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Many people were not surprised by Abba Kabir of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) winning the governorship election in Kano State on March 18. The party had won the state in the presidential election three weeks prior and had occupied the majority of the state’s seats in the House of Representatives and Senate.
Nasiru Gawuna, the APC candidate, surprised voters in the governor’s race by performing well in regions that the NNPP had won by significant margins on February 25.
The contest was so close that NNPP agents and members in the Kano metropolis’ Fagge and Kabuga neighborhoods feared the worst up until the votes were tallied and the outcome was certified by INEC.
Ahmad Doko, the INEC returning officer, reported that the NNPP candidate defeated the APC candidate, who received 890,705 votes, with 1,019,602 votes. Hence, the NNPP candidate prevailed with a 128,897 vote lead.
In Kano, the NNPP ousted the APC. It ended up being the only state won by the party’s presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso. Although Mr. Kwankwaso’s followers predicted he would defeat all challengers in northern Nigeria, his party’s performance in other northern states was appalling.
Aside from Taraba State, neither the APC nor the People Democratic Party (PDP) viewed the NNPP as a danger during the governorship elections in other northern states. The results of the elections in the northern states demonstrated that their assessment was accurate.
For instance, Aminu Ibrahim of the NNPP finished in a distant third place with 37,156 votes in Jigawa State. Umar Namadi, an APC candidate, received 618,449 votes in total.
Nura Khalil, the NNPP candidate in Katsina State, received only 8,263 votes, significantly fewer than the 859,892 votes that Dikko Radda, the APC candidate, received to win the election.
Suleiman Hunkuyi, the NNPP candidate in Kaduna State, likewise received a paltry 21,405 votes. Uba Sani, an APC candidate, won the election in the state with 730,002 votes.
The NNPP finished sixth in Sokoto State, trailing the APC, PDP, APGA, NRM, and PRP. Their candidate received only 427 votes, whereas Ahmed Aliyu of the APC received 453,661 votes to win.
In Gombe, where the APC’s Inuwa Yahaya received 342,821 votes, the NNPP received 19,000 votes. Moreover, the NNPP received 60,496 votes in the neighboring state of Bauchi, where PDP Governor Bala Mohammed received 525,280 votes.
The NNPP candidate also received a pitiful 4,847 votes in Adamawa, where the governorship race was deemed inconclusive. A supplementary election will be held on April 15 between Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of the PDP, who received 421,524 votes, and Aishat Dalhatu, alias Binani of the APC.
The NNPP candidate in Yobe State received 14,244 votes, considerably behind the winning APC candidate Maimala Buni who received 317,113 votes. And in Niger State, Umaru Bago of the APC received 469,896 votes against the NNPP’s 3,378 votes.
In the states of Borno, Zamfara, and Kebbi, the NNPP did not have a candidate for governor. As a result, the NNPP finished second only in Taraba State, where its candidate received 202,277 votes, among the 18 northern states other than Kano. The political factions who felt left out in the North-east state turned out in protest votes against the incumbent PDP candidate, which has been credited with this exceptional victory. Despite internal strife within the ruling party, Agbo Kefas of the PDP nonetheless prevailed with 302,614 votes.
The fact that Mr. Kwankwaso only served as governor of Kano out of all the northern states may have been the most crucial element in why the NNPP was successful there but not in other northern Nigerian states. Throughout his two terms as governor of Kano, Mr. Kwankwanso amassed a sizable following in the state thanks to what many saw as his outstanding leadership, notably in the fields of education and health.
The fact that all of the region’s powerful politicians are either members of the APC or the PDP is another reason for the NNPP’s poor performance in the north in both the presidential and governorship elections.
Furthermore, Mr. Kwankwaso’s politics are mostly restricted to Kano, where he is more well-known. Politicians and voters in neighboring northern states find his political approach strange.
NNPP’s victory in Kano: why?
Several factors contributed to the NNPP’s repeat victory over the APC in Kano’s governorship election on March 18.
Political support in Kano has always leaned toward the opposition and against the national administration, dating back to the time of Aminu Kano. The defunct Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), which at the time controlled both the northern regional and federal governments, were hostile toward Aminu Kano in the First Republic, which won him the support of the poor (talakawas) at the grassroots who disregarded the ruling party class and the government in power.
In a similar vein, Mr. Kwankwaso has gained the sympathy of the people of Kano by attributing their financial struggle to the current administration.
Mr. Kwankwaso himself had fallen victim to similar anti-establishment sentiment in 2003. He was the PDP candidate for governor, but Ibrahim Shekarau of the now-defunct All People’s Party defeated him in the election (APP). Kano residents at the time sided with the opposition APP, which was running Mr. Buhari for president. But, Mr. Kwankwaso backed President Olusegun Obasanjo’s federal administration, which was then demonized as being hostile to the North and anti-Shariah Law. The campaign for Mr. Kwankwaso’s second term was ultimately defeated.
