BY BRIGHT JACOB
From a distance, former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and his party, the New Nigeria Peoples Party, appear to look like two inseparable entities, but with Kwankwaso being peddled to clinch one of the ministerial slots on offer in the Bola Tinubu-led All Progressives Congress administration, analysts say the relationship may soon become strained between the Kano State-born political juggernaut and the party he helped put on the map.
Kwankwaso, 66, is a power player in Nigeria’s political landscape. He has built a political empire in Nigeria’s North West and is no pushover in the country’s political stratosphere. Not configuring him to the political equilibrium of Nigeria is tantamount to national suicide and at the risk of the uninformed who are brazen enough to overlook the red cap revolutionist.
Kwankwaso first entered the murky waters of politics in 1992 with the Social Democratic Party. It was on the platform of the party he came to national limelight when he was elected as a member of the House of Representatives representing Madobi Federal Constituency.
With a huge appetite for political success, Kwankwaso also got elected as the Deputy Speaker of the House and had the privilege of parleying with party greats like Shehu Yar’Adua, Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe.
Kwankwaso’s almost-brimming political aspiration was sadly squashed when he was “yanked” from the iconic white horse of the SDP because of the military’s adventurism in politics to subvert the will of the people at the height of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.
Thus, after the hiatus in political activities orchestrated by the combined authoritarian disingenuity of ex-Heads of State, Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, Kwankwaso found a new political home with the People’s Democratic Party in 1998, when the ban on political activities was lifted by the military Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, who midwifed the Fourth Republic.
In 1999, Kwankwaso was elected as the Governor of Kano State but lost re-election in 2003. That setback didn’t put a spanner in the works as he was appointed Minister of Defence by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, even though he (Kwankwaso) had zilch military experience.
Though he later left the PDP and nestled in the warmth provided by the APC in 2014, Kwankwaso was subsequently elected the following year as the Senator representing Kano Central Senatorial District under the APC which had morphed into the ruling party. He moved back to the PDP in 2018 but left yet again in 2022.
Incontrovertibly, Kwankwaso continues to evolve into a larger than life politician and has created a cult following among his followers, the members of Kwankwasiyya movement, who kiss the ground he walks on.
Kwankwaso’s romance with the NNPP started in 2022 after his unceremonious exit from the PDP. Sensing that he couldn’t clinch the sole ticket of the party for the 2023 presidential election, Kwankwaso switched allegiance to the NNPP.
On its part, the NNPP was founded in the year 2000 by Boniface Aniebonam.
“Although his supporters had branded Kwankwaso as the next Muhammadu Buhari who would sweep the polls across northern Nigeria, his party’s performance in other northern states was abysmal”
According to Aniebonam who is the Chairman, NNPP Board of Trustees, he handed the party over to Kwankwaso in 2022 because of the latter’s courage to dump the more established and battle-tested PDP to contest for the presidency under the NNPP.
Kwankwaso gave the NNPP a new lease of life and the party, which had before then struggled to win INEC-organised elections in the country, suddenly became the beautiful bride. And because of his charisma and soaring popularity, especially in Kano State, more Nigerians continued to embrace the party.
Importantly, however, while Kwankwaso was in the trenches trying to carve more enviable niche for the NNPP, a leadership question arose among party enthusiasts, with many stakeholders wondering whether the founder, Aniebonam, had relinquished control of the party to the presidency-focused Kwankwaso.
Aniebonam, who said the NNPP became operational in 2001, refuted the allegation, insisting he is the Chairman of the BoT and at the top of the food chain in the party even though he wasn’t involved in its administration. Aniebonam also said he was not a politician nor attended the activities of the party, including the party’s convention held last year.
Furthermore, he said the NNPP was not only different from other parties because of its mandate to provide good governance to Nigerians, but came to be by divine intervention.
Aniebonam had also praised Kwankwaso, stating that the United Kingdom and India-trained water engineer was “a divine person.”
He further said that Kwankwaso was not ordinary and that his emergence had opened up the electoral space by creating a multiparty system.
