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Kwankwaso: Red cap revolutionist changing the tide

Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) is counted among the frontline candidates for Saturday’s presidential election. The…

Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) is counted among the frontline candidates for Saturday’s presidential election.

The two-term governor of Kano State is running under a little-known political party, but with his dominance in Kano—the state with the highest number of registered voters, and the fanatical following he enjoys among his red-cap-wearing young supporters, he is poised for a good show to the finish line.

Kwankwaso is known for his political acumen. As a person, he is loved by many and loathed by some for his sense of patriotism, bravado, tenacity, brashness and narcissistic tendencies. He has, however, over the years, proved his mettle as a politician.

In several instances, he succeeded in breaking the glass ceiling, which earned him a place on the thorny throne of Nigerian politics.

Well-credentialed in politics – which he has practised for the last 30 years – Kwankwaso steadily rose through the rungs, reaching the zenith in June 2022, when he earned a place on the presidential ballot, for the first time. That was not his first attempt.

Recall that during his inauguration on May 29, 2011,  for his second term, Kwankwaso handed down a directive to his supporters to adopt the symbolic red cap as a dress code, thus birthing the red cap revolution, otherwise known as the Kwankwasiyya movement.

In 2014, after joining the newly formed opposition mega-party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), he raced along with the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, and a handful of other heavyweights for the party’s princely ticket.

In the primary, held in Lagos, Kwankwaso came second with 974 votes, while former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, clinched the third position with 954 votes. His performance at the primary ballooned his popularity in the political space of the country.

Also, in 2018, shortly after he returned to the PDP, he contested for the presidency and lost to the former vice president.

Not an accidental politician

His schoolmates and old colleagues recall Kwankwaso’s growing-up days as a little rural boy with uncommon courage and an abundance of ambition. He was clear-headed as a young man about where he was and where he wanted to be.

Described by friends and political associates as a goal-getter, his schoolmates, said Kwankwaso displayed an early appetite for politics and showed leadership traits as a student at the Kaduna Polytechnic, where he read plumbing.

“There was a particular time when our bursary was delayed from Kano. Kwankwaso volunteered to go with four other persons to follow it up. Immediately after they returned, a delegation came from Kano to pay us the owed allowances. It was very gladdening at the time.

“He was always at the forefront of issues like this,” recalled Alhaji Ahmad Rabiu, who was Kwankwaso’s junior at Kaduna Polytechnic.

As a governor of Nigeria’s most populous state, Kano—first between 1999 and 2003 and again between 2011 and 2015 – Kwankwaso pursued sundry pro-people policies, including feeding pupils in government-owned primary schools and empowering women and young people with start-up incentives. This gave him the mass appeal that has kept him relevant in the state, in and out of office.

Kwankwaso is a veteran in the tricky Nigerian political chess game – he was at the House of Representatives, a governor, a minister, and a senator. The braggart that he is, he likes to reel that out at every opportunity. He is entitled.

Journey to the top

Kwankwaso’s journey into politics can be traced to his student days, when he served as the National Assistant Secretary General of the Kano State Students Association (KSSA), as well as the President of the Kano State Students Association (Kaduna Polytechnic Branch).

He also served as a board member for the Faculty of Agricultural Science, as well as Postgraduate Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK.

His active party politics started with his election as a member of the House of Representatives in (1992), representing Madobi Federal Constituency. His subsequent election as deputy speaker in the House brought him to the limelight of national politics. This was, however, short-lived as the civilian administration was truncated by the military.

In 1994, Kwankwaso was elected delegate to the Constitutional Conference, which fashioned out the constitution that later ushered in the fourth republic. Under this dispensation, he contested and won the governorship ticket of Kano State, a position he held from 1999 to 2003.

During his tenure, the state witnessed some milestone developmental projects. He was appointed minister of Defence in 2003, a position he meticulously occupied until 2006.

Between 2006 and 2007 Kwankwaso was Special Adviser to the President on Darfur/Somalia. He represented the North-West zone on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, from 2009 to 2010, when he resigned voluntarily.

Ever passionate and patriotic, Kwankwaso contested for the position of governor of Kano State on the platform of the PDP in the April 2011 elections, during which he defeated the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANNP)-led government under former governor Ibrahim Shekarau, setting the record of returning to the governorship seat after vacating the position for eight years.

Born Muhammad Rabi’u Musa at Kwankwaso town, in present-day Madobi LGA of Kano State, on October 21, 1956, Kwankwaso traversed many grounds in his journey to the top.

According to his official profile, he started his educational journey at the tender age of four when he was introduced to Islamic education. Two years later, he started formal western education at Kwankwaso Primary School from 1962 to 1969.

Thereafter, he enrolled at the Wudil Craft School 1970-1972) and Kano Technical Training School (1972-1975). He later proceeded to Kaduna Polytechnic (1975-1980); he proceeded to the United Kingdom for further education at Middlesex Polytechnic (1982-1983); Loughborough University of Technology (1982-1985); and later Nottingham University (1987-1991).

Later, he enrolled in certificate courses at Derby National Water Council (1982); Derby Water Industrial Training (1985); and London Industrial Training (1985).

Kwankwaso started his professional career as an artisan craftsman technician and rose through the cadre to the rank of principal engineer at the Kano State Water Resources and Engineering Construction Agency (WRECA).

Over the years, he served in many other capacities and at different places, such as Technical Officer, City Water Supply, Project Manager, Challawa Gorge Dam, as well as research officer at the Ministry of Water Resources.

“He recognises and respects friendships. He made effort to recruit me into politics but I declined, and yet he is still very receptive to me. Every time I send him a text message, he responds, and wherever he sees me, he will stop for us to greet,” says Alhaji Ibrahim Gundutse, a childhood friend whose family has close ties with Kwankwaso.   

Unusual campaign strategy 

While other presidential candidates are focusing on rallies in urban centres to address voters, Kwankwaso has been moving from one local government area to the other, reaching out to the electorate in their domains.

So far, the national chairman of the NNPP, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, said the campaign team of the leader of the Kwankwasiyya movement has been to 650 of the 774 local government areas, talking directly to the electorate. Before the election, Alkali said they would tour all 774 LGAs in the country.

“We want to have direct contact with Nigerians at their doorsteps to know what they want and to tell them how we intend to turn around the country’s fortunes positively if elected,” he said.

During his visit to the Idoma paramount traditional ruler, Och’Idoma, Dr John Elaigwu Odogbo in Otukpo in Benue State, he told the royal father that Nigerians deserve someone like him, an experienced leader, who has served and delivered dividends of democracy to the people in the past, as their president. 

Kano as a launch pad 

While he is busy, traversing the nooks and crannies of the country to market his candidature, pundits say he should have concentrated on winning governorship elections in Kano, Jigawa and other states in the North West to strengthen his political base ahead of future elections.

An analyst said Kwankwaso should have borrowed a leaf from the presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Tinubu, on completion of his second tenure, ensured he produced his successor and spread his tentacles to other parts of the South West geopolitical zone, before aspiring for the presidency.

Talking about Kwankwaso’s presidential bid, one of his allies in the Senate (2015-2019), extolled his virtues, describing him as a dogged fighter and pro-masses politician.  However, he faulted his contest for the presidency.

“If I were him, I will not be venturing into a presidential contest. I will have just remained a senator, promoting my gubernatorial, senatorial, and House of Representatives candidates. I will become a landlord in Kano. This is better than being a presidential candidate who will not go far.

“I remember when we were in the Senate, I tried to advise him that if I were him, I would hold onto my state. That way, when the chips are down, parties will seek my alliance. They will say, ‘look we will support you for your governorship and parliamentary seats, we want you to support us for the presidency’. It would have been very easy for him, “ he said.

But a chieftain of the NNPP, Buba Galadima, punctured that, saying of all the presidential candidates, only Kwankwaso possessed an unquestionable credential to lead the country. 

“All other presidential candidates have issues with their credentials. We challenge them to present their certificates, and fact check, and all of them that were in public service, nobody has got his record of performance while in public office. None of them is near his integrity. He has never been accused of doing anything wrong,” he said.

Like Galadima, Alkali said, “Kwankwaso is a courageous man and you would see that by the time he started this national movement some years back, many people were afraid to come forward.

