Kwankwaso and the illusion of power

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BY BRIGHT JACOB

Still the beautiful bride in Nigeria politics coveted by the country’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, and the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, the candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party in the February 25 presidential election, Rabiu Kwankwaso’s political sagacity sets him apart, making his political future a riveting discourse.

Kwankwaso was a chieftain of the PDP when democracy was born in Nigeria in 1999. Under the umbrella party, he emerged as the governor of Kano State. He later jumped ship in 2014 to the APC where he stayed for four years before re-embracing the PDP in 2018.

As at January 2022, however, Kwankwaso was technically “partyless”. He had declined to have anything to do with the APC and the PDP, and wanted an alternative political party’s platform to mount a charge for the presidency.

It was, therefore, in February 2022 that he approached the NNPP, and the “founder” of the party, Boniface Aniebonam, said at the time that he (Kwankwaso) was the answer to his political prayers.

During the party’s presidential primary, Kwankwaso was adopted as the party’s flagbearer and the leader of Kwankwasiyya Movement would then use the electioneering period to lampoon the APC and PDP.

In one of the town hall meetings he attended, Kwankwaso said the two heavyweight parties had failed Nigerians. He also said he was angry with the political system they were superintending, and that it played a major role in his decision to leave the parties.

He said: “I am also angry with the system like every other Nigerian and it is because of those reasons that some of us are angry to the extent of leaving the PDP and the APC because we feel there are better ways of doing things in this country.

“We believe the system has failed and that is why we have decided to go to the New Nigeria Peoples Party, the unscathed party in this country.”

The Secretary of the BoT, Babayo Abdullahi, accused Kwankwaso of holding political discussions with Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the PDP and Labour Party, respectively, without the approval of the board

It, however, remains to be seen whether Kwankwaso can still beat his chest today and refer to the NNPP as “unscathed party”. This is as the party has been embroiled, lately, in controversy.

But before trouble began to sprout in the NNPP, Kwankwanso had lost the presidential election, coming a distant fourth, and he had also begun to raise a few eyebrows when he started to cozy up to the winner of the election, Bola Tinubu, which, according to analysts, was intended to put him in prime position for a ministerial slot.

So far, this submission supposedly relating to Kwankwaso’s motive has not come to pass. Instead, it was his “effrontery” in charting a course to ensure his political success that came under scrutiny, thereby attracting ridicule and opprobrium from within and outside the NNPP fold.

From the outside, social activist and lawyer, Deji Adeyanju, pointed out the seeming fruitlessness of Kwankwaso’s “tireless” efforts in ensuring Tinubu emerge as president.

In Adejanju’s assessment, Kwankwanso contributed more to Tinubu’s victory than the former governor of Rivers State and member of the PDP-turned-Federal Capital Territory minister, Nyesom Wike, but has been overlooked in the grand scheme of things in the APC.

Adeyanju said, “Kwankwaso, despite working tirelessly to ensure Tinubu emerges (as president has been) served ‘hot breakfast.’

“Kwankwaso delivered more for Tinubu than Wike but got only photo (ops) plus handshakes.”

From within the party, on the other hand, Kwankwaso incurred the wrath of the party’s Board of Trustees led by Aniebonam. They not only suspended him for a period of six months for alleged anti-party activities, but also stripped him of “national leader” status.

The Secretary of the BoT, Babayo Abdullahi, accused Kwankwaso of holding political discussions with Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the PDP and Labour Party, respectively, without the approval of the board.

Defiant, Kwankwaso approached the court to seek relief. And Justice Usman Na’abba of the Kano State High Court rescinded the NNPP BoT’s decision, pending the hearing and determination of the motion of notice.

The court also restrained Aniebonam and other BoT members from parading themselves as party officials, and fixed October 5, 2023, for hearing of the case.

To aggravate the palaver in the NNPP, Kwankwaso’s protégé and governor of Kano State, Abba Yusuf, was sacked by the Kano State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal and Nasir Gawuna of the APC was declared the winner.

Last week, the tribunal ordered the withdrawal of the certificate of return which INEC presented to Yusuf and directed that a certificate of return be issued to Gawuna. Yusuf, however, plans to appeal the judgment.

Reacting, the NNPP said Kwankwaso sold them out to the APC because he was interested in securing a ministerial portfolio for himself in Tinubu’s cabinet.

A three-man panel led by Justice Oluyemi Akintan-Osadebay removed Abba as Governor, ordering the Independent National Electoral Commission to hand the Certificate of Return to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the poll, Nasir Gawuna.

A chieftain of NNPP in South West, Abass Akande Onilewura, alleged that Kwankwaso sacrificed Kano State for a ministerial slot in the administration of President Tinubu.

“The loss of the party in Kano corroborated the anti-party allegation raised against Kwankwaso,” the party stalwart said on Thursday.

