Dateline Kano Government House, May 29, 2003. It was twenty years ago. I just started out as a media consultant to Engineer Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, who I was introduced to by Dr. Hafiz Abubakar, his then Finance Commissioner.
About three months earlier, something beyond every expectation had happened: Kwankwaso, the serving governor of the frontline state of Kano, had lost the gubernatorial election to Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, a teacher and political rookie at the time.
Though Kwankwaso was by every definition a purposeful governor whose achievements dotted every facet of Kano life, he was beaten at the polls not just because of the famed Buhari factor that was flourishing then, but also because he was seen as being antagonistic towards the full scale introduction of the Sharia. Somehow, resentment towards him started building up and reached a boiling point four years later during the election.
I was one of those with Kwankwaso, in the office of the governor, when Malam Shekarau and his team arrived. After the exchange of pleasantries, we went to the ante-chamber where Kwankwaso handed over power to Shekarau.
But then there was a problem. Intense propaganda had made the people perceive Kwankwaso as a kind of evil. And so, there was the fear that some thugs could attack his convoy of vehicles escorting him to Abuja. And that was exactly what happened. I shed tears as Kwankwaso’s convoy left the Government House. I thought he would not return forever. I got the whole jist from Malam Hamza, a very decent fellow who was Kwankwaso’s driver at the time, who incidentally became my official driver four years later.
But it is said that some failures could at times be a blessing. And for Kwankwaso, that defeat became a major blessing. Though he was shortly afterward appointed minister of defence by President Obasanjo, Kwankwaso used the period to reflect on his leadership and see where he went wrong.
It was Socrates who said that great leaders are those who engage in critical self-appraisal to discern where they go wrong and use those examples to become better leaders since no human being is ever perfect.
By the time Kwankwaso, yes, this same Kwankwaso returned as governor of Kano state eight years later, he had not only seen the mistakes that almost led him to perdition, but had also understudied and learnt vital lessons from the human inadequacies of the Shekarau administration.
He had his job cut out. From the moment he was sworn into office, he rolled out his plan to transform Kano and uplift the life of its people.
Apart from physical infrastructure, Kwankwaso’s major focus became human development, in real sense of the words. He elevated the sons and daughters of paupers, people who did not have the simplest of connections or hope in life, to a level where they received the best of education, abroad, and today, many of them are important players in Nigeria’s socio-economic life. He did many other good things that a page like this does not have the space to contain.
And you know what? During these two split terms of office as Kano Governor, Kwankwaso’s deputy was Ganduje, the incumbent governor of the state. But it soon turned out that Ganduje learnt little or even nothing from the experience of his boss.
If anything, he learned to upscale infrastructure development, like his former principal, but the governor was zero in human development. Of course, he was excellent in mouthing it, but that was all.
Then his tenure witnessed all sorts of scandals, from the video showing him stuffing dollars, said to be bribe money from contractors, in the pocket of his flowing gown, to allegations of all sorts of sleaze, including a reported contest between his hitherto poor daughters as to who among them had more billions.
And the biggest of all: Ganduje clearly allowed his wife to become even more powerful than him in governance of the state. While proponents of women empowerment may find nothing wrong with this, the fact remains, at least in the public domain, the wife’s influence on her husband’s administration was rather negative and self-serving.
Those who later parted ways with the administration, like Barrister Muhuyi Magaji Rimingado, the respected chairman of the anti-corruption commission established earlier by the Shekarau administration, revealed a lot of things that are too dirty to be reproduced here.
The biggest victim of Ganduje’s misrule is perhaps the Kano master plan, which he shred to pieces. Things got to a head that recently, the government led by Ganduje made a move to seize the only green area remaining in Kano, the Kano Club Golf Course, which it planned or still plans to convert to a hotel and shopping mall. The man’s obsession with landed property is legendary. Under the present government in Kano, even mosques and graveyards are not left out.
Obviously, Ganduje felt the Kano people were blind and could not see all the shenanigans he was engaged in. He obviously became even more emboldened when he openly lost the 2019 gubernatorial election but used a sleigh of the hand to retain his office. Millions of Kano people who rejected Ganduje at that polls were intensely angry and waited for 2023 to express their anger.
Out of pressure, Ganduje allowed his deputy, the respected Nasiru Gawuna, to assume the ticket of his political party, the APC. His powerful wife clearly wanted someone else, but that someone else was imposed on Gawuna as a running mate. It was an insult on the people of Kano. The people could not reconcile the choice of a running mate who was also associated with a lot of scandals, including his arrest in 2019 for ballot box snatching. The pictures and videos, including one showing the man being undressed for that transgression, are all over the social media space.
It was a matter of time before the people of Kano showed their deep resentment. And that time presented itself at the gubernatorial election that took place last week.
Nasir Gawuna, Ganduje’s candidate, is a jolly good fellow who can make a good governor for the frontline state. But the people were not seeing Gawuna at the ballot. They were rather seeing Ganduje, who has given them every reason to reject it. It was a personal surprise for me that the gap of victory and loss ended up with what it eventually became. Many Kano people expected a trouncing of the APC, all because of Ganduje.
It is a pity Gawuna, a good person, will lose out the way he did. He is someone I can call a personal friend, having served with him when Shekarau was governor. He was Nassarawa local government chairman, and I was a special adviser to the governor. We were quite close. But I refused to partake in Gawuna’s campaign even when he sent two different persons to invite me.
He is someone I will cherish and respect forever, but my turndown of his candidature, like millions of other Kano people, is because I believe his principal represented all that is bad and horrible in governance.
And this is not an opportunistic write-up. In December 2021, I wrote a piece entitled “If I were Governor Ganduje,” in which I took a critical look at his poor style of governance and advised him to correct the many mistakes dotting his administration. Rather than doing the right thing, what I got was a torrent of abuse from some illiterates favoured by his maladministration.
The key reason Gawuna failed to become governor was Ganduje’s marketing of him as having the same traits as him. There is simply no way Kano can survive another Ganduje. Gawuna also did not help matters when he could not distance himself from the scandal-prone administration of Governor Ganduje.
I believe Gawuna is a politician of the future, that is, if he learns the very lessons his principal, Ganduje, failed to learn from Kwankwaso. Age is still on his side. He could take over from Abba Kabir Yusuf, the Governor-elect, eight years from now. But he must be told, bitter as it is, that his childish contestation of Abba’s victory is making the people of Kano even angrier.
They ought not to be in power by now because the same Abba defeated them four years ago, but federal might was used to deny him the chance to be declared the winner. He was clearly robbed. And the people believe Gawuna somehow played a key role in that inglorious act.
The best way to show remorse and win back the people’s hearts is for Gawuna to accept the outcome of last week’s gubernatorial election and congratulate the winner. That way, the people of Kano will be happy, and the process of his future governorship of the state will start by then.
There is a limit to what even the federal government can do to deny rightful winners of an election. Of course, Ganduje is apparently afraid of the judgment of posterity. He probably feels his misdeeds will now be exposed. But it is better to have these misdeeds exposed in the world instead of the Hereafter.
The key lessons in all these are that there is a limit to the evil that some men do, and a day of reckoning comes sooner than expected. Probably Ganduje and the arrogant jesters around him thought they were going to rule forever. But the eight years is almost over.
Another lesson is that it is good to be good. No politician in Kano’s contemporary history has been as influential as Kwankwaso. Recall that only twenty years ago, he was the most hated politician in Kano. But he learned his mistakes and turned a new leaf to assume his present position of glory.
To Abba Kabir Yusuf, the governor-elect, the Kwankwaso template that he promised to implement is the best way to go. But he must recover every kobo that was stolen by the outgoing administration. He neither have the right nor the power to forgive this, since the monies belong to millions of Kanawas, most of whom have been impoverished by Ganduje’s ruinous policies. We wish him well.
Mr Gaya is the CEO Skylimit Media Group and former deputy president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors.