From Desmond Mgboh/Kano
EXACTLY a week ago, former governor of Kano State, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso dramatically returned to Kano State. His homecoming, nine months after he departed the state upon the expiration of his four- year tenure, was supposedly to sympathize with his successor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje over the passing away of his mother, Hajiya Fatima Umar Ganduje. But the visit has since turned out to be something else.
Kwankwaso arrived in a private blue -stripped airplane, touching down the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, to the waiting embrace of his teeming supporters on Monday. Inside the airport, a few privileged members of his team dressed in red and white. But as he made his way out of the airport, the small crowd became a surge.
By the time his convoy hit the road to Ganduje town, where the governor was waiting to receive him, Kwankwaso’s train had transfigured into an epic political carnival. His faithful had seized the whole road and space leading to Ganduje town, causing a huge traffic snarl while Kwankwaso, impressed by his own deification took turns to wave back at the crowd from the door of his black jeep.
All through, the air was filled with poetry of his praises, endeared with a sense of nostalgia of a great Kano under his watch, including the echoes of his not- yet- dead- presidential ambition in 2019. Yet, in the midst of the bedlam of voices, one could also hear clear echoes of mischievous jabs on the administration of Ganduje.
The thugs in Kwankwaso’s convoy brandished assorted weapons, all through the journey, besieging the mourning town of Ganduje with uncommon fear. By the end, it was all too clear that somebody had mobilized them all for an undisclosed intent.
Without saying a word, Kwankwaso said so much. In the public’s eyes, he had reaffirmed his political superiority to all other politicians in the state, outshining them in one swoop.
Indeed, it took a few days before the signification of the so-called ‘condolence visit’ became clearer for what it is- a political carnival, a show of strength. But by this time, Kwankwaso was already in Abuja, leaving behind a whirlwind of dust in his behest.
That was too dangerous for the person of Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who too, is a master of the game. Insiders said that on that Monday he watched the stage –managed episode by his predecessor and knew that his former principal was up to a game. Yet, he was restrained by grief and the need to respect the dead. So, he did nothing out of the ordinary.
But his restraint was only a matter of time. By Wednesday, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje was set for the biggest political battle of his life. It was either he fought back and firmly engraved himself as the leader of the party or be assailed by Kwankwaso and his forces.
It is recalled that Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje have been together for a very long time; their political destines having been tied together by faith from the very beginning of the Fourth Republic.
Since 1998 when their political paths met, with Kwankwaso as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, and Ganduje, his running mate, both men have been able to stick together, surviving several relational pitfalls and surprising their critics, who had long predicted their separation.
Not only did they survive their shocking fall from Government House in 2003, despite their modest performance as an administration, they survived the temptation to part ways in the years that succeeded their fall.
All along, Dr. Ganduje played the obedient
deputy, while Kwankwaso remained the feared majesty, till their return to Kano Government House. With the strength of their togetherness, the gladiators made a record return flight to power after eight years of defeat and out of power .
Together still, they held the very architecture of politics of Kano, defeating their rivals with accustomed ease, cumulating to a 100 per cent win of all the political positions in the state for the All Progressives Congress- starting with the local government elections in 2014 and ending with the general elections in 2015.
Yet, everything that has a beginning, surely has an end-time. And sadly, the end has come for the political relationship of the duo with its enormous consequences for both of them and their supporters.
POSSIBLE causes OF THE FACEOFF
It is difficult to place the actual cause of the present dispute. Many a times in the past, disagreements between both camps had been speculated in the media, but the parties involved had been quick to refute the claims- sometimes, going to the extent of blaming their supporters for giving credence to a “false impression”. But truth, they say, will always triumph. Today, the truth is the market place.
Explaining the present power play in Kano State in its proper context(s) will be incomplete without recognizing the nature of the political transition in the last dispensation in the state.
In the beginning of the last dispensation, Engineer Kwankwaso had felt the need to erect a structure, with him at the top, which is bigger than his political party (then the PDP) which would outlive his administration in the years to come, and which would eternally decide the fate of his party men: those to be supported and those to be dropped from their political office.
A smart move! Such a movement would make it possible for him to decamp with the entire structure of the movement to another party if at any stage his personal interest came under threat or if his party, the then PDP, failed to play by his terms.
Based on this, he constructed a red- cap political tendency popularized as Kwankwassiya Movement (coined after his name anyway) and nurtured it with state opportunities and resources, with the expected turnover benefits of the political class rushing for its membership with a view to access power.
It was, indeed, from this Movement that he singularly appointed every candidate of the APC in both the 2014 local government elections and the 2015 general election. This same Movement determined everybody that was elected to a political party position (APC) in the state. And it is to this extent that he, Kwankwaso sees himself as the mega- leader of the party, irrespective of whatever rule that places the APC governors at the helm of affairs in their respective states.
The show of political strength in Ganduje town, on Monday last week, owes a lot to this political illusion. This intrusion into a position reserved for the governor is the main reason there is an ongoing fight in Kano between the governor, Dr Ganduje and his former boss, Kwankwaso.
The present faceoff could also be interpreted from another perceptive, which is simply traced to the very night (early morning) Kwankwaso endorsed Dr. Ganduje as the party’s candidate for the governorship race. It is an open secret that Dr. Ganduje was never Kwankwaso’s first choice, especially as Kwankwso himself never envisaged himself reversing roles to work under his deputy- What Kwankwaso had wanted was to plant a younger person to the seat, giving way for him(Kwankwaso and Dr. Ganduje to exit power at the same time while the younger person would be permanently obliged to him.
Insiders speculated that Kwankwaso was simply overwhelmed by several political factors and considerations to change his heart, prominent among which was his calculation that Dr. Ganduje was formidable enough to dislodge any of his own young choices in a general election in the state. And not wanting to take chances, he gave in.
