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When Kano council poll becomes turf of political gladiators

By Murtala Adewale, Kano
15 February 2018   |   4:27 am
Last Saturday’s local council election in Kano State was more than just a voting process to elect political administrators at the third tier of government, it was by all indications, a fierce battle for the soul of Kano politics.

Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso

The lingering supremacy contest between incumbent governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his erstwhile godfather and predecessor in office, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was taken to the level of local council election as the battle for the soul of Kano State continues ahead of 2019.

Last Saturday’s local council election in Kano State was more than just a voting process to elect political administrators at the third tier of government, it was by all indications, a fierce battle for the soul of Kano politics.

The umpire that conducted the exercise, Kano State Independent Electoral Commission (KANSIEC), as it is normal with state electoral bodies in the management of council elections across Nigeria since the advent of the current dispensation, on Sunday declared candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), winners of all the 44 chairmanship and 484 councillorship seats.

Chairman of the commission, Prof. Garba Ibrahim Sheka, who announced the result at a press conference, confirmed that 25 political parties participated in the exercise.

Although, the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took part in only four local councils, its participation was considered inconsequential since the party has never shown any serious threat to the APC in the state.

The outcome of the poll, considered by many as real contest between two political giants, Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and his erstwhile boss and Senator representing Kano Central, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, may however be a pointer to where the pendulum of subsequent election in Kano would swing in 2019.

The war of attrition between Ganduje and his predecessor did not just start, but the struggle for the control of the APC structure particularly at the grassroots level, heightened the already established acrimony. Little wonder the two political heavyweights went all out for the council election.

Prior to the election, the Kwankwasiyya group, a faction of the APC loyal to the Senator, submitted a list of candidates through the controversial state party chairman, Umar Haruna Doguwa, even when the group got a directive of the National Headquarters of the party recognizing Bashir Yahaya Karaye, a loyalist of the governor, as acting chairman.

Doguwa was schemed out of the party leadership through a congress impeachment along with his secretary, Siraju Kwankwaso, for alleged financial misappropriation and above all, disloyalty to the party leader, Governor Ganduje. The Kwankwasiyya group was therefore completely sidelined when the electoral commission rejected its list of candidates for the election.

In his rejection of the Kwankwasiyya list, Sheka said, “Let me make it abundantly clear this time around that KANSIEC did not have any list of candidate from Kwankwasiyya group. As a matter of fact, we don’t recognise group of persons here.

“We only recognise the chairman and secretary of political parties and if you want to ask about APC, I can confirm to you that the list this commission recognised was the list submitted by Engr. Bashir Yahaya Karaye-led leadership and duly recognised by the state government.”

Displeased by the rejection, leader of the group, Comrade Aminu Abdulsalam insisted that the electoral body received and acknowledged the APC list of candidates submitted by the Doguwa-led chairmanship.

Abdusalam who accused the KANSIEC chairman of partisanship, threatened to take legal action against any attempt to jettison the Kwankwasiyya, saying, “We respected Prof. Sheka as an academician of great repute but we would be disappointed if he allows himself to be used by the government to deny us the right to participate in this election.

“We have submitted the APC list under the chairmanship of Umar Haruna Doguwa because he still remains the chairman of the party. We are law abiding members of APC and we would make sure we exhaust all legal means to secure our right.”

Asked whether he was aware of the directive of the national headquarters of APC on the appointment of Karaye as acting chairman, Abdulsalam said the directive did not follow due process and negated the constitution of APC as he also alleged interference from the presidency in the affairs of the party in Kano.

Faced with the seeming calculated attempt to scheme them out of the council election, a massive political rally planned to host the former governor where he would formerly unveil his loyalists for the council election, was fixed for 30th of January 2018. There were also insinuations that the Senator would, during the rally, officially defect from APC to PDP.

However, the much-publicized visit was canceled following several security reports that the visit posed potential threats to the state, although the Kwankwasiyya group insisted that the state government orchestrated the reports.

According to Kano Commissioner of Police Rabiu Yusuf, “Credible information at the disposal of the command reveals that the proposed visit has generated palpable fears in the minds of the people of Kano. There is apprehension amongst the general populace and the tendency to hijack the visit by some disgruntled politicians or miscreants cannot be wished away.”

Not deterred by the security warning, Kwankwaso ignored the caution by the Police and insisted he would visit Kano, alleging that the CP was only exhibiting another grand plan by the state government to prevent him from visiting Kano.

Less than 24 hours later, former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) during Kwankwaso’s administration, Rabiu Bichi, said the CP would be held responsible if anything happened to the senator in Kano.

He said, “Since the CP was aware of the planned violence against Kwankwaso’s visit, the Police boss should ensure all means to neutralize the threat, except and unless the Police will consider the agents of violence above the law.”

Bichi who accused the CP of professional incompetence noted that the Police had refused to take action on series of petitions written to it over an open threat on the Senator allegedly sponsored by government.

While Kwankwaso was kept busy with the Police, the government on the other hand, continued to wax stronger with election campaign rallies across the grassroots.

At one of the rallies, Ganduje who assured the aspirants of victory ruled out any possibility of reconciliation with Kwankwaso creating the impression that the exercise was going to be a predetermined exercise. After series of pressure, the senator finally shelved the visit saying the decision was to prevent needless loss of lives.

As if the trouble of curtailing Kwankwaso was not enough, the PDP sprung started another one by challenging the conduct of the election at the law court.

The major opposition party in Kano had filed a suit requesting for extension of the poll while also questioning the credibility of KANSIEC to charge what they considered exorbitant cost of Intent Form that candidates must purchase. The body charged N250, 000 and N150, 000 for chairmanship and counsellorship forms respectively. In a counter reaction KANSIEC filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the State High Court to hear the suit.

The PDP and Kwankwasiyya group vowed to boycott the election and their decision was demonstrated when they ignored the security treaty organized for all political parties ahead of the poll.

The exercise however proved that Ganduje has finally claimed his political freedom from his former godfather who seems to have superimposed his power upon Kano politics from his new Abuja base while, through his faction’s landslide victory, the governor has made use of a long-awaited opportunity to take control of the party’s structure at the council and ward levels that were hitherto in the grip of the senator. It is obvious that Kwankwaso will be left with no option than to seek his political ambition elsewhere as the governor has finally dislodged him from the APC.