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Kano Guber: Kwankwaso humbles Ganduje

FELIX NWANERI reports on how ex- Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso led the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) to turn the political table against his erstwhile ally and successor, Abdullahi Ganduje of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in last weekend’s governorship election in Kano State

Former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso his successor, Umar Ganduje, are not just political allies. Both worked together as governor and deputy for two terms (1999 to 2003 and 2011 to 2015) and there is no doubt that they enjoyed a harmonious working relationship. Even when Kwankwaso lost re-election bid in 2003 after serving his first term as governor and was appointed minister of Defence by then President Olusegun Obasanjo, he picked Ganduje as one of his aides. On his return as governor in 2011, he also came back with Ganduje and worked tirelessly to ensure that his long standing deputy succeeded him in 2015. But it was not up to five months after Ganduje’s inauguration that a crack emerged in his relationship with Kwankwaso but was played down by their respective camps.

However, the soured political relationship came to the fore on October 21, 2015, which was the 59th birthday of Kwankwaso. The day is usually marked as Kwankwasiya Day. Kwankwasiya is the political movement led by the former governor. But, instead of members of the group to come together to mark the event as they usually do in the past, pro-Ganduje elements celebrated it at the Government House Kano, while loyalists of Kwankwaso, led by his former Chief of Staff, Alhaji Yunusa Dangwani, held their own at Mambayya House, also in Kano.

Kwankwaso was not in Kano for the event and his absence indicated the split of the political group on whose crest he and later Ganduje rode to Kano government house. But denial being the name of the game, the rift was again downplayed by both camps even though discerning minds knew that all was not well, especially the way the former governor opted to remain in Abuja after handing over to Ganduje, who on assumption office went to town with a tale of huge debt. The Ganduje Transition Committee had disclosed before the inauguration that Kwankwaso not only left an empty treasury, but an additional liability of N379 billion although Ganduje later came out to defend his former boss, declaring that the huge liabilities he inherited was not a crime.

His words: “I am part and parcel of the Kwankwaso’s administration and whatever must have happened; we all should take the responsibility. It is correct that we have huge liabilities, but that does not mean that it is a crime, we planned everything together but unfortunately, what we envisaged did not work as the price of oil came down.” His defence, notwithstanding, some analysts reasoned then that it was a matter of time the Pandora Box is opened. And as predicted, it didn’t take time that the cold war turned to an open confrontation.

The setting for the test of might was during Kwankwaso’s visit to Ganduje’s hometown with his supporters to condole with him on the death of his mother in March 2016. What should have been a “friendly visit” ended up in violence. This earned Kwankwaso the wrath of the leadership of the APC in Kano State as the then state chairman of the party, Umar Doguwa, berated him for exhibiting “acts of indiscipline which should not be allowed to go unpunished.” But Kwankwaso, in his response, said it was unfortunate that a good gesture was mischievously interpreted wrongly and warned Ganduje to desist from dragging the name of President Muhammadu Buhari to cover for his administration’s “obvious weaknesses.”

Both camps later observed what could pass for temporary cease fire, following the intervention of their party’s national leadership, but the battle was rekindled after the Na-tional Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (now Presidentelect) endorsed Ganduje’s second term bid, when he visited the state on condolence visit on the death of the former Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Alhaji Maitama Sule. Kwankwaso, who swiftly reacted to the endorsement, declared that Ganduje has already lost the 2019 election. Speaking through his former Commissioner for State Affairs, Aminu Abdulsalam Gwarzo, the former governor said: “We don’t want to join issue with Tinubu, but what I will say is that he came straight from the airport to government house, he did not know what is happening in the rural areas or in the entire state. “We know Tinubu to be an honest person but if he had known the situation in Kano, he would perhaps be restrained completely from that endorsement.

If Tinubu knew the feelings of the people of Kano, he would have known that the governor has lost 2019 already. “If Tinubu had carefully observed the political trend in the state, he would not have drawn conclusion. Ganduje has distanced himself from the people, he deviated from the Kwankwsiyya foundation, principles and ideology which were the basic fundamental he was elected as governor. He abandoned the promises he made to the people of the state.”

While most analysts expressed shock at that time over the way things quickly fell apart between Kwankwaso and Ganduje given the bond between them, those who said that they were not disappointed blamed the development on the way leaders emerge. According to members of this political school, despite the fact that democracy grants the people the liberty to choose their leaders through periodic elections, the concept exist mostly on paper as leaders at the various levels of governance have always had hands in the emergence of their successors.

