Nigeria 2023: Will Kano’s APC crises derail Tinubu’s presidential push?

By Dammy Matthew

Posted on Monday, 14 November 2022 10:25, updated on Wednesday, 23 November 2022 12:32
Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje
Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (photo: Twitter)

In the last two election cycles, Kano State has produced the largest number of votes for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). APC Presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, has thus invested time and money in Lagos and Kano which he sees as the launch pad for his electoral victory. But a crack within the ranks of the APC in Kano now seems to have thrown a spanner in the works. 

In March 2015, Kano State set a nationwide record by delivering more than 1.9 million votes to General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, enabling him to defeat incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

The total vote count showed that Kano provided 12.5 per cent of Buhari’s 15.4 million votes. Further analysis showed if you deduct Buhari’s votes in Kano and Katsina from the total tally, he would have lost that election to Jonathan.

Eager to emulate Buhari’s success at the polls, Tinubu has spent a considerable amount of time and resources on Kano and other strategic northern states to secure victory at next February’s poll.

Fire on the mountain

Having spent nearly a week in Kano meeting religious groups and other strategic leaders, he left for Abuja with the impression that all was good.

However, just a few days later, Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, who is from Kano, made a declaration that sent shivers down the spine of the leadership of the APC.

Doguwa, a staunch supporter of Tinubu, said the APC would lose the election in Kano State if the crisis in the party is not dealt with decisively. 

“There is fire on the mountain as far as the APC is concerned in Kano State. There is fire on the mountain – I repeat, there is fire on the mountain. This is the right time to say it because we have been going through a silent crisis,” he said.

Protracted crisis

The crisis in the party did not just begin. It started last year, during the struggle for the soul of the party ahead of the ward and local government congresses which were conducted to elect party leaders.

Following Governor Abadullahi Ganduje’s inability to effectively manage the crisis, many members of the APC, including a former governor of the state, Ibrahim Shekarau, defected to the New Nigeria People’s Party led by another former governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso who is now the NNPP’s Presidential candidate.

There is fire on the mountain as far as the APC is concerned in Kano State. There is fire on the mountain – I repeat, there is fire on the mountain.”

Murtala Sule Garo, who the governor’s wife had tipped to succeed her husband, had felt sidelined when the governor’s deputy, Nasiru Gawuna was endorsed by the governor.

He had contemplated defecting from the party but grudgingly accepted the deputy governorship ticket of the APC. However, he continued to have disagreements with a section of the party led by Ado Doguwa.

At a recent meeting which was convened after Tinubu’s visit, Garo and Ado Doguwa were reported to have exchanged unpleasant words which led to fisticuffs. This was later followed by several bitter exchanges on the streets of Kano and in the local media.

Waning support

Doguwa accused Garo of supporting former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who also happens to be his father-in-law. Garo is married to Walidah Atiku.

“He (Garo) has no faith in working for APC, he is working to become an in-law to a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Doguwa said.

But while the party’s leadership in the state insisted that the fresh crisis had been nipped in the bud, political analysts say there are chances this would still rear its head in the days leading to the February 2023 presidential polls.

Observers of Kano politics, one of the most complex political terrains in the country, recalled how despite the pronouncement of a similar truce in 2019, leaders of the APC in the state supported the candidate of the PDP, Ali Datti Yako, against APC candidate Abdulmumin Jibrin, at a legislative election. 

Ganduje’s unpopularity

But beyond the debilitating effects of the crisis and the growing popularity of Kwankwaso in the state, a factor the Tinubu presidency may have to find a way to address is the growing unpopularity of Governor Ganduje, who is the chief promoter of Tinubu to Kano voters.

The governor’s public image has suffered significantly since 2018 when a video of him stuffing dollar notes into his pockets hit the media space. The dollars were allegedly kickbacks from contracts he awarded.

In 2019, he was on the verge of losing the governorship election to a political newbie, Abba Yusuf, until a violent and controversial rerun was organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

His inability to handle the crisis in the state has cost the APC many key politicians since he took office in 2015. The crisis led to the rise of the PDP and the NNPP in the state.

Fearing defeat at the poll in February, Ganduje shelved his plan to contest in the senatorial election. 

No cause for alarm

But a member of Tinubu’s campaign team in Kano State, Baffa Baba Dan’Agundi, tells The Africa Report that the crisis (between Garo and Doguwa) has been resolved and it would not affect the presidential push of Tinubu in any way.

Dan’Agundi, who is the Director for Tinubu Support Groups, said, “Doguwa has apologised and that shows we have a great leader in Governor Ganduje who led the reconciliation process alongside the state party chairman, Abdullahi Abbas, and the chairman of the party’s elders, Nasiru Ali Koki. The APC in Kano will deliver for Tinubu 100 per cent”.

He has no faith in working for APC, he is working to become an in-law to a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

But Professor Kamilu Fage, a political analyst and lecturer at Bayero University, Kano, does not agree with Dan’Agundi and those that think the crisis will not affect Tinubu’s ambition.

“The crisis is likely going to affect the party because if care is not taken, it may result in violence unless they are able to manage it,” Fage says.

He believes the crisis is likely going to affect the fortunes of Tinubu because the APC already has major challenges in Kano due to the rising popularity of Senator Kwankwaso of the NNPP and the perceived maladministration of the APC.

“As the saying goes, ‘no good general fights a war on two fronts,” Fage adds. 

Complex state

The politics in Kano State has always been complex since the 1960s when the progressive albeit radical ideology of Aminu Kano attempted to overthrow the existing order set by northern conservatives.

Politics in Kano has become more fluid since the beginning of the 4th Republic in 1999. To date, the state has never shown loyalty to any political party. The voting pattern at the Presidential and governorship elections has been at variance on several occasions.

Buttressing this point, Dr. Saidu Dukawa, a public affairs analyst, tells The Africa Report that the Kano crisis may not affect the Tinubu ambition because the warring parties in Kano are not in conflict with the centre. 

“If anything, they will only fight themselves locally and either one of them loses or both of them lose, but I don’t think anyone of them will mobilise his supporters against Tinubu,” he said.

According to him, beyond the local political crisis, there are many other variables that would be considered in making the choice in 2023 and these variables won’t be affected by the local squabbles.

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