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Late Emir Sanusi and lessons of life

It is not the nature of man to choose to serve, ordinarily.  Everyone wants to be served. So, I was enthralled when I met a…

It is not the nature of man to choose to serve, ordinarily.  Everyone wants to be served. So, I was enthralled when I met a king who, though entitled to be served, chose to serve. His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr.) Nuhu Muhammadu Sanusi, the Emir of Dutse, who passed away on January 31, 2023 served humanity with exemplary humility and irreproachable integrity.

Like many admirers who drew inspiration from the ascetic life and compassionate reign of the 24th Emir of Dutse, and were deeply pained by the loss, it was hard to be consoled; not even by the soothing words of the Persian polymath and astronomer, Omar Khayyam, who said “when you are so full of sorrow that you can’t walk, can’t cry anymore, think about the green foliage that sparkles after the rain”. The late monarch was a pious leader who upheld justice and radiated love to all people he came across at home and away.

I recall the remark made over a year ago by Malam Kabiru Yusuf, Chairman of the Board of Media Trust Group (owners of Daily Trust titles, TrustTV and Trust Radio) when he acknowledged the revered monarch who was chairman at an event hosted by NatureNews in Abuja. Malam Kabiru said he would want to be like the Emir of Dutse. Although, the audience may have missed the gist, but I found the remark so deep and profound, more so, coming from a fastidious veteran journalist!

And who would not want to be like Emir Sanusi? A king who was a vast ocean of relief in the desert of human needs. The 13th century poet and philosopher, Jalal al-Din Rumi, could well be addressing the people’s Emir when he said: “You are not just a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

My relationship with the late monarch spanned 12 memorable years, with the last two being particularly remarkable as the Emir and my humble self found a common denominator in our passion for issues of the environment and sustainable earth. Indeed, the late Emir’s extraordinary commitment to the environment can only be pinned to the immortal words of Theodore Roosevelt, a conservationist and 26th President of the US, who said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” The Emir, for a fact, did everything he could and committed all his resources to the cause of God and advancement of humanity.

I first met the Emir in 2011 when I was GM, Business and Strategy, Media Trust Limited (publishers of Daily Trust titles). As creative innovation was a cardinal philosophy of our business strategy, I conceived the idea of hosting golf tournaments to enhance the brand awareness of our titles and also boost revenue.

The first of the five golf tourneys organised by Daily Trust was held at Kano Golf Club and it was headlined by royal golfers, notably, Emir of Kazaure, Alhaji Najeeb Hussaini Adamu; Emir of Dutse, Alhaji Nuhu Muhammadu Sanusi; Emir of Suleja, Malam Awwal Ibrahim; and Emir of Birnin Gwari, Alhaji Zubair Jibril Maigwari. After the ceremonial tee-off and group photographs, I warmed up to the Emir of Dutse, a down to earth monarch who exuded fatherly affection and imparted deep lessons with his charming, hearty smiles.

So, when in 2020, after a stint as Group MD/Editor-in-Chief of Daily Times newspaper, I decided to float NatureNews, a niche newspaper focusing on the environment and climate change, the Emir was one of the first to know, aside my nuclear family. As our structure crystalised, he gladly accepted to be the Chairman of the pan-African Advisory Board for www.naturenews.africa

On two occasions, the Emir, accompanied by a retinue of senior counsellors and title holders of the Emirate, graciously honoured our invitation to the anniversary lectures of NatureNews. The maiden lecture, which held at Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, on November 9, 2021, coincidentally brought together Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, Chairman of Jaiz Bank Plc and Alhaji M. I. Yahaya, former Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank, both elder statesmen whom the Emir disclosed to me were his former bosses at the New Nigerian Development Company (NNDC). I too was excited when I realised that the event actually brought together, for the first time in many years, the three eminent role models.

Another indelible lesson exemplified by the Emir was keeping promises once made. When the Emir insisted on attending the second anniversary lecture of NatureNews on January 19, this year, he was quick to remind me that the event was shifted from the original date in November 2022 to accommodate his own medical itinerary. So, when the Emir arrived Abuja on January 18, I visited him at home to give updates on our preparedness and discuss other issues of interest.

I was however jolted to learn at dawn that the Emir took ill and was rushed to the hospital in the wee hours of Thursday, January 19. I raced to the hospital that morning with bated breath and was relieved when the doctor confirmed that the Emir was in a stable condition and would be discharged later in the day.