“He is resilient, irrespective of the challenges or obstacles, he always tries to overcome. When we started this journey, most people dismissed us, saying we were going nowhere. They said NNPP is a Kano affair, but later they graduated it to a northern affair.

“Today, NNPP poses the greatest challenge to the two dinosaurs (APC and PDP) which are now afraid of the party,” he said. 

Pension fund controversy

Despite several denials, the controversy over the diversion of pension funds during Kwankwaso’s second term has kept popping up.

In a petition, one Barrister Mustapha Danjuma, who wrote on behalf of Engineer Abubakar Maisha’ani and Alhaji Najumai Garba Kobo, in 2015, the pensioners had alleged that Kwankwaso received contributions of N70 million from each of the 44 local government councils (totaling N3.08 billion) towards his presidential primary in 2015.

In October 2021, there were reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) grilled the former governor over the petition filed by the pensioners.

One of Kwankwaso’s loyalists, Aminu Abdulsalam, had while reacting back then, said the pensioners in the state accusing Kwankwaso of fraud would go to hell because they were ingrates.

He said the pensioners were wrong to have reported Kwankwaso to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) because he used the pension funds as mandated by law. 

Scholarship programme/philanthropic gestures 

During his second tenure, hundreds of indigent students benefited from his administration’s scholarships. To continue his scholarship scheme after his second term, Kwankwaso, said he sold his properties to sustain the programme.

Kwankwaso, who said he had always given himself targets on what to do for humanity, added that more than 3,000 students benefited from his scholarship programmes from 2011 to 2015, when he was Kano State governor.

He said he created the foundation as a payback to the people for their massive support for him during elections in the state.

 “When we advertised in 2019, believing that there were few people with first class because in our first scholarship we said anybody with first class, we exhausted all in Kano. Second class upper, we exhausted them,” he said.

Through his foundation, Kwankwaso said he has assisted thousands of widows and spinsters to marry.

RMK 2023: My pledges to Nigerians 

In his 160-page manifesto and policy document titled, “My Pledges to You,” The RMK2023 Blueprint”, Kwankwaso pledged leadership and justice, if elected. Explaining further, he said; “We will provide you with patriotic and competent leadership that is guided by the seven time-tested principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, and leadership-by-example. We will be fair and just to all, and we shall ensure fairness and justice at all levels of governance. He also pledged to work for the restoration of peace, security and unity under what he tagged, “Human Security”.

“Conscious of the provision of Section of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,”  we will secure the entire country, ensure peace and peaceful coexistence reign, and work deliberately to strengthen the bond of unity amongst Nigerians of all backgrounds.

“Lawlessness leads to anarchy. We shall ensure that our country is guided and governed by the rule of law: recognising that sovereignty belongs to the people, upholding the principle that all are equal before the law, and integrating the rule of law with the rule of virtue,” he said. 

For the senior citizens, the former Kano State promised what he called, “dignity in your retirement”.  He added that, “our senior citizens, veterans, and pensioners who gave their all during their youthful years in the service to the nation shall not be neglected. I pledge to ensure that retirees live a dignified life after service.”

Pledging to deepen democracy at all levels, he said he would support all democratic institutions to ensure the continuous growth and maturity of the political system, establish political order, accelerate national development, and maintain national stability.

“We shall put in place, at all the 8,809 political wards of the country, community participation and reorientation committees to complement government efforts and ensure community involvement in governance.

“This will be a scaled-up version of its successful experimentation for eight years in Kano State during the time of RMK,” he said.

On foreign relations, he said; “While maintaining peaceful cooperation and beneficial bilateral and multilateral relationships with the governments of other nations, we shall redesign our foreign policy agenda to reflect the leadership position of Nigeria in West Africa and Africa with the core objective of reclaiming our country’s position in global governance.”

He also pledged to revolutionise farming practises by investing in technology, training, and extension work to attain national food security as well as capture a substantial market share of food on the African continent.

“We pledge to ensure the deployment of global best practises in the establishment and management of forestry, plantation, animal husbandry, livestock, poultry and fisheries as well as guarantee an agriculture value chain that protects the farmers, the livestock owners, as well as the consumers,” he said.

How far will the leader of the red cap revolution go in Saturday’s election? Will he prove the naysayers wrong or right? The 93.46 million registered voters will determine that.


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