The political feud between Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state, and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, both of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) is not about ending anytime soon. Ganduje in this interview in Abuja, admitted that though there is no permanent friend or foe in politics, he doubts if APC national leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has been saddled with the responsibility of reconciling aggrieved party leaders by President Buhari, will be able reconcile him and Kwankwaso because, according to him, the former Kano governor has frustrated over 17 of similar attempts in the past.
Ganduje who served as Kwankwaso’s deputy for eight years said his former boss set up traps for him to fail including leaving behind a liability of over N300 billion, declaring free education at all levels and foreign scholarships for students that is today costing his government N4 billion, establishing Technical College of Education five days before handing over without approval from the federal government, or the state House of Assembly, with no infrastructure, no plans for teachers, and equipment, among others. JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE reports the details.
You are one of the leaders who called for the removal of indigene issue in the constitution. Why do you think such move is necessary?
Well, in this country we are having a lot of problems; religious, tribal, herdsmen and farmers’ clash, etc. All these have to do with relationships and, of course, the current economic realities. But, the constitution we borrowed from the United States of America should be applied fully even though we are in a different zone and culture. In order to get very serious national integration, the parameters of national indigeneship should not be based on tribe, religion or place of birth, it should be based on where you are staying and what you do. Are you paying your taxes? Are you contributing to the overall development of where you are since you are benefiting from the services there? You are benefiting from the security that is being provided, are you contributing your own quota to the development of that environment? If you are already paying your taxes, I think you are already an indigene of that place, not just because you are the son of the soil, but because you are contributing to the economic development of the state, employing people and doing great and positive things.
In Kano, we are doing our part to ensure that that dichotomy is removed. Because in some states where we have some problems, it is basically because of this indigeneship issue. So, our belief is that to have national integration we should remove indigeneship issue. So, I think it is a constitutional issue, which the national and state assemblies should deal with.
In other words, you are saying that all the people in Kano state are indigenes?
Yes. In Kano, I tell all the ethnic groups that they are indigenes of Kano state only claiming to come from somewhere else.
The Vice President said in Kogi state recently that N1.9 trillion was given to states as support. How much did Kano get? How much did you spend on workers’ welfare?
Of course, we have benefited from all the bailouts from the federal government because the situation we found ourselves when the oil money dropped below $30 a barrel was such that many states couldn’t even pay salaries. We got the bailout and now we are paying salaries on time. We are not owing any salary arrears. The problem we were having initially was an internal one, which has been solved. Some people were being overpaid while others were underpaid maybe due to the fact that something went wrong in the system, but we have already put that in order.
The projects of the previous government you have completed and the ones you have initiated, where did the funds come from? Is it from your internally generated revenue?
When we came, we had to reform the old system. I had to request all the staff of the State Board of Internal Revenue to go back to the Office of the Head of Civil Service. We employed a consultant, advertised, and then we took the best brains, some of them not even from the state. When we took over, we were getting less than N1 billion a month, but because of our reforms and interventions, we now get over N4 billion every month. It is not up to what we are expecting because up till now those that are supposed to be paying tax are yet to be fully captured in our revenue net.
You know some people don’t want to pay tax, so we are deploying a lot of advocacy to capture them on our revenue net. The reason people don’t want to pay taxes is that they assume their money is being embezzled.
Yes, the increase in our IGR made it possible for us to embark on a lot of capital projects. We virtually use what we are getting from Abuja to pay salaries. So, all our capital projects in Kano state are being funded from the revenue generated from taxes and that is why we label each project thus: ‘This project is being funded with taxpayers money.’ This of course is encouraging people to pay taxes.
You said recently that the political history of Kwankwaso cannot be written without you being mentioned and yours too cannot be written without mentioning him. So how come you have refused to bow to him to get the maximum political stability and peace in the state?
