In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Musikilu Mojeed and Festus Owete, PDP presidential aspirant and senator representing Kano Central Senatorial District, Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, speaks on his ambition, Kano politics and other issues. Excerpts:
PT: You are one of the 12 aspirants of the PDP. Why do you think the PDP should trust you with the ticket for the next presidential election?
Kwankwaso: You see, everybody knows that I have a lot of advantage over and above other aspirants in the race now in our party, the PDP. I am sure you know my antecedents. I was a civil servant, an engineer in the Kano State Civil Service for about 17 years. I joined politics in 1992 when I left service in 1991. I contested and became the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives during the SDP and NRC days.
When the Third Republic was truncated, I went back and contested election again to come for the Constitutional Conference of 1994/1995 and became governor from 1999 to 2003, minister of defence, during the Obasanjo administration.
I was in Darfur and Somalia presidential envoy and in 2007, I was appointed a member representing North West in the NDDC. After that I went and contested election in 2011 and became governor for the second time, in Kano.
And in 2015, I contested the APC primary election with the incumbent president and came second. I am now a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You can see from what I told you about my experiences as a civil servant and politician. It is very difficult to get anybody with this sort of experience.
Not only that. As a politician, we have done so much, especially the mobilisation under the Kwankwasiya Movement.
Today, in every house, especially here in Northern Nigeria, you get at least one person who is a member of the Kwankwasiya Movement. Whether he or she is putting our colour, the red cap or not, you have one, maybe the driver or the cook, the cleaner, or the son, or the wife or the man the leader of the house himself.
So, we are very strong and I think I am the only person with that strength. If I get ticket, I will come with millions of people into the contest for the support of my candidature as members of Kwankwasiya.
But – others will only wait for PDP to mobilise and give them members of the PDP. You also know that I come from Kano, the most populous state in this country, going by 2006 census and the most popular zone and also the zone of this sitting president.
If you don’t get it right, I am sure it means the APC can use sentiments to still win the election. So, we know the pains of party supporters at all levels. I am a team player and of course we want to link up with everybody, both the young, the old, the poor, the rich, everybody. That is what the government is lacking today. They are not well connected with the people and that is why so many areas are suffering.
PT: You think with all these, you can defeat President Muhammadu Buhari?
Kwankwaso: Certainly. Everybody knows it, including the president himself. He knows if I get the ticket, I will defeat them.
PT: So, Mr Buhari can decide to be afraid of you, politically?
Kwankwaso: Maybe you are right, but I can tell you if I get the ticket, the job is done and PDP will take the seat and come back to power with better determination, with better experience so that all these division we have today in this country, can be cemented.
The issue of Muslims and Christians, herders and farmers, 419, all sorts of things we have today will be by the grace of God, things of the past. This is because we have the experience, we have the capacity to do it and therefore I believe that even the delegates themselves know and that is why most of them now are not talking about friendship or somebody from their states. They are going for the best and that is the best they can do for themselves.
PT: And you think they will go for you?
Kwankwaso: I believe so because you see now, when we listen to the delegates and Nigerians, they are not after who is my friend, who do I like, who is from my state, no.
Everybody is saying, who can do the job and win the election after getting the ticket? Who can do the job after winning the general election because it is one thing to win an election, it is another thing altogether to run the office as we have seen today. They (Buhari administration) are there in government but they don’t know what to do with it.
PT: So, you are better than the other 11 aspirants in terms of capacity to deliver?
Kwankwaso: Of course you know it, everybody knows it in this country. Ordinarily one shouldn’t say it himself but you know in politics sometimes you have to blow your trumpet. Under the present circumstance, people, especially PDP, are wiser now. Nigerians are also very wise now. They want to get the best.
PT: If you are so sure that once you get the ticket you can overrun any other party and win the presidency for PDP, why don’t you make your case clear to the PDP so that there is no need taking people into a primary.
Kwankwaso: No, it doesn’t work that way. This is democracy, it has due process. Even if you believe you are the best, they still have to follow due process to ensure everybody participated, everybody is given the chance. When the delegates decide then people will take it lightly and support the candidate.
But you don’t just stop somebody from buying form. You don’t just go and disqualify somebody even when you know they are going to lose election. It doesn’t work that way, especially with the lot of money that you pay. It is about N12 million. For somebody to give 12 million, he shouldn’t just be taken for granted.
So, I think following due process is good and allowing people to go round. I have been to almost all the states in this country.
PT: Were you well received?
Kwankwaso: Oh yes. I am sure you must have seen it on social media. We were well received in all the states. But that is not even the issue. The issue is that the reality is about who can win our elections, who can do the government job. And everybody knows my capacity to win election. If anybody is in doubt he should go to Kano and see what we have done in Kano State for the people.
PT: You talked about the Kwankwasiya Movement and you said that in the north, you have members in almost every family. How come you don’t have that kind of tentacles in the South-South and in the South West?
Kwankwaso: They are there, they are everywhere. I cannot say every house in the South has got a member of Kwankwasiya. Also you look at the history. We started from Kano, expanded to the North West, the North and then we went into the South and now its growing in the South. Like in Edo we have over 500,000 members. In Rivers we have over 270,000 and so on and so forth.
PT: They are all members?
Kwankwaso: Oh yes.
PT: They all left with you from APC?
Kwankwaso: Yes. There are few exceptions because of local politics.
PT: What are you giving to them? Do you have so much money that you are distributing to them?
Kwankwaso: Kwankwasiya has nothing to do with this issue of money bag; it’s just an ideology.
PT: What is the ideology, what is Kwankwasiya’s ideology?
Kwankwaso: The ideology is about good governance. We want a government that will take care of everybody, not minding his religion or his ethnic group or his state or region. We believe there is enough resource in this country to cater for everybody, to protect ourselves, to protect our properties and to develop.
We also believe that there is need to take care of the weak, that is- the old people, the very young, the sick, the women, and the people who don’t even know what to eat for dinner. Some of them are even yet to get what to eat now.
So these are the issues. People, especially young men and women have accepted the Kwankwasiya Movement and they are working round the clock.
PT: How did you arrive at this red cap?
Kwankwaso: The red cap originated from Malam Aminu Kano of blessed memory. He was always wearing red cap, white and black shoes. That is the color of PRP and we thought that color is good enough. And of course, we are disciples of Malam Aminu Kano. We have learnt so much from him.
PT: Then why are you not in PRP?
Kwankwaso: The PRP of today is different from the PRP of those days. Quite a number of them were in PRP at the periphery. If you find out, you will discover that most of the founders of PRP are now late.
We don’t believe that under this circumstance we have to join.
To be in Kwankwasiya you have to believe in what Malam Aminu Kano preached and practiced in the North. You can be in any party. You don’t have to be in PRP. You can be in other parties. Even those who are in other parties may decide to say ‘look we believe in good governance’. Once that is done, to us, you are a member of Kwankwasiya.
PT: So, it’s just about talakawas?
Kwankwaso: When you say talakawas, the weak are the talakawas. Talakawa means people who don’t have enough, the poor people. But there are people who are sick, women generally and those that we call needy people.
PT: I have seen you a few times giving this red caps as gifts to people who visit you. Do you have an industry producing it?
Kwankwaso: No. I am not sure if I was buying, people donate. Our members donate those caps and once they come we also give them out. But the vast majority of these caps, you find them in the market. People are buying just like stickers, tags and all sort of things. They go and sell them outside.
PT: So, in clear terms you are saying you are more popular than Buhari in Kano and in the North West?
Kwankwaso: That is the point and everybody knows that.
PT: We ask because people usually say Buhari has blind followership in the North.
Kwankwaso: Now they have opened their eyes. The blind people, because they are hungry, have to open their eyes to look for food. So nobody is blind now.
PT: Has any of the aspirants approached you to step down for him? I know that Atiku visited some aspirants.
Kwankwaso: We are discussing with so many other people but politics is not that easy that you will go to somebody and say withdraw and follow me. But chances are, maybe in Port Harcourt, when people go there, depending on the situation, you may see people emerging and doing things together with others among the aspirants. Anything can happen from now till the time you start (the) election.
PT: You think you can step down for anybody?
Kwankwaso: if you have anybody that is better, better credentials, better capacity and so on, why not?
PT: But you should know now if there are people better than you.
Kwankwaso: Carry out the assessment and tell me anybody if there is anybody.
PT: At the APC primary election in 2014, you came second. Atiku who came third in that exercise, appears to have more money and he has been running for the presidency for some time. Why won’t you step down for him?
Kwankwaso: When did he get the money? Was it after the 2015 elections or before? I have not seen the money that you are talking about.
PT: Are you richer than him?
Kwankwaso: I can’t say I am rich. You see that is what I am telling you. Ours is moved by the people.
PT: The point I made is that he is a former vice president, he has been running for president. In fact, it was surprising that you came second. Why won’t you consider and say ok……
Kwankwaso: Let’s just wait and see what happens in Port Harcourt. I don’t have to say much on the aspirants. They are all good people I don’t want to go into unnecessary thing that is controversial or anything that will make any aspirant angry. We wait and see how it goes.
