For years, elections in most parts of the country were mostly between the two dominant parties, the All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party. To many Nigerians, the 2023 elections might not be an exception. Many people even believed that the momentum and popularity gained by Kwankwaso’s New Nigeria People’s Party and the Labour Party in the run-up to the general elections were mere distractions that could never cause an upset.
In fact, the Governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, wrote the chances of his party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, off in the election. He also dismissed the chances of LP’s Obi in the presidential election, stressing that apart from the APC and the PDP, the 16 other political parties were only on the ballot to fulfill all righteousness, particularly in the presidential poll.
Indeed, the elections – including the governorship and National and state Assembly – held with the APC and the PDP winning more governorship, senatorial and House of Representatives seats than the 16 other parties. APC’s Bola Tinubu was declared the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
Kwankwaso may have lost the presidential election, coming distant fourth behind Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the LP, but the former governor and ex-minister did enough to remain in the minds of the people.
First was that he won Kano State in the presidential election, defeating the governing APC in the state. In fact, the margin with which he defeated the other parties was the largest across the states and the Federal Capital Territory. Second was that the NNPP’s governorship candidate, Abba Yusuf, went on to win the governorship election, defeating APC’s Nasir Gawuna, who was the deputy governor at the time and was the preferred candidate of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
Out of the 24 House of Representatives seats, Kwankwaso’s NNPP won 17 and two out of the three senatorial districts.
To many political analysts, NNPP’s outing was not unconnected with Kwankwaso’s towering political image in Nigerian politics. Reminiscent of the days of old when the late Aminu Kano held sway, Kwankwaso is arguably one of the politicians with the largest following in the North.
A visit to the Abuja headquarters of the NNPP shows just how much the engineer-turned-politician is loved by his loyalists. Adorning traditional red caps popularised by the former governor, members of the Kwankwasiyya Movement would be seen exchanging banters, with deliberations focused on their leader. Needless to state here that Kano is back in the grip of a man who, though, is no longer in power, but has his mentees in strategic positions, preparatory to having his political philosophy set for implementation once again in Kano.
Kwankwaso, a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, left power eight years ago as Governor of Kano State but has continued to wax stronger in each election cycle. Despite his reported rift with his successor and former Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau, months trailing to the 2023 polls, Kwankwaso preserved and indeed expanded his influence in Kano and some neighbouring states.
Prior to the inauguration of Yusuf, Kwankwaso had hinted that the dethronement of the former Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, would be reviewed by the new administration, a declaration that was considered as certain, given his influence on the party. Sanusi was appointed the Emir when Kwankwaso was the governor, but was dethroned during the administration of Ganduje, who is a political enemy of Kwankwaso.
Speaking on the Kwankwasiyya Movement, Ladipo Johnson, a chieftain of the NNPP believes Kwankwaso’s love for the masses and his readiness to champion the public good with scant regard for his personal interest is the difference between him and other politicians in the country. In a telephone conversation with Johnson attributed the love for Kwankwaso to his political philosophy of putting others first.
He said, “If you saw the swearing-in of the governor, Abba Yusuf, you would have seen the crowd at the stadium. If you relate that to the crowd during the campaigns, you would have noticed that they were virtually at par. Wherever Kwankwaso went, there were huge crowds to receive him, because his followership is organic.
“A lot of people in the Kwankwasiyya Movement believe in ‘Amana’ which is the trust capital of our leader. That is why the motto of Kwakwasiyya is ‘Amana’. The people have seen over the years that Rabiu Kwankwaso held various positions and he was never found wanting. The masses believe that Kwankwaso’s administrative skills would always be brought to bear for the benefit of the people, the downtrodden.”
He noted that Kwankwaso believes in creating opportunities in education, health and other sectors, adding that the former governor was always committed to making the society better.
He added, “Kano people witnessed his first term as governor and the second, a total of eight years. They knew that he would work for the masses. That is the influence he brought to bear. He did not have big businessmen supporting him much, but his campaign train went round the country and people saw how he went to local government areas in most states of the federation.
“Now elections have come and gone but the influence of the movement will only wax stronger because people have seen that the governor, Abba Yusuf, and the deputy governor, Mohammed Gwarzo, and members of the State House of Assembly, 17 members of the House of Representatives and the two senators who are all of the Kwankwasiyya school of thought, are ready to work.
