With the conclusion of the presidential and National Assembly elections, attention has, naturally, shifted to the states. Even though the electoral commission will, in the months to come, be saddled with the burden of its less than satisfactory performance in the aforementioned elections, it must, as a matter of compunction, conclude the process with the conduct of gubernatorial and state assembly elections next week.
One of the states that readily come to mind in this regard is Kano, a state that is best known for its complexity. Kano has, in recent years, come to assume a larger than life image in Nigerian politics owing to its famed population. Apart from Lagos whose population has continued to burst at the seams due to its cosmopolitan status, Kano is known and believed to be next to Lagos in terms of number and commercial activities. Just as its population is tough to manage, so is its politics. For 16 years (1999 to 2015), two personalities, namely, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Ibrahim Shekarau, dominated the politics of the state. They took turns to govern the state. And as it has turned out, both men are archrivals in the Kano politics of today. The gulf between them has continued to widen by the day. Each represents a tendency, which the other is opposed to. But as the rivalry simmers and festers, one personality has remained a constant decimal in the drama of dominance that Kwankwaso and Shekarau have been acting out. That personality is Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, the serving governor of Kano state, who assumed the reins of governance in 2015.
Let us recall that Ganduje was Kwankwaso’s deputy between 1999 and 2003. When Kwankwaso returned to the saddle after eight years, having been kicked out by Ibrahim Shekarau in the governorship election of 2003, Ganduje remained his deputy until he served out his tenure in 2015. When Kwankwaso was rounding off, many pundits did not give Ganduje a chance as the possible successor of his boss. This was especially in the light of the fact that deputy governors are hardly favoured by their bosses as their successors. This was especially so for a Ganduje that had enjoyed an eight-year tenure with his boss. Interestingly, Ganduje succeeded where many have failed. If you ask Ganduje how he was able to ride the crest, he will point to only one thing: loyalty. He was a loyal and trusted lieutenant who enjoyed the confidence of his master to the very end.
However, Ganduje was to part ways with Kwankwaso not because there was any crisis of confidence, but because Kwankwaso, for some reason, had cause to defect to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the All Progressives Congress (APC). Ordinarily, it was thought that Ganduje would join Kwankwaso to jump ship. But he did not. He held his own. Many thought he would be swept out by the gale of politics for daring to stand alone. But he has, to the chagrin of doubting Thomases, been able to weather the storm. However, the real test case for Ganduje is his second term bid. How will he fare? Will he remain on top as the master of the game as he has done so far?
Those who are close to the politics of Kano State will readily tell you that Ganduje will arrive at his Damascus safe and sound. In reaching this conclusion, a number of factors come into play. There is the belief that Ganduje will anchor on a safe harbour because he has been able to get a number of political bigwigs in Kano to his side. Since Kwankwaso and Shekarau are separated by what looks like irreconcilable odds, both have ensured that they always operate from opposite ends of the spectrum. That was why Shekarau left PDP when Kwankwaso, his arch-rival, joined the party. Today, Shekarau is in APC, working with Ganduje. Analysts see this development as positive for Ganduje.
Shekarau is not the only big name who is in league with Ganduje. We also have senators Barau Jibrin and Kabiru Gaya who are holding forte in Kano north and Kano south respectively. The two senators are fully complemented by Shekarau from Kano central. The trio bided for the Senate. Going by the results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Shekarau, Gaya ( both former governors) and Jibrin have already been declared winners in their various senatorial zones. It is believed that a Ganduje backed by this trio will be difficult to dislodge in the coming gubernatorial contest in Kano state.
As a matter of fact, the battle between these men and the Kwankwaso political bloc in Kano is an uncommon one. It is a battle for supremacy. The contest is about the soul of Kano. Kwankwaso, with his raging army of loyalists, is plotting to take control of the state. He is perturbed the more by the fact that his former deputy is popular. He sees this as an attempt to whittle down his influence. He appears poised to thwart the plan. But one of his weakest links lies in his choice of a gubernatorial candidate for his party, the PDP. The party’s standard bearer in the March 9 election, Abba Yusuf, is said to be an in-law to Kwankwaso. Many a party faithful are therefore uncomfortable with his choice. This antipathy is particularly rife among those who joined Kwankwaso’s political camp in the hope that they will be rewarded with the governorship ticket. One such person is Prof. Hafizu Abubakar, Ganduje’s former deputy, who resigned both as deputy governor and member of APC to join Kwankwaso in PDP in the hope that he would be considered as the governorship candidate. Prof. Abubakar’s hope was rudely dashed. After wandering in political wilderness for some time, he has returned to APC to embrace his boss once again. He and others like him will constitute a huge burden to Kwankwaso.
Perhaps, the greatest armour, which Governor Ganduje is wielding at this time is his achievement in office. The governor has approached governance with a sense of purpose. He has a clear sense of direction. This explains his choice of programmes and projects. The governor can boast of a number of people-centred projects. His humanitarian disposition has come into play here. He has used his good offices to ensure that the youth are adequately empowered through skills acquisition and job creation. His rehabilitation programmes for the young and the aged are a model to aspire to.
The governor can also be associated with a number of signature projects, notably the ultra-modern integrated Skills Acquisition Centre, the Kano Economic City and massive road construction projects that gave birth to the underpasses and flyovers that have changed the Kano skyline. All of this is tailored towards transforming the economic landscape of Kano state. The belief and expectation is that when all is considered, the people who are the repository of the mandate that gives legitimacy to constituted authority, will stand with the man who has connected with them. Ultimately, the battle may not be Ganduje’s. It may well be a case of the people voting on the side of the man who sees governance as service.