In the February 25 presidential election held across the country, Kwankwaso grappled with Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, for Nigeria’s top political office, rubbing shoulders with the political gladiators for the right to preside over the affairs of Africa’s biggest democracy.
Kwankwaso, however, could snap up only 6.23 percent of the popular votes in the hotly contested presidential election. His party also won only one governorship seat in Kano State, his stronghold, and secured two and 11 Senatorial and House of Representatives seats in the National Assembly, respectively.
Even though Tinubu beat all-comers during the election, Kwankwaso had been tipped by his supporters to win the presidential election. The cheerleaders pointed to the many factors purportedly working in his favour, emphasising on the fact that Kwankwaso had sent a strong message to his detractors he was not just contesting to make up the number.
The victory of Abba Kabir of the NNPP in the 18 March governorship election in Kano State did not take many by surprise. The party had three weeks earlier won the state in the presidential election and taken most of the state’s seats in the Senate and House of Representatives.
However, there was a surprise in the governorship election from the performance of the APC candidate, Nasiru Gawuna, in areas that the NNPP won with wide margins on 25 February.
The race was so tight that in Fagge and Kabuga areas of the Kano metropolis, NNPP agents and members feared the worst until the votes were counted and the final result declared by INEC.
The INEC returning officer, Ahmad Doko, said the NNPP candidate won with 1,019,602 votes to defeat the candidate of the APC who scored 890,705 votes. The NNPP candidate thus won with a margin of 128,897 votes.
The NNPP ousted the APC in Kano. It turned out to be the only state that Kwankwaso won in the presidential election. Although his supporters had branded Kwankwaso as the next Muhammadu Buhari who would sweep the polls across northern Nigeria, his party’s performance in other northern states was abysmal.
Apart from Taraba State, the NNPP was not considered a threat by either the APC or the PDP in the governorship elections in other northern states. The outcomes of the elections across the northern states showed that they were correct in their assessment.
For instance, in Jigawa State, the NNPP candidate, Aminu Ibrahim, came a distant third with 37,156 votes. The winning votes of the APC candidate, Umar Namadi, were 618,449.
In Katsina State, the NNPP candidate, Nura Khalil, got only 8,263 votes, far below the winning votes of the APC candidate, Dikko Radda, which were 859,892.
In Kaduna State, the NNPP candidate, Suleiman Hunkuyi, also scored a relatively low 21,405 votes. The APC candidate, Uba Sani, won the election in the state with 730,002 votes.
In Sokoto State, the NNPP came sixth behind the APC, PDP, APGA, NRM, PRP. Its candidate scored just 427 votes, against the APC candidate Ahmed Aliyu, who won with 453,661 votes.
In Gombe, NNPP scored 19,000 votes against the APC candidate Inuwa Yahaya, who got 342,821 votes. And in neighbouring Bauchi State, the NNPP got 60,496 votes where the PDP’s Governor Bala Muhammed was reelected with 525,280 votes.
In Adamawa where the governorship election was declared inconclusive, the NNPP’s candidate also got a paltry 4,847 votes.
In Yobe State, the NNPP candidate got 14,244 votes with the victorious APC candidate, Maimala Buni, far out of his sight with 317,113 votes. And in Niger State, the NNPP got 3,378 votes while the APC candidate, Umaru Bago, won with 469,896 votes.
The NNPP had no governorship candidates in Borno, Zamfara and Kebbi States. Thus, across the 18 northern states aside from Kano, the NNPP came second only in Taraba State where its candidate got 202,277 votes. And that rare feat was attributed to protest votes against the ruling PDP candidate by political groups which felt marginalised in the North East state. In spite of the infighting in the ruling party, the PDP candidate, Agbo Kefas, still won with 302,614 votes.
Arguably the most important factor that worked for the NNPP in Kano but not in other northern Nigerian states was that Kwankwaso only governed Kano, of all the northern states.
Kwankwanso served as a two-term Kano governor during which he built a large following in the state based on what many considered to be his impressive performance as governor, particularly in the areas of education and health.
Another factor behind the dismal showing of the NNPP in the north in both the presidential and governorship elections was that the influential politicians in the region are all either in the APC or the PDP.