“The Kwankwasiyya Movement, the man Kwankwaso and the followership are people who have dedicated themselves to the service of the people. Kwankwaso’s influence was very impactful in the election in Kano and I dare say in other places, even though it did not reflect. This influence will increase and spread to other states of the federation in the years ahead.”
On her part, popular female politician, Naja’atu Muhammed, told our correspondent that the Kwankwasiyya Movement had the prospect to wax stronger because its disciples believed in their shepherd.
She however noted that NNPP’s victory in Kano was not much a reflection of Kwankwaso’s influence or leadership.
She stated, “Kwankwaso did very well. You can’t take it from him that he is a leader with eyes for the future but the elections in Kano were a bit complex that we would like to admit. Kano has a history that you need to look at. There is no doubt that Kwankwaso has tried but Kano has a history of political rebellion.
“In the past, Kano was under the Northern Elements Progressive Union against the ruling establishment of the Northern Peoples Congress. Later, it came under the governorship of the Peoples Redemption Party against the National Party of Nigeria. Change of parties is not new to us.
“The people of Kano always say no. To be honest with you, it was the PDP that won in 2019; the same person won but there was a lot of manipulation here and there. You have to give credit to Kwankwaso for his ability to mobilise the people. All he needed to do was to give the people a direction. Kwankwasiyya is more about his personality and that is why the movement is named after him. Aminu Kano was not like that, Abubakar Rimi was not like that.
“At a time of political choices, the people need a figure who would provide a rallying point and that is where Kwankwaso comes in. He is a charismatic leader that has become the rallying point in Kano.”
A member of the Kwakwasiyya Youth Wing and former Director of Socials at the Ahmadu Bello University Student Union Government, Solomon Sule, however disagreed with Naja’atu, noting that without Kwankwaso in the picture, it would have been difficult for the NNPP to make the kind of impact it made in the 2023 election.
He said, “Kwankwaso was the reason people embraced us in Kano. Without him, our chances would have been quite slim. The Kwankwasiyya Movement has grown over the years and is now bigger than the individual known as Rabiu Kwankwaso. Most of the things done in Kano State were done under the Kwankwasiyya ideology.
“The Red Cap Movement has been copied by many of the incoming governors. In Kebbi, for instance, you have the Blue Cap Movement. It is called the Karonian Movement and this was inspired by the Kwankwasiyya Movement because they have seen the impact of it. Once you are a member of the movement, no matter how small you are, if you believe in the principles and ideology, there is nothing you will contest in Kano that you will not win. All you need to do is to come under the umbrella of Kwankwaso through the Kwankwasiyya Movement and you are good to go. You may want to know why he didn’t win the presidential election. It was due to poor marketing. They did not market him well enough.”
Advancing reasons why many people tend to lean toward the former Kano State governor, Sule said Kwankwaso provided free education from elementary to tertiary levels to all bona fide indigenes and donated N10,000 to poor women for start-ups. He said Kwankwaso as the governor also constructed mini-markets in all the 44 local government areas, provided streetlights and enforced road traffic regulations, to mention but a few.
He added, “He touched every area. This is the solid foundation he has built that he is now the biggest force in Kano. Ganduje, who gave us a headache in the last three years, was picked by Kwankwaso. In the primaries, he simply said, ‘this is my preferred successor’ and there was no argument.
“The Kwankwasiyya Movement is about everybody, irrespective of tribe, gender, religious or social status. The love Kano people have for Kwankwaso has gone beyond mental reasoning. They don’t know how to celebrate him quietly. That is why you see them clustering around him all the time,” Sule added.
Like Naja’atu, Sule agreed that Abba Yusuf, the current governor, actually won in 2019, saying, “How did Abba Yusuf, the current governor, lose to Ganduje in 2019? People who came out to vote wore red caps and were flogged to go back home.
“We knew the caps would give them away and we appealed to them to remove the caps, but they said they were too loyal to deny Kwankwaso. The man is a legend. You can see that even the newly elected President asked him for a four-hour meeting in Paris, where a lot of things were discussed. He is the biggest politician in the North today.”
Sule argued that Yusuf, apart from being a commissioner for works, was relatively unknown but that through the movement, he had become the governor of the state. “His elevation to the governorship of Kano is centered on the enigma known as Rabiu Kwankwaso,” Sule stated.