Abuja, Nigeria – In April 2003, 4 years after Nigeria’s return to democracy, 11 of the 36 state governors have been defeated on the polls after serving simply one among two constitutionally allowed four-year phrases.
One among them was Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who misplaced management of Kano, financial hub of the nation’s extra populous north, to Ibrahim Shekarau, a person he had demoted from senior civil servant to classroom instructor after a disagreement between them.
20 years later, Kwankwaso, 66, has remarkably rotated his fortunes and is within the race to succeed outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari.
For the primary time in Nigerian historical past, the presidential race is now not a two-horse contest. This time, the race to guide Africa’s greatest economic system is between 18 contestants. 4 candidates lead the pack, together with Kwankwaso.
A lot of the consideration has to this point been centered on Bola Ahmed Tinubu, chief of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Lagos, Nigeria’s financial powerhouse; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Individuals’s Democratic Occasion (PDP) and Peter Obi, former governor of the southeastern state of Anambra.
Just a few polls have put Labour Occasion’s Obi forward, with Kwankwaso lagging behind or being excluded.
Nonetheless, he claims to be unfazed, insisting that he and his newly-formed New Nigeria Individuals’s Occasion (NNPP) can win the vote. His opponents, he advised Al Jazeera, are “spare tyres” solely in taking “everything for themselves in the country”.
“We have tremendous goodwill,” stated the politician who first emerged on the nationwide scene by profitable a federal parliament seat in 1992. “Nigerians are wiser now than many people thought.”
Throughout the northwest, which has 22.5 million voters – Kano accounts for a fourth of that (the second highest rely nationwide) – Kwankwaso is immensely fashionable.
Varied reviews estimate that the Kwankwasiyya – his followers, who put on the identical trademark purple Sufi cap because the one they name Madugu (Hausa for “leader”) and dwell on his each phrase – are as many as three million individuals, largely youths.
To clinch the presidency, a candidate should safe the very best votes and 25 % in two-thirds of all of the states. So even those that dismiss his probabilities nonetheless see him as a wildcard who might power a runoff – one other first in Nigeria’s political historical past.
And Kwankwaso is aware of this, even when he doesn’t envisage a second spherical.
“Those guys who are sponsoring media and sponsoring opinion polls to go write fake results can go ahead,” he advised Al Jazeera. “We know results will come out and Nigerians and even the international community will be surprised.”
The winner will want greater than goodwill to stabilise a rustic going through quite a few points.
Greater than half of the nation lives on lower than $2 a day regardless of Buhari’s pledge to carry 100 million individuals from poverty. Unemployment rose from 9.9 % in 2015 – after Buhari’s inauguration – to 33.3 % in 2021, based on the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics.
There are a number of safety crises unfold throughout Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, together with rampant banditry and secessionist agitations by a number of armed teams. Moreover, a campaign of terror by Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has displaced greater than two million individuals and left hundreds lifeless within the northeast since 2009.
For Kwankwaso, it’s one other problem worthy of taking up.
In her e book Financial Diversification in Nigeria: The Politics of Constructing a Put up-Oil Economic system, Zainab Usman writes that after shedding out in 2003, being appointed defence minister by the federal authorities didn’t enhance his native standing.
“In this so-called political obscurity, Kwankwaso vowed to, if given a second chance as governor, immortalise his legacy by tackling the socio-economic problems in Kano,” wrote Usman, now director of the Africa Program on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace. “He wanted to join the list of Kano’s revered leaders … and position himself for a potential presidential run, which he attempted in 2015.”
After profitable re-election in 2011, he subtly styled himself after Aminu Kano, the progressive Islamic scholar and socialist politician who led an opposition in opposition to British colonial rule within the Forties and likewise liked purple caps.
Kwankwaso, a identified micromanager, additionally got here up with “the idea of a welfare state whereby he mainstreamed the needs of the people”, Abdulkasim Abdulkadir, an Abuja-based political analyst, advised Al Jazeera. “Infrastructural development and urban renewal of Kano began, he gave commoners access to education and healthcare.”
The “game changer”, he added, was free training in any respect ranges and establishing two universities and dozens of colleges within the state identified for prime numbers of Almajirai, youngster beggars.
He additionally instituted a scholarship scheme for hundreds from low-income households to check marine engineering, aviation, drugs and different disciplines in universities the world over.
The transparency within the choice course of boosted his recognition, Idayat Hassan, director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Improvement (CDD), advised Al Jazeera.
“You can touch and feel the love for Kwankwaso by young people in Kano,” she stated. “I’ve seen people I personally know of, who were in Arabic school, get the opportunity to go to school in Uganda, Malaysia and different parts of the world under his scholarship … he visited and fraternised with them as if they are his friends … he gave each state of the country three scholarships to one university.”
“[More] often than not, when we talk about scholarships in Nigeria, more than 70 percent [of beneficiaries] will be somebody who knows somebody influential,” Hassan defined. “But in this regard, in almost every family, they applied and got selected.”
“[It] no doubt changed the fortunes of many families as it gave them access to a better life [and] he in turn earned their unflinching loyalty,” Abdulkadir advised Al Jazeera.
He has continued to provide grants to small companies even after leaving workplace.
That grassroots love offered the momentum for a second-place end – and nationwide identify relevance – within the 2014 APC presidential primaries, after eventual President Buhari however forward of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
In 2018, Abubakar returned the favour, beating Kwankwaso to the PDP ticket, each males having exited the governing social gathering.
‘From village to village’
If elected, Kwankaso plans to breed insurance policies he applied in Kano and likewise prioritise tackling safety, he advised Al Jazeera. He intends to extend Nigeria’s understaffed police power and retrain them in addition to recruit closely to swell the army to 4 occasions its present measurement.
He insists he’s used to being underestimated politically and might safe 25 % of the votes in all northern states in addition to make inroads into the south.
“In 1999, when I was contesting to become governor, many people thought that they were more important candidates, but we had a landslide,” he advised Al Jazeera. “The same thing happened in 1992. Not only did I win my election as a member of the House of Representatives … but I became the deputy speaker.”
Nonetheless, some say his affect on this election cycle is restricted.
“He won’t make much of an impact in this election because he is squeezed between Tinubu and Atiku in the north and is not well known at all in the south,” Joachim MacEbong, senior governance analyst at Lagos-based information analytics consultancy Stears Intelligence, advised Al Jazeera. “His prospects are best served for subsequent cycles, as Buhari and one [or both] of Tinubu and Atiku will not be in play.”
“His support is almost entirely in one state and, at best, very small percentages of neighbouring states such as Bauchi and Jigawa,” Lagos-based political danger advisory SBM Intelligence wrote in a analysis observe.
“However, his ability to win votes in Kano as a key state can deny any potential winner the constitutional requirement of a simple majority of votes cast and 25% of votes cast in 24 states to emerge a winner. He could be a key reason if the presidential elections should get to a runoff.”
For Hassan, ruling out Kwankwaso, who has been visiting conventional rulers in components of northern and central Nigeria lately to marketing campaign with out media fanfare, is untimely.
“The story that is not being told is that he is operating as an insurgent politician, going from village to village to campaign,” she stated. “I believe he will be the kingmaker in this election, especially if it gets to a second round.”