On Friday, January 20, I was already heading to the Emir‘s residence when I learnt he had left for the airport to ensure his early arrival in Dutse for the Jum’ah prayers. So, I rushed to the airport and was lucky to have spent some 42 minutes with him. Usually, whenever we met, he would want to know how we were coping with operational and business sides of the newspaper. But this time, the Emir started with apologies for his inability to eventually grace the event for which he came to Abuja. This melted my heart to the point of being emotional. Even when I insisted that his health was a top priority for us, he still tried to find out if the audience was not disappointed about his absence. It was only a deeply empathetic leader who will display such a high level of concern about an event he missed due to ill-health. This was an impactful learning curve for me.

We later discussed other issues including the threat of desertification, the last COP27 in Egypt, a big idea on afforestation campaign, cases of perennial flooding, challenges of food security and, of course, his phenomenal legacy of a biophilia golf course in Dutse. I recall visiting the Royal Dutse Golf Club on Sunday, January 8, when my royal father out of humility decided to stay behind the wheel. What I saw as we drove round the expansive golf course and into the games reserve was a massive biodiversity sanctuary for sustainable habitation by man and animals. The 125-hectare sanctuary, which consists of 18-hole golf course, games reserve, large farm, dams, and man-made river for unique species of migratory birds, was powered by 45 boreholes and manned by 60 staff.

The late Emir, in fact, did everything that needed to be done to preserve the ecosystem, promote biodiversity and sustain the environment. I recall that when my wife visited Dutse in 1998 with our three month’s old baby, for the compulsory national youth service (NYSC) orientation, she described the town as an arid land surrounded by mountains of undulating sedimentary rocks. But that was barely three years after the Emir was installed. Today, Dutse has become one of the most dramatically transformed towns in Nigeria. All thanks to the visionary and indefatigable Emir Nuhu Sanusi.

The late Emir often exerted himself to the limits due to his pristine desire to make other people happy and live a better life. He took to heart the admonition of revered scholar, Saadi Shirazi, that “when life is good and you are comfortable, bear with gratitude the burdens of the weak.” The Emir was known to have made significant strides in human empowerment by providing free education to thousands of indigent pupils. He took care of maternal health, pioneered the Zakat institution in the North, provided daily feeding to thousands of destitutes, embarked on massive afforestation by planting millions of trees in Dutse Emirate, aside other social infrastructure.

So, as I bade the Emir farewell at Abuja airport that fateful morning of Friday, January 20, I had no inkling that we were parting finally for a life time. His first son, Dan’iyan Dutse, who came to invite the Emir for boarding tried to support him to stand on his feet while I also offered a helping hand. Then the son again left two of us in the VIP cubicle. The Emir repeated what he had told me when we climbed the rocks behind the Garu Palace in Dutse a week earlier. “Malam Aliyu”, the royal father said as he usually addressed me, “we’ll do our best to leave the world better than we met it.” He immediately stepped out of the room while I followed. Shortly before we parted ways at the T-junction of the corridor, I again said “safe trip, sir”. The Emir turned back calmly and waved with a suppressed smile, as he proceeded to board the plane.

I was therefore stunned and shattered when, on Tuesday, January 31, the Sarkin Fada and Emir’s Private Secretary, Alhaji Wada, called around 5.12 pm to break the grim news of the death of my mentor, guidance and royal father.

It was, however, gratifying that I witnessed the mammoth crowd that turned up for the Emir’s funeral prayers in the afternoon of Wednesday, February 1. Indeed, the entire people of Dutse Emirate – men, women, children and well-wisher, converged on the Eid prayer ground to pay their last respect and offer prayers for the departed king who served with humility, compassion, and the highest sense of accountability.

To round off my three days of mourning with the family on Saturday, February 4, I visited the public cemetery, located several kilometres out of town, where the Emir was buried as he willed. This underscored the ultimate lesson of life which the Emir projected: that mankind was created from a single soul, and equal before the creator irrespective of class, creed and colour, except by acts of piety.

Emir Nuhu Sanusi lived for 79 years and reigned for 28 years. But the cherished memory of his life lessons will remain evergreen as the poet and philosopher, Rumi, said, “Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes because, for those who love with heart and soul, there is no such thing as separation.”

Painful loss it was. But the only consolidation is in the promise of the Almighty Allah: “And (for) humble men and humble women…He (Allah) has prepared forgiveness and a magnificent reward” (Qur’an 33:35).

I welcome the deserved appointment of the former Dan’iyan Dutse and son of the late Emir, Alhaji Hamim Nuhu Sanusi, as the 25th Emir of Dutse. This is wishing his royal highness longevity and a peaceful reign on the throne.

 Aliu Akoshile, the publisher/editor-in-chief of NatureNews, wrote via [email protected]


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