The over 1.5 million registered voters in Kano South Senatorial District are faced with the daunting challenge of choosing who their representative in the red chamber will be in 2023. The options, however, are narrowed to whether they return the veteran Senator Kabiru Gaya or test new waters with the grassroots mobiliser and former House of Representatives member Kawu Sumaila.
Made up of 15 local governments – Ajingi, Albasu, Bebeji, Bunkure, Doguwa, Garko, Gaya, Kibiya, Kiru, Rano, Rogo, Sumaila, Takai, Tudunwada and Wudil – Kano South is only second to Kano Central by the number of registered voters but has been finding it difficult to exert its strength in presenting a governorship candidate for the top parties in the state since 1992 when it last had the governor from the axis.
Thus, the local politics surrounding the senatorial and House of Representatives elections have always been contested with fervour.
However, Gaya, who is coincidentally the last Kano southerner to serve as Kano State governor in 1992, has also been able to exert his dominance in the senatorial district and has been in the Senate representing the district since 2007. But analysts say that may change in 2023 with Kawu Sumaila, a former legislative aide to President Muhammadu Buhari, not leaving any stone unturned in his quest to represent the district in the red chamber.
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In the 2019 election, Gaya won with 319,004 votes to beat his close opponent, Sani Rogo of PDP, who scored 217,520 votes, while Yahaya Karaye of the PRP came third with 30,013 votes.
The 70-year-old senator is leveraging his push for another term on the strength of his contributions to his district and also on the contributions his return as a ranking member of the red chamber can bring to not only the district but also Kano State.
In terms of education, he received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria in 1977 and a master’s degree in architecture in 1980 from the same university.
Gaya, in a recent interview with newsmen in Kano, said he is not worried about the ‘huge’ turnout at a rally organised by Sumaila in the district, noting that the mammoth crowd might have been enhanced with technology.
“In politics, we have experience, and we’ve gone through all these. Yes, my colleague who is running for the senatorial seat in Kano South is doing his best, he is gathering a crowd, but I believe I will have more crowd than him, and I believe that by God’s grace, I will win that election.
“We do not want to do that in our rallies. We will be active and go around to all our constituencies, expose the projects we did in those constituencies, and people will appreciate us and vote for us again.
“By God’s grace, APC will win this election and we expect the NNPP to come second and the PDP third,” he said.
Gaya said those asking why he was always seeking a return to the red chamber need to know that aside from “doing a lot” for his constituency, “the more ranking you become, the more effective you become in the National Assembly. I couldn’t have been chairman of INEC (committee) if I wasn’t a ranking officer. I couldn’t have been chairman, works if I wasn’t a ranking officer. So, if we win the election, I know what I may become tomorrow, maybe a better position.”
This ‘better’ position, analysts said may be that of the Senate president or Senate Leader if the APC wins the presidency, and this, they believe is an additional motivation for the veteran senator to do whatever it takes to win the election in 2023.
Kawu Sumaila, 54, is not a stranger to national politics having represented the Sumaila/Takai Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives for three consecutive terms, from 2003-2015.
Although he did not succeed in his ambition to become the governor of Kano State in 2015, President Buhari, recognising his role in the formation of the APC and subsequent role in the victory of the party in 2015, appointed him as SSA on the National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives).
But in 2022, following the endorsement of the current deputy governor of Kano State, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, for the governorship ticket of the APC, and a former Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Murtala Sule-Garo, as his deputy (both from Kano central and Kano north), Sumaila dumped the APC, where he was hitherto hoping to get the party’s senatorial ticket ahead of Gaya.
Several politicians from Kano South see the endorsement of Gawuna and Sule-Garo for governor and deputy governor by the APC as betrayal because they felt their zone should produce the next governor, having been sidelined since 1992.
He would later join the NNPP and secure the party’s senatorial ticket. But Sumaila was not the only top politician from Kano South to dump the ruling party and team up with former governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and his Kwankwasiyya Movement in the NNPP. Other top politicians from the district like Alhassan Rurum, a former speaker in the state assembly and current federal lawmaker for Rano/Bunkure; Haruna Isah Dederi (lawmaker representing Karaye/Rogo federal constituency); and the spokesman for the Kwankwaso presidential campaign organisation and former federal lawmaker for Kiru/Bebeji, Abdulmumin Jibrin Kofa, are all now flying the flag of the NNPP and they are part of the forces Sumaila will be hoping will lead his charge against Gaya.
However, Sumaila, regarded as one of the major grassroots mobilisers in Kano, is also hoping that his major project – Al-Istiqama University – sited in his hometown and has provided educational opportunities and employment opportunities for many people, will also play a huge role in convincing the people of the senatorial district of his good plan for them.
In a recent interview with journalists in Kano, Sumaila said despite the APC’s power of incumbency in Kano and at the federal level, the election between him and Gaya would produce a shocker for the ruling party, adding that the people of Kano South are clamouring for a better representation which was evidenced by the crowd that graced his campaign at Sumaila recently.
“In Kano, the power of incumbency is inconsequential. As far as Kawu Sumaila is concerned, as far as our (NNPP) gubernatorial candidate, Abba Yusuf is concerned, as far as our grand commander and presidential candidate, Dr Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso is concerned; Kabiru Gaya and other APC candidates are inconsequential.
“In Kano South, people are tired of them. Can’t you see what happened when I launched my campaign, can’t you see the crowd,” he said.
While also hoping to ride on the popularity of the Kwankwasiyya Movement and its red cap insignia, especially among the youths, which represented a substantial voting strength of Kano, Sumaila said his political philosophy is pegged on the principles of social justice and that people in Kano South already identify with the philosophy.
“My take on the legislative agenda is to have social justice. I will ensure social justice in three areas: education, health and water resources.
“I will make sure there is social justice in the distribution of wealth. Here in Kano, I will make sure there is a powerful consultative forum headed by me that will protect our interest and ensure we get our fair share of democratic dividends from the federal level,” he added.
In terms of education, Sumaila is also well read with his first degree in Islamic Studies from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), three master’s degrees in Leadership Studies, Developmental Studies and Political Science from Nigerian Defence Academy, Bayero University Kano (BUK) and Maryam Abacha University, Niger Republic, respectively.
Both parties target Kano south with campaign flag-off
Analysts have observed that the decision of the ruling APC to flag off its state election campaign in Gaya LGA of Kano South was part of the calculation to checkmate the growing strength of the Sumaila-led NNPP in the district and remind the people of the district of the importance of returning their veteran senator to the red chamber, just as they give all other APC candidates premium votes during the election.
But the NNPP also had a similar thought by flagging off its campaign in Kiru LGA, one of the LGs with the highest voting population in the Kano South Senatorial District.
Kawu Sumaila will be hoping that the huge crowd that turned out for the campaign flag-off will turn up for him on election day across the 161 wards that make up the senatorial district, while Gaya will be hoping the good luck that has seen his people return him to the red chamber four times in the past will make the way for him again in 2023.