By Jibrin Ibrahim
I spent yesterday afternoon in the famous Gama ward of Nasarawa Local Government Area of Kano State, where a supplementary election would be holding tomorrow. The place was a beehive of activities. There were many women in the streets busy entering Kano Line buses and zooming off. I asked where to and was told they were going to pay a solidarity visit to Governor Ganduje at the Government House. I guess there is nothing wrong with solidarity. I then went to Gama Primary Healthcare Centre and saw lots of pregnant women and asked what was happening. They explained they missed the distribution of delivery kits done on Wednesday, so they were waiting for the next batch. The most intensive activity was at the Isa Kaita Primary Healthcare Centre, where major renovation work was ongoing. The workers said they would have to work through the night because the governor is likely to come and launch it today, Friday; in good time for tomorrow’s election, I guess. There were bulldozers clearing a mountain of rubbish in the heart of Gama.
I was surprised that there were very few young men in the streets and thought it was too hot, hence they must be resting indoors. On my way back to the city centre, however, I saw thousands of young men walking back to Gama. I stopped and enquired. They were returning from former Governor Kwankwaso’s house. I learnt that the governor had informed the police that he would be visiting Gama every day this week to supervise development projects, as such the police were not allowing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to go into Gama for campaign. Since Kwankwaso could not go to Gama, the men of Gama were going to his house. I wondered whether the people of Gama are as cynical as their politicians. Women go to Ganduje and men from the same family go to Kwankwaso on solidarity visits. Very smart of them.
Last week, the Kano State Government released millions of naira for the rapid development of Gama, a terrible, densely populated run-down dirty slum in the centre of metropolitan Kano, without tarred roads, potable water supply or functional health facilities. No one can therefore question why development projects are now going on there with rapidity. The only question is the timing. Almost everyone is questioning the ethics of the timing of activities just for the election taking place tomorrow. Such activities might influence the outcome of the oncoming supplementary election in the State. Governor Ganduje currently trails the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abba Kabir-Yusuf, by about 26,000 votes in the election declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Because the margin of lead is less than the 141,694 cancelled votes , a supplementary election will now be held in the affected areas, including Gama, one of the most populated, with 40,821 registered voters. In the governorship election, only 13,148 voters were accredited in Gama. Out of these, 7,574 voted for the PDP and 4,080 for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the game of numbers accounts for all the attention Gama is receiving today.
The major road was tarred earlier this week. Currently, 20 boreholes are being constructed in all parts of Gama, with none of them completed, and I suspect voters are thinking that if they vote against Ganduje, these construction would never be completed. A lot of cash is flowing, with direct payments being made to women to start businesses, allegedly for poverty alleviation. Football kits are also due to be shared to selected clubs located in the area on Thursday and a programme of improving mosques has been announced, while Dr. Ganduje’s handlers have said that the governor will perform the congregational prayer there today.
It would be recalled that Gama’s result was cancelled in the aftermath of the March 9 governorship election. The cancellation followed an attack on the local government’s collation centre on March 11, allegedly led by top officials of the Abdullahi Ganduje administration. Reports indicate that the attack was believed to have been led by the State’s deputy governor, Nasiru Gawuna. Chaos was created and in the process the result sheet for Gama on which there were on-going arguments about some of the entries was destroyed. Alhaji Gawuna, the commissioner for local government, Murtala Garo, chairman of the local government area and Lamin Sani, were arrested by the police at the scene. However, the police command latter issued a statement confirming the involvement of Messrs Garo and Sani, promising to charge them to court after their investigation.
It is clear that there is a massive process of on-going voter inducement on both sides of the divide. All development projects in Kano State have stopped and there is now total focus on Gama. What is of even more concern is voter suppression. Since the supplementary election was announced, all sorts of agents have been moving from house to house to either purchase permanent voters cards outrightly or purchase the information on the cards for a lesser fee. I do not see what the information can be used for but maybe the politicians know more than I do.
Meanwhile, the political tension in the State has arisen to the maximum level and there are fears of political violence, whichever way the results go. On Wednesday, the Kano Peace Committee made a passionate appeal to the political class to keep the peace. Various additional appeals would be made today. My prayer is that peace will endure in this lovely State. I am really alarmed with what I am seeing. Next week, I will return on this same topic to address the pathetic decline in the quality of Kano politics, which used to be a standard bearer. How come we no longer have quality political leaders in Kano State?
Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development.