After over nine years as the party in power in Kano State, Nigeria’s commercial city and political hotbed, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is beginning to adjust to its current status as the opposition.
In what many analysts describe as an unprecedented feat, the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) wrested power from the APC in Kano during the last general elections.
The victory of the current governor of the state, Abba Kabir Yusuf in the keenly contested March 18 governorship election followed the successes already recorded by his party, the NNPP in the presidential and National Assembly elections. The party won two out of the three senatorial seats and majority of the House of Representatives seats from the state.
Since the formation of the APC, the party had never tested the bitterness of being an opposition party in Kano. It has been in the saddle of power, witnessing a series of changes from different angles, as well as issuing policies, programmes and projects it considered progressive for the state and its members.
As one of the biggest political hubs in the country, Kano State is considered very strategic in winning elections at the national level; hence the fervor of campaigns witnessed during every election circle.
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However, despite the influence and popularity gained by the party in the North and the entire country, it could not retain power in Kano this time as its candidate, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, who was the deputy to the current APC national chairman, Abdullahi Ganduje, failed to secure the required number of votes, giving the NNPP the chance to take over the mantle of leadership.
Since its coming to power, the NNPP has been implementing policies and projects that appear to observers as a challenge to the APC’s legacies in the state.
From the demolition of some structures that were said to have been sold out illegally, to the establishment of many legal cases against the former government and its associates, it has been one battle after another for the loyalists of the APC in Kano.
Party crisis, decamping of some key stalwarts of the APC to the ruling NNPP prior to the election were key factors that led to the failure of the APC, analysts and other politicians said.
Although the APC is challenging NNPP’s victory in court, all eyes are now on the party on how it will cope as an opposition, a position it has never experienced before.
Also, people are watching to see whether it would play the role of a strong opposition that would challenge the ruling party and put it on its toes. With some of its key members now in the NNPP, pundits are also watching how it will maintain its members and emerge stronger in the next political dispensation.
Some of the key stakeholders of the APC spoke on how the party will cope as an opposition.
Majority of them took solace in the fact that the APC is currently ruling the country and the leadership of the country has a significant influence on the position of the party in Kano.
This is more so with the emergence of ex- governor Ganduje as the national chairman of the party.
According to them, the NNPP is not strong enough to become a challenge, describing it as “a new party, popular only in Kano State.”
In an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, the Secretary of the APC in Kano, Ibrahim Zakari Sarina, said the NNPP came to power with vendetta and hunger among its members, which he said was a great loophole that would give them challenges.
He said they did not have much to do as an opposition party since they are currently leading in the country, and if they don’t succeed in the court, being an opposition party in the state is not ‘a big deal’ for them.
“This is simple and clear for us as an opposition. The position is temporary as we will soon reclaim our mandate. Even now, it is as if they are not there. We are still present and our legacies are all over the state.
“We will follow the judgement and see what will come out of it. Between APC and the NNPP, we will see who would rush to the Court of Appeal or even the Supreme Court,” he said.
Sarina disclosed that for the past eight years they dominated Kano State in all its nooks and crannies, which will not be easy for the NNPP to wipe out. In the process, according to him, the NNPP government “will end up halting the smooth running of its administration.”
“They are a new party; some don’t even know them. And instead of facing what is before them to gain popularity and wide acceptance, they are now removing even civil servants that are partisan.
“All we are after is the progress of Kano. As opposition we believe in what the Almighty God has done. But we will not relent and just watch them do whatever they like. We will advise them where we can, and we will challenge them where they didn’t do well. Everybody has seen what they did in their first weeks. They demolished buildings worth billions of naira. They didn’t investigate the process and didn’t go through the agreements, which is very wrong,” he added.
He said the demolition has shown how hungry and greedy they could be as they did that deliberately to make some people angry in the name of politics.
On the internal crisis the party is currently facing, the secretary said any strong political party would never be free of problems, but the ability to manage the problems and emerge victorious is the major concern.
“The problems we are currently facing are normal in politics. A political party that is holding the country is more than any other party. We are not looking for any relevance, we have global recognition. We have over 20 states, majority in the National Assembly. I don’t think we will get rid of problems, but we can handle them.
“This is the same situation in Kano. We have challenges but we are still a strongest party. No other party can defeat our strength. For those that decamped from our party in Kano, we pity them; they will regret it,” Sarina said.
Other members of the APC in the state alleged that not only the NNPP, but other people are crippling the development of the party. According to them, they are always waiting for the downfall of the party, which they described as an impossible move.
Abdulmajid Dan-Bilki Commander, one of the strong stalwarts of the APC in Kano, said the NNPP itself had eased their work.
“They have already created problems for themselves, which will remain there forever. We are very lucky; they are making our job easy.
“What they did in their first weeks has proved to Kano people that they are not going anywhere. They put thousands of people in hunger and joblessness. Many people lost their capital because of their demolition, apart from the thugs they recruited into stealing people’s belongings.
“They will never forget what they did. Many families are in trouble now. Billions of naira was lost. This is just simple. We are not happy, but it is a win for our party,” he said.
Dan-Bilki Commander said that as an opposition, the APC already has a lot to show to prove to Kano people that the NNPP is not a party for them, adding, “Let’s witness 2027 and see what will happen. With this demolition only, we can defeat them. If we are to conduct an election now, the APC will surely win in Kano.”
According to him, the APC is not just an opposition in Kano, but a party that is in the blood of Kano people. He said that with Senator Barau Jibrin as deputy Senate president, he believes the APC would remain strong and serve as the hottest opposition for the NNPP.
‘Personality politics may affect APC as opposition’
Speaking on how the APC will fare as an opposition party in Kano, a foremost political analyst and academician, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage, said the party was strong enough to stand on its own, but personality politics may affect it if its members decide not to stay.
He said that in a democracy there is always a need for credible opposition, but from the look of things, APC members may drop the party’s interest aside and go for their individual or personality interests. He said the situation now depended on what the party would choose to do as an opposition. And it needs e strong people to hold it to remain relevant in politics.
“The politics of Kano is radicalised. But the personalities are virtually the same; they keep on changing positions from one place to another.
“Now, if you are to go back a little, the main actors in the APC, who are now in opposition, were together with the main actors of the NNPP when they were in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“The APC now finds itself as the opposition in Kano. Now, it depends on the roles it wants to play. If it takes its position as opposition party, it will remain relevant, and perhaps, it will be a kind of party that would push the NNPP to do better. In a democracy you need credible opposition, but the way things are now, I think the issue of party line would be put aside and personality politics would take their prominence.
“Going by this, we are not likely to see politics of opposition but politics of personality and clashes,” he said.
Professor Fage said although it is not possible to predict victory for any party in an election, one cannot judge the NNPP’s two months to say whether they would win or lose in the coming elections, adding that it depends on their performance.
“The chances of the APC making any headway depend on how it is able to hold on to the party. If they just remain on personality politics, the relevance of the party will go. But if there are people who will hold the party for all, it will remain politically relevant,” he said.