KANO, June 6- One of Nigeria’s most prominent Islamic leaders, the Emir of Kano, has died after a long battle with cancer, a palace official said on Friday. He was 83.
“From Allah we are and to Allah we return. The Emir of Kano passed away this morning. His burial will be conducted at 4:00 pm (1500 GMT),” royal courtier Mahe Bashir Wali announced on state run Radio Kano.
Ado Abdullahi Bayero, who with the Sultan of Sokoto and Shehu of Borno was part of the triumvirate of influential traditional monarchs in the Muslim majority north, had been emir since 1963.
He had kept a low-profile recently because of his illness and had been receiving treatment in a London hospital, according to palace and state government sources.
President Goodluck Jonathan expressed his condolences in a statement, calling the emir’s passing “a national loss” and describing him as “one of the most respected traditional rulers”.
“President Jonathan believes that Alhaji Ado Bayero will always be remembered and honoured by the people of Kano and all Nigerians for his immense wisdom and competence as a traditional ruler, as well as for using his exalted throne to build bridges of unity, friendship and harmony across the nation,” his office said.
All roads leading to the emir’s palace were blocked by police and traffic redirected, as security was tightened in anticipation of a visit by dignitaries to pay their respects, an AFP reporter said.
Palace officials — so-called “kingmakers” — had also arrived for a closed-door session to determine the three names that will be submitted to the Kano state government for approval as Bayero’s successor.
Those tipped to be in the running include the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who is the grandson of the late emir’s brother.
Sanusi was suspended as CBN governor by the government in February on charges of financial recklessness and misconduct, soon after he alleged that Nigeria’s state run oil firm had misappropriated $20 billion (14.7 billion euros) in revenue.
Another name in the frame is one of the emir’s sons, Aminu Ado Bayero, who holds a royal title and is currently a popular district head in Kano.
– Assassination attempts –
The Emir of Kano and Shehu of Borno had previously survived assassination attempts by Boko Haram insurgents, angered by what they saw as the leaders’ betrayal of Islam for submitting to the authority of Nigeria’s secular government.
The leader of Nigeria’s Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto, has also been threatened.
Boko Haram last month killed the Emir of Gwoza in Borno state, Idrissa Timta, while travelling by road to the funeral of another cleric. Two other traditional monarchs escaped unhurt.
Critics have suggested that the three senior monarchs could have taken bolder action against the Islamist insurgents to stem the bloodshed, which has killed thousands since 2009.
A senior security source told AFP last month that the rulers could have played a greater role in tackling the insurgency and helping to secure the release of 219 schoolgirls still held hostage by the group.
The Emir of Kano was a well regarded figure in the northern state and was seen as a key link between tradition and modernity, leading the region’s clerics as the custodian of Islam in the region.
Local politicians up to the state governor also sought his opinion and counsel, and he was seen as a bridge between Muslims and Christians in religiously tense Nigeria.
A former ambassador to Senegal, Bayero made a fortune in stock market investments and took over as emir after the short lived reign of his half brother during the turbulent political period after independence in 1960.