Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s bribery video is changing the tenor of debates ahead of next year’s election in Kano State and President Muhammadu Buhari’s so-called integrity as individuals he surrounds himself with are anything but above board, writes Ibrahim Shuaibu
Avideo of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Governor of Kano State allegedly receiving a kickback from contractors is currently trending on the social media and amongst the people of Kano State especially, on whether or not the scenario was blackmail.
The video also created discontent among the loyalists of the governor, who were in shock while others doubted its authenticity at a time Ganduje is battling internal crisis in the party over the outcome of the primary.
The video that was uploaded by Daily Nigerian, an online newspaper, showed the governor receiving bundles of dollars and putting them into his white dress known as ‘babanriga’ in the northern part of Nigeria.
According to the online newspaper, the governor had allegedly requested $5 million from the contractors, who recorded the video while handing part of the payment to him.
Since the video surfaced online, it has generated a lot of reactions from Kano people, with some saying it was, in general, a dent on President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption agenda since the governor is a member of the ruling party of the ruling APC. Many people are already of the opinion that reactions so far generated by the alleged bribery video may likely impact on the second term bid of Governor Ganduje.
Mr. Jafar Jafar, an online publisher of Daily Nigerian, had in the last two weeks announced that there were videos of a governor from the North West collecting kickbacks from contractors to be made public.
The first video had no voice because the ambience had been removed and replaced with the sound of a flute.
But in its response to the video, the Kano State government claimed it was cloned. “We wish to state that there is no iota of truth to these allegations and if indeed there is any such alleged video, it is at best cloned,” the Kano State Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, said in a statement.
“The government of Kano State is taking this matter seriously and will exploit every appropriate and legal avenue to ensure that it gets to the root of the matter and the perpetrators are brought to book,” he added. The government said the video was cloned by an antagonist of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that has been working for the opposition.
But reacting, Hajiya Binta Spikin, spokesperson for the former governor and now a senator, Rabiu Kwankwaso, dismissed the claim saying her principal had nothing to do with it.
The governor, 69, who said he was not moved by the development has come out to say despite the situation, medical personnel at Shiekh Jidda General Hospital in Kano city, certified that his blood pressure was within normal range.
Taking a swipe at his antagonists, the governor said, “This shows that the blackmail is not effective. It has failed. It is a deception and it is fictions.”
A day after the reaction by Garba, who threatened legal actions against Jafar, he released the second video clip in which the governor was seen collecting bundles of dollars from anonymous persons. But this time, there was the sound and the voice could be heard. It also has a transcript on the screen for non-Hausa viewers to read.
Following this, the Kano State House of Assembly could not help but react to the growing tension in the public space especially that it had started to manifest in political programmes on radio, the most widely accepted source of information dissemination in the state.
Speaker of the assembly, Alhassan Rurum, immediately announced the setting up of a seven-man committee to investigate the matter and called on the state government to suspend its planned legal action by one month to allow the committee to investigate the matter properly.
In another public reaction monitored on the radio, the Kano State Commissioner for Rural and Community Development, Musa Iliyasu-Kwankwaso, defended Ganduje, reportedly saying collecting kickbacks is normal in government.
Kwankwaso spoke on a Hausa programme recently and explained that though it was illegal to collect certain percentage to award contract, the practice is rampant levels of government.
He tried to prove that even if the allegations against the governor was true, it is nothing because it is a generally accepted practice in the country. “Since the three years of this administration, the contractors have been giving the kickbacks, why did they fail to claim that they must pay 15 to 25 per cent before they were awarded contracts until now?
“I challenge the contractors to come out and say that they must pay the percentage before they receive contracts. This is just blackmail to the person of Ganduje,” the commissioner said.
Although Ganduje had remained silent over the whole saga, the whistle-blower claimed that multiple contractors, who spoke to him on the condition of anonymity, said the governor personally received from 15 to 25 percent kickbacks for every project executed in the state.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) had since written a letter to the Kano Commissioner of Police, notifying the command that some students in the state were planning a massive protest to call on the governor to resign to allow for independent investigation into the matter in order to unfold the truth.
The leader of the students union, Comrade Isah Abubakar, stated that the group would hold its protest on October 29, from Zoo road to the Government House.
But the police through its public relations officer, SP Magaji Musa Majia, had called on the students to desist from such plans or face the wrath of the Command, insisting that the command would not accept any attempt to politicise the matter and would not allow the thugs waiting for such opportunity to disrupt the peace being enjoyed in the metropolis.
The Police have also enhanced security in the city of Kano to forestall any crisis eruption between rivals as they believe it is difficult for it not to be given political undertone and exploited.
Mr. Ahmed Dauda, an analyst in Kano, explained that the issue is that of an allegation that needs to be investigated, until proven, it remains an allegation.
He added that “room for independent investigation must be allowed if the government is to preserve its public integrity. It is not just enough to dismiss the allegation as false without any investigation. He, therefore, called for independent investigation even if the governor has to serve as a deterrent to others”.
He further explained that since giving and taking bribe are both criminal offences, the giver of the bribe will also be unwrapped if investigated to face the wrath of the law as well.
Political analyst, Mr. Yakubu Yau, was of the view that if the investigation committee set up by the state House of Assembly found Ganduje guilty, the chances of his second term ambition might be forlorn.
“Governor Ganduje is having integrity problems with this viral video of bribery allegations but all this will be sorted out before the general election,” he said.