8th February, 2018
By Louis Odion
For a myth that took so long to construct, how sad that it took just a fleeting moment for Kwankwasiya to be finally dismantled. Sadder still, unlike the loud song and wild dance witnessed at its christening years ago, there was no ceremony – much less the customary parade of iconic red caps – the day Governor Umar Ganduje of Kano publicly disowned his mentor and predecessor, Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Speaking in Dakata, the estranged godson described his godfather in very grave terms: “Most contracts undertaken by Kwankwaso were carried out with several misdeeds and betrayals, which I’ll soon expose for people to know the calibre of person my predecessor was.”
Then pressing the equivalent of a nuclear button, Ganduje alleged a grand plot against President Buhari vis-a-vis the 2019 succession: “Some people have been trying to undermine President Buhari with all sorts of things. We’ll not tolerate it again here in Kano because we’re tired of his (Kwankwaso’s) atrocities… People who are now telling all sorts of things are sycophants. They don’t want Buhari to succeed.
“These people know themselves. When it gets to that stage, I’ll name them one after the other. We’re solidly behind President Buhari and his programmes and the people of the state will not support anyone or groups of people working against President Buhari and his programmes.”
Indeed, a crisis of confidence had been brewing quietly between Ganduje and Kwankwaso since 2015. At the root is what seems to be ego. Things finally went out of hands early in 2016 when the Kano governor lost his mum. A version of the story has it that Kwankwaso was the first person Ganduje broke the sad news to. But rather than personally attend the burial which happened on the same day, the former sent a representative. This apparently did not go down well with the grieving governor, considering that the federal government deemed it appropriate to send a high-powered delegation and distant friends like Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto found time to attend, despite the short notice.
When Kwankwaso finally turned up three days later, he, in his own wisdom, put up a carnival of sorts. The story is told that his associates in each of Kano’s 44 councils were mobilised to join his convoy at the city gate in two buses per district. By the time the senator’s caravan stopped in the governor’s native Ganduje village, no fewer than 150 vehicles were counted.
Given the tension already in the air, the governor’s camp were quick to read politics into Kwankwaso’s showing. In fact, the hardliners likened it to dancing on the fresh grave of the governor’s mother.
From what is now known, questions are bound to be asked about Kwankwaso’s own sense of political judgement from the outset. Before then, no further diagnosis is needed to certify what is already a clear and present affliction: the onset of the familiar post-power withdrawal syndrome.
Ganduje himself lent credence to this in his outburst shortly afterwards: “God wanted to expose his (Kwankwaso’s) antics perpetrated against the President, he chose my mother’s death to launch (his) presidential campaign. But we leave him with the people.”
So far, Kwankwaso has not responded. In the interim, we can only speculate on the real forces fueling the sudden turn of events in Kano today. But one thing is certain: Kwankwaso’s vulnerability is exposed and the durability of his eponymous movement severely questioned. If truly there is any depth to his Kwankwasiya postulation as a tentative preface to a progressive ideology, it remains to be seen in a coherent articulation, beyond the vanishing comedy of the procession of a rambunctious mob in gaudy red caps.
Obviously, Kwankwaso’s bragging right on the national state today is premised on a claim to the dominion of Kano’s political space. As governor, he delivered all the 44 councils to APC in 2014. To rub it in, he would take space on the front page of leading national dailies to advertise PDP’s humiliation in Kano under his command.
In the subsequent general elections of March 28, 2015, not only did Kwankwaso also inspire APC to rout PDP in the presidential poll, he made a clean sweep of the senatorial and House of Representatives seats as well. He magisterially cemented his invincibility by annexing one of the senatorial seats to himself. But with Ganduje now up in arms, it is obvious Kwankwaso already has an insurgency to deal with at home. The falcon can no longer hear the falconer. Tellingly, members of the Kano Assembly reportedly passed a resolution forbidding the wearing of the fraternal red caps, symbolically marking the severance of allegiance to Kwankwaso.
From what is now known, questions are bound to be asked about Kwankwaso’s own sense of political judgement from the outset. Before then, no further diagnosis is needed to certify what is already a clear and present affliction: the onset of the familiar post-power withdrawal syndrome. Having been lord and master of Kano for eight years, it would seem Kwankwaso, like most mortals, is still unable to reconcile himself to the diminution of status now as former governor. Alas, Kwankwasiya, contrary to the inaugural promise, has woefully failed to deliver to him a blanket immunity for impunity. In the circumstance, the senator, therefore, deserves our pity.
