Kano politics and the decline of values, By Jibrin Ibrahim

#TrackNigeria: I have found Kano politics to be quite depressing in recent years. It has lost a lot of the values and ideological orientation that made it so exciting in the past. I have just returned from observing the supplementary elections in the States and the words used to describe it were thuggery, violence, fraud and so on. What happened to the great politics initiated by the Northern Elements Progressive Union’s (NEPU) Sawaba Declaration of 1950 and the radical politics of the Peoples’ Redemption Party during the Second Republic . Let’s recall the issues addressed by the Sawaba Declaration.

The first paragraph spoke of: “The shocking state of social order as at present existing in northern Nigeria due to nothing but the family compact rule of the so-called Native Administration in their present autocratic form.” When you replace Native Administration with State Government and recall that 13 million children of primary school age are roaming the streets as almajirai, hungry, dirty and inducted into drugs while their sisters are married of as child brides, the social order is worse today than it was at that time. On both sides of the Kano political divide, family rule and the roles of family members is a central element of daily discourse, debates, insinuations and innuendoes.

For almost four years, Kano politics has been a theatre of open battle between the Kwankwasiyya and Gandujiyya political divides. The former is a mass political movement led by Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, former presidential aspirant under the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), former governor and ex-minister. On the other side of the divide is incumbent governor, Umar Ganduje, an estranged aide and protégé of Kwankwaso, who has sworn to retire his former benefactor from Kano politics in the elections. The essence of the battle is that the thugs of the 1990s climbed the political ladder under Kwankwaso and transited to Ganduje annoying their former master and so they fight it out. But what are they fighting for, it’s not ideas, it’s not development, its sharing public money to private pockets. The language of the fight is debasing as hordes of musicians and commentators thrown insults, invectives and curses on the other; distributing their crass language very widely on WhatsApp. Civility is completely unknown in today’s Kano.

In this context, I crave for the Sawaba Declaration that had called for a class struggle between the “unscrupulous and vicious system of administration by the Family compact rulers and which has been established and fully supported by the British Imperialist Government, there is today in our society an antagonism of interest, manifesting itself as a class struggle between the members of the vicious circle of Native Administration on the one hand and the ordinary Takanawa on the other.” Kano has moved from class struggle to a nasty war between rich families that control power and resources.

My greatest concern is that contrary to the Sawaba Declaration, Kano politics is no longer about “the emancipation of the Takanawa from the domination of these privileged few and by the reform of the present autocratic political institutions into Democratic Institutions and placing their Democratic control in the hands of the Takanawa for whom alone they exist.” It’s about pocketing dollars stolen from the people as we have seen on video.

In the just concluded elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Ganduje, winner of the Kano State governorship supplementary election held Saturday 23rd March, 2019. Governor Ganduje was trailing the PDP Candidate, Abba Kabir Yusuf at the end of the first election held on March 9, 2019 by a significant margin. In the supplementary election held in 28 out of the 44 local government areas of the state, Ganduje won by scoring 45,876 votes to Yusuf’s 10,239 thereby up turning the result in his favour. Governor Ganduje scored a total vote of 1,033,695 while Abba Yusuf polled 1,024,713 given the winning margin of 8,982 between the two major candidates. This was a surprising result as in places where PDP was far ahead, the tides turned and the massive results emerged for the APC.

Earlier this week, I had described the process that produced this result as completely unacceptable. The polling units were flooded by thugs who eventually took over the electoral process and produced the outcome. Unlike in the presidential and first round of the gubernatorial elections, voters were simply not allowed to exercise their franchise freely in the supplementary election. As I have said in my opinion piece in this newspaper on Tuesday, what happened in one polling unit was as follows. First, the thugs came with 200 already thumb-printed ballot papers and stuffed them in the ballot box. Secondly, they took out the ballots already thumb-printed for PDP during the polling and thumb-printed them again to turn them into spoilt ballots. Thirdly, the presiding officer was forced to sign additional ballot papers which the thugs thumb-printed for the APC.  Finally, the ad hoc staff were forced to record the compromised results on result sheets and they were taken to the INEC office. The value being promoted here as that violence, thuggery and fraud, not votes is the pathway to power.

Gama ward, one of the eleven wards of Nasarawa Local Government where supplementary elections took place was ground zero of the electoral battle. The ward suddenly became the darling of the State Government. Hundreds of women were bused off to Government House for “consultations” with the First Lady. Two weeks before the supplementary elections, the Kano State Government released millions of Naira for the rapid development of Gama. Gama, a terrible, densely populated run-down dirty slum in the centre of metropolitan Kano without tarred roads, potable water supply of functional health facilities. No one can therefore question why development projects were going on with rapidity, the only question was the timing. Almost everyone questioned the ethics of timing of activities just for the elections. There was certainty that once the elections had produced the desired results, the people would be abandoned once again.

The value that emerged from rigging and cynical “development” can only push the people further away from democratic politics. If the peoples vote do not count, then the values that would triumph in future would be violence and thuggery. Nonetheless, we cannot give up on the core value of accountability. I hope the people of Gama will demand that the twenty boreholes that were started over the past two weeks would be completed, that the two primary healthcare centres being renovated would be completed and that the refuse clearing that had started continues. Similarly, the cash that flowed to women with direct payments of 10,000 Naira being given to them to start businesses for poverty alleviation be sustained. Finally, the Governor should continue to attend congregational prayers every Friday with the people of Gama who he loves so much.

Kano is in serious need of good governance. The educational system in the State has been completely neglected and underfunded. Politics should be re-oriented towards the promotion of education in general and girl child education in particular. Let us not forget that primary school enrolment for most of the core Northern states is less than 30% of the children of school going age. Secondly, Kano used to be a major centre of industry and given the massive unemployment and underemployment in the State, economic revival is critical to the State’s future. Creating an alternative economic future would however require a return to the values of progress through uplifting the talakawa from their lives of misery. We conclude with the vision of the Sawaba Declaration that: “A speedy termination may be wrought to this vicious system of administration which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that POVERTY may give place to COMFORT, PRIVILEGE to EQUALITY, and political, economic and social SLAVERY to FREEDOM.” To be clear, this is not just the demand for Kano but for the entire country.