Yes, we were very, very close. Even before 1999, we have been friends. I was Commissioner for Works and Transport for six years during the military, and my former governor is a politician right from the military when political parties were formed. I started politics right from 1978, and in 1979 during the NPN period, I even contested election and was even part of the executive members of the party in the state. So, politics is not something I am just starting now.
So, we contested together for governorship in 1999 and the result was controversial. Prince Tony Momoh was in Kano to supervise the primaries, the result was controversial; the elders reconciled us that he should be governor and I should be the deputy governor. I insisted that there should be re-election, but elders pleaded and I agreed to be the deputy governor. Tony Momoh is still alive, you can ask him.
And since I became the deputy governor I had to do it well. I had to be loyal, respectful and honest. So, I worked hard to add value to the government by supporting the governor not only by being loyal to him but working very hard to fill the gaps, promote the government and work round the clock to ensure when he is not around there is no difference. That is how we worked together. Even when he was a minister, I was with him. I was on my own when he invited me to come and be his adviser when he was Minister of Defence. I agreed because after all, we have been together, and he felt we could work together.
When we won the elections in 2011, he graciously invited me, it was not as a result of any contest between us, but out of his own volition. I have to thank him for that because he could have invited someone else.
So, we worked together peacefully. When I was nominated and after I won the elections in 2015, before handing over, I started seeing some elements of undercuts from his body language.
He didn’t attend my swearing-in, he just handed over and left for Abuja because he claimed he had something to do. I said okay and went for the swearing-in. A night before he left, I went to him and I said during my campaign, I said that my administration will be a government of continuity. I told him that I want to retain the Secretary to the State Government. The SSG did not know, I was the one that told him. I told him that I want to retain the Accountant General. The DG Media is his friend, I told him I want to retain him, and I later made him a Permanent Secretary. The Press Secretary, I told him I want to retain him, so he phoned and told him. And then the four administrative staff in the office, I asked him ‘will you like to take some’, he said he was taking only one, the remaining three are still in my office. So, that was a symbol of continuity.
Then it came to the appointment of commissioners and, of course, from his body language I had started seeing some elements of disagreements. So, I didn’t get his opinion on the appointment of the commissioners because I thought that was not even necessary because the commissioners are not as strong in government as SSG and the Accountant General. So, I thought it was something I could do. Even at that, my Commissioner for Agriculture now was also his Commissioner for Agriculture, we are still together; the Commissioner for Local Government is a younger brother to his wife, he was chairman of local government during his time; the Commissioner for Water Resources was an adviser in his government; the Commissioner for Finance was also Commissioner for Finance in his government.
Like I said, I started seeing some elements of undercuts from his body language, and then he started attacking my administration. First, even before handing-over, he said he has paid all the contractors in Kano, but the contractors went to radio stations and said he was telling lies. You could see that he was trying to heat up the system even before handing-over.
Some months before he left, he declared free education at all levels knowing well that it was clearly impossible. When he said free education, the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University said okay, the highest number of students in the university, ‘this is the figure please give us the money because since you declared free education what it means is that they will not pay single kobo.’ He said the VC should divide the figure into four that he will pay and the VC said no, ‘our budget is not based on that.’ Students in other universities were paying, and yet he said it was free education.
And also, few weeks before he left, he was sending students in thousands abroad; some studying chemistry, geography, biology, engineering, medicine. And you know how much it is costing us so far because of the fall of the naira, he paid N4 billion on foreign scholarships. When we calculated, each foreign student will get N68,000 per month. It was a huge expenses considering our challenges occasioned by the drop in the prices of oil at the international market. In fact, some state governments returned their students from foreign universities because they couldn’t cope, but I didn’t return anybody. I’m still paying with tears.
Again, he took pension money and built houses that up till now we are finding it very difficult to dispose off. We put N4.1 billion from the pension fund and the liability we have on the houses is over N3 billion. So, even if we sell the houses, we have to pay contractors. So, what I am trying to say is that even before handing-over, he was setting up some traps so that the government will be a failure. He even went to my senatorial district five days before my taking over and said he was establishing a Technical College of Education in one of the local governments. How can you establish a school like that without approval from the federal government, without any legislation from the State House of Assembly, without any infrastructure, no plans for teachers, no plans for equipment? He did this so that when I come, I will find problem on ground.
