Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the 14th Emir of Kano, Nigeria with Mary Crowley OLA District Leader

Yesterday, Ardfoyle Convent was delighted to host Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the 14th Emir of Kano, Nigeria. Emir Sanusi II fulfilled his heartfelt promise to pay homage to our late Sister Katherine Devane, whom he knew during his time at St Anne’s School in Kaduna. We were deeply touched as he graciously shared his reflections and memories from his school days.

Sr Julie Doran shared some words of welcome, saying, “Mama Africa speaks today to welcome His Royal Highness, Sanusi,” acknowledging his courage, generosity, outspokenness, and care for the children of Nigeria. “We are building a better world together,” she said.

One poignantly amusing story shared by Emir Sanusi was about his mother’s initial concerns when he attended a Catholic school. He recounted how she wrote a letter of protest to his father, expressing worry that he might be forcefully converted and stating that she wanted it on record that if that happened, it was his responsibility and not hers.

He went on to highlight the inclusive environment at St Anne’s, where Muslim students’ beliefs and traditions were respected. This experience, he noted, significantly shaped his worldview, fostering a profound respect for diversity and understanding across religious boundaries. He spoke of how in terms of values, direction and how one should live, there is little difference across our faiths, noting the common ground in guiding principles.

Reflecting on his time at St Anne’s, Emir Sanusi II spoke warmly of Sister Katherine’s compassion. He shared a vivid memory of her carrying him in her arms during a severe bout of malaria, ensuring he received proper care. “When you are that age and you are shown so much love, you never forget it,” he reflected.

He went on to highlight the inclusive environment at St Anne’s, where Muslim students’ beliefs and traditions were respected. This experience, he noted, significantly shaped his worldview, fostering a profound respect for diversity and understanding across religious boundaries. He spoke of how in terms of values, direction, and how one should live, there is little difference across our faiths, noting the common ground in guiding principles.

During his visit, Emir Sanusi II paid his respects at Sister Katherine’s graveside, a moment of solemn tribute honouring her legacy of compassion and guidance.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Emir Sanusi II for his visit and for sharing his cherished memories and insights. His presence reaffirms the enduring connections fostered through education and mutual respect and his visit symbolizes the enduring bonds of friendship and respect that exist between him and the OLA sisters. We are profoundly grateful for his presence and the opportunity to honour the memory of Sister Katherine Devane together.

Emir Sanusi II reigned between June 2014 and March 2020 until he was dethroned by the government for “insubordination”. Despite these challenges, his commitment to his community and the Tijjaniyya Sufi order in Nigeria as its Khalifa remains unwavering.

See the prepared statement of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the 14th Emir of Kano, Nigeria below.

Prepared statement of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the 14th Emir of Kano, Nigeria.

The OLA (Our Lady of the Apostles) sisters in Cork, Ireland, established my alma mater-St Anne’s Primary School, Kakuri, Kaduna. They also founded the Queen of Apostles College- now Queen Amina College- and St Gerard’s hospital among others all in Kaduna).

I have been planning to visit their Ardfoyle convent in Cork, since late 2021, when my headmistress Sr Katherine Devane, passed away at the ripe age of 95. I just needed to go and pay my respects to this wonderful woman who made such a profound impact on my life, to thank the OLA sisters and the SMA fathers and the Catholic church for the education I received. 

The SMA fathers are a brother association of priests to the OLA sisters and the first catholic missionaries to Kaduna and Kano. From my St Anne’s days I remember Father Bell who used to give the communion to catholic children during service assemblies. 

There was no attempt to convert Muslim pupils to christianity.  In fact our matrons made sure we prayed, and during Ramadan food was prepared at the right time for Muslims. ( Of course we all said the Hail Marys and Our Fathers during assembly but not because we were required to!).

And by way the food in catholic schools was horrible at least then.  We had cold baths in Ramadan and lived a spartan life. But we had excellent academic education.  It prepared one for a life where material possessions mean nothing and values are everything.

I went to St Anne’s at the age of 8 and joined class 4. In 1971, my final year, Sr Katherine took over as Headmistress so I was her pupil for only one year. It is amazing how as children even the smallest things remain with us throughout our lives. All of us remember sister Katherine ( who we nicknamed  “sister shiru” in Hausa meeaning quiet sister- to distinguish her from her colleague Sr Ann who we nicknamed “Sister mhmm mhmm” because she was a disciplinarian who kept interspersing her speeches and words of reprimand with mhmm mhmm!).

Sister Katherine was quiet, tender, caring, gentle.  All my classmates continue go have fond memories of her, each in a special way.

I have a memory of her that has remained with me forever. I had malaria at one time and was extremely ill with a high temperature. I was weak and unable to do anything. I thought I was about to die.

Sr Katherine came round to the dormitory to see me.  She wrapped me up and took me in her arms. With another sister they drove me to St Gerard’s hospital where I had my injections and returned me to school. She kept checking on me until I fully recovered.

It may sound like a small thing but for a young boy the love and care at that point was so touching, and the care continued until I left. She did not have to do that herself.

Now why is all this important? Sr Katherine was a catholic sister who showed so much love to a Muslim boy.  She showed me the kind of care and concern I would expect from a mother. 

I learnt from an early age that there are wonderful people in every religion.  After Sr Katherine no one could ever tell me all christians were bad people and only Muslims were good.  No one could teach me hatred or enmity for someone simply because they were of a different faith, or stop me from loving those who love me and being kind to those who are kind to me simply because they are not Muslims.

As I learnt more about my religion and more of the Qur’an I saw that the Qur’an teaches us to be kind and good and caring and  just to all those non-Muslims who did not fight us for our faith or persecute us Q60:8-9 for instance). The only people we have problems with should be those who decide to fight us or stop us from being Muslims by force, without provocation.

The verses are all there in the Qur’an.  The fact that Muslim men can marry Christian women is sufficient evidence. Would one marry a woman one did not truly love?

Yet we see people preaching hate and anger. Non-Muslims think this is Islam but in fact it is the ignorance of the people and their misfortune in not knowing the power of Love. Just as Islamophobic christians and  misguided militia do not live by the teaching of Christ.

Sr Katherine taught- and gave- me LOVE at an early age.  And in this she influenced my life, my world view, even before I went to King’s College. She gave me an open mind to other faiths, and I have had the fortune since then  of having many friends- brothers and sisters- who are christian. They have in some cases shown me more love and loyalty than many of my blood-relatives.

Of course I also have many Muslim friends-brothers and sisters- who have done the same. It only proves that there are good people and bad people everywhere. A bad muslim or bad christian is just a bad person.  A good muslim or good christian is a good human being. Period.

It is for this that I will always remember her with love. I needed to come  to her grave. I have not seen her since 1972.  I telephoned the convent in 2019 but could not speak to her because she was hard of hearing.  When she died I was in France. But I could not go to Ireland as I needed a different visa. It took me so long because the Irish embassy insists on holding on to a passport for six weeks before the visa is issued. Very difficult if you travel a lot.

I just had to come to Sr Katherine  to tell her how much I  love her. And to thank her for what she did in my life.  And thank God for meeting her at the right time in my life- that is to say, at the beginning. I pray for my country Nigeria that God bring us peace and that we learn that love and mercy are what we need, not hatred and bloodshed.

Rest in peace dear Sister.

Khalifa Muhammad Sanusi II, CON
14th Emir of Kano