By Azu Ishiekwene
THERE’S a model for managing rebels in government that the American political drama, “Designated Survivor”, teaches so well. In one of the episodes after the horrific death of President Robert Richmond, his speech writer, Seth Wright, had a chance meeting with incoming President, Tom Kirkman, in the toilet. In a soliloquy which wafted over the toilet partition, Wright said the US would regret Kirkman’s candidacy because he was incompetent and unfit for office. How can a man on the verge of punitive redeployment suddenly become president?
He didn’t know that Kirkman, who was in the next toilet recovering from the shock of the news of his unexpected promotion, was listening. When both men came out and met at the wash-hand stand, Wright almost fainted. No need, Kirkman told him. Wright was not going to be a speechwriter in the White House anymore, Kirkman said. His rebellion just got him promoted as the press secretary of the incoming president!
Sometimes, the best way to manage a rebel, is to keep him in your corner. Unlike in political drama, however, life can be messy sometimes. And the difference between Kirkman and Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, is not just a matter of drama, culture or taste; it’s that the latter surpasses many politicians, including Kirkman, in making his own mess.
Ganduje was in the news again last week for sacking his special adviser on media, Salihu Tanko Yakasai, the latest rebel in his cabinet. One way to explain the sacking of the media aide is to assume that there’s probably no Nigerian governor with as many independent-minded personal aides as the governor. Ganduje wants us to believe that he is managing a crisis of independent-mindedness. It would also appear that for every rebel that has gone publicly against the grain of his government in recent times, there are probably two or three more still in the closet.
First, there was the former commissioner for works and infrastructure, Muazu Magaji, who filed a Facebook post last year accusing those mourning President Muhammadu Buhari’s former Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, of shedding crocodile tears. And now, Tanko Yakasai, has called on Buhari to resign for failing to secure the country. The state government later issued a long-winding explanation. Unlike the first time when Yakasai received a slap on the wrist for criticising Buhari’s handling of #EndSARS, this time, Ganduje wielded the big stick.
Resign. So, what?
On the face of it, there’s nothing unusual about what Yakasai said. In the last three weeks, hundreds of persons, including students and commuters, have been kidnapped and scores are still being held, making what happened under President Goodluck Jonathan look like child’s play. Jonathan’s poor handling of the security situation was one of the main reasons he lost re-election. At the time, Buhari and members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, asked Jonathan to resign for failing to secure the country. And they were right.
Now, on Buhari’s watch, governors of the North East are so exasperated about the security situation that one of them, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno, is openly canvassing the recruitment of mercenaries, something Jonathan could only do in secret. It can’t be wrong that Yakasai is giving the President a taste of his own medicine, except if it’s not the medicine but the face of the doctor that is the problem. But that’s just one way to explain it. The other way, which strips Ganduje’s actions of its drama and politics, is to see the governor for who he truly is: a hypocrite who has surrounded himself with birds of a feather. A man adept at making his own mess, yet believing no one is watching. Or maybe he doesn’t care.
It’s improbable that Ganduje will have that many anti-Buhari collections in his cabinet if it is not truly a reflection of what the governor really thinks of Buhari. I should not be mistaken. There’s nothing wrong with what Yakasai said about the president’s baffling and perplexing kid-gloves handling of the current security crisis. And I think it’s ridiculous that Yakasai was invited and detained by the Kano branch of the state security service for calling out the president. I said worse in a recent column in which I accused the president of sleeping on the wheels. Free speech may be inconvenient, but it’s not a crime.
My problem with Ganduje is pretending that he is embarrassed by what his aides are saying, and yet he indulges them privately. What’s the point? It’s not a crime that the blood of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, his original kinsmen, still runs in his vein. The crime is hiding behind a finger and faking outrage in the daytime only to make U-turn at night. What was the point, for example, in sacking Magaji for the post about Abba Kyari only to rehabilitate the same fellow in a parastatal under the same government on juicier contract terms? And who’s to say we have heard the last word on Yakasai?
Kano has a history of progressive politics that does not need Ganduje’s hypocrisy to authenticate. It is one place where the lion and the lamb have co-existed for decades without retribution. Aminu Kano was from a feudalistic background and a line of Islamic clerics, yet he challenged the prevailing order and attacked the ruling elite without pretensions or apology. He would not be the man we respect and extol today if all he ever wanted was to have his cake and eat it, something which Ganduje has become an expert at doing.
In the Second Republic, Lili Gabari and Sadi Gabari, two prominent politicians and blood brothers, broke ranks – one following Abubakar Rimi, and the other following Aminu Kano – without anyone calling for their heads. Kano is littered with families, including the Jibrils, the Mohammeds and God knows who else, where individuals with different political views belong to different parties and still coexist.
But as we saw in the face-off between Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and the governor, Ganduje’s Kano is no longer what it once was. It has become a place where a governor who doesn’t know his enemies begins his search by looking for people who disagree with him, however remotely.
We don’t need the drama or the hypocrisy. The growing army of rebels in Ganduje’s cabinet is a reflection of where the governor’s heart really is; a true gauge of what he thinks of Buhari and Buhari’s presidency. He should come to terms with his own hypocrisy and save himself the misery of crooked courtesies.
There’s no need to fake an outrage in public only to settle the rebels handsomely behind closed doors. Instead of shortchanging the public as he so often does, Ganduje should let the Yakasais of Kano be.