Relic or reformer? A Nigerian emir wants to take his ancient city into the modern era

Source: The Washington Post

The most powerful man in this ancient city rides through the streets on prized thoroughbreds and in vintage Rolls-Royce convertibles. One servant holds a designer umbrella over his head, no matter the weather. Another fans him with exotic-bird feathers. As soon as they see him, a group of uniformed men fire cannons into the air.

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Muhammad Sanusi II is the emir of Kano. For 1,000 years, his predecessors ruled one of Africa’s great empires. Now, Sanusi has inherited his family’s palace, its pageantry and its nostalgia for a Nigeria that no longer exists.

He is, by some measures, the most important traditional leader in West Africa. But in a country of pop stars, oil tycoons and cutthroat politicians, his reign has become a litmus test for the relevance of Nigeria’s tribal and religious chiefs. Is the man on Kano’s velvet throne an expensive anachronism?

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