“We were coming as a group, a very formidable group… I don’t think there is any one single group that can march Kwankwasiyya group in Kano.”
Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Comrade Aminu Abdulsalam Gwarzo, the Coordinator of Kwankwasiyya Movement in Kano is naturally a quiet politician, who acts more than he speaks. Vast in experience, competent in political mobilization, the former Commissioner of State Affairs in Kano State has remained a potent force despite his travails as leading opposition element in the last three and half years. He is the deputy governorship candidate of the Kano State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview, he gives insight to the movement’s dispute with Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the intrigues of their return to the to the PDP from APC, the power play that saw the exit of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau from the PDP, the alleged partisanship of the Kano State Commissioner of Police and several other issues.
How does it feel like crossing over from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
I feel great. It feels like a homecoming. If you remember, we were once in the PDP, we were the founding members of the PDP in Kano State and at the national level. I was a local government chairman under the flag of the PDP for three years. I also served as a national commissioner of the National Assembly Service Commission for five years, all under PDP. But somewhere along the line, things became so bad for our group within the PDP, especially for our leader, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. So many forces were against him in the party during the Goodluck Jonathan administration and they were hell bent on blocking him by all means. All entreaties to get things sorted out fell on deaf ears. It was like some people somewhere had made up their minds to ruin his political career. God in his infinite wisdom and mercy created him and made him great. After series of efforts to get things sorted, we decided to shift our base to the new All Progressives Congress. That was a very good opportunity. Of course, we were among the founding blocks of the new party. Everybody was almost coming afresh. Unfortunately and to our dismay, some people within this same new party have taken it upon themselves to possess the party. They were looking at others as new comers. So if you are not from the legacy parties that formed the party, then you are nothing. That, I think, was what created the crisis in the APC up till today. Some people were seeing themselves as the original owners of the APC and anybody coming or joining the party is not among the A class of the party. If they like, they put you in B class, or C class or even the lowest class. And whatever they are going to do, consideration is given to only those who fall within the legacy group. That was dangerous for the party and it was also very dangerous for democratic development in Nigeria.
At what point did the Kwankwasiyya group fall out with Governor Ganduje of Kano State? From what we know, you were supposed to all belong to the Kwankwasiyya group?
I think we started to fall out with Ganduje, right from the onset. Immediately he was sworn in, he set out to dismantle and discredit the Kwankwaso administration and Kwankwaso’s personality. It started like a slip, like a misunderstanding of what was actually on the ground. It started like a little confusion that would easily give way; the sort that would make you continue to give them that benefit of doubt that it would give way. But when it got to a certain stage, you began to recall and understand why on the day he was sworn-in one thing or the other was done, Then we started recalling specific things and when the whole picture was put together, it became clear that Ganduje had a plan in his mind all along. All along he had been nursing the ambition to tackle and destroy Kwankwaso’s political history, his political and administrative achievements and his developmental strides in the state. If you look at the way Ganduje went about it, he identified the major areas where we were credited with success and the whole nation was applauding us, not only Kano people. Kwankwaso identified educational sector and he set out to destroy the entire legacy that Kwankwaso had achieved in the educational sector. For example, Kwankwaso introduced free education at all levels. Now, even before the introduction, so much was done in the educational sector, starting from feeding in the primary schools which he started during his first tenure as governor of the state. It was a huge success. A very huge success was recorded then to the extent that the former President of the country, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, was attracted to the achievements recorded through the feeding of primary school pupils. This was done after a careful analysis of the very terrible condition of our rural populace. After that, parents were encouraged to send their children to school and our enrollment tripled within a short time while attendance improved tremendously and our performance at all examinations improved beyond anybody’s imagination. Kwankwaso was paying the WAEC and NECO fees, providing the teaching and learning materials, new classrooms were built, so much was done in the area of education. Ganduje‘s immediate policy step on assumption was to stop all these. The governor stopped buying materials for teaching and learning, textbooks, chalk and the rest of them, he jettisoned free education at all levels. If you say you are going through economic difficulties, it is understandable. But if free education was 100 percent, why don’t you make it 70 or 80 percent? Whatever percent depending on the resources available and then see how best you go about it. Education was our priority and it has now taken the back seat. If you look at infrastructural development, if you look at the street light, which contributed a lot in improving the security of the state (light is not just for beauty, it is for security. Take the issue of loans, Kwankwaso was the only governor who spent four years in office without borrowing one Kobo from anybody.
But the Kano State government has accused Senator Kwankwaso of leaving behind a huge liability in excess of N300 billion?