Also, Kwankwaso’s politics is largely limited to Kano where he is better known. His political practice appears alien to politicians and voters in other northern states.
However, after the Independent National Electoral Commission announced Tinubu as the winner, Kwankwaso became a prompt visitor at the Presidential villa in Abuja, meeting Tinubu behind closed doors, even in France, to discuss the proposed all-inclusive government of the APC.
And Galadima, who appeared on a political programme on a national television station last week, had begun singing a mellowed down tone.
Now a member of the NNPP’s Board of Trustees, Galadima’s opening remarks when he was congratulated by the programme’s anchor on acquiring the role (Secretary, NNPP BoT), was, to say the least, confusing, and may have resonated the confusion swirling through the minds of some Kwankwaso supporters who may have crossed their fingers, surprised at the simmering alliance cooking up between the two heavyweights.
Galadima said, “As a private person, you can be hired to be the secretary of an organisation or a board….take minutes, produce those minutes, give it to the owners of the board.
“So, that does not necessarily mean I am a member of the BoT….but thank God I am,” he said in a manner that confused most of his listeners.
Then again, the reasons adduced by Galadima for the NNPP losing the presidential election did not sit well with some critics. After Galadima said his party won the election, critics questioned the rationale behind Kwankwaso who met Tinubu when he (Kwankwaso) claimed to have won the election.
Galadima also highlighted the running battles the NNPP had with INEC, claiming the electoral umpire did all it could to frustrate the party.
Furthermore, he said the party didn’t go to court to seek any form of redress because it “elected to hands off” all the injustice done.
“The elections have come and gone. They said we lost … ..that we came number four…but we were the David in this combat.
“We know for sure, and the nation knows for sure that we didn’t lose the election, that we were ‘overspent’ because Kwankwaso was the most popular candidate. He is the most qualified in terms of pedigree and in terms of experience in public office.
“We had worked harder than all the candidates. We had garnered crowds from all parts of the country….more than any other candidate, but INEC said we were number four and we sat back,” Galadima said.
Continuing, he said, “Ordinarily, we would have been the people that are in court, not those that are in court today, for several reasons. If you had voted, you wouldn’t have seen the word, NNPP, on the ballot paper.
If you had voted, you wouldn’t have seen a clear NNPP fruits-in-a-basket logo.
“So, one would ask why we didn’t go to court.
“We didn’t go to court because from the beginning, up to the end, you know the running battle we had with INEC, who were destined to fight us alone in this election.
“So, instead of going to deploy money for lawyers and massage some hands in the judiciary, we elected to hand them off and thought that tomorrow would be another day (to contest for election). At least, there were lessons that we learnt from this election,” he declared.
Galadima also enumerated the “weaknesses” of the NNPP during the elections, saying the party came in newly into the political fray and that the structure of the party was weak.
The outspoken Galadima who was a former spokesperson of the PDP noted that candidates of the party were weak financially and strength-wise in their constituencies and on top of that were also compromised by the opposition.
On why it was expedient Kwankwaso shook hands with Tinubu, Galadima said, “For us, Tinubu has started very well because he has shown us that he’s a politician. And you may agree with some of his positions, or you may not … .but he does not take final decisions until he calls stakeholders from other parts of the country or from other political parties, to sit down with them and hear them out.
“This can strengthen his own position or make him reshuffle his own position. He may even abandon his own position and take superior advice. That is how a politician should be, and for him to avoid the pitfalls of his predecessor, it is in his interest to speak to political gladiators,” Galadima opined.
“I don’t believe it’s true that Kwankwaso might become a minister in Tinubu’s cabinet. This is because Asiwaju has read Robert Greene’s books, especially 48 Laws of Power and the Act of Seduction”
About a possible alliance between the APC and NNPP owing to the Government of National Unity proposed by the APC, Galadima said, “When there is an election, everyone is called to the table so that those who participated and got a certain percentage of votes have a stake in the government.
“That does not mean that everybody has joined that government … .and sometimes in the midst of governance, the party could say ‘withdraw’ and they withdraw.
