One of the most visible implications of the present drama is that President Buhari is most unlikely to retain a commanding position in Kano any more.
Desmond Mgboh, Kano.
On Tuesday, the former governor of Kano State and strongman of Kano politics, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, announced his defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki announced Kwankwaso’s defection on the floor of the Red Chamber amid a rather tumultuous session.
His defection was immediately followed by a gale of defections on the floor of the House of Representatives, where 37 parliamentarians, 10 of whom are from Kano State, equally announced their exit from the ruling party. The lavish renouncement of the APC did not just stop as there are indications that six loyalists of the former governor presently in the Kano State House of Assembly are warming up to bid theAll Progressives Congress (APC) goodbye. “They have so far not defected, but there are indications that they would soon walk the ways of their principal” a source told Sunday Sun in Kano.
The latest move by the former Kano State governor was the culmination of months of speculation, drama and intrigues regarding his future. It is coming months after the members of his red cap movement and sympathizers were clinically edged out of the party structure in the state at the recent APC primaries by the forces loyal to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.
Reactions in Kano
As is expected, the defection of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was greeted with wild joy among his many supporters and admirers. Many of them in the state, demeaned and made redundant by years of outright political neglect in the hands of their political foes, threw caution to the winds in their celebrations. They threw away their old brooms, burnt them in some instances, took snapshots and “sefies” in PDP gear and uploaded same to the glare of the digital space.
In several quarters in the state capital, from the tea seller in Brigade to the meat sellers in Kurna; vendors on Galadima Road to the cobblers at Panisau Quarters, the only discussion that seized the imagination of the ordinary people of the state on the momentous day was the political earthquake in Abuja. In his exhilaration, Alhaji Bello Audu excitedly described the day as the most treasured day of his life, insisting that they had waited for so long for the announcement. A devout member of the Kwankwasiyya Movement in Dambatta axis, said that Kwankwaso has taken the right step at the right time.
In his reaction too, Comrade Aminu Belli, told Sunday Sun that the return of Kwankwaso to PDP, though driven by several considerations for political survival and relevance, would no doubt revive activities in the political landscape, including forcing the incumbent government to up its performance.
Kwakwanso’s bumpy road to defection
But for the last minute efforts put up by the new All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Kwankwaso’s entire sojourn in the All Progressives Congress, in the final analysis, garnered nothing but aborted dreams, pure hostility and rejection. It is clear his almost four-year membership of the APC was largely a span of wasted years. The path to his travail in the broom wielding party began early enough, soon after he ditched the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in search of his presidential ambition in the freshly re-branded political party against the odds in the party, which had entered into an unwritten but abiding understanding to hand over the presidential ticket to Candidate Muhammadu Buhari. His refusal to step down or to play along this already prepared script, placed him at cross roads with so many interests, including interests in his own state. With his loss at the party presidential primaries in Lagos in late 2014, Senator Kwankwaso began a painful, near lonely journey to political irrelevance within the very APC that reaped hugely from his rebellion against President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP. His plunge quickened as soon as it was clearly established that the new party, well received by the Muslim-North, was likely do well in Kano State, with or without his support.
Although as the then governor of the state, he was able to install his avowed loyalists into all the contested positions in the state – governor, Senate, House of Representatives, House of Assembly down to the 44 local government areas of the state, the intrigues that succeeded this exploit clearly showed that he mistrusted some of his loyalists. This began to show as early as weeks into the gubernatorial campaigns as he was gradually excused from the mainstream of his party’s gubernatorial campaign exercise in the state. Many campaign trips and rallies came up but he was absent or held up in the office. Many decisions were taken for which he was only notified, signifying that the end was near
Upon the formation of the new government in 2015, Kwankwaso was allowed the privilege to select some members of the new executive council and state officers, but exactly a year after, the bubble burst and his appointees were fired from office. That sadly marked the end of his presence in the government of Kano State.
But before then, a silent supremacy war raged on in the state for most of the first year of the new administration. An ego struggle stalked the present governor and his predecessor, stirring up questions as to who was actually in charge. Party officials and government officers, cautious of the dangers of misplacing their loyalty, very often dangled it on both sides.
The final straw came in the wake of a condolence visit to Governor Ganduje over his mother’s death. At that visit, Senator Kwankwaso and his supporters were accused of visiting the innocent community with thugs and embarking on actions that were designed to undermine the influence of the bereaved governor. The Governor who was enraged by these excesses, in response, mandated a number of political moves to cut Kwankwaso to size and it worked.
Buhari’s political relationship with Senator Kwankwaso had never been cordial. Both men had eyed the same seat and contested fiercely for it. However, their fragile relationship was made worse by a propaganda that suddenly reared up its head at the end of the 2015 elections to the effect that Kwankwaso’s influence was responsible for the huge number of votes recorded by Buhari in Kano State. Buhari’s supporters did not find the propaganda funny and did a lot to dispel the faulty narrative. The same for President Buhari.