“This loss is a big one for us at NNPP, and it only happened because of the selfishness of Kwankwaso, who sold the party to the highest bidder.

“While we are still waiting for the Certified True Copy of the tribunal judgment, it is important for the world to know that this would not have happened if Kwankwaso had allowed due process and given the ticket to the most qualified candidate but his in-law.

“Our investigation also showed that the continuous engagement of Kwankwaso with APC at some point allowed them to discover loopholes which were later used against the Kano governor to secure victory for the opposition.

“I will also urge our members across the country to remain calm because a new leadership has taken over the party, and we will do everything to restore the glory of our party. NNPP will become a strong voice and opposition that would stand for justice, equity, and good governance.

“It is unfortunate that some of us sweat to get the party to where it is today, only for someone like Kwankwaso to come and make all our efforts a waste. We are happy that someone like that has been expelled from this great party.

“We also want to use the avenue to warn him to stay clear of NNPP, we don’t want a betrayal in our party, and we would do anything humanly possible to secure our party from hijackers who are more concerned about personal gain,” he further said.

Abba lost at the tribunal after it was held that the margin of votes scored by the NNPP was invalid and not in compliance with the 2022 Electoral Act.

The party had 165,663 votes deducted from its total because the ballot papers were not stamped or signed.

According to the tribunal Gawuna who was the deputy to the immediate past governor of the state and now the National Chairman of the APC, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje was declared the winner of the March 18 governorship poll.

The road to the arrival at the verdict had been rough and tough owing to the fact that the build up to that Wednesday declaration was very tense with the supporters of the two feuding parties engaging in intrigues to assert their dominance of the politics of the state.

So tense was the buildup that some serving members of the state’s executive committee had to be shown the way out over what was considered the inflammatory and incendiary comments against the panel and members of the petition panel.

In the end, the three-man panel, which sat virtually a few minutes before 10:00 am transmitting from Miller Road, Kano venue of the Election Petition Tribunal held that Ganuwa not Yusuf was validly elected to lead the state.

After considering the fact that INEC had declared Yusuf winner for polling 1,019,602 votes to defeat Gawuna, who scored 890,705 votes, the panel deducted votes from Yusuf describing them as invalid.

The outcome of the tribunal has continued to elicit reactions and comments from watchers of Kano State politics with many wondering whether there exists covert or clandestine moves to ‘cut down’ the influence of Kwankwaso in the North and particularly in Kano State which is considered as his traditional base.

One of such reactions was that which came from the police authorities who never wasted time to impose a 24-hour curfew to forestall a total breakdown of law and order that may occur should the supporters of the two contending parties engage themselves in a battle.

The measure was expected to be in place till when it is deemed appropriate to be lifted when the security agencies feel that the frayed nerves have cooled down.

Those in the know are of the opinion that Kwankwaso may actually be dealing with internal and external forces that have converged or massed together to cut him down to size citing immediate and long term threats that he poses to some entrenched interests within and outside the state.

A supporter of the NNPP, Suleiman Abdulmalik maintained that his party won the election clearly and that the APC was trying to snatch power through the back door.

“We know that there has been a series of attempts to win Kano which is considered as the economic and political nerve centre of the North. They failed at the ballot box but they are now using the judicial route,” AbdulMalik said.

The Kogi State born NNPP chieftain maintained that the other reason the ruling party needed Kano desperately was to curb the rising influence of Kwankwaso in the North and that the best way to do that was to cut him down at his base, which is Kano.

While identifying the 2027 general elections as the sole reason Kano is vital, the NNPP chieftain said, “Once they capture Kano as they are trying to do, there would have succeeded in demobilizing Kwankwaso whom they reason might wish to square up with them in next election.”

He stated that all these plans are being coordinated by the National Chairman of the APC whom he stated has assumed the status of a sworn political enemy of Kwakwanso.

Despite these permutations and attempts to wrest the state for the APC, Abdulmalik stated that the basis upon which the tribunal arrived at its judgment would be upheld by the two appellate courts.

However, the NNPP has vowed to appeal against Wednesday’s judgment by the Kano State Election Petition Tribunal that overturned the election of Abba Kabir-Yusuf.

Acting Deputy National Chairman of the party, Nwaeze Onu told a news conference on Thursday in Abuja that the judgment that sacked Kabir-Yusuf as governor was “most unfair’’ .

He added that the judgment was capable of eroding confidence in the judiciary.
“The judgment nullified the free, credible and globally acclaimed fair election of our governorship candidate.

“The tribunal arrived at this unjust judgment by unfairly subtracting 165,663 votes from Kabir-Yusuf’s tally in order to enable it to unfairly award the election result to the candidate of the APC.

“In doing so, the tribunal obviously affirms its belief that the vote tally of the APC candidate was sacrosanct.

“The Supreme Court in many cases has stated its position on this matter in earlier judgments,’’ Onu said.