While this practice was not prominent in the first and second republics, it has become synonymous with the present dispensation. Consequently, the Fourth Republic, which took off in 1999, with the country’s return to civil rule in 1999, has produced hundreds of political godfathers, who sit in the comfort of their homes to determine who gets what, how and when. In most cases, the beneficiaries of decisions by these “powers that be” are their cronies, associates, business partners and even family members.

The reason for this is not farfetched. Most public office holders are more disposed to those who will cover their tracks when they leave office. But politics, being a game of the possible, the cozy relationship between the godfathers and their anointed ones hardly last. In most cases, these anointed successors hardly settle in office before the “romance turns sour.” Most times, the bubble is burst when the anointed successors try to do things on their own although there have been instances, where the heirs tried to destroy their benefactors even when they try as much as possible not to interfere in the running of government.

The supremacy battle witnessed a twist during the build-up for the 2019 elections. Interestingly, one of the contentious issues that deepened the rift between the duo was the wearing of the red cap – the acclaimed symbol of the Kwankwasiyya movement. Kwankwaso’s supporters berated the governor for putting on the red cap despite opposing the movement. Chairman of a sub-group within the Kwankwasiyya movement, Hannum Garba, who spoke then, said Ganduje deviated from the ideology of Kwanwasiyya and should stop wearing the group’s red cap symbol. He said: “Earlier, we have offered the governor the sum of N1m to remove his cap and he failed to do so. Now we have given him 48 hours to either remove the red cap, which is a symbol of Kwankwasiyya else we will drag him to court. He has deviated from the ideology of Kwanwasiyya and it was time he stop wearing our symbol.

We want him to stop associating himself with the movement because he is not one of us.” But reacting through his commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, the governor explained that the red cap was initiated and popularised by late Aminu Kano as a mark of a true disciple of Mallam’s philosophy.

“The threat of legal action against Governor Ganduje by the movement if he fails to stop wearing red cap within 48 hours is the most laughable, pathetic, clear indication of their ignorance of the law and history of political struggle in Kano. “They should have known that the red cap was introduced by Late Aminu Kano and popularised by him, his followers and disciples for which Governor Ganduje is among. He was also at the forefront of its re-introduction during the second tenure of Kwankwaso in 2011. Who then could better claim the red cap doctrine?” he said.

To weaken Kwankwaso’s camp, Ganduje attempted a restructuring of the political structure of the state from the largely dominant structure of Kwankwaso, known as Kwankwasiyya Amana and substituted it with Gandujiyya Akida. He also removed the Kwankwasiya insignia from public facilities. He later extended the olive branch to Kwankwaso, a move some analysts viewed at that time to be politically motivated given that it was at the eve of the 2019 elections. But responding to critics, Ganduje said: “What is wrong in reconciling with a longtime friend and political ally? After all, we were the best of political allies in the history of Nigerian politics, I will make myself available for peace talks with him because I cannot have a political associate in the rest of my life like Kwankwaso and he too cannot also have a political associate like me throughout the rest of his life.” The peace move did not only fail as envisaged, Kwankwaso left the APC for the PDP over irreconcilable differences between him and Ganduje.

The former governor did not stop at that, he supported his son-in-law, Abba Yusuf, to unseat Ganduje. To the consternation of many, Yusuf was coasting to victory before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the poll inconclusive. Consequently, the electoral ordered for supplementary elections in 28 of the 44 local government areas in the state. The supplementary election paved the way for Ganduje to bounce back.

He was declared the winner with less than 9,000 votes ahead of Abba, who had initially won with over 26,000 votes. The 2019 experience did not deter Kwankwaso from insisting on getting back at Ganduje. And as fate would have it, the 2023 governorship election provided ample opportunity for him. Again, Kwankwaso threw up Yusuf, who left the PDP with him for New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), while going for the presidency. Although he lost the election, he confirmed his political worth in Kano by polling 997,279 votes to defeat Tinubu of APC, who 517,341 votes, while Atiku Abubakar of PDP polled 131,716 votes The outcome of the presidential poll set the stage for an interesting governorship election that turned out to be a proxy war between Kwankwaso and Ganduje, who backed his deputy, Nasir Gawuna. The poll didn’t not only live up to preelection billing but saw the table turning against Ganduje and his party as Kwankwaso- backed Yusuf was declared winner. The NNPP candidate polled 1,019,602 votes to defeat his APC counterpart, who polled 890,705 votes thereby bringing an end to Abba will be putting an end to Ganduje’s reign in the state.

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