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Emir of Kano Sanusi

Emir of Kano Sanusi: It was deliberate British policy not to educate northerners

The Emir of Kano and former governor of the Central Bank Lamido Sanusi has said that British colonialists deliberately chose not to spread Western education in northern Nigeria.

Sanusi, who was speaking at the launch of the book “Nigeria, Africa’s failed asset?” by Olaniwun Ajayi, said: “The British came for 60 years and Sir Ajayi talked about few numbers of graduates in the North (two at independence). What he did not say was that there was a documented policy of the British when they came that the Northerner should not be educated. It was documented. It was British colonial policy. I have the document. I have published articles on it. That if you educate the Northerner you will produce progressive Muslim intellectuals of the type we have in Egypt and India. So, do not educate them. It was documented”.

Queen Elizabeth visits Kaduna in 1956 with the Premier of the Northern Region, Ahmadu Bello
Queen Elizabeth visits Kaduna in 1956 with the Premier of the Northern Region, Ahmadu Bello

Sanusi is right, but was being economical with the truth. He possibly deliberately didn’t mention that this British policy was designed in agreement with the Fulani aristocracy, which included his forebears and former emirs of Kano such as Abdullahi Bayero and Muhammadu Sanusi, the current emir’s grandfather.

Emir Muhammadu Sanusi, was emir from 1953-1963
Emir Muhammadu Sanusi, was emir from 1953-1963

Richard Bourne wrote in the book “Nigeria: A new history of a turbulent century”: “British fear of public disaffection in the north linked with most emirs’ dislike of un-Islamic ideas at a time when they had many wives and concubines, and the difference between ex-slaves and slaves was not so obvious. As one author comments, seeing the 1930s as a period of conservatism, ‘The system of providing Western education to Northern peoples had, right from inception, been decidedly guarded in order to maintain the status quo, to ensure development on ‘native lines’ and to prevent the bringing up of a generation of rebels as in the South'”.

Sanusi also failed to mention that the policy of preventing Western education was not extended to the offspring of the Fulani aristocracy, like himself and his father.

This decision by the British, in alliance with the Fulani aristocracy, is at the root of a lot of what is wrong in Northern Nigeria today in terms of abject poverty, underdevelopment and religious extremism.

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