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Much ado about Shekarau’s Zirgazirga politics

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
25 September 2022   |   4:48 am
By November 5, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau will clock 67 years. For the greater part of those 67 years’ sojourn on earth, he has served humanity as teacher, administrator and politician.

Ibrahim Shekarau

By November 5, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau will clock 67 years. For the greater part of those 67 years’ sojourn on earth, he has served humanity as teacher, administrator and politician. It was, however, after his retirement from civil service that he veered into partisan politics.

  
In the nearly 20 years of his stint in politics, Shekarau has won elections on three occasions: Shortly after joining politics he defeated the incumbent governor of Kano State, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, thereby denying the governor a second term in office. After that electoral triumph, Shekarau began what has become a political relay race between him and Kwankwaso.
   
Recall that as governor, Shekarau founded the Hisbah Guard, an Islamic Police, to enforce the Sharia legal system. His frugal lifestyle also enabled him to deliver on many impactful development projects in the state.
   
Consequently, he easily won his second term as governor in 2007. Then, in 2011, Shekarau aspired to be Nigeria’s President. Though he showed great promise in the presidential election, his efforts were stymied by the North/South power rotation arrangement in Nigeria.
   
In 2019, he secured another electoral triumph by winning the election to represent Kano Central Senatorial District in the Senate. In doing that, Shekarau had to take over from Kwankwaso, who succeeded him as governor in 2011.
   
It bears noting however that within this period of his active participation in partisan politics, Mallam Shekarau has crisscrossed four political parties. In 2003, for instance, when the former Mathematics teacher won the governorship poll, he was a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). And, at the merger of former opposition parties into the All Progressives Congress (APC), Shekarau defected from the inchoate party immediately the promoters of the party decided that the defecting incumbent governors from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should control the party structures in their states.
  
As Shekarau defected to PDP, he was appointed the Minister for Education. With the eventual defeat of PDP in 2015, Shekarau’s stay in the party suffered from the internal crisis. Based on that, and in addition to his ambition to contest the Senate election and replace Kwankwaso, Shekarau moved back to APC.
  
Having emerged as APC Senator for Kano Central, Shekarau regained the status of a major stakeholder in the party. That improved status brought him on a collision course with the incumbent Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. Ganduje’s desire to exercise total control of Kano APC structure met with Shekarau’s confrontation as the Senator sought accommodation for his supporters in the ward, local council and state leadership committees.
   
Following a disagreement over the APC state congress, Shekarau opened up discussions with his political sparring partner, Kwankwaso, with a view to possibly defect to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). After agreeing with Kwankwaso on a range of issues, he joined NNPP in May.
  
But, three months after seeing the inside of NNPP, Shekarau ran out gasping for political breath as he complained that his long term rival in Kano politics, Senator Kwankwaso wanted to choke him to political death.
  
It could be recalled that Mallam Shekarau became popular in Kano State as a result of his quiet mien and aptitude as a Mathematics teacher. The Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria graduate of Mathematics and Education began his teaching career with Government Technical College, Wudil.
   
As such, Shekarau has been applying his rich knowledge of Mathematics and teaching method in his political calculations. This could possibly explain why after Kwankwaso and NNPP insisted on accommodating him alone on the party’s chart for the 2023 poll, Mallam decided to beat a fast retreat.
 
Perhaps, after plotting the graphs and locating the coefficients of the numbers, Shekarau discovered that there was no way the simultaneous equation between his supporters and the Kwankwasiyya could balance. Under such circumstances, he rejected the short end of the stake offered him in NNPP and resolved to subtract himself as a subset of the party.
  
From 1978 to 1982, Shekarau spent time in Wudil, where he taught Mathematics in both GTC and as Principal of Government Day Junior Secondary School, Wudil.
    
Therefore, it could also be that from his four years stay in Wudil, where beans are farmed, Shekarau knows the impact of weevils on crops. Staying back in NNPP in the midst of the Kwankwasiyya group without a substantial number of his supporters, especially the Shura council, therefore, translated to imminent political death, because no single bean seed can survive the attacks of weevils.  
  
Although Shekarau’s membership of four political parties in a space of 20 years could be ascribed to his electoral worth and political engineering abilities, his recent exit from NNPP after less than three months has given him the appellation of a nomadic politician.
    
Some of his staunch supporters now complain that they are tired of his zirgazirga (wanderlust or walkabout) approach to politics. In the course of the 2011 presidential election, when he was the standard bearer of ANPP, Shekarau showed his mastery of issues of Nigeria’s socio-political development. His performance during the televised debate exposed his rich credentials as an empathic leader, whose modesty commands emulation.
   
Though it was that disarming eloquence and personal discipline that endeared him to Kano voters when he won his second term as governor in 2007, it was also those qualities that opened him up to envy by entrenched political forces, which saw him as a potential material for the Presidency.
    
Failing to eat the humble pie in 2015 by working with Kwankwaso in a subordinate capacity, Mallam began his odyssey in political excursion, which has seen him through PDP, APC, NNPP and back to PDP. With the circuit running full circle, there is no doubt that Shekarau, who also holds the traditional title of Sardauna, would sit back and count cost and the mileage of his political travels.
  
By now also, despite the absence of ideological framework in Nigeria’s political parties, Shekarau should begin to share his ideas with his supporters and, above all, be able to encourage them to see membership of political parties not as dependent on opportunities for ventilation of ambitions.
    
To excel in this new assignment, he ought to reckon that he needs to have a permanent political address. His decision to sacrifice his senatorial return ticket in solidarity with his supporters is exemplary and re-echoes his empathic leadership bent.
   
All said, when the 2023 presidential election is won and lost, Senator Shekarau would have his place as one of those who shaped the conversation for a paradigm shift in Nigeria’s political orientation. Whatever role the future may hold out for Mallam would be an opportunity for him to tell his story and transform the knowledge of his past mistakes and experience into success secrets in partisan politics.
   
Although PDP provided him the first national platform to showcase his leadership abilities as Minister for Education, albeit briefly, Shekarau’s return to the party would rouse him into mental cogitation of where his political orientation actually lies.
    
Is Shekarau a conservative or a social-welfarist politician? Does he believe that PDP approximates to the best platform to express his political orientation? To what extent does consideration of opportunities for possible electoral victory contribute to his political preferences?  
  
The above posers arose from Senator Shekarau’s recent zirgazirga politics, which has left many of his admirers reassessing their understanding of the Sarduana Kano, the teacher who became political leader.

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