I have watched the former governor of Kano State and newly minted Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso for sometime now. The signals coming from him are justifiably worrisome. I don’t know much about his stewardship during his reign as the governor of Kano State, but I heard he did some good for the people of the state, and that he is immensely popular. I cannot vouch for both.
But what I do know of him from his public presentations and utterances in the last two years have helped me to build a character portrait of him and come to an informed opinion of him: Kwankwaso is a man who lures his friend or colleague to the guillotine with a false smile, viciously stabs him to death and then turns around to brag about it in public as if the evil of treachery and betrayal are virtues for celebration. I have come to see Kwankwaso as a man you turn your back on at your own peril. And as the saying goes in the land of my fathers: “Backstabbers are only powerful when you turn your back”. He is good at the “game” when your back is turned on him, otherwise, he is impotent. Clearly outsmarted by the new Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Kwankwaso has suddenly remembered that the party’s position should have been followed, describing the emergence of Saraki — his co-traveller in the New PDP charade — as “dangerous for Buhari’s administration”. He regretted that the Senate President had used his ambition to destroy party discipline and should be punished – expressing fears about betraying the confidence which Nigerians reposed in them by voting for change. It was honestly shocking reading these statements attributed to him, and whatever modicum of doubt I had about the dishonesty of our politicians instantly vapourised.
Kwankwaso is now talking about discipline? In case many Nigerians have forgotten, he was one of the people who alongside Saraki, used their ambitions to bring down their former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The betrayer, who gloats about his treacherous exploits, now wants Nigerians to take him serious. This must be “a joke taken too far” – as a man who rose to political relevance on the platform of his former party — the PDP — as Minister of Defence, and a two-term governor, but ended up robbing the PDP of the mandate and giving it to a party that was not even in existence when the mandate was given by the people, is the least qualified to moralise about discipline and betrayal.
Particularly striking now is that his position during the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) crisis is different from his new position on toeing the party line. His position then was that nobody must choose a Chairman of the NGF for them. His shots were directed at Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency which was not disposed to Rotimi Amaechi remaining as the NGF chair.
Recall that at the height of the NGF election debacle, which former governor of Rivers State, Amaechi, clearly won, it was Kwankwaso who came out to regale the public with tales of his exploits as a betrayer, declaring triumphantly that he set up the then Governor of Plateau State Jonah Jang to fail. He admitted that he personally nominated Jang to contest for the chairmanship of the NGF and urged the then Benue State Governor Gabriel Suswam to support him only to satisfy the yearnings of some governors for a compromise candidate to run against Amaechi. “Let me say that we are northerners and I think we should be consulted on what we need for the North. Some people have decided that we should produce the chairman of the NGF – that is not our choice. We know what we want in the politics of this country, and even if that is what we want, we are not expecting anybody to choose for us – we should choose for ourselves. I think that point should be very clear. It was a game and we were trying to prove to them that nobody can shave our heads in our absence – we have proved to them that they are still at the elementary level of politics,” he said at that time. I don’t know why he felt the need to remind Nigerians about being a northerner. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t necessary.
Well, he was marooned at the International Conference Centre (ICC) waiting for the purported meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari when he heard that the election of the Senate President had commenced. According to him, he immediately jumped into his car and raced to the National Assembly only to find Saraki taking the oath of office as the Senate President. He could only look on with seething rage inside him. For once, the self-acclaimed master of the game of numbers was beaten flat at his own game. His head was not even shaved with a razor blade in his absence, but with broken bottle that left deep cuts and gashes on his head.
I was taken aback by his public boast of treachery and backstabbing – as backstabbers have never been known to come out and claim credit for their dishonourable conducts. They always hide behind the cloak of anonymity and when suspicion falls on them, they often deny any role because of the ignominy associated with it. But this was different – that Kwankwaso came out to gleefully claim credit and gloat about an act that is considered one of the greatest forms of vice in all of humanity’s history speaks to his character and moral standing. It really rankled me, and I took note of the man not necessarily because of who he supported, but the chest-thumping after the clear act of betrayal. I agonised for days that a public officer in the calibre of a sitting governor could publicly claim to have set up his fellow governor – who was not even interested in the race in the first place – but was lured into it by Kwankwaso himself only to turn round and betray him. I felt that day, that our country had reached a new low in moral decadence. The then Governor of Bauchi State Isa Yuguda was so shocked by Kwankwaso’s public boasting that he reportedly questioned the calibre of leadership being provided by his likes. He was quoted to having said: “Kwankwaso has spoken his mind, and has confirmed that his idea behind nominating Jang was to disgrace him. If I, as a leader, as a governor, will look at my colleague and take a decision ostensibly to disgrace him, then it is a tragedy. Where is our morality? Where are Islam and Christianity in this country for goodness’ sake?”
I didn’t miss the clear clannish arrogance explicitly exhibited and the implied superiority complex in Kwankwaso’s statement – what he said and the manner he delivered the message were quite instructive.
My fears were amplified further when I read an interview he granted some newspapers in April in Abuja. Asked if he thought the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, was a hero for conceding defeat, Kwankwaso responded: “I believe the president is naive because he had all the opportunities to change direction. I don’t blame him; he didn’t play this sort of game for sometime at the national level. So, he didn’t know who was who in this country. He was just looking at faces and those who were well-dressed, carrying many cell phones and they meet at the airport. They smile and he says well, these are good people. He sits down to listen to gossip and sometimes, he doesn’t even know their names. He made a big mistake by picking the wrong people.
“Let me tell you, our leaders who have been in this game before us especially those who were in the First Republic told us so much about our friends in this country and he happens to come from the South-south, where they are very close to our leaders. We did everything possible to work with him but of course, he vandalised the opportunities. He didn’t handle it very well, up to the extent that most of us saw that we didn’t have any future as PDP members and as individuals, thereby galvanising us into action by coming together to defeat him.
“Look at what his wife was saying that northerners are this and that; how could you say that to northerners? You can’t insult us and think that you will get away with it. This is democracy – a game of numbers, and that is why we went back and put Almajiris together to get about two million votes.”
He was referring to the Kano State presidential election result which produced over two million total votes cast out of which 1.9 million votes went to Buhari. The boast of mobilising Almajiris to defeat the president is quite instructive, and should be seen for its underlying meaning.
This same Kwankwaso, it should be recalled, was the one who moved against the appointment of Chief Festus Odimegwu, an accomplished technocrat, as the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC), because according to him, the former managing director of Nigerian Breweries is an “alcoholic”. He was quoted thus: “We (the North) are not happy about that appointment, and think (that) it was a mistake. Odimegwu shouldn’t be there in the first place. Why? It’s because, you see unfortunately we were together, somebody read his curriculum vitae.
“He had only worked in alcoholic industry – all his life. And my guess is that he’s taking a lot of his products and that is why we feel (that) his appointment is a mistake because he cannot be the Chairman of NPC and at the same time attacking what his predecessors had done.’’
But Odimegwu’s only sin was his brutal frankness – that he dared to criticise the credibility of all previous censuses carried out in the country, vowing to conduct the most accurate and credible census in 2016 “that will accept itself”. Of course everyone is conscious of the significance of population data as an indispensable tool for national planning and resource allocation. Politicians across-the-board, whether in the North or in the South, but more so in the North, have for ages been known to falsify and manipulate census data to gain resource advantage.
And of course, Kwankwaso saw the danger in Odimegwu’s position – a man with such determination to right all previous wrongs and such outspokenness of truth to power couldn’t be trusted. This is because he is able to claim the numbers’ game because of the “true lies” contained in our censuses which give the North numerical advantage. According to Odimegwu in an interview with THISDAY months after he resigned as the NPC chairman: “Governor Kwankwaso is the biggest beneficiary of the fraud that is the demographic data in Nigeria.” Kano State had the highest population figures in the 2006 census. So, his vehement opposition to Odimegwu was borne out of the fact that he, Kwankwaso feared that those census numbers would unravel for what they truly are – official “true lies.”
It is noteworthy that before Kwankwaso’s campaign to get Odimegwu fired, he had written a letter dated June 28, 2013, soliciting the technical assistance of the Odimegwu-led commission for the Kano State house-numbering, street-naming and provision of an identity card project. When he wrote that letter, he didn’t realise that Odimegwu had been “taking too much beer and was an alcoholic”, but suddenly, he realised this after Odimegwu’s statement about falsification of results of previous censuses.
Interestingly, Odimegwu and Kwankwaso have found a common purpose as members of the same All Progressives Congress ( APC). The former was even a member of Buhari’s Transition Committee. Talk of how politics brings strange bedfellows together in this clime. Kwankwaso, the senator representing Kano Central, is already advertising Buhari’s achievements barely three weeks after inauguration when no single decision has been taken by the president – no policy direction has been unveiled, no ministers have been nominated, no secretary to the government of the federation, no chief of staff, no special advisers save for the two media spokespersons which in itself is odd. The only thing we have seen so far is a ruling party headed for the rocks. According to him, “From the day President Buhari’s victory was announced, things have started changing in the country – the power situation is improving, shares in the capital market are going up, while the exchange rate is stabilising.” Are you kidding me? Are we seeing another campaign based on “true lies”? One is tempted to think that somebody somewhere and not Odimegwu is actually taking “too much alcohol” and has lost his sense of reality.
My final take on Kwankwaso is that he is one of those opportunistic politicians who thrive on our fault lines – ethnic and religious – to advance and sustain their political careers. He sadly sees himself more as a northerner out to defend the interests of the North, than a Nigerian out to advance the interests of Nigeria. His likes are masters of deceit and illusion who thrive on the ignorance of the poor whose name they severally use in vain in pursuit of their personal goals. He is certainly one of those who have held this country down through their politics of dirty intrigues, ethnicity, double-speak and betrayal. The nation needs a break from them. We need a leader who will inspire and unite all Nigerians in hope and faith. Not these ethnic irredentists and heretics of faith masquerading as patriots.