It was said that soon after Kwankwaso announced his endorsement of Dr, Ganduje, he lapsed into regrets and felt he should not have endorsed him. And he did not hide his counter- feelings in the days that followed, such that both Kwankwaso and his key commissioners were less visible, almost extinct, in the course of Ganduje’s electioneering campaign in the state.
Not long afterwards, the conflict began to rear its head and snowballed to their loyalists, with their supporters engaging in open- fights in the state, despite being of the same party. Although efforts were made to end the growing crack, nothing much came out of it. Ganduje’s supporters felt that Kwankwassiyyas have gladly had their day and should give them the space to equally have their own day in power.
Some people have equally argued that Dr. Ganduje’s overarching humility and obedience to Kwankwaso in the passing years was responsible for the refusal of his former principal to give him his political due. It is well known that in an attempt to get to the position of the governor of the state, Dr. Ganduje never argued, never disagreed and never let his true passion or position come to the open.
Though a top member of the previous government, he kept a very low profile so as not to anger his principal, be leaving in the precept that a good deputy is one that does whatever his principal wants of him. Unfortunately, while this disposition had engendered peace and harmony between them, it created an impression that he is permanently playing second fiddle to Kwankwaso.
Another factor that is being speculated to be driving the conflict is the management of the state affairs by the previous administration. It is said that Dr. Ganduje is greatly displeased with what he met on ground. Those who should know disclosed that Engineer Kwankwaso ate deep into the life of the present administration, leaving it with several uncompleted projects and different bills to settle. The situation, sadly, has been made worse by the financial challenges before the state, which means the government is left with little funds to pursue its own programmes.
Although Ganduje has not been talkative about what he actually met on the ground, the report of Transition Committee, headed by Dr Hafiz Abubakar, the deputy governor of the state, disclosed that the former governor left the state with well over N250 billion liabilities and several uncompleted projects. But insiders said the figure could just be more.
Ganduje barks and bites
The present burst is a tragedy inevitably waiting to happen. Observers argue that the former governor and incumbent senator (Kano Central) may have stretched his luck too far.
“In the past, Ganduje has traditionally played the good guy, but today he is the governor of the state with enormous power and cannot afford to be subsumed by his former principal whose time has passed. Ganduje, must be ready to bark and bite, if he is to call the shots in 2019”, they echoed.
Already, the party elders and leaders in the state accused the former governor of gross misconduct and indiscipline, swearing to invoke the provision of the party in addressing his case.
They said that they would leave no stone unturned in instilling discipline, orderliness and loyalty in the party urging their teeming members to remain calm and resolute in their unity.
They disclosed that they have since forwarded a letter of complaint to the Department of State Services and to the state’s Commissioner of Police over the ugly incidents that played out during his visit to the state.
They accused Kwankwaso of sponsoring thugs, who deployed hate and vulgar languages and displayed violent conducts in Ganduje town during his condolence visit.
They added that, “the act of thuggery and brazen display of daggers, swords and other forms of weapons by his sponsored and hired thugs was totally unwholesome and condemnable”.
The party also recalled that, “when his hired crowd was denied access to the airport premises, they climbed over the fence, breaking the iron bars and destroying the security scanners”.
The party reiterated that, “the leader of the party in the state is the governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje whose leadership of the party in the state must be jealously guarded by all well meaning members of the party”
Kwankwaso has since replied his critics, urging them not to engage in acts that are capable of dividing the party in the state.
Kwankwaso, who spoke through his aide, Dr. Yunusa Adam Dangwani, reaffirmed that his visit was in good faith with the sole intent to condole the governor over the loss of his mother.
He argued that many other politicians came to Ganduje town with similar trains and charged the governor to refrain from dragging the name of President Muhammad Buhari to cover his administration’s ‘obvious weaknesses”.
Rather, he tasked him to concentrate on “the enormous challenges of governance such that perhaps he may also be revered and respected by the good people of Kano State”.
The former governor explained that he had refrained from visiting the state since he handed over to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on May 29th, 2015.
He also disclosed that, he “deliberately gave short notice for the condolence visit, but was pleasantly surprised by the turnout of the good people of Kano who came to receive him at the Malam Aminu Kano Airport and escorted him to Ganduje village”.
He disclosed that when they came to Ganduje , home town of the governor, they were surprised “that some local people brandished local weapons, not minding the somber occasion. It is unfortunate that they could not be chided, thus we left them with their weapons at Ganduje”.
He disclosed that it is therefore appalling and rather unfortunate that his good gesture had been mischievously interpreted wrongly.
There are several consequences that might emerge from the present power play between the two gladiators in the state.
One of such outcomes is the uncertain fate of several renowned loyalists of the former governor, some of whom were tactically imposed on the incumbent administration in the first place. Can they be trusted under the present circumstance? For now, nobody in the party could say exactly what will become of them. But except the burning political fire is quenched immediately, these aides may be trapped in a crossroads. Indeed, some of them have since gone under-ground, not wanting to be dragged into the fray where their loyalty would be put to test.
Another likely outcome of the present political battle is that there will be more information regarding the finance of the state under the previous charge. To a great extent, there is still a near secrecy about some of the things that happened in the last four years with Kwankwaso as the boss.
But the biggest worry is that the political burst may mark the end of the political grip of both gladiators on the politics of the ancient state. Their joint posturing has been rewarding. The truth is that without Dr. Ganduje, the political attainments of Kwankwaso may not have reached this record high. The same thing goes for Dr. Ganduje. His political ascendency, according to some insiders, stands a certain kind of risk, without the much needed pay -back help from Kwankwaso or if Kwankwaso and his camp should elect to fight him from the other side of the ring.