Years ago, Pius Anyim Pius found himself explaining to an august gathering why he arrived at a national event terribly late. “Please pardon me,” began the then secretary to the government of the federation. “You know, we politicians, our ways are never straight. When we say we’re coming, you can never be too sure because condition may warrant that we make a stop somewhere on the way.”
Candid as that may sound, the other truth is actually unspeakable. If we bother to dig deeper, we will find that two chief factors make it near impossible for the quintessential Nigerian public office-holder to be punctual. Other than congenital indiscipline, the other would be narcissism rooted in delusion. The political emperor barely sleeps, often busy doing nothing. And that is only because, in his base vanity, he simply can’t bear or imagine, even for a second, moments that sleep would naturally steal from him. Being awake forever, therefore, means a carnal opportunity to suck every waking moment of the pleasure possible, the same way an infant ravenously lick the candy wrapping for the last trace of honey.
After rail-roading his deputy to succeed him, it is only human that the least Kwankwaso would have expected is that the existing sitting order in Kano’s temple of power remains. His Ganduje gambit in 2015 was no doubt a novel card on the table. Indeed, the nation’s memory was already littered with the relics of succession experiments that had failed. In Enugu of 2007, for instance, Chimaroke Nnamani had dusted up a political nobody, Sullivan Chime, to succeed him as his second term was nearing its end. But no sooner had INEC declared the latter governor-elect than he dramatically declared a fatwa on his political benefactor, thus exposing the inherent deformity of Nnamani’s Ebeano movement.
Elsewhere in Cross Rivers, with his childhood buddy, Liyel Imoke, riding to the Calabar White House in 2007, debonaire Donald Duke thought he had found a perfect guy to sustain his legacies like the Tinapa Project. But not only did they begin to have disagreements shortly afterward, they practically were no longer on greeting terms by the time Imoke’s first term ended in 2011.
Indeed, very rare is it on Nigeria’s peculiar political landscape for an incumbent governor to allow his deputy succeed him like Kwankwaso enthusiastically did last year. Many quickly interpreted that as the political circumcision and confirmation of Ganduje, who had cut his first tooth in politics as personal assistant to Kwankwaso in the early 1990s, as the new heir apparent to the Kwankwasiya stool. A maximalist, Kwankwaso did not stop there. He also ensured that Hafiz Abubakar, his old classmate at the Kaduna Polytechnic, more than forty years before and his one-time political adviser and finance commissioner, was made Ganduje’s running-mate.
With that, the flanks were supposed to have been secured for Kwankwaso’s complete dominion of Kano’s political space in the foreseeable future. Alas, that prospects now look threatened.
Taken together, the chief lesson to be drawn from the Ganduje/Kwankwaso conundrum is that there is no substitute for substance. There is no short-cut to political immortality other than working selflessly for the community in a way that one’s name eventually get etched in people’s subconscious, not necessarily while still in power. What will endure has to grow. Without God’s approval, the architect, however aggressive, soon finds he toiled in vain. Really, only a deluded leader is carried away by the glut of cenotaphs named after him while still in office. Or when disciples, out of sycophancy, begin to dress like him or make a badge of his name to pick crumbs from his golden dining table. The true test of a leader is whether the same folks will still obey their command when they are no longer in a position to doll out cash or favour.
Those who, therefore, assume they can inherit the future by disguise or condoning the obscenity of hero-worship today will sooner than later realise it is all an exercise in futility. Ahmadu Bello, for instance, earned immortality in the North by the durable castle he built in people’s minds, not the financial empire bequeathed to his brood. Awo’s fur cap assumed transcendental halo only after his transition. In contemporary terms, Bola Tinubu today has grown much bigger out of office than when in power, only because yesterday he was willing to die for his convictions in the grave hour when compromise was more convenient and lucrative. Greater is he who is able to exercise authority in the society without political power.
In Kano, the gloves are now obviously discarded as the ancient megalopolis south of Sudan braces for certain political turbulence ahead.
Louis Odion is a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE).