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Outrage as Nigerian city bans Eid parade over royal tensions

By Aminu ABUBAKAR - AFP
Nigeria A royal dispute has forced the banning of Kano's annual Durbar festival and horse parade to celebrate Eid.  By STEFAN HEUNIS (AFP)
FRI, 14 JUN 2024 LISTEN
A royal dispute has forced the banning of Kano's annual Durbar festival and horse parade to celebrate Eid. By STEFAN HEUNIS (AFP)

Northern Nigeria's largest city Kano has sparked outrage after police banned its famed Durbar festival because of a dispute between two traditional royals.

Late on Thursday, police in Kano announced the suspension of the colourful annual horse procession by the traditional emir and his courtiers to mark the Muslim Eid celebrations of sacrifice.

Kano has been on edge since the squabble erupted between the two rival emirs, who both claim the right to the traditional throne in the city.

The incumbent was sacked by the state assembly and his predecessor was reappointed by the state governor, sparking a legal battle between the two emirs.

The ban caught Kano residents off-guard, just days before Eid in a city that is the de facto capital of Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north.

"This is outrageous, how do we celebrate the Eid without the Durbar," resident Anas Ahmad said.

"Without the Durbar, the Eid will be like tea without sugar because Durbar is what makes the Eid glamorous and exciting," the 32-year-old butcher said.

Emirs and other traditional rulers have no constitutional power in Nigeria but they wield huge religious and social influence.

Nigerians already face hard times after government reforms a year ago that have seen petrol and food prices soar and the naira currency plummet against the dollar.

Preparing for Eid, many Kano residents were already upset that they were unable to buy a ram for their religious sacrifice as they struggle with high costs of food.

"People cannot buy a ram for the feast because they have no money and now the Durbar that entertains them has been cancelled, how do we then celebrate the Eid?" said 48-year-old resident Usman Ahmad.

"This is sad and unfortunate. I can't imagine Eid without meat and Durbar."

Police said in a statement that all Durbar activities had been banned, citing security concerns.

It was only the second time in a decade that the traditional horse carnival has been suspended.

In 2015, the Durbar was cancelled over security fears after Boko Haram militants attacked the central mosque outside the emir's palace in November 2014, killing around 200 worshippers.

Royal dispute

Since last month an uneasy calm has settled on the city after Abba Kabir Yusuf, the state governor, returned former emir Muhammadu Sanusi II to the throne four years after he was deposed.

His predecessor Aminu Ado Bayero was removed alongside four other emirs after Kano lawmakers amended the 2019 emirate law that established them.

Bayero challenged his removal in a federal high court in the city and insists he remains the emir, while Sanusi obtained an order from a state high court to counter Bayero.

While Sanusi lives in the emir's palace where he holds daily court, Bayero is lodged in a royal guest house a few kilometres (miles) away where he receives his supporters.

Both palaces are heavily guarded by military and police personnel.

The Durbar attracts people from all over Nigeria as well as Western tourists.

They gather outside the palace a day after Eid for a colourful procession of horses.

Royals and courtiers display equestrian skills as part of their homage to the emir, who acknowledges their greetings seated on horseback.

For the three days, the emir tours the city on horseback in a huge procession, with residents lining the streets.

"It is most unfair," said 43-year-old Hannatu Shamsu, a mother of three who returned to her native Kano from the capital Abuja on Thursday for the Durbar.

"I came yesterday with anticipation for the Durbar, which my children have been eager to attend, but hours after, the ban was announced. I'm really angry," she said.

While expressing his "shock and annoyance", resident Hashimu Kabir blamed the two royals for the "disastrous ban".

"There can't be two emirs in Kano," the 56-year-old textile trader said.

"I don't blame the police for the ban since each of the two royals is claiming right to the throne."

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