When Mr. Kwankwaso was re-elected governor in 2011 eight years later, he used what he had learnt from that experience. Even though he belonged to the same political party as the central government, he never again affiliated himself with it. He engaged in conflict with both Goodluck Jonathan and the late president Umaru Yar’Adua. He also contested President Muhammadu Buhari, despite the fact that in 2013, he joined four other state governors in leaving the PDP for the newly created APC, which helped the president win in 2015.
On a radio station, he started, Mr. Kwankwaso was always there, mouthing popular sayings, criticizing the government, and charging authorities with corruption, thievery, and hatred for the oppressed. The tirades won him the support of the city of Kano’s primarily marginalized voters who began to see the NNPP as the messiah.
A problem inside the APC in Kano was also taken advantage of by Mr. Kwankwaso in the run-up to the 2023 election.
The 2023 governorship election was also seen by the NNPP as a battle to reclaim the “stolen mandate” of 2019. Since Mr. Kabir received 1,014,474 votes, compared to the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC, who received 987,819 votes, INEC pronounced the preceding election to be inconclusive. In the extra election that was marked by charges of voting suppression, Mr. Ganduje later passed Mr. Kabir. After then, Mr. Kwankwaso’s supporters marked the front lines of warfare.
Kano APC Crisis
It was widely believed that Governor Ganduje mismanaged the APC in Kano, which sparked an unresolvable dispute in the state chapter of the party. Even when his party faction won a favorable court ruling in the struggle for party control, he was unable to come to terms with his adversaries.
The APC was severely impacted by the turmoil that resulted in the defection of Kawu Sumaila and Ibrahim Shekarau, two former governors. Afterwards, Mr. Sumaila defeated Kabiru Gaya, a long-serving senator and former governor who was backed by Governor Ganduje in the APC primary election, to win a Senate seat for the NNPP. Despite objections against him for allegedly providing inadequate representation for some members of his constituency, Mr. Gaya was nominated.
Additionally, the G7, a group of federal parliamentarians led by Mr. Shekarau, accused the party’s state leadership of, among other things, excluding them from party activities. Because Mr. Ganduje disregarded their requests, many of the lawmakers finally joined the PDP and NNPP. On February 25, the majority of them won their elections.
The NNPP took advantage of the APC issue to entice the offended members into its fold. Fortunately for the APC, however, one of the disgruntled senators for Kano North, Barau Jibrin, decided to stay in the party and was reelected with a sizable majority. After receiving a penalty from the APC leadership in Kano, Mr. Jbrin has since become a pillar of the party in the state.
Abdulkadir Jobe, another G7 member who lost his seat to Mr. Ganduje’s son on the APC House of Representatives ticket, was re-elected with the help of the NNPP.
After being turned down for a return ticket in the APC to represent the Kano Municipal in the House of Representatives, another member of the group, Sha’aban Sharada, emerged as the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP). Now serving as the head of the House committee on national security and intelligence is Mr. Sharada, a former advisor to President Buhari. In the governorship election, he battled the APC valiantly.
The election for governor of Kano is complicated.
Although party sources claim that the president and security personnel stationed in the state were working against the APC in the polls, President Buhari had in a video message endorsed the APC governorship candidate in the state. According to reports, Mr. Ganduje is the target of resentment from some unnamed presidential figures for his criticism of the president about the Central Bank of Nigeria’s policy to redesign the naira (CBN). They were rumored to have supported Mr. Kwankwaso on both election days.
The president’s supporters were greatly angered by Mr. Ganduje’s apparent comparison of President Buhari to the drunkard in the Mamman Shata song “Habu na Habu,” according to reports. Regarding the divisive naira redesign program, Mr. Ganduje further compared the president to a builder and a destroyer of the APC. The comments were claimed to have angered many of the president’s followers in Kano and Aso Rock Villa officials, who allegedly promised to punish Mr. Ganduje’s APC in the state.
It was mentioned by several APC stakeholders as the reason for the alleged harsh treatment of APC members by security agents in various significant areas of the state during the governorship election. They highlighted the shooting death of former APC councilman Ibrahim Nakuzama as an example of a soldier on suspicion of ballot box snatching in Getso town, Gwarzo Local Government Area.
At least two additional individuals, including an elderly woman, were hurt by stray bullets that were likely fired by security personnel. The murder of Mr. Nakuzama instilled panic in local APC members who thought they were the targets of security personnel. According to reports, many APC supporters avoided voting in these locations, allowing other parties’ representatives to take control of the polling places.
Later, at a press conference, the APC addressed the subject. Mr. Gawuna, the party’s candidate for governor, claimed that security personnel had intimidated APC members.
“We will continue to pray for Kano’s residents’ safety as well as that no one would ever terrorize them again. Because God is the one who grants power, Mr. Gawuna stated, “We are praying that no one would scare us and the people of Kano on this election issue again.
Overall, Mr. Kwankwaso has returned from the 2023 elections as the present monarch of Kano politics despite having quit the PDP last year to fight for president as the NNPP candidate.