For the first time since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999 and barring any 11th-hour compromise, each of the three leading politicians in Kano State will enter the battlefield with one thing in mind: to win the election for his anointed candidate and retire the other two from the political scene.
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Senators Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Ibrahim Shekarau, have taken turns to rule the state since 1999 for two terms each and now have their horses in the race, with each hoping to be the first to single-handedly “anoint” a successor.
This is so because it is the first election circle where each of the political heavyweights will belong to different political parties. The norm since 1999 has always been two of the trio teaming up against the other, but the dynamics have now seen Ganduje as the leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Kwankwaso as the leader and presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and Shekarau as the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
For the APC, Ganduje had to surmount some dissenting voices to anoint his deputy, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, as the gubernatorial candidate, while it was an easy ride for Kwankwaso to re-anoint his in-law and former commissioner, Abba Yusuf Kabir as the gubernatorial candidate, just as it was in the 2019 election when he was in the PDP.
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For Shekarau and his party, the crisis that forced Kwankwaso out of the party has lingered, and now even threatens its participation in the gubernatorial election. Until late December, Sadiq Wali, son of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali, had been the recognised gubernatorial candidate of the party. Wali and Shekarau belong to the same faction trying to wrest control from Kwankwaso’s allies left in the party that headed by Shehu Sagagi.
But following a Federal High Court judgement in late December, which declared Mohammed Abacha, son of former military head of state, the late Sani Abacha, as the authentic candidate of the party, the Wali and Shekarau group has gone back to the drawing board as Abacha belongs to the group of Sagagi.
So, unlike Ganduje and Kwankwaso, Shekarau’s path to influencing the emergence of the next governor of Kano state has been complicated by the internal wrangling within the party he only re-joined late last year after a voyage in the APC and a short stint with Kwankwaso in the NNPP.
Shekarau and the Wali group are still hoping that the appellate court would restore the candidacy of their choice.
Gawuna, the APC gubernatorial candidate and Ganduje’s deputy and anointed successor, has one thing going for him: he is not known to be in the bad books of any of the other political gladiators.
The 55-year-old served as chairman of Nassarawa Local Government for eight years under the administration of Shekarau before he was appointed a commissioner in 2014 by Kwankwaso, and was reappointed a commissioner in 2015 by Ganduje when the latter took over power. He would later be appointed as Ganduje’s deputy after the resignation of Hafiz Abubakar.
In 2019, he was retained by Ganduje and they jointly emerged winners after a re-run election. However, it was the incidents leading to the rerun election that shot Gawuna to the limelight of national politics after images of him being sandwiched between police officers in a van went viral. The incident, it was reported, had to do with the collation of results during the election, where it was gathered that he and Murtala Sule-Garo, the then commissioner for local government affairs and now his running mate, arrived the venue of the state collation centre and allegedly began to disrupt the process.
Their actions led to a halt in the announcement of results at the centre after some youth suspected to be supporters of the opposition PDP tried to attack the two officials. Police would later explain that Gawuna and Sule-Garo were not arrested but escorted out of a hostile environment.
This incident and the perceived lackadaisical performance of the ruling party at the national level, as well as allegations that had continued to trail his boss and some policies of the government he served as number 2 have become the greatest hitches for the APC candidate despite his acclaimed excellent performances as commissioner, deputy governor, as well as his role as the chairman of Kano State Taskforce Committee on COVID-19, which won the state several laurels.
Abba Kabir Yusuf, the candidate of the NNPP, is going into the election with the mindset of reclaiming his “stolen mandate,” he has said at several fora. He has maintained that he won the 2019 election against Ganduje and was only denied of his entry into the Government House by the controversial declaration of the election as inconclusive and the rerun election that followed.
Yusuf, popularly known as Abba Gida Gida, has been a household name in Kano since the 2019 election when he flew the flag of the PDP to challenge Ganduje’s return bid but oftentimes has been overshadowed by the popularity of his mentor, in-law and political godfather, Kwankwaso, observers of Kano politics noted.
The 59-year-old served as Kwankwaso’s commissioner for works, housing and transport, the powerful ministry at the centre of Kwankwaso’s modernisation and infrastructural development drive for Kano between 2011 and 2015. And his 70-page blueprint launched last year has placed emphasis on education and health care, as well as consolidation of the Kwankwasiyya ideals for the state.
Whether this would be enough for Yusuf to wrest power from the ruling party is still up for debate, especially with the financial war chest of the ruling party and Kwankwaso also having another personal race in the general elections – his presidential ambition.
But beyond the three major parties, other parties and candidates are also hoping to change the narrative. Sha’aban Sharada, a House of Representatives member and former aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, who recently dumped the ruling APC after missing out on its gubernatorial ticket, has been making a name for himself among the youths in the state. He was a very influential member of the defunct G-7 faction of the APC led by Shekarau, which nearly wrested party controls from Ganduje last year.
As the campaigns continue, Sharada’s continuous appeal to residents is considered a challenge for both the ruling APC and the NNPP. For the APC, it is believed that supporters of the 41-year-old lawmaker constitute a sizable portion of the votes that secured victory for the APC in 2019, especially in the Kano metropolitan area. And for the NNPP, his growing appeal among the youths and women, which is the core of the NNPP’s support base, is also considered threatening.
Other candidates like Bashir I. Bashir of the Labour Party, an engineer; Salihu Tanko Yakasai of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), Malam Ibrahim Khalil of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Bala Gwagwarawa of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who all recently left the APC or had a stint with the party, strongly believe in their chances of winning the election, but analysts believe that unless compromises are reached before the election day, their successes at the poll may be that of denying the ruling APC of thousands of votes.
Analysts, however, believe that although the election has more tendencies of being a proxy war among the three political gladiators in the state, there are still slim chances of new guards like Sharada retiring all the old guards with a surprising result at the poll.