The battle for political supremacy in Kano State will be fought and won and lost between two political gladiators – the state governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso and former governor, now Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau.
Both are arguably the two most powerful political figures in the state.
While Mr. Kwakwanso sits on the command post of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and fields his deputy, Abdullahi Ganduje, to take over from him, Mr. Shekarau reigns supreme in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where his loyalist, Sagir Takai, is flying the party’s flag.
The other political parties that are fielding candidates for the February 28 gubernatorial election might just be wasting their time and resources because they lack the political structure, the finances and manpower to challenge the APC and the PDP that have shared and dominated the political space in the state since 1999.
Before defecting to the APC, Mr. Kwankwaso had in 1999 contested and won the governorship election in the state on the PDP platform.
He was, however, kicked out in 2003 by Mr. Shekarau who ran on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
Like the battle of tortoises, Mr. Kwakwanso bounced back in 2011 to complete his second term which was truncated by the humiliating defeat he suffered in the hands of Mr. Shekarau’s ANPP.
However, following political realignments in the country, both gladiators are now in parties other than the ones on whose platforms they became governors. While Mr. Kwankwaso defected to the APC, of which the defunct ANPP is a part; Mr. Shekarau, who lost out during the merger that birth the APC had joined the PDP. It is important to point out that Mr. Shekarau played prominent role in the merger of parties that led to the formation of the APC in 2013.
But what is the strength of the two candidates in the gubernatorial contest? One factor in favour of Mr. Ganduje is that of incumbency. He was deputy governor to Mr. Kwankwaso between 1999 and 2003 and returned in 2011 when the governor picked the PDP ticket to run for a second term. He is believed to be unquestioningly loyal to his boss. As deputy in the last four years, Mr. Ganduje will inherit his boss’ structure across the state to actualize his ambition. He is believed to be at home with his boss’ political group, Kwankwasiya, which might back him in the race.
Closely related to that is his experience in politics which many believe he will bring to bear in governance. Mr. Ganduje has been in politics for almost 30 years. Apart from serving twice as deputy governor, he had a stint in the academia and had also served as sole administrator of Abaji Area Council and chairman of Gwagwalada Area Council, all in Abuja. He also served as commissioner in various ministries in Kano State during the military era.
In 2003, after their ouster from office, Mr. Kwakwanso appointed Mr. Ganduje as special adviser (political) when the former was appointed defence minister by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and later the executive secretary of the Lake Chad River Basin Commission at Ndjamena, Chad Republic.
Besides all this, Mr. Ganduje emergence as the governorship candidate of the APC was less contentious. While two other contenders withdrew; namely Kawu Sumaila and Usman Alhaji, the deputy governor roundly defeated his lone challenger, Jafaru Isa. Thus, there might not be protest votes against him.
Apparently buoyed by these strong factors, Mr. Ganduje has vowed to poach the PDP, himself being a foundation member of the party. “I am going to take a big chunk of PDP supporters. I believe I have so many friends and well wishers in PDP and other parties in the state. I am targeting the highest votes in the history of gubernatorial election in Kano,” he boasted.
Regardless, not a few think his age might work against him. Mr. Ganduje is 75. He has also been in the corridors of power for as long as 30 years. It is believed in some quarters that a younger person should be allowed to run the affairs of the state.
On his part, Mr. Takai is equally counted as a political heavy weight in Kano. Although, his political experience is not certain, Mr. Takai’s incursion into politics dates back to 1999.
A dogged fighter and a grassroots politician, the PDP candidate contested the chairmanship election for Takai Local Government council under the defunct ANPP and won even when the state was then largely dominated by the PDP. He has since then remained a political force so much so that he earned the respect of every administration in the state. He subsequently served as commissioner for local government in the administration of Mr. Shekarau for several years.
Another factor that will be in favour of the PDP candidate is the backing of the federal might. Several political office holders at the centre are believed to be working for him.
In the current contest, Mr. Takai has a lot to contend with. Although, he is a political heavy weight, the in-fighting in the PDP might work against him during the election.
The disagreements that trailed the December 8 primary election where he emerged as the party’s governorship candidate are yet to abate although a Kano High Court, sitting in Gezewa, recently confirmed him as the party’s flag bearer while ruling in a case filed by Akilu Indabawa, a former member of the 2014 National Conference. He has been handed the PDP flag by the national leadership of the party.
It is not however clear if the PDP candidate has reached out to Mohammed, the son of the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, who alongside Mr. Indabawa boycotted the primary election and may still be aggrieved just like other aspirants who complained that he (Takai) was imposed by Mr. Shekarau on them.
At present, the party appears to be in disarray. The situation has led to threats by some members to decamp to the APC if the matter was not addressed by the PDP leadership in Abuja.
To present a formidable challenge to the APC, therefore, Mr. Takai has named Abba, son of late Head of State, Murtala Mohammed, as his running mate. It was a strategic political move hailed by many because of the popularity of the former Nigerian leader.
Again, the belief by some residents of the state that the PDP-led Federal Government is not working seriously to halt the activities of insurgents in some parts of the North may count against Mr. Takai in the election.
But Mr. Takai is full of confidence that he will emerge victorious in the governorship election.
“I am optimistic that by the grace of God, I will win,” he said. “Just like while they were in government in 1999, we were outside and we came in 2003 and we won. And it happened that in 2011 we were with Shekarau and for whatever reason, they came into government. So, there are a lot of chances for us to win.”