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Kwankwaso, Kano visit and APC’s troubles


Gov. Ganduje

Gov. Ganduje

By his accounts, the visit was to commiserate with his long-term aide and former deputy governor, Dr. Ganduje, whose mother had died. It was not a home-coming of the Abuja-based senator and former governor until May 29, 2015. Consequently, it could not have been a political rally.

But last week, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso went to Kano and courted the ire of the government he created and left behind. The political unease between the senator’s camp and that of his protégé, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, reared its head last year when the governor hinted at the gargantuan debt his predecessor and godfather left behind, in addition to mismanagement of the scholarship programme for students in foreign universities.

The recent condolence visit of Senator Kwankwaso on the governor, which should have been a good opportunity for the two leaders to put life out of such invidious speculations, ended up escalating the loss of camaraderie between them.

What played out in Ganduje town becomes most worrisome when placed side by side with the fact of the age-long closeness between the former governor and his successor. Apart from serving as Kwankwaso’s deputy for as long as he was governor of Kano, Dr. Ganduje also served as the senator’s special adviser when he was Defense Minister during the second term of President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Equally disturbing is the fact that the Ganduje camp accused Kwankwaso of using the condolence visit to announce his aspiration to replace President Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential flag bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for 2019. However, by contemplating a suspension as punitive measure for the senator’s temerity, APC Kano may have introduced a new twist to the challenges facing the party, especially given the intricacies of trying to discipline such a high caliber member.

Kwankwaso had while held sway as Kano State chief executive raised an army of wily and willing followers under the aegis of the Kwankwasiyya movement. The group well known for their redcap insignia seems to have been in limbo ever since their patron traveled to Abuja as senator.

Political Alliance Forged On Expediency?
The picture of Kwankwaso and Ganduje adorning the famed Kwankwasiyya redcaps and looking in the same direction aptly conjure up the political trajectory of both men. But the recent altercations between them, especially Ganduje’s threat to expose the pillage and plunder of Kano under the administration of his former boss, suggest that the political understanding was merely forged in expediency.

Kwankwaso has not backed out of his aspiration to contest the presidency. Sources in Kano disclosed that at the build up to the 2015 election, while forces loyal to Kwankwaso were behind the campaigns to have Buhari step down on account of age, another group led by Governor Nasir El Rufa’i rooted insisted on Buhari candidacy. The issue of a second term for Buhari is at the root of various challenges facing the APC and Kwankwaso’s recent to Kano has brought back memories of what went on during negotiations for the APC presidential ticket

Prior to his emergence as governor in May 29, 2015, Dr. Ganduje had been tagging on the fringes of Kwankwaso’s ‘babanriga’ (Hausa flowing gown).

In the heat of the intricate defection of five governors from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kwankwaso, not prepared to leave anything to chance or cause a crack in his political family decided to cede the governorship ticket to his deputy and long term ally.

However, no sooner had President Buhari won the presidential election and he was inaugurated as governor of Kano State, than Ganduje began the process of disentangling his political life from that of his predecessor. Sources in Kano disclosed that all the while, Ganduje never approved of the “crude and brutal” political style of Senator Kwankwaso but bided his time so as not to hurt his political future. “That was why since last May 29, His Excellency Governor Ganduje did not want any close association with the Kwankwasiyya group. The red caps knew they were required to create a scene that was why they decided to go to Aminu Kano Airport to accompany the senator to the condolence in Ganduje town,” said the source, a former party chieftain from Ongogo local government council. He stated that apart from trying to embarrass the sitting governor, the Kwankwasiyya wanted to prove that the senator was more popular than Governor Ganduje.

But apart from the contest of popularity, Governor Ganduje is said to have been doing his best to divorce his leadership style from that of his benefactor, as well as, court the friendship of new political masters in Abuja in obvious attempt to safeguard his second term.

On his part, Senator Kwankwaso had tried to preserve his political relevance and viability in Kano by making concessions, including the appointment of the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as Emir of Kano. Sanusi was on the fore front of those who repudiated Kwankwaso’s mercurial style in his first term as governor. And, having learnt some useful political lessons from his electoral defeat in the hands of Ibrahim Shekau, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), gubernatorial candidate in 2003; Kwankwaso tried to adopt the politics of adoption and accommodation.

In the ensuing collapse of further cooperation from Governor Ganduje, Senator Kwankwaso’s political investment in Kano shows signs of downturn, which could adversely affect his presidential ambition. If the governor makes good his threat to reveal alleged cases of corruption in the award of contracts and other fiscal dealings, Kwankwaso may be forced to become a permanent political exile in Abuja. That depends on how or whether the Kwankwasiyya would fight back. Either way, there would be repercussions.

Implications Of The Breach
Exchanges by the two heavyweights through their surrogates show that Kano and by extension, APC would soon begin to witness feisty political interactions. Chairman of the party in the state, Umar Doguwa accused the senator of organising a violent rally in the state, in a strategic communication to woo the federal might on the side of his principal.

Without situating the development in the condolence and to further play up the political rivalry, Doguwa described the show of solidarity by Kwankwasiyya for their principal as an exhibition of “acts of indiscipline, which should not be allowed to go unpunished”. But the part that concerned mobilizing the “party’s leadership and elders” to approve the constitution of a disciplinary committee to penalise Kwankwaso, loses sight of the disciplinary procedure in APC.

