flown into the town. Driving to Loko is extremely challenging, especially after Nasarawa town. In grimy red earth, commuters are covered in dust, but those in air-conditioned vehicles could prevent the dust. Although there is a federal road under construction by RCC Construction Company, it might take years (with the current pace of work) to connect the town and Loko-Owetu bridge that links Benue and Nasarawa states.
There are no good health facilities to attend to patients and considering the distance from major towns like Keffi, any serious case of emergency could spell disaster. Potable water is another problem for those who cannot afford boreholes. Majority use water from the nearby River Benue. Electricity is another major challenge. Many use small generators to charge their phones and perhaps watch football matches, the hobby of many across Nigeria.
Where he stayed in Loko
Sanusi was accommodated in the family house of the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Aliyu Ahmed. His father is the Chief Imam of Loko. The house is located about 300 metres from the bank of the River Benue and a few metres from the emir’s palace, which is even closer to the bank of the Benue River. Those who spoke with the Daily Trust said his movement was necessary because the house in question is the SSG’s busy family house and is not conducive for a personality like Sanusi. No road within the town is tarred, so there is dust everywhere.
Residents unhappy with Sanusi’s departure
Some residents of Loko who spoke with Daily Trust saturday said they were so happy when Sanusi came but were sad that he couldn’t stay long. Isiaka Abubakar and Jibril Salisu linked his inability to stay in Loko to lack of amenities and security, and the facilities in the house. Sources told this reporter that Sanusi did not find facilities in the house and the environment comfortable.
Another source spoke of the accessibility to Loko, which is far compared to Awe, which has a good road link and could be easily accessed from Lafia. The Village Head of Loko, Abubakar Ahmed Sabo told the Hausa service of the BBC that the personality of former Kano emir was too large for his domain and ought to be under a more comfortable situation. While at Awe, Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule Thursday visited Sanusi in company of Emir of Lafia, Justice Sidi Dauda Bage and that of Awe, Alhaji Isa Abubakar Umar II.
The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai visited the former emir at Awe and they attended the Jumaat prayers together among other dignitaries. Spotting an all-white attire on a raised platform, Sanusi preached the sermon at Jumaat. After the Friday prayers, the former emir and the Kaduna State governor departed Awe for Lafia en route Abuja.
In the delegation were the emir’s mother, Hajiya Mama, also called “Mai Babban Daki” and his son, Adamu Lamiso Sanusi, among others. At Lafia, they met Governor Sule with other emirs including those of Lafia, Awe and Tunga.
Awe, old town, old problems but better
Awe is one of the oldest local government areas in Nasarawa State but it has not seen much development since its creation over three decades ago. While towns like Akwanga, Karu and Keffi have witnessed significant transformation, the town is still lagging behind in basic infrastructure except for the good road that links the town from Lafia.
Where he stayed in Awe
The chairman’s house where Sanusi stayed does not have much space. Some of the facilities were hurriedly fixed to upgrade the house to accommodate him. The house is located in a dust area along a road about 250 metres from the emir’s palace.
Security personnel detailed to the house comprised the Civil Defence, the police and DSS to protect him and enforce order. There is epileptic power supply in Awe, but the house is equipped with a standard KVA generator to supply electricity. Journalists were not allowed in the area during the visit by Daily Trust, anyone seen taking photographs could be harassed as was the case with some journalists who attempted doing so.
Officials not ready to speak to press
This reporter approached the Emir of Awe, Alhaji Isa Abubakar Umar II, through his secretary but it was not successful as the emir said he would not speak to journalists on the Sanusi issue. Even the chairman of the local government in whose house Malam Sanusi stayed, maintained sealed lips.
Those that visited him
In Awe, reliable sources said only the emir and the local government chairman can visit under close monitoring by the DSS and other security personnel. But, the governor, the SSG and other top officials including traditional rulers have visited since his movement to Awe. Other top officials were allowed to see him on permission.
A source who had access to the house told Daily Trust that entry was not a guarantee to meeting Sanusi as the part of the house where he lives is heavily fortified. Infrastructure problems in Awe Known for its salt and fish, Awe is an agrarian local government and home to the 30,000 hectare Dangote sugar plantation in Tunga.
It is one of Nasarawa State’s areas for the production of yam, rice, melon, cassava, maize, sorghum among others. But the town lacks good infrastructure. The people do not have access to constant power supply. Sometimes, they get two days off power supply. Even at that, no one knows when electricity would return. For residents like Alhaji Salenke Awe, it is their major headache. Access to good healthcare facilities is also a serious problem, the only General Hospital in the town has poor facilities and needs to be seriously upgraded.
Alhaji Abubakar Umar, a resident of the town, told Daily Trust that the hospital becomes dysfunctional on weekends and in any emergency situation patients are referred to elsewhere, in most cases, Lafia which is about 84 kilometres away. Located just beside the emir’s place, there is nothing much to point to a robust hospital as very low activities are noticed and even some of the structures built in the hospital have not been equipped.
Despite promises made by previous governments, nothing has changed significantly in the last couple of years. With just one bank to serve the entire local government, the town does not have a good network of streets-some were graded, others dusty, filthy without good drainage system. “With the presence of Dangote sugar investment, we expect a lot to change in the coming years,” Abubakar Galadima, a resident, said. There is no pipe borne water, but the people rely on the individual boreholes to get drinking water, and even at that, the water is usually salty.
With huge salt deposits surrounding the city, the water tastes salty and according to one malam Abubakar Galadima, only a few boreholes do not have that problem. Awe town has not witnessed any major crisis but a few of the adjoining villages had skirmishes between herders and sedentary farmers. However, the presence of Special Forces stationed around Tunga heightens the confidence of residents of the town and its environs.
Besides that, there is a police Area Command and a divisional police office in the town. While the town is largely safe, the high way leading to Awe has pockets of robbery cases, especially between Obi and Awe, despite having more than 10 police check points, according to residents. They complained that those checks points are abandoned by 6pm, paving way for bandits and robbers to operate freely.