“So, it will not be out of place if Tinubu in his wisdom thinks that he needs certain interests to partake in his government in order to stabilise it and make it functional,” Galadima concluded.
Reacting to some of Galadima’s views, an Edo state-based social commentator, Michael Eboh, said what politicians utter had to be taken with a pinch of salt.
He noted that if Kwankwaso eventually accepts any of the plum jobs available, Galadima would find a way to spin the narrative.
He also said he felt sorry for the candidates of the NNPP who would participate in off-season elections in the country, stressing that those who intend to fly on the wings provided by Kwankwaso should begin to make alternative arrangements.
Eboh said, “Politicians like Galadima have their mouths. They can say what they like to suit their positions in any matter. But whatever you hear from them, take it with a pinch of salt.
“Galadima also said Kwankwaso hadn’t informed the NNPP he wants to defect to or accept any job offer from the APC. But I tell you, if that job lands, Galadima will find a way to spin the narrative and it will be business as usual. Politicians know what they have in their minds.
“One other thing … .I feel sorry for those candidates in NNPP who want to participate in these off-season elections and fly on the wings provided by Kwankwaso. They should begin to make alternative arrangements because ‘anything’ can happen.
“And they also have to realise that politicians will consider their own interests first before that of others. But we are watching,” Eboh said.
Meanwhile, long-time Tinubu loyalist, Moyo Jaji, told The Point that he didn’t believe it was true Kwankwaso might become a minister in Tinubu’s yet-to-be-formed cabinet.
To buttress his opinion, Jaji said Tinubu had read two of Robert Greene’s books, 48 Laws of Power and the Act of Seduction and that Tinubu was at home with political strategy.
Still speaking, Jaji said a political party was usually formed, not to stagnate, but to expand. He also noted that Kwankwaso’s influence in Kano State politics could not be wished away.
However, despite the prospect of having Kwankwaso berthing on APC shore, Jaji said Tinubu was “positively unpredictable” and it would be foolhardy to contemplate the political generalissimo’s next move or decision.
Jaji said, “I don’t believe it’s true that Kwankwaso might become a minister in Tinubu’s cabinet. This is because Asiwaju has read Robert Greene’s books, especially 48 Laws of Power and the Act of Seduction.
“Everything Asiwaju is doing is showing that he is very well at home with political strategy. And anyone who has read those two books I mentioned will know that Asiwaju is very much on the ground with strategy.
“Be that as it may, a party is formed not to stagnate. A party is formed to expand and nobody can wish away Kwankwaso’s influence in Kano politics. And if you have somebody of that pedigree as a member of your party, you should be very happy. That means you’re expanding the frontiers of your hegemony.
“So, one should be very happy about that, but I know Asiwaju is positively unpredictable. If anyone says he or she can predict what Asiwaju can do, he or she must be a fool living in a fool’s paradise,” he said.
Jaji also said Kwankwaso coming on board the Tinubu government would be the perfect recipe for enlarging the political post of the APC and the government. However, he said he would have preferred someone in the mould of former Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, as Finance Minister in Tinubu’s cabinet.
Whether the NNPP would survive after a possible Kwankwaso departure, Jaji stated otherwise.
He blamed this on the inability of the NNPP to have national spread. According to Jaji, a platform like the one the APC could present, would add to the fortunes of the NNPP.
“I would have preferred the former Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, to be the Minister of Finance because of his grasp of economic and monetary matters, but who am I to suggest anything to Asiwaju, the master of the game himself.
“That said, Kwankwaso accepting to be a member of Tinubu’s team will enhance individual participation and exposure in the political affairs of the country. So, I am not worried. But it’s just mere speculation. Nobody is sure of what will eventually happen.
“However, without Kwankwaso, the NNPP cannot survive. Kwankwaso does not have national spread … .where is it? He is only limited to Kano and we call them Kwankwasiyya.
“So, if you give them a national platform, it will add to the fortunes of the party, but not as NNPP. It will be added to APC and that means APC’s sphere of influence would be firmly rooted in Kano,” Jaji said.