For some time, the state chapter of APC has been thinking of ways to contain Senator Kwankwaso and his ambition to be president, as well as, how to convince the Buhari camp that it was ready to severe the thin umbilical cord tying Ganduje to Kwankwaso and Kwankwasiyya. Doguwa stressed the fact when he noted that “the party leader today in Kano is none other than Governor Umar Abdullahi Ganduje.”

Though the state chairman alleged that senator Kwankwaso hired a crowd, he failed to announce that a similar group that is being nurtured for the governor had been mobilized to embarrass the former governor at Ganduje.

It was the so-called hired crowd that helped APC win the election, that Doguwa alleged busied themselves by “distributing presidential campaign posters, car stickers reading ‘Kwankwassiya 2019, Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso for President”.

But the Senator’s camp showed how far it had been holding itself back from confronting the incumbent with acts of “insubordination and rebellion after the election.” Statement by special assistant to Kwankwaso, Yunusa Dangwani, said the former governor “refrained” from visiting the state since May 29, 2015, ostensibly so as not to interfere with the state’s affairs.

It added that Kwankwaso decided to allow Ganduje space and time to settle down and consolidate on Kwankwaso’s ‘programmes and projects’ that resulted in the electoral victory of APC in both the 2014 local government and 2015 general elections.

The death of the former deputy chairman of the party, Alhaji Isa Ali Danmaraya, a staunch ally of Kwankwaso is also part of the reason why the Kwankwasiyya believe Ganduje had embarked on a project of shrinking the influence of the senator. Kwankwaso believes that his successor was trying to create his own political dynasty, a development his aide said amounts to splitting APC in Kano State.

Kwankwaso has not backed out of his aspiration to contest the presidency. Sources in Kano disclosed that at the build up to the 2015 election, while forces loyal to Kwankwaso were behind the campaigns to have Buhari step down on account of age, another group led by Governor Nasir El Rufa’i supported the Buhari candidacy.

The issue of a second term for Buhari is at the root of various challenges facing the APC and Kwankwaso’s recent trip to Kano has brought back memories of what went on during negotiations for the APC presidential ticket.

Insistence of former President Goodluck Jonathan to seek a second term and ambition of other former PDP governors like Sule Lamido, Ibrahim Shema and Isa Yuguda, forced Kwankwaso to defect to the APC with the belief that he could win the presidential ticket in the new party.

However, within the APC, forces that engineered the merger that produced the party rebuffed attempts by recent joiners like Kwankwaso and fourth republic vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to fly the party’s presidential flag.

The crossing of political swords between the Senator and his political godson, Governor Ganduje, signals the intense politicking that would dominate the APC, especially given the strenuous plots by Buhari’s loyalists that the President should enjoy another term in office.

In the PDP from where Kwankwaso left out of frustration, the presidential ticket has been zoned to the North. It is left to be seen whether the splitting of Kano APC would benefit PDP or the new political platform being contemplated. No matter what transpires from the loss of amity between the two, Kano has shown its hand as a possible hotbed of a new schism in APC.

Sources within the party also hint that the former APC governorship candidate in Kogi, Alhaji Abubakar Audu, did not find things easy in the party following revelations about his staunch support for Kwankwaso. Even in the National Assembly, where he tried to speak up against the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki as President of Senate, Kwankwaso has remained subdued because of the cold treatment towards his ambition to challenge Buhari in 2019.

But with 2019 still very far, does it mean that power is all that matters to most APC chieftain? The signs of division in the ranks of the party are affecting its ability to deliver the goods to Nigerians. Which other state would Kwankaso visit? If he does so would it witness a similar horde of Kwankwasiyya? Sule Lamido and Rotimi Amaechi caused similar sensation when on a visit to Nassarawa their pictures were adorning most public spaces announcing their welcome to the 2015 presidential poll.

The early campaign and talk of 2019 gives indication of the present socio-economic frustration in the polity and that may compound the political future of the ruling party, to the discomfort of Nigerians.

Kwankwaso Governor Nasir El Rufa’i
So far Senator Kwankwaso and Governor Nasir Ahmed El Rufai have beaten the gun as prominent APC stalwarts dreaming of taking the place of President Muhammadu Buhari as the party’s flag-bearer in 2019. And just as Governor Ganduje is positioning himself as Kwankwaso’s nemesis, Senator Shehu Sani is blowing hot and cold over the perceived presidential aspiration of El Rufa’i.

It is popularly held in APC circles that the Kaduna State governor was central to the ‘conscription’ of President Buhari into contesting the presidency after his famed 2011 avowals amidst tears, not to seek the presidency after three trials. Perhaps, as the party plans its National Executive Committee (NEC), meeting and convention, the true picture about whether North West or North East or indeed if zoning would feature in APC’s presidential primary election will be demonstrated.

There must be things Senator Kwankwaso and Governor El Rufai know that is yet to be in the public domain. Nonetheless, if Kwankwaso is suspended from the party as Ganduje and his lieutenants hinted, things will definitely boil over in the ruling party. That would be all that is needed to know how Buhari’s inner circle is looking at his second term.

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