After he left, I told the people that it was a story-telling because there is nothing on ground to establish a college of education. What I discovered later is that we have a Federal College of Education (Technical). The Provost told me that Kwankwaso told him he wanted to establish a college of education and he told him not to because we are not even filling our quota in the federal college.
And then he wrote me a letter that I should not receive bailout. How could I have paid salary if I don’t? When the federal government thought we needed bailout, he wrote me a letter that I shouldn’t collect bailout knowing that he left a liability of over N300 billion. The Transition Committee was the one that gave that figure and then he started quarreling. He said why should the Transition Committee say he left a liability of over N300 billion. I told him this was released even before the handing over.
I held a press conference and I said leaving a liability is not a crime. This government is a government of continuity and I will continue to forge ahead. But he was still pained that the Transition Committee said he left a liability of over N300 billion, but that was the fact. So, you find all these kinds of things, which I didn’t want to bring to the open until he decided to attack me.
He even wrote in the letter that receiving loan from the federal government was not part of the Kwankwasiya policy. So I started to wonder, what is Kwankwasiya policy? Because I was the first person to put the Kwankwasiya structure on ground. He started using some members of Kano State House of Assembly against me, but God so kind, out of the 40 members, 35 of them are with us. Even at the federal level, most of the lawmakers are with us.
The crux of the matter is that he wants to be remote-controlling me. How can I be remote-controlled by somebody outside the government? I was a civil servant at the state level after graduation and I got to level 17 at the federal level. I have been in politics for years. I was secretary to our party in my local government, assistant secretary of our party at the state level, commissioner for six years and deputy governor for eight years. For goodness sake, if you are talking about government, I should know what it is about.
He would have been the luckiest former governor, I can assure you that because we’ve been nice to him. But it’s obvious he doesn’t want us to succeed. That is why he is not contributing anything in the Senate because he is concentrating on Kano. Sometimes, I wonder if in his dreams he still thinks he is the governor of Kano state. Instead of him to concentrate in the Senate by making laws, and being versatile on national and international issues and see how he can assist our democracy, he is dreaming of becoming the President of this country while he is quiet in the Senate. How can he rule this country? What ideas does he have?
Are there efforts in place to find peace between you and Kwankwaso because what is happening in Kano has the capacity to distract APC government at the national level?
Reconciliation is very important. First of all, the National Working Committee of our party and some stakeholders were invited to look into our matter. I was there and I made my case, he too made his case and then they said, ‘go inside the room and sort out yourselves.’ We met in this very house (Kano State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja) and elders said we should go and sort out ourselves, he said he was not going. He banged the door and left, saying he was not a small boy.
The stakeholders asked what next? I said ‘don’t go after him. When you people said we should go into the room and sort out ourselves, I told you people I was ready to go and reconcile with him.’ And what was the issue? The bone of contention was that the chairman of the party in the state was dishonest. We caught him red-handed. He told somebody to go to a radio station and blackmail the government not knowing that the person was recording him. And then the person went to the radio station and did what he was asked to do.
Then somebody went to the chairman and said he should call the man to order because of what he said about the government and the governor. So, the chairman issued a statement just on the face value. And people called him and told him that what he said in the statement was not enough. So, the other person who abused me turned around and said, it was the chairman that asked him to abuse me and he released the recording.
The chairman then came with the speaker of the State House of Assembly and some elders and brought the Holy Qur’an and said to me, ‘I swear to God, I never did that.’ And I said go and put it in writing but up till today he never did that. Then I said go and continue with your job. Then Kwankwaso said that they wanted to condole with me, I asked him how many of them were coming and he said only him. I said when you are coming let me know so that I can send my chief detail to receive you, he said I shouldn’t worry. Meanwhile, chairman of the local government told me that they got a text message that the former governor was coming and they should all come to the airport. They invited all sorts of people, they came to the airport and even broke some equipment there. Right from the airport to my village, they were abusing me; that I lost election, that I was not in the Kwankwasiya group. They did that to the extent that even when they were supposed to offer prayers, they were shouting.