The relationship however got worse after Kwankwaso was ignored in the appointments made by the new administration. Kwankwaso had expected that given his contributions to the victory of President Buhari and the party and also his position as a runner-up to Buhari in the party’s presidential primaries, he would be appointed into high profile cabinet position. That did not come and it pained him a lot till the day of his defection, his only consolation being the day he watched mockingly as President Buhari and the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole begged him not to go.
The fear within
A remark by one of the chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Comrade Aminu Belli, aptly summarized the mixed feelings of happiness and fears within the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kano State following the latest development. He observed that the State Executive Council of the party was apprehensive of “the negotiated defection of Senator Kwankwaso from APC to PDP” Belli, a PDP state chairmanship contestant remarked in a chat with Sunday Sun that the return of Senator Kwankwaso is good but poses a challenge as to how to create vacancies within the party structure to accommodate his caravan of loyalists across board without violating the constitution of the party.
“How this tricky and dicey situation would be handled would go a long way to determine the performance of the party at the polls next year,” he declared.
“This problem is clearly internal to the party but could be well exploited by the Ganduje administration to retain themselves in power,” he added.
Mallam Sule Yau Sule, in a media statement on behalf of his principal, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, recognized the dicey political landscape.
“No doubt, the former governor would be of value to the fortunes of our party. But he must abide by the rules of our party. We expect him to be a reformed Kwankwaso, unlike what he was in 2015 when he singularly hijacked the whole of the party structure from those who had labored to build the party.
“We hope that this time around, he would work by the rules and work with the members of the party for the good of our party,” Sule stated. Analysts point at the mixed grill of politicians of conflicting backgrounds in the PDP in the state and fear that they might not be able to successfully work together to bring about the desired trophy for the party in 2019. These politicians of divergent positions and views include Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, Mallam Ibrahim Little, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Alhaji Mohammed Abacha and Alhaji Mohammed Bello, Ambassador Aminu Wali, among others. But perhaps the greatest worry and fear that is expressed by the members of the party in the state is the size of what was negotiated in Kwankwaso’s favour by the leadership of the party in Abuja. Discussions about the defection of Senator Kwankwaso were not held with the party leaders in Kano. It was
more an Abuja stuff, Sunday Sun gathered. Although many chieftains of the party were not open as to what had been conceded, it is believed that Kwankwaso was promised a lot by the party. For instance, it is speculated that he had requested for the party’s gubernatorial slot, for which he has in mind the present Deputy Governor of the state, Professor Hafiz Abubakar, as his candidate. It is also speculated that he had demanded for nearly half of the party’s structure and an automatic ticket for his loyalists in the House of Representatives who defected with him. What all these, many are afraid that implementing the negotiations would return the culture of imposition in the party at the expense of the present lodgers and occupants of these positions, which would certainly spark fresh sets of blickering. But the Kano State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Masa’ud El Jilbrin Doguwa, in a chat with Sunday Sun assured that there would be no imposition of candidates under his watch. He however stated that he would provide an atmosphere of understanding and friendship so that all interests would be accommodated in single family driven by love, fair play and the pursuit of the collective goal of chasing out the APC from the Government House.
There is no doubt that the defection of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso from the APC to the PDP would have enormous impact on the politics of Kano State. Many commentators hold that many things would alter considerably following the latest development, although they are quick to add that the exact nature of what would succeed the present defection cannot be easily predicted.
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One of the most visible implications of the present drama is that President Buhari, the most potent force in Kano politics, is most unlikely to retain a commanding position in the state any more. Roughly everybody thinks that with the clout of politicians lined up in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against him, it would be a pipe dream to imagine that he would run away with another 1.9 million votes in 2019 like he did in 2015.
A state executive member of the PDP admitted that certainly Buhari would win Kano in 2019. “He has demonstrated that he could win in Kano any day or time. But in the next election, the numbers would be different. There is no way he can match his previous political record of a haul in the state. And you know what that deficit means to him at a time he has become less and less popular in many states outside the North-West states,” he stated. By the same token, it also means that Governor Ganduje should expect a tougher battle ahead of his second term bid. Ganduje dreams of getting a record 5 million votes but that is doubtfully possible in the present circumstances. Except the players in the PDP fail to work together, a possibility which is not far-fetched, he would require a miracle to defeat all these men of timber and caliber that would work together to oust him from Kano Government House in 2019.
A look at the big names in the Peoples Democratic Party is rather frightening. Apart from Kwankwaso, you have Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, Mallam Ibrahim Al Amin Little, Alhaji Mohammed Abacha and others. Each of these political forces, on a good day, is an electoral winner.
There is another way in which the defection of Kwankwaso to the PDP would affect Kano State and its politics. It would certainly revive political competition and activities which have been comatose for so long given the near one-party brand of affairs that has characterized the state, says Umaru Ado of Bayero University, Kano.
“This is perhaps one of the reasons the majority poor are very happy and excited with what is happening,” he said, adding that, “it would put money in their hands once again as the players, stingy for so long, must release the cash they had kept in their store while the angst of poverty exploded on their supporters.