Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State was able to overcome an adverse image in a decisive moment many though he would go under
Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has an unchanging principle about his traducers, “The blackmail is not effective, it has failed, it is a deception and it is fictions.” Ganduje has given this standard reply everywhere he is accosted with questions on the alleged USD5 million bribe he was captured on video collecting. The purported inducement has since defined the governor introducing a new moniker, ‘GanDollar’, to his identity. More than all the development projects to his credit, accusation of corruption against the governor rose like turbulent waves of mighty waters that swallowed his developmental achievements. Not much else appears to matter to the public, whose attention has been fixated on the fraud episode.
Ordinarily, a grave matter of communal concern like that should count against the electoral fortunes of the governor, but Ganduje must know something about voters in Kano that is hidden to the larger public. In a decisive moment that many though he was going under, he re-emerged again with his red cap intact, on the mountain top of victory.
After the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the initial ballot inconclusive, because the leading candidate’s margin of victory was less than the number of votes cancelled, a supplementary poll was ordered. The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, Abba Kabir Yusuf was leading Ganduje. The prevailing opinion indicated a win for Yusuf, largely due to the corruption issue against the Kano governor. His loss in the first ballot was surprising given that President Buhari garnered tremendous votes in the state in the presidential polls.
Ganduje quickly addressed the setback by embarking on a project spree in local government areas that were set to vote. In addition, the Kano governor did not leave any stone unturned, as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state was accused of strong-arm tactics. The party was blamed for disrupting voting in PDP strongholds. Specifically, it was held responsible hijacking ballot papers and mass thumb printing in favour of the governor.
A cat with nine lives, Ganduje survived a sustained attempt to kick him out of office on the strength of multiple videos that showed him receiving Dollar denominated bribe from contractors in the state. An attempt by the Kano state legislature to probe the issue was blocked by a court order initiated by the governor. He claims the bribe videos are doctored and has sued the publisher, seeking damages of about USD8.2 million.
At 70 years, Ganduje, a former deputy governor, who came to office in 2015 will complete his eight-year tenure in 2023. He is probably the oldest among his colleague governors. In the supplementary election held in 28 of the 44 local government areas in the state, Ganduje won by scoring 45,876 votes to Abba Yusuf’s 10,239. The governor got 1,033,695 votes, Yusuf polled 1,024,713. Kano was one of the battleground states projected to present a lot of security issues and it did not disappoint. With 5.4 million registered voters, the state is second to Lagos on the list with the highest number of registered voters. Apparently, with its enticing number of voters, the struggle for the control of Kano is usually fierce.
In recent years, Kano has become known for the ill reputation of habouring alleged under-aged voters, which has cast a blur on the election that brought President Buhari to office. Thus, Kano is perceived as hostile or peaceful, depending on who is making the description. The current political character of Kano is a far departure from the days of the late distinguished philosopher and politician, Mallam Aminu who was known for his love for ‘talakawas’. Perhaps, the closest that Kano has witnessed of the Aminu Kano hue of politics is the emergence of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former boss of Ganduje. The sitting Kano governor previously served as deputy governor twice between 1999 to 2003 and 2011 to 2015, both under Kwankwaso.
Over the course of political campaigns, Kwankwaso has raised an army of zealous followers known as ‘Kwankwasiyya’. Generally identified with their red cap, Ganduje was formerly a fanatical Kwankwasiyya until obsession for power truncated his relationship Kwankwaso. The Kwankwaso versus Ganduje saga is not the first time, a former deputy (or ally) will turn aggressively against his erstwhile principal. Many examples of this narrative abound on the political landscape. Unlike Kwankwaso, the current governor of Kano State, Ganduje has not been able to elevate himself to a cult hero. Since Kwankwaso had switched political party loyalty to the PDP, Ganduje supposedly lacked the kind of enthusiastic supporters that could secure victory for him. This assumption was apparent in the first ballot in which the governor trailed with 987,819 votes behind the PDP candidate, Yusuf’s 1,014,474 votes. In the supplementary election, however, Ganduje cancelled out the 26000 vote difference and went on to win!
How did he perform this feat? It’s possible that long-standing relationship with certain influencers in Kano softened the ground for Ganduje at the critical minute, enough to allow the alleged use of thugs and security agencies to ensure victory for the governor. Still, no one can deny the Kano governor has spent billions of Naira on health projects. Hundreds of millions of Naira have been paid to contractors for various projects by the Ganduje administration, though critics insist that he gives the money with one hand and goes back to collect it from them with another hand. Under Ganduje, the people of Kano have enjoyed improved power supply due to the government’s independent power project. Several road projects valued at hundreds of millions of Naira have also been commissioned in Kano by Ganduje
On the surface, Ganduje and Kwakwaso have much in common. They used to share a political party (and perhaps, ideology), and both profess love for the common man. However, Ganduje’s willingness to be more liberal and embrace peoples from a critical voting segment of Kano residents from other ethnic groups is diametrically opposed to Kwankwaso’s need to consolidate on religious and tribal weakness. Kwankwaso’s efforts usually concentrates on the capacity of his devoutness and sophistication. He has shielded both assumed virtues without apologies.
A science teacher who studied at Advanced Teachers’ College, Kano between 1969 and 1972; and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he graduated with a Bachelors in Science Education in 1975, he obtained master’s degree in applied educational psychology from Bayero University Kano. Ganduje later returned to Ahmadu Bello University from 1984 to 1985 for a Master of Public Administration degree. He got his doctorate in Public Administration from University of Ibadan in 1993.
In a 40-year political career, Ganduje has probably reached the peak of his aspiration for public office. Passion to serve his people took him into politics, he joined now-defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) during the Second Nigerian Republic and served as Kano State Assistant Secretary from 1979 to 1980. He contested the House of Representatives election in 1979 under the NPN but lost the election. From that shaky start, he soldiered on, confronting and overcoming many adversity in the process. Today, he governs one of states with the most serious economic and human capital indicators in Nigeria. Kano posted N579.49billion as internally generated revenue in the second quarter of 2018, owing largely to the astute management skills of Ganduje.