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How Kano gears up for political long knives in 2019

By Leo Sobechi (Lagos) and Abba Anwar (Kano)
18 January 2018   |   3:52 am
Kano promises to be one of the epicenters of robust political gymnastics as the country readies for the 2019 general election. To a great extent Kano retains a unique position as the political barometer in the entire Northwest geo-political zone.

Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje

Kano promises to be one of the epicenters of robust political gymnastics as the country readies for the 2019 general election. To a great extent Kano retains a unique position as the political barometer in the entire Northwest geo-political zone. That attribute gives a scant indication about the level of politicking that would take place in the state going forward to 2019. There are a lot of reasons why Kano should be a political melting pot for intriguing electoral manouvres.

Firstly, the number of juggernauts jostling for the Presidency is at the root of the combination of factors that would define Kano politics, and to some extent, national politics in 2019. Then there are arrays of veteran governorship aspirants that are waiting in the wings to make a strong case for the seat.

But the anticipated governorship contest, despite the second term ambition of the incumbent, does not make the unfolding scenario as simple as the various political parties make it seem. This is because the presidential aspirants are determined to make a bold statement with the governorship.
Interestingly, the two known presidential contenders, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, are not strangers in the electoral battlefield. A lot of people in Kano still believe that it was the combined political clout and personal charm of General Muhammadu Buhari and Shekarau that cut short Kwankwaso’s governorship in 2003.

But by bouncing back in 2011 after Shekarau’s eight years, Kwankwaso proved that he was no pushover in Kano politics. Yet with that unfinished political supremacy battle, at the incubation of All Progressives Congress (APC), Kwankwaso used his power of incumbency to displace Shekarau in the inchoate party.

Shekarau found it unconscionable that the then opposition party could not only admit the new Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor, but also ordered that he takes over the party structure. Pained by that supercilious decision by the power brokers of APC, he found his way to the PDP.In the PDP, Shekarau had the good fortune of being rewarded with appointment to a grade ‘A’ federal ministry. By serving as Minister of Education, Shekarau not only equaled Kwankwaso’s profile, but surpassed him somehow due to the fact of having contested the 2011 presidential election.

Many Nigerians still remember the former minister’s sterling performance at the presidential debate, such that most still believe he is a good presidential material.However, on his part, by virtue of defecting from PDP to APC, Kwankwaso was gifted with the senatorial seat of Kano Central. He also contested the 2015 presidential ticket of APC and was placed second for strategic reasons (as plan B to stop Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in the event that anything untoward happened to the flag bearer).

It could be seen therefore that the free flowing political competition by these two Kano politicians will have a lot of impact on the state’s politics. But although Shekarau has indicated his interest to run for the presidency on the platform of PDP, Kwankwaso is keeping everybody guessing as to what platform he wants to use to continue his chase for the presidency.

So, in 2019 the parts of both Shekarau and the Kwankwaso are sure to cross and Kano politics, notably the governorship would receive the reverberations of their crossfire. Against the background of that chequered rivalry, the muted question on the lips of political actors in Kano is, would Shekarau return to APC if Kwankwaso moves back to PDP?

PDP uncertainty and governorship prospects
CAUGHT in the middle of seeming uncertainty, the opposition PDP chances to recapture power in Kano therefore, depends on its ability to take radical decisions. For instance, a lot would depend on how the party handles the infighting among some of its juggernauts in the state.

The former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Wali, leads one political grouping, just as Shekarau, belongs to another. Wali’s group sees Shekarau and his people as new comers into the PDP fold, even as the so-called newcomers accuse the Wali camp of lacking in grassroots support and devoid of popular acceptability among voters.

Then there is the incipient allegation that Shekarau and his supporters are hobnobbing with the ruling APC. Sources claim that the Shekarau camp is not critical of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje’s administration as part of a political understanding.However, those close to the governor explained that it is just a reflection of Ganduje’s style of treading gently and carrying everybody along, both from within and outside APC.

Perhaps Ganduje’s approach is aimed at containing the exuberance of the Kwankwasiyya group within APC. Faced with such internal opposition, the governor seems to be doing all in his power to ensure a mild criticism from the main opposition PDP, because, even Wali’s faction does not focus in challenging Ganduje regime.

