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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ganduje faces backlash within APC, can Tinubu provide support?

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On 30 November and 17 December 2021, the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled against the faction of the then Governor Abdullahi Ganduje in an internal crisis in the Kano State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The crisis pitted Mr Ganduje against a group led by a former governor of the state, Ibrahim Shekarau, who was at the time the senator for Kano Central District. The two factions had held parallel congresses and produced two sets of state executives on 18 October in their battle for the control of the party structures in Kano.

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That crisis, among other factors, contrbuted to the defeat of the APC in the 2023 general election in the state, as many aggrieved members left for the New Nigeria People Party (NNPP) and the People Democratic Party (PDP) where some of them contested and won seats in the general elections.

The chief beneficiary was the NNPP which won 26 out of 40 seats in the state House of Assembly, 17 out of the 24 seats of the state in the House of Representatives, and two out of its three senatorial seats. The party also won the governorship election, defeating Mr Ganduje’s anointed candidate.

Consequences of crisis haunting Ganduje

With the APC losing Kano, Mr Ganduje became vulnerable to political conspiracies by his political foes not only the NNPP and the PDP, but also in his own party in the state, after being picked as the National Chairman of the APC. Many in the party still hold him solely responsible for that haemorrhage that contributed to the APC’s defeat in Kano. They accused him of imposing unpopular candidates, including his son, on the party and favouring for appointments and patronage politicians with little or no influene in their wards over popular ones. Many of such people are angry that Mr Ganduje was rewarded for his alleged damage to the party with the highest party position from where he will also continue to determine who gets what in the APC in Kano.

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Still, it came as a suprise to even close observers of Kano politics when on 15 April, one Haladu Maigwanjo, who claimed to be the legal adviser of the APC in Ganduje Ward of Dawakin Tofa Local Government Area, announced the suspension of the APC national chairman from the party. Mr Maigwanjo said the suspension was to allow Mr Ganduje face the case of alleged corruption filed against him by the state government at the state high court.

An embarrassed state chairman of the party, Abdullahi Abbas, immediately dismissed the suspension as invalid, null and void. Those who called themselves the authentic leadership of the party in the ward also denounced Mr Magwanjo as an impostor and affirmed the continued membership of Mr Ganduje and their confidence in his leadership.

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However, that did not deter another APC group in the same Ganduje Ward, led by one Jafar Ahmad, from, on 21 April, reiterating the suspension. The group said the punishment was for Mr Ganduje allegedly fomenting divisions in the party in the ward, which it said had brought the party to disrepute.

The ward party rebels were obviously acting out a script, judging by the antecedents of such dramas in the Nigerian Fourth Republic. At least on three previous occasions, suspension at the ward level had led to the removal of national chairmen of the two major political parties, including Adam Oshiomhole of the APC in 2020. The other two are Uche Secondus and Iyorchia Ayu of the PDP. In the three cases, the fall of the party chairmen was orchestrated by their state governors who were members of their parties. While Mr Ganduje has a fierce adversary in his state governor, Abba Yusuf, the two men are not of the same party. So who wrote the script for the kinsmen seeking to destool Mr Ganduje?

Ganduje’s Many Foes

Many APC members in Kano are not comfortable with Mr Ganduje managing the affairs of the APC at the national level. Many of the APC politicians in the state who won or lost in the 2023 elections have not risen to the defence of the national chairman in this drama.

Bashir Ahmad, a media aide to former Presidential Mujammadu Buhari, who lost in the 2023 APC primary election for Gaya, Albasu, Ajingi, Federal Constituency, said the plot against Mr Ganduje was hatched above the ward level.

Many APC members in Kano are not comfortable with Mr Ganduje managing the affairs of the APC at the national level. Many of the APC politicians in the state who won or lost in the 2023 elections have not risen to the defence of the national chairman in this drama.

Former Commissioner for Works under the Ganduje administration in Kano, Mu’azu Magaji, also asked Mr Ganduje to resign to allow dedicated party members and fresh blood to reposition the APC in the state and at the national level.

However, the APC state chairman, Mr Abbas, accused the NNPP-led state government of orchestrating the drama.

“We have evidence of meetings between the State Government officials and those that suspended the National Chairman, and the state working committee has agreed to sanction them for six months and they stand suspended,” Mr Abbas said.

Why are the governor, Abba Yusuf, and his political godfather, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who are both of the NNPP, after Mr Ganduje?

Abba Yusuf and Rabiu Kwankwaso

Kwankwaso and Ganduje

Last June, shortly after the inauguration of President Bola Tinubu, a speculation began to spread in Kano that the president had invited Mr Kwankwaso to join a Government of National Unity. Mr Tinubu allegedly made the offer when both men met in France and at a subsequent meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. Mr Kwankwaso, in radio interviews, briefed his followers about the outcome of the meetings, indicating a cordial relationship with the president and the probability of a ministerial nomination from the NNPP.

In one of the interviews with the BBC Hausa Service after the meeting with the president in Abuja, Mr Kwankwaso said Mr Tinubu asked him to join his government but that they were yet to reach a final agreement.

The radio interview was greeted with mixed reactions. It certainly did not go down well with APC members in Kano, whom Mr Kwankwaso fought tooth and nail during the elections, even mocking their presidential candidate for his perceived poor health.

But Mr Kwankwaso’s grassroots supporters in the Kwankwasiyya movement think him joining Mr Tinubu’s government would be a great development as it would spite Mr Ganduje and erode his influence in Kano politics.

Even after the first ministerial list was released with the name of former Governor of Rivers State, Nyelson Wike, a member of the opposition PDP, on it but with that of Mr Kwankwaso missing, the Kwankwasiyyas believed that he would make the second list. In the end, Mr Kwankwaso was overlooked. His followers then said Mr Ganduje had blocked him out of fear of his alleged plan to return to the ruling APC.

Both men were bossom friends and close political associates before they turned to implacable foes. In June, Mr Ganduje said he would have slapped Mr Kwankwaso if they had met at the Presidential Villa when they visited the president separately.

“I know he is in the building but we have not met. Probably if we met, maybe I would have slapped him,” Mr Ganduje told State House correspondents. Some political observers said Mr Ganduje’s currebt ordeals with the court case against him and the attempt to throw him off the APC top chair is Mr Kwankwaso returning the imaginary slap.

Can Tinubu rescue Ganduje

Only President Tinubu, whom he stood for when several northern politicians and governors worked against him in the buildup to the 2023 general election, can save Mr Gabduje’s head.

Their bond is believed to have began before the APC primaries. In March 2021, the then governor hosted Mr Tinubu’s 12th birthday colloquium in Kano. Mr Ganduje and former Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State were the first APC governors in Northern Nigeria to openly support Mr Tinunu’s presidential ambition and were instrumental in persuading their governor colleagues on power rotation to the south, which made it easier for Mr Tinubu to pick the APC ticket and become president.

Mr Ganduje has assured his supporters that the president is ‘solidly’ behind him in the ongoing drama.

“I met the President (Bola Tinubu) and I informed him what happened in Kano (the suspension) was fabricated and he understood it. He asked me to plead with you (supporters) and that their (Kano government) target to remove me as APC chairman will fail and I will remain as the chairman.

“Let us inform the Kano State Government that the seat of APC chairman is in the hands of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and it will remain as such”, Mr Ganduje told a group of APC members from Kano that was on a solidarity visit to him in Abuja.

The corruption trial of Mr Ganduje at the Kano court is still on, indicating his travails are far from over. But, will President Tinubu rally the party troops behind Mr Ganduje, the way President Buhari did not for Mr Oshiomhole in 2020?

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