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2019 Battle In Kano: The fight ahead for Ganduje, Kwankwaso

Since last week's political drama at the Red Chamber of the National Assembly, when about 14 senators defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) there has been speculation that the development would go a long way in shaping or re-shaping political calculations ahead the 2019 general elections.

To keen observers of Nigeria’s current politics, it was however not a surprise in the real sense of the word, though everyone seem to agree that the development would affect the politics of various states and zones differently. 

The Nation observes that hours after the defection of the senators, the effects have started to manifest, especially in the states where stories of political alignment and re-alignment had been heard loudly.

In Kano, for example, the battle has been centred on three major political gladiatorsthe incumbent Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje; his immediate-predecessor as governor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; and another former governor of the state, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. Though there may be other political leaders that could also spring surprises, there is no doubt that they are bound to queue behind the political lineages of these three.

At the inception of the fourth Republic in 1999, Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, on a twin-ticket with Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, won the Kano State governorship election under the banner of the PDP. As at that time, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau was Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office. His disposition over Kwankwaso’s style of leadership which was extremely critical did not go down well with Governor Kwankwaso, who in many occasions, openly showed his anger to the senior civil servant.

Kwankwaso and Shekarua’s rift grew stronger by the day so much that at one point, Kwankwaso ordered his immediate redeployment out of cabinet office and later demoted him to a class room teacher. This development prompted Shekarau’s resignation from the civil service. He went in search of greener pastures with the Dantata Foundation.

Free from the ‘bondage’ of civil service under a perceived antagonist governor, Shekarau in 2002 re-energised his plot of sacking Kwankwaso out of Kano Government House. Using aggressive propaganda, Shekarau who was respected for his pious lifestyle, particularly, within the religious circle, endeared himself into the heart of the Kano masses. 

In the build-up to the 2003 general elections, Shekarau aligned with the populist Muhammadu Buhari (now the sitting President), who was the presidential candidate of the All Peoples Party (APP). With the influence of Buhari, Shekarau clinched the APP governorship ticket and defeated incumbent Kwankwaso, in a historic election that has continued to beat the imagination of pundits. Shekarau held sway as Governor of Kano State for consecutive eight years, breaking the jinx in Kano politics. For these eight years, Shekarau tackled Kwankwaso, notwisthanding the so-called Federal might which he enjoyed as the Minister of Defence under President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In 2011 general elections, at the expiration of Shekarau’s tenure, Kwankwaso staged an aggressive come-back and defeated Shekarau’s choice candidate, Salihu Sagir Takai of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). At this point, Ganduje remained Kwankwaso’s deputy. Kwankwaso and Shekarau had another open political clash at the advent of the legacy party that later transmuted into the All Progressive Congress (APC). In fact, Mallam Shekarau, who came from the ANPP bloc of the legacy parties, was said to be one of the brains behind the APC merger arrangement. At this point, Kwankwaso, engrossed with his presidential ambition, became a major player among the PDP rebels that formed the nPDP.

In the heat of the PDP crisis, Kwankwaso, with power and money at his disposal, struck a deal with the APC and cross-carpeted and the party structure was handed over to him on a platter of gold. Malam Shekarau who was relegated by the party leadership had no choice than to play to the tune of the PDP-led Federal Government, which compensated him with the portfolio of Minister of Education.

However, the latest defection of Kwankwaso from APC to PDP has, again created serious dust in the political atmosphere of Kano State. The question many pundits continue to ask is whether Kwankwaso and Shekarau can work together in the PDP or if there is going to be a replay of the 2013 episode when Shekarau left APC for Kwankwaso.

Also, the political atmosphere in Kano remains even more tensed following the irreconcilable political rift between Kwankwaso and Governor Ganduje, which started at the tail-end of Kwankwaso’s second-tenure. The unfolding drama that followed last Monday’s defection of Kwankwaso to PDP, forced Ganduje to cut short his official trip to London. Being one of the major point men to President Muhammadu Buhari and considering the strategic nature of Kano to Buhari’s 2019 presidential project, Ganduje, who made a short stop-over at Abuja, ensured that his political structure remained intact and solid. In fact, his immediate response to the already tense situation foiled a grand plot to divide the Kano State House of Assembly by Kwankwaso and his men. 

