The recent 2-day visit to Kano State by President Muhammadu Buhari has opened fresh insights into what may occur on the state’s political terrain regarding preparations, conduct and outcome of the 2019 governorship. Eyes are already on incumbent governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje who is expected to seek reelection on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The governorship contest promises to be an interesting one as Ganduje will have to contend with various candidates from many political parties and camps to be able to sustain his control of the state’s government machinery.
However, his main hurdle remains whether he would be able to survive the machinations of the opposition from within his APC that are being championed by his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. Ganduje parted ways with Kwankwaso due to irreconcilable differences over issues of governance of the state shortly after he mounted the saddle in 2015.
From the sack of Kwankwaso’s loyalists from the Kano executive council to the dismantling of his control of the APC structure, there is yet to be sign that the frosty relationship between the erstwhile political allies will thaw with less than a year and half to the 2019 elections.The development has led to whispers that there could be a repeat of the 2003 governorship poll outcome which saw Kwankwaso, then the incumbent governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) losing out to a relatively unknown Malam Ibrahim Shekarau of the defunct All People’s Party (APP).
At the time, groups loyal to the late former Second Republic Governor of old Kano State and founding member of the PDP, Dr. Abubakar Rimi, who were opposed to Kwankwaso’s second term bid, pitched their tent with supporters of the APP backed by Buhari who had just joined the party as an opposition figure, to turn the table against the ruling party.
Many however insist that Shekarau could not have recorded such victory with the PDP incumbency factor on the side of Kwankwaso if not for what was to be later termed as the Buhari hurricane, which also rubbed off positively on scores of elective office holders in Kano and several other core northern states. Even currently, virtually all the elective office holders including Ganduje and other core northern states still attribute their victory to Buhari who eventually made it to the presidential villa on the platform of the APC in the last presidential poll.
The conspicuous absence of Kwankwaso and members of his Kwankwasiyya group during Buhari’s Kano visit has further reinforced the deep-seated animosity between the two conflicting political figures.The former governor was said to have opted to travel to Egypt where he met with indigent Kano State students enrolled to study medical courses as part of his constituency project in an apparent bid to convey the impression that he was truly in tune with the needs of the ordinary folks in the state.
With the APC structure firmly in the grip of Ganduje, there are talks that Kwankwaso and some of his supporters in both the National and State Assemblies would be blocked from reclaiming their seats on the platform of the APC ahead of the 2019 poll. This has led to speculations that members of the Kwankwasiyya group may be left with no other option than to either take a cue from the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and return to the PDP, or pitch their tent with any of the viable registered parties in the country.
The question remains whether the infighting would be enough to negatively affect the fortunes of Ganduje who is already savouring Buhari’s endorsement that he hopes would provide the needed leverage for him to get reelected. During the president’s visit, the utterances of Buhari clearly placed Ganduje in a position to effectively lay claim to a second term as the governor made a huge political capital out of the event. Ganduje also used the opportunity of the visit to rubbish the notions held among members of the Kwankwasiyya group that he was not in the good books of President Buhari.
While showcasing various developmental projects executed since he assumed office in May 2015, the governor maintained that he had been able to put his adversaries to shame with Buhari’s visit to the state. The president who inaugurated several projects, including the multi-billion naira Giginyu Hospital named after him, applauded Ganduje for the completion of the gigantic project aimed at boosting quality health care for residents of Kano.
According to him, “The change agenda is to reform Nigeria and Nigerians and to uplift the well being of Nigerians. I am highly proud to see what Ganduje is doing in Kano. I urge other governors to emulate him on services to humanity because I am proud to see this giant job on ground. I commend you Mr. Governor, for trying to make life easy for Kano people.”
Both Buhari and Ganduje were roundly endorsed for reelection by an APC stakeholders’ parley that involved both appointive and elective officials of the state at both the state and national levels, held during the visit. The governor, who spoke during the parley at the Kano Government House, justified the decision noting it was borne out of the fact that the President has lived up to the expectations of the people of the state.He said, “You have got the support of Kano during the 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 general elections and 2019 will not be an exception. You have been enjoying the support of Kano people since you joined politics and you will continue to enjoy it.
“Mr. President, your two-day working visit to Kano has put to rest some mischievous speculations that when you visit the state, you will have nothing to commission. You have come and commissioned some multi-billion naira people-oriented projects which we executed for our people.”Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, who spoke in the same vein on behalf of the members of Kano caucus in the National Assembly, noted that the fact that the people of Kano, who were once at the mercy of the activities of Boko Haram insurgents can now sleep with their two eyes closed, is enough testimony that the APC-led administration has lived up to its campaign promises.
By hosting Buhari and getting a commitment of support from the president who is almost a cult figure among the people of his state, Ganduje may have effectively shut the door against opposition to his reelection in 2019.However, the Kwankwasiyya group of his erstwhile godfather and former governor, would not allow Ganduje to have a smooth sail as events in the months preceding the election, will certainly reveal.