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Kwankwaso’s 2019 Kano choices: Threats, lessons for other parties?

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By  Kabiru Muhammed Gwangwazo
“Loyalty is one hundred per cent, or else it is not loyalty.”
— Anonymous

Loyalty is two-way; followers obey and toil for the cause; the Leader reciprocates, protects and rewards his subjects, believers and acolytes.


The core of the quote above on loyalty being two-way is one that used to be a favourite of General Muhammad Buhari, long before he became our first truly democratically elected civilian President.

He quoted bits of it to a team of his supporters of the Coalition Committee for Buhari Groups (CCBG) from Kano while educating us of why as GOC of Third Armoured Division in Jos he personally led troops to the Nigeria/Chad border in the 1980s. He had reportedly waited for clearance from the Army High Command under the Shagari NPN Government on what to do after his soldiers had been attacked and some killed by Chadian troops, and there was no signal while his boys were under fire and had lost comrades in arms.

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He then took a military helicopter along with arms and needed superior fire power to push the Chadians back. The rumours then published in some newspapers were that GMB drove a body of troops right down to N’djamena, the Chadian capital and warned the Chadians never, ever to try to cross our borders again. And they never did ever again.

At least, not till the Boko Haram that has again been halted in its tracks on that same border by the same General Buhari, now as civilian President and Commander-in-Chief.

He said those soldiers killed have a duty to be loyal and that loyalty cost them their lives. So, it is expected that as their commander he had to be equally loyal to them in life as in death. He had to fight for them so the remaining comrades continue as loyal as they have always been.

This is from the perspective of leadership and followership as seen by a military general. In politics, another aspect of war, usually without arms, loyalty is also two-way. It also has to be total. If for instance it is 99.9 per cent, that 0.1% may be the percentile that breaks the camel’s back. That infinitesimal lack of loyalty may well open the gates to total destruction and annihilation of the side that suffers the misfortune of disloyalty; be it in military or civilian politics.

Now, to the point of our discourse on RIPPLES today: On LOYALTY as it relates to the tactical choices for Kano PDP in 2019 made by Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former Kano State Governor, former minister, former Darfur envoy, now senator and PDP Presidential aspirant. He’d only recently returned to the PDP, a party he grew to prominence in and later dumped because of issues of reciprocal loyalty.

Having participated in bringing it down and out of government on joining the APC, Kwankwaso again left over those same issues of reciprocal loyalty of the Leader and the Led. In 2015 Rabiu Kwankwaso as two-term governor who served both terms with the same deputy had enjoyed popular acclaim for being one of the few governors who handed over to a seemingly “loyal” deputy.

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On taking over as Kano Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, a close Kwankwaso associate and lieutenant of 16 years decided to part ways and the fireworks then started, leading to Kwankwaso’s exit from the ruling APC and back “home” to his PDP. By the time the dust of the movement settled he had effectively taken full charge of the PDP machinery despite what appears like an orchestrated political manouver to use judicial instruments to stall the take over.

INEC by its statutes only communicates with national headquarters of political parties. It is this same national headquarters that handed over the PDP in Kano to Kwankwaso. With the exit of Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, the PDP became Kwankwaso’s playground as the most significant stakeholder, to do what he will with the party.

With the reality of loyalty and disloyalty, Kwankwaso corraled all his men, Prof. Hafizu, Arc. Dabo, Dr. Dangwani, Rabiu and Garba Bichi, Abba Kabir, Aminu Abdulsalam and all those new converts who were Shekarau “loyalists” including Salihu Sagir Takai, and his closest pals from ANPP who’d ditched Shekarau and pitched tents with Kwankwaso’s PDP to choose who will be what in the PDP.

Appreciating the dangers of what could happen should he select and support another governor who may end up missing the loyalty test, Kwankwaso chose Abba Kabir and paired him with Aminu Abdulsalam. Both are personal aides.

In addition to being his PA, Abba Kabir is married into the Kwankwaso family. What better guarantees can he get that he will not be betrayed this time around than such loyal servants? As for anointed PDP Deputy Aminu Abdulsalam he is expected to pull in support of some Muslim groups who have an ax to grind with the APC.

There are arguments that he wasn’t fair to other “loyalists” and friends. That he shouldn’t have ditched “competent” and very close friends, such as Architect Aminu Dabo, whom he made commissioner and MD of NPA, and Dr. Yunusa Adamu Dangwani, his chief of staff and later commissioner; that he shouldn’t have denied Professor Hafizu Abubakar, his friend whom he made deputy governor and who had to leave the Ganduje government for Kwankwasiyya; that of all people in the PDP he shouldn’t have denied Salihu Takai the ticket considering he left his own leader, Shekarau and enrolled in Kwankwasiyya; that Takai after all is so popular he would have been a shoo-in for governor if offered the chance. In all these our armchair analysts ignore the fact that in Kano there are broadly only four significant groups and political tendencies at the moment, and for those that are personality-based, it is the leader who matters most to the mass of followers.

First, there is the Buhari tendency. It has been proved time and again to be real and impregnable since 2003 with the consistency of 200,000 additional votes every 4-year election cycle. That in 2019 there may be a significant decline is not in doubt due to many avoidable mistakes made by Buhari and his handlers since 2015. Another undeniable partisan tendency is Shekarau’s which he mainly poached from the Muslim activists and meshed with a potpourri of ANPP political activists and civil servants who were the greatest beneficiaries of his worker-friendly government.

The Kwankwaso tendency is another. It draws most of its support from Kano’s volatile underbelly, the disenfranchised youth whose concerns Kwankwaso made spirited attempts at addressing as governor. Inexplicably, these youth groups attentions, Kwankwaso shares with Buhari even when Buhari supporters feel betrayed by Kwankwaso and are as well armed to pay him back as the Zakzaky and Kwankwaso people are to vote out Buhari, Ganduje, el-Rufai and all that is APC.

Another is the Muslim religious activist tendency; and the ideas driven and western educated “boko” and business elite groups. Muslim groups tendency is attracted by the religious leaning of key actors on the political terrain. These include the very well organised and now very angry Zakzaky muslim brothers and others of varied sects. The “boko” and business elite of Kano who are generally docile and refuse to fully participate in political activism have been woken up by the state of anomie and mass disenchantment in the State.

It’s with all these that the Kwankwaso tactical choices need to be properly reviewed, because each of the three personality-anchored (or even cult-like) groups are essentially about the leaders. Any followers who fall out are quickly trampled upon by the leaders’ mass supporters. Apart from probably, Arc. Aminu Dabo and Dr. Dangwani, no Kwankwaso follower among the leaders of the group has any real following of his own. In which case, if the big boss decides against any, it is likely that the loss of supporters will be most insignificant.

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With this in view and recent political history it would sure be suicidal for Kwankwaso to toy with the “loyalty” angle of political power relations. And he has been proved right when most of the frontline “loyalists” rejected his offers to them when they couldn’t be the anointed for governor’s ticket within the PDP. Three have all gone to pick PDP governor’s contest forms. Among them the only one who hasn’t publicly gone against Kwankwaso over this is Dr. Dangwani.

Takai who dumped Shekarau for Kwankwaso has refused the offer of a senate ticket, so too Prof. Hafizu who also refused a senate ticket offer. In all these are lessons or even threats for other political parties in Kano.

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