Nigeria: Kano Governor Ganduje tries to repair image after TikTokkers debacle

By Dammy Matthew

Posted on Thursday, 17 November 2022 11:48
Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje
Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (photo: Twitter)

Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Governor of Kano, Nigeria’s second most populous state, is not a stranger to controversies. However, his crackdown on perceived dissenting voices by using the state judiciary has been on the rise, even as he struggles to repair his already battered public image.

A magistrate court in the state recently convicted two users of Tik-Tok for posting a “defamatory” comedy skit against the governor. Civil society groups link this development to the governor’s overbearing attitude and unending push to silence dissenting voices.

Mubarak Isa Muhammad and Nazifi Muhammad Bala were accused of defaming Governor Ganduje on Tiktok by saying that he can’t see a piece of land without selling it (an allusion to sale and relocation of several public properties under the administration) and that he sleeps a lot.

The court, which found the duo guilty of defamation, ordered them to be given 20 lashes each, to pay a fine of N10,000 ($22) and to clean the court premises for 30 days. They were also ordered to publicly apologise to Ganduje on social media.

Amnesty has since condemned the sentence and called on the Nigerian authorities to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the rights of everyone to freedom of expression.

Satirising those in authority is not a crime. Nigerian authorities must immediately quash this appalling sentence

“Satirising those in authority is not a crime. Nigerian authorities must immediately quash this appalling sentence,” said Osai Ojigho, the director of Amnesty International Nigeria.

Earlier in the year, a former ally of the governor, Mu’azu Magaji, who served as his commissioner for infrastructure until 2020, was jailed for allegedly defaming the governor on Facebook.

In March, Abdulmajid Danbilki Kwamanda, another critic of the governor, was also remanded in jail on a three-count charge bordering on character assassination of the governor.

Interestingly, Magaji and Kwamanda were remanded on the orders of the same magistrate, Aminu Gabari, who ruled against the two Tick-Tockers. Earlier in the year, the magistrate was accused of receiving a bribe from a complainant. A petition was also written against him by a civil society organisation that accused him of misconduct and of allegedly being notorious for doing the biddings of the state government, citing at least six cases involving critics of the governor brought before him.

Thick skin?

Kabiru Dakata, the executive director of the Centre for Awareness on Justice and Accountability (CAJA), which is based in Kano, tells The Africa Report that the governor’s image has been dented because of his attitude. One of the cases cited includes “bringing in his family members to influence some government decision and his attitude towards government properties”.

Dakata says with all the issues around his image, what should have been expected of him is thicker skin to criticism.

He needs better shock-absorbers

“He [the governor] should be bigger than some things like [this] comedy by the two Tick-Tock users that was considered a defamation of character,” he says.

Buttressing this view, Ibrahim Waiya, the president of Kano Civil Society Forum, tells The Africa Report that the expectation was for the governor to respond in a civil way to issues around dissenting voices.

“Taking them [Tick-Tockers] to court is really doing more harm than good because it is exposing […] the governor [to criticism]. He needs better shock-absorbers,” he says.

Waiya adds that the governor’s image has suffered since the emergence of the “dollar stuffing” videos and allegations of financial misappropriation that followed.

He also says the perceived poor performance of the governor’s party across the country has also affected not only his image, but also a majority of people identified with the party, including the president.

Dollar issue/bribery allegations

Dakata believes that the governor has been struggling to rebuild his image since 2018 when video clips, which showed him (Ganduje) stuffing US dollars into the pockets of his heavy flowing dress (Baba Riga), sent shockwaves throughout the country. The dollars were allegedly kickbacks from contracts he awarded.

Even though he has avoided prosecution over the video because of his immunity as a governor, the impact has dogged his administration ever since.

Taking them [Tick-Tockers] to court is really doing more harm than good

The controversies trailing his re-election further dented his image when opposition politicians insisted that he was foisted on the state through the violent and controversial rerun election organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Abba Kabir Yusuf, then candidate of the PDP, was ahead before the electoral umpire stopped collation and declared the election inconclusive, paving a way for the rerun.

Sales of state properties

Soon after his re-election, his administration embarked on the sales and relocation of several public properties, such as Daula Hotel, Triumph Publishing Company, Eid Ground at Kofar Mata, Panshekara Modern Abbatoir; some part of Fagge Juma’at Mosque, Hajj Camp and Shahuci Motor Park.

His main opposition, the Kwankwasiyya Movement – led by his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso – insisted that the sale of public properties to “individuals for personal gains through non-transparent and unconstitutional means that are hitherto being used for the benefit of all” would be challenged in courts, while also promising to revoke all the sales when they come into power.

Involvement of family members in administration

The governor has also come under heavy criticism for the overt involvement of his family in the administration of the state.

His wife, Hafsat, a professor, is considered the de facto governor of the state because of her immense influence while some of his children – Amina, Abdulazeez and Abba – are also involved in the day-to-day running of the administration, to the chagrin of opposition. Abba, his youngest child, is now contesting to become a federal lawmaker.

However, the family’s frosty relationship has also been the talk of the town, which became very pronounced when in late 2021, Abdulazeez, the first son of the governor wrote a petition against his mother to the EFCC, prompting the arrest of the Kano First Lady.

Balkanisation of traditional structure and dethroning of a monarch

Among the many controversies that have bedevilled his administration, one that perhaps ranks atop the list is the balkanisation of the century-old Kano emirate into five and the subsequent dethroning of the then Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, a former governor the country’s central bank, who has been very critical of several policies of the governor.

Oppositions have often used this to criticise his administration.

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