By Eddy Odivwri
Accepting to host the members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) in his state was a way of testing the trust journalists had or still have on his state, which in a way robs off on his capacity.
In the face of ravaging insecurity across the country, especially in the northern part, going to Kano was not going to be a likely venture, nor such a fun trip. But it was! For nearly four days and four nights, the cream of Nigerian Editors converged in Kano to elect its officers.
The secretariat of the NGE confirmed that this year’s Biennial conference had recorded more participants than many previous ones. So what was the allure? Was it the ancientness of Kano city or the sheer Ganduje phenomenon? Whatever it was, the editors came in their numbers and had a fair feel of what Ganduje is doing or has done in the ancient city.
Reputed to be the state with the largest population in the north, second in the country (second only to Lagos), Kano ranks among the top commercial states in the country. Driving round the state in an 8-hour tour of various projects further confirms the thick demographic edge Kano has over every other state in the north.
There is no doubt that Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is an experienced administrator. He has almost been everything a man can be in te Nigerian government system including having been, amongst others, a Local Government Chairman, a commissioner, a secretary to state government, a deputy governor, and now a governor.
As they say, he knows all the trickery in governance. Nothing should daze or faze him anymore.
Armed with a Ph.D and a professor wife (Hafsat), Ganduje speaks with ultra confidence and knowledge about the things he does as a politician and governor.
Driving round the Kano metropolis with Governor Ganduje, it is clear that he is literally on the same page with his people, what with the mammoth crowd that kept trooping out to welcome him or just wave to his convoy. This does not discount the fact that he has sustained a raging political war with his former boss, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso. The latter almost got Ganduje displaced in the 2019 governorship election in the state but for some electoral tweaking and husbandry. The bitterness between both political demagogues is still in place.
He is brave and courageous to have confronted his former boss, Kwankwaso in an open contest of who holds the longer end of the Kano political ace. Kwankwaso is literally taken to control the political oxygen of Kano State. But Ganduje managed to wrest it and since then, he has been doubly committed to making a difference in the governorship balance sheet of the state.
But Ganduje appears settled in and has since been sparkling in the political sun of Kano State. Not even the Gandollars scandal was strong enough to dull his shine. So, he has been running bright and striving to expand his political frontiers.
He sure savoured the ululation! He is a politician. He seizes every scintilla of opportunity to put his wares on display. The Governor had loaded a Sienna car with very big mega speakers and supersonic sound system (supported with its own generator in a specially constructed compartment) blaring away loud local Hausa music, which on its own, was enough come-and-see invitation to the Kano folks. And truly, the roadsides were full.
It was not all musical chaff. There was substance to it all.
The tour of the project sites revealed quite a number of things. One of it being that Governor Ganduje appears under-reported vis-à-vis what he has done in the state.
One other thing revealed from the tour is the reason why Kano seems somewhat insulated from the activities of kidnappers and bandits as compared to its neighbouring states. The governor had taken the visiting editors to Kano State Police command in the Nasarawa area of the city. There, we saw a plethora of Closed Circuit televisions being monitored from one hub. The hub was being powered by avalanche of solar system to ensure sustained connection. It is almost like the C4i system in Rivers State during the governorship days of Rotimi Amaechi. From the device, almost every activity of Kano is monitored and tracked. Criminals seem to be conscious of this “Big Brother” lens and advisedly stay away from Kano and its environs.
More than the effect of CCTVs, Ganduje is one northern governor that had long embraced the talk about cattle ranching long before it became an issue in the country. He is said to have built a wide expanse of land as a ranching zone for herders in the state. Himself being a Fulani is said to have reasoned that if the herders have their own operational base, fitted with modern and requisite facilities like schools, hospitals and habitations, there will be little or no friction between them (herders) and the other members of the state.
Clearly, that has worked well in Kano State.
Perhaps one other very visible proof of governance is in the construction of over-head bridges in the state. The governor is reputed to have constructed the longest over-head bridge in the entire northern states. There were several overhead bridges in different parts of the state, some of them have complex artery road networks. In no little way, the bridges have eased the problem of urban traffic within the city. One is tempted to call him a “Bridge Master”.
At the Shahusi Ultra modern market, the governor was said to have transformed a notorious motor park (often times harbouring criminals) to a very big market having 380 shops, thus providing engagement and employment to the teeming youths as well being a major commercial hub in the city. Yet, it is all under a PPP ( Public-Private Partnership) arrangement with government spending no kobo in the building of the market, yet having a good share of the market, having provided the land as a major equity.
Close to the market is the Murtala Mohammed Hospital where health care is said to be provided to the Kano people.
The Ganduje administration has invested huge on health care. Both at the Cancer centre, Paediatric Hospital and at the Giginyu Specialist hospital, former Governor Segun Osoba, who accompanied the governor on the tour, noted that the quality of equipment installed in those health facilities not only compare very well with facilities in foreign hospitals, “but they are facilities, when you see them, you will not like to die again”.