Ganduje’s underground work paid off as the leadership of Kano State House of Assembly, came out openly to puncture rumours that 22 of them, including the Speaker, were making plans to defect to the PDP. Addressing reporters on the development, the Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Abdullahi Ata, dispelled the rumour of defection of some APC members to the PDP and affirmed that members of the Assembly were in solid support of Governor Ganduje and President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to him, “the Assembly has 40 members from the 44 local government areas in the state and 33 of those members are solidly loyal to Ganduje and Buhari. Six members, who are staunch followers of Kwankwaso, as well as one PDP member, who clinched the mandate through the outcome of Supreme Court judgment, are still with us. Ata further stressed that, “the defection of Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso to PDP will not in any way affect Governor Ganduje’s victory in Kano State.”

Also speaking on Kwankwaso’s defection to PDP, his cousin, who is currently serving as Ganduje’s Commissioner for Rural and Community Development, Illyasu Musa Kwankwaso, described it as a blessing to Ganduje’s 2019 return. According to him, “Kwankwaso’s return to the PDP will only succeed in capturing 60 per cent of the party’s structure. The former Foreign Minister, Ambassador Aminu Wali and the erstwhile Minister of Education, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, including Senator Bello Hayyatu will be left to grapple with the remaining 40 per cent.”

Ilyasu Kwankwaso further explained that, “the implication of this is that Senator Kwankwaso will never endorse the candidature of Aminu Wali and Shekarau. He will attempt to manipulate the already existing structure for his personal gain. I want you all to wait for the next one month, after the defection of Senator Kwankwaso from the ruling APC and be on the watch out for what would happen, as there would be mass defection of numerous PDP members to the APC. Kwankwaso will neither support Wali’s candidature nor Shekarau’s candidature.”

It is however important to underscore the fact that from the forgoing scenario, Kwankwaso’s main target is to ensure that Ganduje is not re-elected as governor of Kano State in 2019. Already, he has started perfecting his plots with the endorsement of Ganduje’s deputy, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, as a potential governorship candidate in the 2019 gubernatorial elections in the state. This plot is becoming clearer because few months ago, Hafiz openly declared that he was not interested to run as deputy governor with Governor Ganduje in the 2019 elections. Also, a fortnight ago, Prof. Hafiz and Kwankwaso were sighted in London where they held a high profile political meeting with some Kano stakeholders, where Prof. Hafiz was finally endorsed to run as a governorship candidate in the 2019 governorship election.

Reacting to Kwankwaso’s defection to PDP, Malam Shekarau, through his spokesman, Sule Yau Sule, welcomed him to the party and only hoped that he would abide by the constitution of the party and play the game of politics according to the rules. “I hope the PDP has received a reformed Kwankwaso. I hope it is not the old Kwankwaso I knew. I hope he will, this time around, abide by the rules and regulations of the PDP. I hope he will not repeat what he did after he joined APC in 2015. At that time, he took over everything, leaving us with empty hands. I hope Kwankwaso is not coming to PDP to repeat the injustice he did in 2015. If everybody will be allowed to play his card according to rules of the party, that will be better for him (Kwankwaso) and every member of the party,” he added.

However, though there were rumours that Kwankwaso and Ganduje are struggling to win the heart of Shekarau, the former Minister of Education however denied striking any deal yet with both of them, adding that he never sat one-on-one with Kwankwaso since 2015.

Be that as it may, pundits have continued to doubt the possibility of Kwankwaso working together Shekarau as many of Shekarau’s lieutenants are said to have started piling pressure on the two-time Kano State Governor to dump PDP for Kwankwaso before it is too late. Come what may, as events continue to unfold in the weeks ahead, the compass is focusing on Ganduje, Shekarau and Kwankwaso as no one can predict, for now, where the pendulum will swing.