Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the 66-year-old politician vying to be Nigeria’s next president, is rarely seen without his red cap. It is a symbol of his ambition and his achievements – he is a former Defence Minister, former Senator and served two-terms as governor of Kano State, one of Nigeria’s most populous states. The hats are also worn by his supporters in Kano who are part of his Kwankwasiyya movement, which translates from Hausa as the “Red Cap Revolution”.
This loyal political fan club has even followed him as he has switched parties – in particular his move in 2013 from the then-governing People’s Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress, the current ruling party. Over his career he has been with five parties, and is now presidential candidate for the New Nigeria People’s Party, little known nationally until he joined last year.
Analysts say he has little chance of winning the election outright, given his power base is largely in the north, but could cause a serious political upset by taking northern votes from Bola Tinubu of the APC and Atiku Abubakar, the PDP’s contender.
To win a presidential election a candidate must show they have national support by gaining 25% of votes in twothirds of Nigeria’s 36 states, as well as having the most votes. Political analyst, Chisom Ugbariwould, told the BBC that Kwankwaso would need to make inroads in the south to achieve this.
“THE RMK 2023 CAMPAIGN IS WAXING STRONGER AS WE HEAD INTO THE LAST 30 DAYS OF THE CAMPAIGN. OUR CANDIDATE HAS REACHED WELL OVER 400 PLUS LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND IS GOING INTO THE ONLY STATE HE HAS NOT BEEN TO, TO CAMPAIGN IN THE COMING DAYS. WE REPEATTHAT WE HAVE A CLEAR STRATEGIC PATH TO VICTORY AND THAT BY GOD’S SPECIAL GRACE, THE NNPP AND RABIU MUSA KWANKWASO ARE GOING TO WIN THE ELECTION”
At one stage a merger had been suggested with another leading candidate, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, who hails from the South East. Some said such an alliance stood a chance of wrestling power from the APC. But in a BBC interview Kwankwaso categorically ruled this out, saying the Labour Party candidate lacked his political pedigree: “You can’t compare him to me who have been in politics for many years.” However, Ibrahim Sharada, a Kwankasiyya member of NNPP, thinks his candidate’s fame and influence “stretches beyond northern Nigeria”.
And there is no doubt that he is one of the four leading candidates and should it go to a second round, he could become a king-maker given his loyal following in Kano, where he first became governor in 1999. This was the year that marked the end of military rule – and he was not donning the famous red cap then.
That came more than a decade later. In fact he lost his gubernatorial re-election bid in 2003, which is when thenPresident Olusegun Obasanjo made him Defence Minister. He served in this role until 2007 at a time of relative peace in Nigeria.
One of his main manifesto pledges to combat the current state of insecurity the country faces – a Islamist militancy in the north, kidnappings, cattle-farmer conflicts and a separatist rebellion in the south-east – is to boost the army’s head count to one million by recruiting 750,000 extra personnel.
After his time in government, he returned to state politics, which is when he formed the Kwankwasiyya move ment, taking inspiration from the late renowned anti-colonial freedom agitator Malam Aminu Kano, who became an eminent politician and social reformer in northern Nigeria after independence.
Dressed in a red cap and a flowing white kaftan, he was famous for pointing out the inequalities of what was a fairly feudal society in the region – fighting for more equality, including the rights of women. Kwankwasiyya, Kwankwaso said, embodied those ideals – and the movement attracted a young following which liked to dress like their mentor. Propelled to a second term as governor, Kwankwaso said he delivered on these ideals in particular through his educational reforms, making education free at all levels to this day.
However, it is only available to those that come from Kano and students need an “indigene certificate” to qualify.
Kwankwaso introduced free primary, secondary and tertiary education in Kano “He declared free education on assumption of office and was one of the first governors across Nigeria to introduce the school feeding programme for indigent pupils,”
Kano journalist Yinusa Ahmad told the BBC. “Hundreds of students also got foreign scholarships and now most of them form the most loyal base of his Kwankwasiyya movement.” During his time as governor, he says Kano built many schools and invested in teachers, though the UN says the state still has one of the highest numbers of out-of-school children in Nigeria.
The spokesperson to the NNPP presidential candidate, Ladipo Johnson, said that his principal is still in the race to win the 2023 presidential election Ladipo, who made this known in Lagos, disclosed that questions are being bandied around by the supporters of those who have failed this country and who are still pretenders to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
According to him, “the campaign of calumny is well orchestrated and comes from more than one political block! Ab initio, they initiated and carried rumours about Kwankwaso purportedly stepping down for their weak candidates.
I pity these political jobbers as there probably is no easy way for them to sell their weak and ailing candidates who have passed their sell-by dates, to Nigerians! I make bold to say that these so-called candidates should be taken off the supermarket shelf (off the political space).
They have cost us enough.” He further stressed that “these political jobbers are attempting to push their narrative by using pecuniary means to entice solitary NNPP or Kwankwasiyya members who then stage decamping shows, where they parade a few hired hands adorned with new red Kwankwasiyya caps which they symbolically remove or throw away. “They then claim to have moved with hundreds of thousands or some have claimed, with millions of members! We saw these laughable shows by some nincompoops recently in Kano and Bauchi and I dare say, there will be more shows as the expired politicians become more desperate as we approach the election.
These people are jokers and should be seen as such,” he added. He continued, “I have some bad news for these jobbers seeking to sell expired drugs to a sick Nigeria. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and the NNPP are contesting this election to the end.
“The RMK 2023 campaign is waxing stronger as we head into the last 30 days of the campaign. Our candidate has reached well over 400 plus local governments and is going into the only state he has not been to, to campaign in the coming days. We repeat that we have a clear strategic path to victory and that by God’s special grace, the NNPP and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso are going to win the election.
“As it is certain that these expired politicians will continue to seek to buy the loyalty and votes of Nigerians and will not desist from their underhand tactics, I must let it be known to Nigerians that the NNPP and Kwankwaso are contesting this election to win.
Kwankwaso has the Competence, Capacity, and Political Will to move Nigeria in the right direction. He will deliver on the people’s mandate,” he further said. Another chieftain of the NNPP, Buba Galadima, has given a prediction of how Rabiu Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of the NNPP will win the 2023 presidential election.
According to Galadima, Kwankwaso will win all the Northern states of the country. He said, “The North East is completely Kwankwaso because he will win Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, and Bauchi, including the governorship. “He will win the North East, North Central, and will win the North West. All combined, they have over 50-something million voters. “Kwankwaso will poach the South South, South East, and part of the South West.
“I assure you that all Nigerians who desire freedom, development, progress, and health services, have no other person to vote for than Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. “PDP is not even on the ballot because its strength is in the South East, which has been eroded by Peter Obi. The next strength of PDP is in the South South.
With Wike never supporting Atiku, the South South is gone,” he said. Education has clearly been important to Kwankwaso, who is soft spoken and charismatic.
The former governor thrived at school and went on to university, qualifying as a water engineer – gaining degrees in the UK and India. He returned to work in that sector, mainly for Kano’s water and engineering agency, before entering the political fray. Like many Nigerian politicians, Kwankwaso has faced corruption allegations. In 2021, two years after completing a term as senator, he was questioned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the alleged diversion of pension funds while he was governor.
He denies the allegations, saying they are politically motivated, and the case has gone no further. Kwankwaso, who is married with six children, exudes political confidence. This was most recently demonstrated when he dismissed the need for an alliance to win the presidency. He is a man who likes to make his own mark – and it is something that can still be seen all over Kano city.
All the buildings constructed during his time as governor have “Kwankwasiyya” marked in huge capped letters across the roof. He wants no-one to forget him. (BBC)