His is a thinking government. There is a deliberate policy and programme of government to decongest the city, by creating the new communities in the outskirts of the city, called Economic City, otherwise known as kwankwasia city, where new homes and housing estates are being built to accommodate people, as a way of drawing them away from the main city. Already, the new settlement is supported by schools and other facilities like the Dangote Skill Acquisition centre..
One other governance virtue of Gov Ganduje may be his liberal disposition. It is not certain if it is a political strategy to widen his network, but those close to his government affirm that he is liberal and non-discriminatory. Those who so believe cite the fact that he is not even fanatical about religion and culture, stating that he has a pan-Nigerian disposition, most remarkably demonstrated by giving out his daughter (Fatima) to marry a Yoruba boy, Idris Ajimobi, son of late governor of Oyo State (Abiola Ajimobi), as a perfect example of not being fanatical or conservative.
Progressive as he may seem, Ganduje is begrudged for not doing enough for education. Although there is a claim of free education in the state, it is “technically not free”, as parents still pay one levy or the other in sustaining their children in school. Indeed, the league of Editors visited just one school, First Lady Girls Secondary School, Mariri, Kano. This is however in spite of the fact that the state has several higher institutions.
Yet, among those who hate Governor Ganduje are those who believe he was hard and dictatorial in the removal of the former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, from his father’s stool.
Like him or hate him, it is clear that Governor Ganduje is forging on as a two-term governor in the iconic Kano State, a state believed to be the political capital of the north. He is keen on leaving indelible footprints on the sands of time as one who came, who saw, and who conquered.
June 12: 28 Years After…
Tomorrow is June 12, a day that has continued to collocate with late Chief MKO Abiola’s political odyssey, 28 years after. It was a day that Nigeria was supposed to have been freed from the strangle hold of political thralldom.
It was a day the resolve of the Nigerian people was denied and circumvented by the military government of Gen Ibrahim Babangida, when he unilaterally, without any scientific reason, decided to annul the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
As a political reporter at the time, I had been on the Abiola campaign train at the time, as we toured many cities and states like Jos, Yola, Enugu, Sokoto etc., along with my colleagues, under the supervision of the duo of Femi Oredein and Dr Jonathan Silas Zwingina, who were the leaders of the Hope ’93 campaign organization of Chief MKO. Wherever we went, the crowd was electrifying. The following was almost cultic. The Social Democratic Party (SDP), under which platform MKO was running, was growing bigger and brighter as the election drew nearer. Abiola’s deed were being remembered: he was as liberal and generous as a man could ever be. He gave generously in the building of worship centres in both major faiths. He helped many out of their troubles. The testimonies of who Abiola was and what he stood for were quite enchanting.
It was not difficult to tell that he was going to win that election. Not even the clog of a Muslim-Muslim ticket was going to be a barrier. His running mate, Babagana Kingibe, was a Kanuri Muslim.
Indeed, the polls were quite telling. Even in Kano, where MKO’s only rival (Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa) the candidate of the rival National Republican Convention (NRC) was from , Abiola won him hands down . The story was everywhere that Abiola was coasting home to victory.
As he remarked at the time, on that June 12 1993, even when it was right in the middle of the rainy season in Nigeria, in no town or city or even village was there a drop of rain on that day. Even the elements seemed to had co-operated to usher in a day of freedom and victory, that never really was at the end of the day.
One late Justice Ikpeme, in Benin City, working in tandem with the military quisling called Senator Arthur Nzeribe, had delivered a midnight judgement halting the conduct of the June 12 election, after curiously listening to the petitions of the unregistered Association fort Better Nigeria (ABN). It was an order that came too late. The wheel of the election had already been set on motion. Prof Humprey Nwosu, the NEC chairman at the time, was evidently committed to conducting a wuruwuru-free and mago-mago-free election. But the forces against him were strong and lethal. The announcement of the result of the election had to be suspended at a time when 18 states had already so announced and MKO was clearly leading.
At the end of the day, the peaceful, free and fair election was annulled by the Babangida-led junta. Till today, the stigma of that egregious sin still smells around Babangida and his lackeys.
I cannot forget the Epetedo declaration where MKO declared himself the president. I cannot forget the role the likes of late Wahab Dosunmu and Chief Ralph Obioha played that night in shielding and supporting Chief MKO.
It was the beginning of the end. MKO got arrested days later and taken over to Abuja.
Late Chiefs Gani Fawehinmi, FRA Williams plus GOK Ajayi, began a sub-war on who will be Abiola’s defence lawyer. All three of them must have long reconciled with MKO in the great beyond by now.
The murder of Mrs Kudirat Abiola, the activist wife of MKO, by agents of state, only darkened the cloud of uncertainty in the country at the time. Things simply moved from bad to worse. Over time, June 12 became a metaphor for deceit, fraud and hypocricy.
It is remarkable that it took the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to office 22 years after, for June 12 to be properly recognized in all its significance.
But rather than celebrate its positive significance, it is being planned for protest against insecurity and other social upheavals tomorrow. May June 12 truly become a watershed for Nigeria and Nigerians!