I think that was the last straw that broke the carmel’s back. When he did that, the party said ‘no, no, no, this is wrong.’ Then the party’s executive council convened and had a press conference that they would investigate how people were abusing instead of condoling with me.
Stakeholders at the second meeting the following day asked the chairman to go and refute the statement that the party would investigate the incident. The SSG that I inherited from Kwankwaso held a meeting in his house and told the chairman to go and refute it, and the chairman refuted it; that he was under duress.
Then the party passed a vote of no confidence on him. So, the former governor insisted that the man should continue to be the chairman. How can a senator control the party at the state level? If I was an amateur politician, it will be possible. But not with a man of my caliber and the stage I am in politics. To be frank, when I started politics he was in school and when he went into politics I sponsored him in many contests.
There was a time some governors tried to reconcile us. They said he should come to Malam Aminu Kano House in Abuja, he said he was not coming. I said don’t worry, that is not a problem, let’s go to him. We met him, and had a very lengthy discussion. We even shook hands, and yet there was no reconciliation. He was always abusing me.
And then one senator came and said he wanted to reconcile us, I said I have been counting the number of attempts people have made to reconcile us, about 17 times, but to no avail. And then he said what role can he play and I said yes, there is a role you could play now. Go and tell him that it is even shameful for a third party to try and reconcile us, why not the two of us sit down together and iron things out.
I said whenever I am in Abuja, we will go to his house, myself and himself will drive in a car either he drives or I drive because when I was a director we used to drive around Abuja together. So I said tell him that when I come to Abuja, I will take him then two of us will go around Abuja, seat and discuss and iron out our problems.
Or he will come to my house and when the sycophants around us see us drive together, they will leave us. Believe you me, he said no that he was not coming to my house. That man is still a senator. He said no, we are no longer friends and then I said well, good luck.
All efforts for us to reconcile failed, and unfortunately, the problem has gotten to the local level. I did all what I could to reconcile us, but he refused. What kind of a person is he? He wants to control the government from Abuja. But till today I respect him.
Are you still open for reconciliation?
Yes, it is possible, but the state will not be in his palms. He cannot impose his will on us. We recently conducted local government elections in the state, he went to court to stop the election, but we defeated him. He took us to a court here in Abuja to stop us, but up till now the case is on, and the court did not stop us from conducting the election. But still there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy. We will reconcile, but he has to agree to some terms.
President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed an APC stalwart, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, to reconcile all aggrieved members of the party. Can Tinubu reconcile you and your predecessor?
If you read the newspapers today (Wednesday), my predecessor was in Anambra State campaigning to be president on the platform of the APC. I told someone if you reconcile us now, don’t you think we shall fall apart again? Because I am for Buhari. Kano state has a total of 342 delegates. We have the highest number of delegates in Nigeria in APC. No state has up to 300 delegates, and I can assure you if Kwankwaso contests against Buhari in APC, he will get zero vote from Kano. We are waiting for Tinubu, he is a highly respected person. We are ready for dialogue and reconciliation.
Don’t you think that this crisis with your predecessor will affect your chances in the 2019 elections?
On 2019 elections, that is left to God. But personally, I wouldn’t mind for him to join another party, back a candidate that will contest against me. And if the constitution allows, I would even invite him to come and contest against me on a different platform to test his popularity. Politics is like that.
Why do you still retain one of the key elements of the Kwankwasiya ideology, the red cap?
It is not as red as it used to be, it is now modified. This red cap you are seeing is not that of Kwankwaso. So, that is the situation we are now. We have tried all we could to reconcile, but our efforts didn’t yield fruitful results. And you know, I cannot waste my time on crisis.
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