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Highs, lows of Kwankwaso’s red cap revolution

Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso, the New Nigeria Peoples Party presidential candidate,  has held many posts since he joined politics in 1990s. He is a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representative,  ex-Minister of Defence and former Governor of Kano State. ADELANI  ADEPEGBA writes on the involvement of Kwankwaso in February 25 presidential election

Coming a distant fourth place in the February 25 presidential election result announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, Dr Rabi’u Kwankwaso’s grand dream of ruling the country may have been shifted to another year.

Though the New Nigeria Peoples’ Party standard bearer gave a good account of himself, polling 1,496,687 votes, he was no match for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress who was declared the winner with 8,794,726 votes.

Despite having a good showing in Kano which was his political base, the former governor’s votes were still not sufficient to power him to the Presidential Villa as he was similarly outranked by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party candidates, respectively.

Born October 21, 1956, he attended Kwankwaso Primary School, Gwarzo Boarding Senior Primary School, Wudil Craft School and Kano Technical College before proceeding to Kaduna Polytechnic where he did both his National Diploma, and Higher National Diploma. Kwankwaso was an active student leader during his school days and was an elected official of the Kano State Students’ Association.

He also attended postgraduate studies at the Middlesex Polytechnic in the United Kingdom from 1982 to 1983; and Loughborough University of Technology where he received a Master’s Degree in Water Engineering in 1985. He bagged a PhD in Water Engineering at Sharda University India, in 2022.

Kwankwaso made his entry into politics on the platform of the Social Democratic Party in 1992. He was a member of the People’s Front faction of the SDP led by General Shehu Yar’adua and other popular politicians such as his former boss Senator Magaji Abdullahi, Babagana Kingibe, Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Tony Anenih, Chuba Okadigbo, Abdullahi Sumaila, Abubakar Koko, Lamidi Adedibu and others.

In 1992, Kwankwaso was elected as a member of the House of Representatives, representing Madobi Federal Constituency. His subsequent election as Deputy Speaker in the House brought him to national limelight. During the 1995 Constitutional Conference, the NNPP candidate was elected as one of the delegates from Kano. He later joined the Democratic Party of Nigeria in the political transition programme of late General Sani Abacha.

Kwankwaso joined the PDP in 1998 under the platform of Peoples’ Democratic Movement in Kano led by Mallam Musa Gwadabe, Senator Hamisu Musa and Alhaji Abdullahi Sumaila. In 1999, he contested the PDP primaries alongside Abdullahi Ganduje, Mukthari Zimit and Alhaji Kabiru Rabiu. He was the governor of Kano State from 1999 to 2003. In 2011, he was re-elected governor and went on to join the APC in 2014.

After he lost his re-election in 2003, he was appointed the first minister of defence of the Fourth Republic with no prior military background from 2003 to 2007, under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. He was later elected to the Senate in 2015, serving one term under the platform of the APC representing Kano Central Senatorial District.

Banking on his reputation as a charismatic populist with widespread support in Kano and the North-West, the NNPP leader unsuccessfully contested the presidential primaries nomination of the APC. He lost to Muhammadu Buhari in 2014.

In July 2018, Kwankwaso alongside 14 serving senators of the APC defected to the PDP. Three months later he contested the PDP presidential primaries. At the convention held in Rivers, he came fourth behind Atiku with 1,532 votes, Aminu Tambuwal with 693 votes, Bukola Saraki with 317 votes. The ex-Kano State governor had 158 votes. Kwankwaso later endorsed the former vice president. He did not seek re-election into the senate and was replaced by another ex-Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau.

In a bid to strengthen his political hold on Kano, Kwankwaso campaigned heavily for his son-in-law Abba Yusuf to emerge as the governor of the state. His efforts failed as the poll was declared in favour of incumbent governor Ganduje.

On February 22, 2022, Kwankwaso set up the National Movement as a political platform against the staying power of the APC and the PDP. He co-opted the New Nigeria Peoples Party as the political wing of the movement and became the national leader of the party on March 30.

Before then, he had resigned his membership of the PDP, the second time he would do so in eight years. The former governor communicated the decision in a letter addressed to the PDP chairman for Kwankwaso Ward in Madobi Local Government Area of Kano State. He said he was resigning from the party over “some serious and irreconcilable differences.”

Kwankwaso had been having a running battle with the PDP over the leadership of the North-West zone of the party. The party had in April suspended the zonal congress in Kaduna after supporters of the Sokoto state governor, Tambuwal clashed with Kwankwaso’s loyalists at the event. They destroyed ballot boxes before voting could start, forcing observers and other officials to flee the scene.

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To actualise his dream of governing the country, Kwankwaso engaged in talks with the LP presidential candidate, Obi, on the possibility of forming a coalition for the presidential election. The two politicians were hopeful that a merger would expand the support base of the NNPP and LP in the North-West and South-East regions and among the youths in the South following Obi’s defection to the LP. The proposed merger excited many Nigerians and political observers who felt it would create an opening to the North-West and further place Obi in a prime position to challenge his counterparts in the APC and PDP during the election. Sadly for both contestants, the talks collapsed after several back and forth.

But sharing details on why the proposed merger failed, Kwankwaso blamed the “media hype” being enjoyed by LP at that time.

 “On Labour Party, I was initially interested in working with them. But at that time, they were at the peak of the media hype and we couldn’t reach a compromise. Our party is a national party, and we’re commanding the support of the masses.”

“If you have a party which is based on ethnicity and religion, that is the difference between the Labour party and our party, which is a national party, New Nigeria Peoples Party,” he said.

However, many believed that the unwillingness of the two politicians to step down for the other led to the breakdown of the merger talks.

The NNPP flag bearer confirmed this during his stump speech in Gombe, saying. “From the discussion with the Labour Party, the main issue was who becomes the president if the parties merge.

“At the end of the day, some of our representatives thought that there should be a criterion in terms of age, qualification, offices held, performance and so on. Of course, the other side wouldn’t want that. Most of the people from there, believe that the President has to go there (South-East).’’

“If now I decide to be a vice-presidential candidate to anybody in this country, NNPP will collapse because the party is based on what we have built in the last 30 years. I served for 17 years as a civil servant, we are talking of 47 years of very serious hard work that is what is holding NNPP now,” he said, inferring that he was more qualified to be the candidate.

Explaining his serial defections and motivation for seeking the presidency during the run-up to the February 25 polls, he stated, “In 2015, I became a senator under the APC and worked for the party, believing that they were real progressives. Unfortunately, we realised that the PDP was even better.

“I am angry with the status quo, but for those who are satisfied with the status quo, ranging from insecurity to the issue of economy that is so much in shambles across this country, it is unfortunate that they will continue to be in the ruling party.

“I am happy to say that I have already paid the N30m to the party for the expression of interest and presidential nomination forms. Let me call on all Nigerians, especially my brothers and sisters who are in this game of politics, to do what I have done, and that is to join the NNPP.

“While we are calling on everyone to join the NNPP, I want to remind Nigerians that this is a progressive party that wants to change the political landscape of the country. I want to tell them that those who really want to serve this country should join hands with us.

“But for those of us who believe in the unity of this country, Nigeria is divided like never before, we are the people who have decided to come together to make sure we have one Nigeria no matter which religion you practice. We have to come together to fight them and make sure Nigeria is returned to peace and a modern world economy.”

Kwankwaso is known for his philanthropy through his Kwankwasiyya Development Foundation, an initiative designed to help the people of Kano state. Through the foundation, Kwankwaso has supported many young people to further their education with continued financial assistance.

The 66-year-old politician is rarely seen without his red cap-a symbol of his ambition and achievements. The cap is also worn by his supporters in Kano who are part of his Kwankwasiyya movement, which in Hausa means “Red Cap Revolution.” The political fan club members have followed him as he switched parties over the years.

Is the defeat in the 2023 election the end of the road for the Kano politician’s ambition or will he run for the president again in the next four years? Only time will tell.

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