When we were going into the 2015 they said the contest was between Buhari and Atiku and others and you saw the result. So ours, we don’t take our strategies to market.
PT: What was your margin then because you came in late into the contest and you came second surprisingly?
Kwankwaso: You are the one who is surprised. Our strength is always to allow people underrate us and when the results comes in, you get surprised. We have done so much. We have worked so hard.
Of course we didn’t have that amount of money people were talking about but that was not the issue. The issue was that of result. I am happy I participated and I am also happy that I am participating now. Thank God for the health and long life.
PT: Now, you spoke about Kano, that you are from the most populous state, but people will say your influence in Kano has weighed down. For instance, maybe because of the political difference with your successor you have not been to Kano consistently for a while.
Kwankwaso: I was in Kano not quite long.
PT: Not consistently.
PT: Also, now you and your successor are in different parties. The APC is popular and the PDP is popular. Do you still think that Kano is an advantage for you?
Kwankwaso: You see, for strategic reasons I decided not to go to Kano. Some few weeks ago, people insisted that I must go to Kano before the primary election. I didn’t want to go because I want to give them the longest rope to hang themselves which is almost finished.
But when the pressure was too much, I just decided to go to Kano and walk on the streets of Kano, walk not drive, which I did. It’s even known to you. So my not going to Kano was not because the police or any security agent didn’t want me to go, it’s by choice.
Any time I want to go including now, I go to Kano. I am not a wanted man. I am a free man like you and any other person. But you see, in government, once you have issues like that, you allow the person, the governor, to do whatever he can to develop the place and even if he doesn’t, nobody will blame you of interference.
I love Kano so much. I want the governor, whether he likes me or not, to go and do the right thing. My going there will just divert his attention. When the pressure was too much because people refused to understand why I was not going to Kano, I say ‘is Kano different from Abuja or Ebonyi or any other state? It’s the same Nigeria. I am sitting here. I have not done anything wrong to anybody.
So, when the pressure was too much, I went. When I was in APC they said ‘okay he is a good man, he didn’t defect. If he comes to PDP we’ll support him.’ When I defected, they said ‘oh he didn’t declare.’ When I declared they said ‘oh he didn’t go to Kano.’
Now, they bring all sorts of things because this is politics. But the only thing is that we thank Almighty God for his protection over the years. We have gone round, we have done so much.
PT: You are saying you remain firmly in control of Kano?
Kwankwaso: Everybody knows that, but, you see, all the noise you hear from Kano now…. We have Kwankwasiya solid in Kano and we moved from PDP to APC 2015 and through Kwankwasiya we had 100 per cent result; 484 councillors, 44 local government chairmen, 40 state assembly seat, 24 House of Representatives, three senators, a governor and almost two million votes for the president. Clean and neat, no fight! Nothing. Free, fair and credible elections.
From APC, we have now moved to PDP. No one will stay. As long as you are Kwankwasiya, you will not stay there because it’s a movement. So we move together with them. Not only that. When we moved, we still met the PDP that was there. We call it old PDP. Of course you are aware that when I came, (Ibrahim) Shekarau and few others had to leave but still they left the largest chunk of whatever they had in PDP.
They didn’t go with them and that is why when we are given these positions to share. I mean the party itself and the elective positions, we sat down together with them, those that were in the party.
We looked at it, we looked at areas where we had strength, where we had strong aspirants or candidates. We selected them, both from Kwankwasiya and those guys we met. That is how we formed what we have today.
We shared it 50/50 with them – the senators, members of the House of Representatives, state house of assembly and so on.
Now, as we expected, when it came to governor, it’s just like magic. Everybody wants to be a governor. It’s like once you grow a little bit you think you have to be a governor, It’s your right, even when nobody promised you.
You find that the deputy governor who defected together with us, we gave him senate, my own seat. I said ‘come and replace me’, but he said he wants to be governor and he is fighting now.
The man who was with Shekarau contested to become governor twice, 2011 and 2015. He was a local government chairman and commissioner to Shekarau.
PT: Is that why your son (in-law) was picked as the PDP governorship candidate?
Kwankwaso: He is not my son-in-law. He is not married to my daughter. He was my commissioner, commissioner for works. The commissioner is married to a member of my extended family, not my daughter. Anything good in Kano was done under him. You can see fly overs, street lights, under passes, universities, every school, all of them were done under him.
PT: So, the decision to even nominate him was not yours?
Kwankwaso: No. Over 200 people from 44 local governments, including the former deputy governor.
PT: So he now in turn went to participate in the primaries?
Kwankwaso: Of course.