He added that it would be a hard nut to crack for the tribunal to convince non-partisan Nigerians that the NNPP won all other elections in Kano State, but that of the governorship race.

“For emphasis, NNPP’s presidential candidate, Musa Kwankwaso, defeated the candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu in Kano State with a wide margin.

“In the same vein, NNPP won two senatorial seats as against APC’s one seat. NNPP won 18 House of Representatives seats as against APC’s four.

“At the House of Assembly elections, NNPP won a clear majority of seats as against APC’s meagre number of seats.

“And yet the tribunal believes it was over-voting that gave the NNPP majority votes in the governorship election,’’ he observed.

Onu expressed the belief that the NNPP would get back its mandate freely given by the people of Kano State within the ambit of the law and the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

“We call on the Judiciary to do the needful. We look forward to a more impartial judgment in the next round of litigation,’’ he stressed.

Onu also called on NNPP supporters in Kano State and in Nigeria as a whole to remain calm, be law-abiding, and maintain the peace.

He stressed that “the glaringly lopsided judgment cannot stand the test of natural justice and fair play.’’

Thus, with the frosty relationship between Kwankwaso and the NNPP still simmering, and regardless of the outcome of the case in court between the two parties, political commentators expect Kwankwaso to defect anytime soon from the NNPP to either the APC or the PDP – or even to a relatively unknown party.

A legal practitioner, Clement Iloh, said the APC stood a better chance of bringing Kwankwaso into its fold than the other political parties.

He attributed this to the president who “brought Kwankwaso closer to himself”.

Iloh also said that Tinubu saw something “special” in Kwankwaso despite them being “strange bedfellows”.

“I think the APC will bring Kwankwaso into their ranks. They are coveting him more and stand a better chance of beating other parties to the tape.

“Remember that immediately Tinubu won the election, Kwankwaso was the only candidate who grabbed the president’s hand of fellowship extended to all candidates.

“Tinubu also brought Kwankwaso closer to himself. In fact, after their meetings, you would see pictures of them together in warm handshakes. Yes, the two may seem like two strange bedfellows, but I know that the Asiwaju sees something special in the former Kano governor that we may not see even if we stood on a stool.

“But it is a huge surprise that Kwankwaso was not made a minister. Though the man had gone on record to say he was not nursing any ambition to be a minister, I find it difficult to believe politicians who say things like this.

“But who knows, he can change his mind. This is politics and anything can happen,” Iloh said.

A clergyman, Emeka Onwuachu, said, “When it comes to the vagaries of politics in Nigeria, even the tenth commandment where God commanded the Israelites not to covet their neighbours’ wives or belongings, can be ignored because of selfish interests and the desire to survive and remain relevant in the polity.

But he should have nothing to do with the APC or PDP. He should float his own political party. He carries a lot of political clout and can do so

“So, it is true…Nigeria politicians will always gather, like bees to honey, around those they think can deliver the goods when it comes to getting those to swell their ranks and who can bond well with the masses.

“And if you ask me, I think Kwankwaso fits this bill and that is why most political parties will do anything to be associated with him,” he added.

Still commenting, Onwuachu said, “But he should have nothing to do with the APC or PDP. He should float his own political party. He carries a lot of political clout and can do so.

“The time has come, too, for people to stop thinking that only the APC and PDP can help them bring their political dreams to life. If Obi could perform miracles with the Labour Party, I see no reason why Kwankwaso cannot do the same with another ‘unknown’ party.

“It is also true that Kwankwaso has more influence in the north and is only in the figment of imagination of those in the south. But we have more than three years before the next general elections, and who says he cannot start working now to sell himself to Nigerians?

On his part, the National Secretary-General of the Atiku Support Organisation, Anthony Okonkwo, when asked whether Kwankwaso was more needed in the PDP than in the APC, said that Kwankwaso “does not even want to do the APC for now”.

Okonkwo also said that Tinubu did not “respect the accord he had with Kwankwaso” and that the sacking of NNPP governor, Yusuf, by the governorship election petitions tribunal was to ruin Kwankwaso politically.

In addition, Okonkwo who is an integrated development economist, leadership expert and management consultant said there was “some kind of alignment” going on between the PDP, Kwankwaso and Obi.

Okonkwo said, “Kwankwaso doesn’t even want to do APC for now. You can see what they are trying to do to him in Kano.

“Tinubu did not even respect the accord they said they had. So, that governor he has there (in Kano) is all that he has for the next four years, and you know how politics is.

“Kwankwaso has followers and he needs to help them and all that. So, if they succeed in taking away the governorship (seat) from Abba, they would have ruined him (Kwankwaso) politically,” Okonkwo said.

Continuing, he said, “Right now, he (Kwankwaso) is not happy with them (the APC).

“So, what is happening now is that there is some kind of alignment going on between the PDP and Kwankwaso and Peter Obi. That is where we are right now,” Okonkwo declared.