Two days ago, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano state formally threw his hat into the ring of presidential contest. This is cheering. His declaration on Tuesday amid a sea of red cap wearing heads was punctuated by thunderous applause. It was vintage Kwankwaso all the way.
He is the third of the aspirants on the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC) to so declare. The previous two are former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Soon to declare is Mr. Sam Nda Isaiah, Kakaki Nupe and founder of Leadership Newspaper Group.
These are the men hoping to fly the flag of the party in the impending electoral duel with the rampaging PDP.
Without any prejudice to Isaiah, the APC presidential primaries are a ‘love triangle’ involving the three big masquerades of Buhari, Atiku and Kwankwaso in that order. No doubt the founder of the Leadership newspaper empire is a man of big ideas. The remarkable story of his 10-year-old newspaper is proof of his immense entrepreneurial skills. It is an eloquent testimony of what he could do to turn around a beleaguered nation like ours if given the chance. But in the coming primaries, he is like a sheep in a stampede of camels. In a different clime, Sam would have been a dream.
Kwankwaso is a politician. That bears repeating. He is not an “accidental’ one. He has the rhetoric to prove it. “Rhetoric” says Socrates “is the foundation of politics”. Kwankwaso is an embodiment of bombast. He could talk endlessly for hours. He would flabberwhelm his audience with projects and overghast it with twaddle. This attribute singly returned him to Government House Kano after eight long years in “political wilderness” and licking his wounds of defeat.
How he returned to power in a state antagonistic to second term bidders underscored his political survival and staying power. For eight long years in the ‘wilderness’ he suffered all manner of political betrayals and sabotage.
This would make an interesting study by political scientists. Here was a man who faced a mountain of odds and opposition from his associates as in his former commissioners and the godfathers who, only eight years earlier, was literally booed out of office, re-writing history with his own hands. Currently Kwankwaso is turbo-charged in transforming Kano. You may not agree with this.
To me, his re-election for the second time after an eight-year break and despite a very vicious campaign was a mark of his political sagacity and an expression of discontent of the order he displaced. His massage at the time resonated with the youth who were unimpressed by the rhetoric of the politicians of the preceding disposition.
Kwankwaso earned his epaulet as a ‘General’ in politics in the trenches. He took no short cuts. He pounded the long hard road to political stardom. His sundry electoral triumphs bear testimony. He contested election 12 times. He lost only once in 2003 to Ibrahim Shekarau. He rose through the ranks to be governor.
In 1992, he quietly meandered his way to become deputy speaker in the ill-fated Third Republic. In 1994, he was elected to the constitutional conference organized by the Abacha regime. In 1999,he dusted better-known Magaji Abdullahi, his boss in civil service, to be governor.
In 2003,he looked set to be re-elected governor until the Buhari hurricane swept him off the pedestal of chief executive of a state making history as the first sitting PDP governor to lose an election.
What he did afterwards marked Kwankwaso as truly a politician of the future. He accepted defeat and personally went and congratulated Ibrahim Shekarau, the man who, only a few months earlier, was sent to the classroom to teach by Kwankwaso. Shekarau was “demoted” from a permanent secretary position.
Kwankwaso is dogged. He is bellicose. He is indefatigable. He is loyal to his cause. This trait partly contributed to his defeat in 2003.At that time, he was fiercely loyal to a much-despised President, Chief Obasanjo in Kano. That and coupled with the monstrous popularity of Buhari helped sunk his ship in that election.
Kwankwaso is like George Bush’s America. You are either “with us or against us”. With him, you know exactly where you stand, or more precisely where he stands. And his way always triumphs. He takes no prisoners. His nickname ‘Mai takalmin karfe’ literally meaning ‘the man with the shoes of steel’ is a constant reminder of the threat he poses to political obstacles.
Kwankwasiyya, his political structure for example, is the most organized today in the whole sprawling expanse of Kano. His supporters are fanatical and they are not ashamed to openly identify with their leader. Kwankwasiyya elements are easily identifiable. They habitually wear a red cap. The uneducated say Buhari has a cult following. They have not met a Kwankwasiyya devotee. All, without exception, think of him as the man with the magic wand.
And truly Kwankwaso second coming has been “magical”. In four years his government has executed more projects than probably the preceding eight years before he returned to power.
Kano is presently one huge construction site. Massive urban renewal manifesting in inner city roads expansion and construction, several overhead bridges, establishment of educational institutions including a brand new university, the north-west. To his credit, he is the only governor to have established two states universities. In one year alone, he established 22 institutions of learning. Presently indigenes of the state numbering over 2000 are abroad pursuing postgraduate degrees in various fields.
Kwankwaso is not an accidental politician. His quest for the presidency is not opportunistic. It is an ambition, I strongly suspect, that took roots from way back. In 2010 in an interaction while I was editor, I pointedly asked him why he wanted to return to Government House Kano considering his rich resume’ fit to be president. His response was measured and calculating.
He told me then that he was not prepared. I asked how prepared did you need to be considering he had been Minister of Defence, ex-governor, Special Envoy and a deputy Speaker?
Now I think he is prepared for the nation’s plum. Given his fabled organizational skills, I won’t be surprised if he causes some stir in his party presidential primary when it is conducted. It is going to be tough though because the other two have tested battle on a wider scale. It is a love triangle all right and Kwankwaso is caught in the vortex.