And if you remember, I came out and told them that it was a lie. I was a Commissioner of Project Monitoring in Kano State and as at time we left government, what we were owning contractors was barely N21 billion. And I ask anybody who has any figure other than that, to come forward and tell us how we came about it. I want you to see it this way. If I give you a contract to build this house for N10 million. You are going to erect a fence and give me a duplex of four bedrooms upstairs, two downstairs and maybe boys’ quarters and maybe one or two additional buildings. I gave you the contract at N100 million for instance and you collected 30 percent of that amount. You now erected a fence and you have not even started the main project. Then I left government. And somebody would now come and tell the public that I am indebted to contractors to the tune of N100 million. That is the Kano picture. In fact in some instances, it is the contractors that are owing the government because you collected 20 percent and the work you did is below 30 percent, just about 20 percent. And somebody would come and put the entire figure and say that the contractors are owed the entire figure. How did the former government owe that figure? So it is a carefully calculated mischief. And we were able to debunk it because we have our facts and we have our figures.
Your return to the PDP has been met with opposition. Let’s talk about the problems with the power distribution and the resistance from those you people met in the PDP.
We came into the PDP and met some people there. Fortunately and unfortunately there were some people we left when we were moving out and then some people moved out from their party and came back to the PDP. We have two groups with the PDP now and we came back and met them. Now, as politicians and patriotic citizens, when we came back to the PDP, our leader felt that you cannot have a party if there were nobody there and he initiated a visit to their leaders. He visited Shekarau, he visited Ambassador Aminu Wali. Those were the two leaders he visited. They met and said we are back home and what we need is understanding among ourselves. Let us try to see that we understand ourselves, let us see how we would join hands to see that PDP forms the next government in the state. Already, they had structures on ground for campaigns and for political offices. Elections were approaching and as at that time they had as much as 11 governorship aspirants. We were coming as a group, a very formidable group, a group that enjoys a formidable followership in the state. I don’t think there is any one single group that can march Kwankwasiyya group in Kano. The visit was meant to assure them that we were coming and they knew that we are stronger than them, stronger than their structures put together. Then, the issue is not just a Kano affair. We came back to the PDP through the Reformed APC (RAPC), which had meetings with the national leadership of the PDP. We reached agreement nationally. They agreed that in some cases, they would give 60 percent to the incoming people and in some areas is 20 percent depending on your strength. In some, like in our own case, we were given 51 percent and they were given 49. In some states, it was 60/40 percent. In Kano however, they tried to resist the sharing formula. They said that they would not agree. And ironically, when Ibrahim Shekarau left the APC and moved to the PDP years ago, he moved to the PDP with only two state House of Assembly members and himself and he was given 50 percent of the total positions available in the party. He was given half of the party’s structure and a ministerial slot. Here we were, Kwankwaso was coming back with a senatorial position and nine national assembly members, with six state assembly members and he was given 51 percent and the same Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau is saying why should he be so treated, saying that they were not going to concede even an ex-officio position to anybody and that sounds like the man was really out for a showdown. It sounds like the man was not concerned about the fate of the party. Here you are, you don’t have even a councillor. When election was to be held in Minjibir, we, without even signing an agreement, wanted to support PDP then because of our problem with the state government; they refused it flatly, to the extent that they withdrew their candidate instead of joining hands to allow them to have just one state assembly member for the first time. They decided to compromise the interest of their own party and the interest of the party members for a peanut and when it was time for the local government election, they withdrew all their members and decided not to participate. Then, Ganduje was operating as the leader of the two parties. He had the APC in firm control and he had a good influence over the PDP.
By your claims, it is like Shekarau has had a long relationship with the APC?
Long …long ago. It is not a hidden secret. They had been working together with the governor of the state. They only do what he wanted them to do. Even their candidates, some were being sponsored from the other party. They have already compromised their position. That was the situation. So when we came in, we met and said that we have a document, a template that was given to us by the national leadership as par an agreement reached with the PDP national leadership through RAPC. This is the portion that concerns Kano, this is what it said, but let us sit down, we are all brothers. This is what the template is saying but what do you want us to do? Let us do our own locally. They said that they don’t have the document. Then, he said okay, we don’t have any basis for discussion. I have it, you don’t have it. And you don’t believe that this document is authentic. Go to the national leadership, let them give you your own. We were invited to a meeting, I was part of the meeting and the national leadership explained to them in totality what transpired, how it all began, the process that was followed and how they arrived at 51 and 49 percent. And they told them that this was authentic, that it was a committee (reconciliation and harmonization committee) under the chairmanship of former Governor Liyel Imoke with members like the former Governor of Niger State, Dr, Babangida Aliyu (the chief servant, former Senate Leader Abdul Ningi, former party chairman, Barnabas Gemade and former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi. Those were the members and they explained everything to them. They explained to them that we want to win elections, that Kano is very critical and that we cannot joke with Kano. Let’s please join hands, swallow our pride and make some little sacrifices. Go and sit down and discuss as you have started. But that did not yield any fruit as they flatly refused.