Imagine the setting where there is Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau in one camp contesting against President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 in Kano State? The result, at the end of the day, would not only be intriguing but very close to call.
That was what the Liyel Imoke Reconciliation Committee set up by the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), had struggled to achieve at the time they set forth to lobby Senator Kwankwaso to resign from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to join them in the PDP a few months ago.
They wanted to cut down the overwhelming size of Buhari’s sphere of influence in Kano State and make it impossible for him to round up easy votes from the state as he did in the 2015 Presidential elections – votes which saw him walk causally to victory against former President, Goodluck Jonathan.
But along the line, and as fate would prefer, soon after the committee secured the membership of Senator Kwankwaso, the party’s train derailed from its own track, losing the golden opportunity to keep the likes of Mallam Shekarau and Senator Kwankwaso together.
The eventual consequence is that President Muhammadu Buhari probably remains an unchecked tsunami as far the 2019 Presidential election is concerned in Kano State. In fact, if his recent result of 2.9 million votes from his primary election is to be relied on, then there is nothing that can stop him from an excellent performance in the state come 2019, pundits say. He may not equal his previous electoral post, it was further gathered, but he would surely run away with victory over his opponents, Daily Sun learnt.
However, his opponents are of the view that, the fact that the PDP Presidential candidate is a Muslim and a Northerner like Buhari, the factors have scaled down the advantage of President Buhari in the state. This, investigations revealed, may appear true to some extent. But there are factors that would still give Buhari an edge in the imagination of the voting public in the state.
One of these factors is that Buhari has the unflinching support of the state governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje who mirrors his own fate and survival to that of the president and he is out to do anything humanly possible to promote the Buhari Presidency in Kano. Ganduje is supported by the likes of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who has a good share of the Kano votes on a good day, and Senator Kabiru Gaya, an old time war horse, who knows his terrain too well in Kano South.
More than anything, Buhari has the blind devotion of many ordinary people of Kano State, who do not understand the issues and do not want to understand them either. They simply relate to the 2019 presidential polls from the point of ethnicity and hold tight to the fact that the president must come from their own state or their geopolitical zone.
Unknown to many Nigerians, Buhari has been silently over supportive of the yearnings of Kano State. His footprints are dotted everywhere, but subtly shielded from the national glare, so as not to offend the sensibilities of rest of Nigerians. This would come counting for him in 2019. This would count for him before the Kano voters.
Kano also symbolizes the political interests of the core north or, put differently, Kano assigns to itself, without an election or an appointment, the role of the custodian of core Northern interests in the dynamics of Nigeria politics. Many people here still see the candidacy of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar as a creation of the south and therefore, a dangerous phenomenon to their political fortune and future.
For instance, some of the campaign programmes of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar that delight the people of the south and the people of Middle Belt, like restructuring, are very unpopular in Kano State. This would count in favour of Buhari in the state in 2019.
Many voters in Kano also feel that presidential poll is a battle between the North-West and North-East. To the outsiders, the north is a united whole. But within and among Northerners It is not exactly so. Not all Northern states are equal. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is from the North-East, Adamawa precisely, and certainly, his political fortunes are gravely undermined in Kano State by his background.
That Atiku has very few friends in Kano State was clearly demonstrated in the recent past when he defected to the PDP. He was derided and called all manner of names. Almost regularly, he was the topic of abuse on most media platforms – radio, television, social media and even in the informed writings of many scholars from the state. This could only suggest that his rating in the race is low in Kano.
That is not to say that Atiku has no chance at all in Kano State. His appointment of Senator Kwankwaso to take charge of his campaign in the North-West Zone is well conceived. No matter what is said about the political excesses of the former governor of Kano State, he has garnered a huge followership, which if deployed in favour of Atiku’s bid in the state, would make a meaningful difference.
The PDP Presidential candidate has done relatively well for himself in the state as the Vice President of Nigeria.
A good number of people in the APC today were originally members of his political camp. There is no doubt that they would work for him.
One of the greatest drawbacks to the popularity of Buhari in Kano State is his growing image as someone who breeds poverty and hunger in the land. It is assumed by many that under his charge, times are harder. Many people in Kano, like the rest of Nigerians, feel hugely betrayed by the unfulfilled hopes of his reign. Would they deny him their votes on the grounds of this? Only time will tell.
Analysts believe that if Alhaji Atiku, a man seen as “an easy giver”, should leverage on the poverty narrative in the state, he would pick a number of good votes. Atiku would also amass a majority of the support and political resources of non – indigenes in the state. With an improved security situation in the state, over 90 percent of them are not travelling home for the elections. In addition, many of them, who previously had no interest in election matters, have made efforts to be registered for the 2019 elections. All these may count for Atiku in the end.