In all these, the PDP could, as the main opposition party, get warm sympathy from the electorate, if only it could field the right candidate to challenge Ganduje in 2019 for the gubernatorial poll. But herein lies the biggest challenge, because of the array and stature of governorship aspirants within its fold.

Possible contenders for the PDP ticket include such serial contenders as, Malam Salihu Sagir, former Commissioner in Shekarau administration; Senator Muhammad Adamu Bello, former Senator representing Kano Central District; Ibrahim Al-Ameen Little, former State Chairman of the defunct All People’s Party (APP) and Engineer Bello Sani Gwarzo, who was a former Managing Director of Abubakar Rimi market, Sabon Gari. Others may still emerge.

Analysts say former Political Adviser to the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Akilu Sani Indabawa and former Senator representing Kano North District, Senator Bello Hayatu Gwarzo, seem either undecided or perfecting their behind-the-scene schemes.The popular sentiment in Kano, based on the cloudy state of affairs in APC, is that the opposition PDP could make a strong showing in 2019 if it fields the right candidate that can muster support from all and sundry across party divides.

In terms of pedigree, Takai had always been Shekarau’s preferred candidate for the gubernatorial seat, until after the 2015 general election when they parted ways. In the 2011 governorship, it was generally believed that Shekarau, at the final days of his second term, imposed Takai on the defunct ANPP. That action pushed the then Deputy Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Tijjani Muhammad, to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), to contest the governorship that same year, thereby working against the interest of his boss’s candidate.

Similar scenario repeated itself in 2015. Shekarau insisted on Takai again, ostensibly because he sees Takai as an honest administrator that believes in quality and effective service delivery. Shekarau is always particular about good governance. Yet, with his unrelenting support, Takai continued to lose.

However, one fundamental factor attributable to Takai’s serial failure was the fact of belonging to the Izala Muslim sect, because majority of Kano Muslims belong to the Sufi order. The two major Sufi orders of Tijjaniyyah and Qadiriyyah have their Nigerian and West African spiritual leaders in Kano.

Senator Bello, a former state chairman of the defunct ANPP from 2003 through 2004, is seen as having a good understanding of political calculations in the state. Apart from his acceptability within the party, he enjoyed goodwill from the then rival political parties.

As a Senator representing Kano Central under ANPP (2007 to 2011), he intervened in the health sector, sponsoring eye treatment of over 26, 600 people with hundreds of students benefitting from his educational assistance. All these helped to endear him to the poor electorate across the 44 local government councils.

Bello is being accused of quitting the political scene when his constituency needed him most. But an investigation revealed that groups have started urging him to stage a comeback. As he succumbed to pressure, some opinions suggest that his acceptance blocks other people chances, being largely accepted by an average PDP member in the state.

On the part of Ibrahim Little, who in 2003 slugged it out with Shekarau in the defunct APP where Shekarau triumphed and ultimately won the governorship, he was well known in those years, being a one time state chairman of the defunct party.Part of his challenges could revolve around his having to run away from politics of the state after losing out at every election cycle. His recent appointment by Muhammadu Buhari administration to chair one of the Federal Government’s agencies could be a setback for him if he accepts the appointment.

His closeness with Shekarau camp might be either a plus or a minus for him. A plus, when Shekarau can still garner much-touted support for his long standing political god-fatherism to many politicians, especially those that hinge their politics on the basis of religious approach.Ibrahim Little’s participation could be at crossroad with other strong pillars of the party, like Ambassador Wali, whom many believe still enjoys greater patronage of the party from Abuja, which may not fetch much electoral dividend during the general election.

For Engineer Gwarzo, who is also among the veteran aspirants, his challenge is not having any viable political base. He is also accused of always negotiating with serious contenders at the eleventh hour of the contest. Gwarzo is believed to have contributed to the success of recent PDP National Convention, even as sources disclosed that he sponsored delegates in more than 20 buses to the Abuja convention.

Many people believe that Indabawa and Senator Gwarzo are still studying the terrain before joining the fray. Whatever that means in poetic terms and calculations, it is left to PDP to make a wise choice for the gubernatorial race. The recent visit by President Buhari to Kano may not be unconnected to the building political tempo in the state. And from what is playing out on the ground in the state, PDP has work to do to harvest the political hanging fruit.

So far, the former Senator that represented Kano Central, Bello, seem to be doing much more than others to interpret the signs of victory and work towards it for the party. Only time will tell who gets the PDP ticket when the chips are down.