Saturday’s governorship polls in Kano could determine the political careers of a former governor of the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and an incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
Although there are 54 governorship candidates in Kano, the contest is really between Mr Ganduje of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr Kwankwaso’s anointed candidate, Abba Yusuf, contesting under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP lost the presidential and all senatorial seats in Kano during the February 23 elections. So, the opposition party has to give all it has to Saturday’s election.
Messrs Kwankwaso and Ganduje were political allies from 1999 when they were elected as governor and deputy governor respectively, up to 2015 when the former nominated the latter to succeed him as the state governor.
Less than two years after the election that brought Mr Ganduje to power, his relationship with his former boss became sour which finally led to the defection of Mr Kwankwaso to the PDP.
Mr Ganduje is seeking re-election to complete a second tenure as governor, while Mr Abba is contesting governorship for the first time.
Mr Ganduje was elected as APC gubernatorial candidate unopposed through a direct primary election in 444 political wards of Kano while Mr Abba was elected in a controversial primary election organised by Kwankwasiyya faction of the PDP.
The primary attracted damaging litigations.
Two governorship aspirants who were not satisfied by the outcome of the PDP primary election, Jafar Bello and Ibrahim Amin-little, approached the court challenging the emergence of Mr Yusuf.
While the case of Mr Bello was struck out at Kano State High Court on technical ground, the Federal High Court granted the prayer of Mr Amin-little seeking for nullification of Mr Yusuf candidature and ordered for fresh primary election. The appeal court, however, granted a stay of execution of the high court order.
Abdullahi Ganduje (APC)
Mr Ganduje’s major strength in Kano is the popularity and acceptance of President Muhammad Buhari by the masses which extends to the flagbearers of the party.
In addition to the benefit of the power of incumbency, Mr Ganduje may enjoy the support of many residents of Kano for completing some capital projects inherited from previous administrations.
Many also perceive the candidature of Mr Yusuf as an extension of Mr Kwankwaso’s administration.
The former democratically elected governors of Kano, Kabiru Gaya and Ibrahim Shekarau, along with former deputy governors Abdullahi Gwarzo and Hafiz Abubakar are all behind the candidature of Mr Ganduje.
Many political parties on Thursday declared their support for the Mr Ganduje.
If Kano voters maintain the same voting pattern in the concluded presidential and National Assembly election, Mr Ganduje may sail through.
The major setback to Mr Ganduje’s governorship ambition is the widely circulated video clips published by Daily Nigerian newspaper depicting the governor receiving kickbacks from contractors.
Many may not support the candidature of Mr Ganduje due to the unresolved bribery allegation against him.
Also, the imposition of Kano State health contributory scheme (a replica of NHIS) to all Kano civil servants without their consent may likely cause Mr Ganduje to lose some votes.
Unpaid gratuities of retired civil servants may also pose obstacles to APC’s road to Kano government house.
Many pensioners who retired four years ago are yet to get their gratuity.
The government’s policy of allocating lands to individuals to construct corner shops at Kofar Mata Eid ground, ancient city wall and some major roads in Kano metropolis has attracted public condemnation. These may also influence voting patterns.
Perhaps, the most discussed political topic in Kano that may not favour Mr Ganduje is his wife, Hafsat Ganduje, who is accused of interferring in governance.
Another threat to Mr Ganduje’s governorship ambition is the emergence of a strong pressure group among Mr Buhari’s loyalists in Kano working tirelessly against him.
Staunch supporters of Mr Buhari in Kano such as Naja’atu Muhammad, Bello Isa-Bayero and Danbilki Kwamanda have embarked on a ceaseless campaign for the PRP governorship candidate, Salihu Takai.
Abba Yusuf (PDP)
The major strength of the PDP governorship candidate, Mr Yusuf, is the large number of cult-like “Kwankwasiyya loyalists” behind him.
Mr Yusuf was singlehandedly chosen by Mr Kwankwaso to challenge governor Ganduje in Saturday’s polls.
The major campaign appeal of Mr Yusuf is consolidating major achievements of his mentor and re-introduction of free education, school feeding and foreign scholarship.
His performance when he was commissioner of works during Kwankwaso’s administration may earn him the mandate of many voters.
Mr Yusuf’s appeal to young persons in Kano may likely boost his chances.
His major weakness was how Mr Kwankwaso dominated his campaign activities.
Until recently Mr Yusuf hardly personally presented his programmes and policies to the electorate.
The non-completion of 5KM road construction in 44 local government areas initiated by Mr Kwankwaso may pose a challenge too.
Politics of godfatherism
The PDP governorship candidate is seen as being tied to the apron strings of Mr Kwankwaso. This may work against him (or not).
In contrast, Mr Ganduje has received endorsement of some prominent politicians from both the APC and PDP such as the former Speaker of House of Representatives, Salisu Buhari; former minister of foreign affairs, Aminu Wali; former managing director of Nigeria Ports Authority, Aminu Dabo and Bello Hayatu-Gwarzo.
Mr Ganduje abstained from participating in two gubernatorial debates organised by Aminu Kano Centre for Democratic Studies, Mambayya, and BBC Hausa Service.
However, Mr Yusuf participated in both debates where he unveiled his policy document revolving around education, healthcare service youth and sport development, social safety and inclusion, agricultural transformation and infrastructure development.
A few days to the election, the chairman of the state PDP, Mas’ud Doguwa, and other executive members defected to the APC alleging mistreatment from Kwankwasiyya group of PDP.
Other members of the PDP who earlier defected to APC are a former national treasurer of the party, Bala Borodo, a former commissioner of special duties during the Kwankwaso administration, Idris Dambazau, a former senior special assistant to President Jonathan on SURE-P, Muaz Magaji, and the immediate past deputy governor of Kano, Hafiz Abubakar.
On Monday, the Federal High Court in Kano nullified the candidature of Mr Yusuf saying the party did not conduct primary election.
However, on Thursday, the Court of Appeal in Kaduna restrained INEC from delisting the PDP governorship candidate from participating in the election.
As the governorship and state assembly election approaches, the outcome may not only determine who would be the governor, but also effectively determine the political relevance of the main actors in Kano politics.