By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Keen watchers of Nigerian politics would have noticed that Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano State governor, is one of the most visible among the pack of northern states’ governors either for good or ill; he has powerfully registered his presence in the current political dispensation.
Ganduje is not strange to politics of radical hue which has been noticed in his days at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, according to Professor Ohiare Abdullahi, a retired Professor of agronomy, who was the governor’s contemporary at ABU.
In his chat with this newspaper, Abdullahi, who is now a farmer in Okene, Kogi State, said “Ganduje is a man who is independent-minded; you cannot influence him; he would simply follow his own beliefs and inclinations no matter whose ox was gored. He belonged to Aminu Kano brand of radical politics. He is a maverick.”
“One does not need a soothsayer to know that ambivalence and equivocation aren’t part of his political DNA.”
Where other governors would tread softly or afraid to state opinion, Ganduje, the gadfly would say his mind”, says Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist at Kogi State University.
Though some may say that he is not difficult to place because of his brutal frankness on issues, yet he remains an enigma.
What justified his dethronement of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the scholarly former Emir of Kano, who in one sense had same radical inclination as the governor? To this, Moritiwon attributed it to “Ganduje’s vengeful spirit, since he knew the ex-monarch did not support him politically in 2019; it was a sort of rivalry.”
Many informed opinions say Ganduje is a student of Machiavelli, who has mastered the art of political opportunism, citing his long political survival under former governor Rabiu Kwankwanso whom he served as deputy governor twice between 1999 to 2003 and 2011 to 2015.
Yet, today the two political allies are foes. He quickly allied himself with President Buhari when he became governor; knowing full well that he was no match to Kwankwanso’s intimidating political machine and structure.
This deft move ensured that he returned as governor in 2019 even when popular opinion and polls did not give him a chance, as his popularity was in nadir owing to his estrangement from his political godfather, Kwankwanso, dethronement of Sanusi and series of moves he made such as creation of more Emirates.
On the overarching power of political office holders, Sanusi, who was deposed as Emir of Kano said the ‘extraordinarily expensive system of governance was a serious problem and the ‘bloated structure of elective offices’ was a recipe for irresponsibility, a reference to Ganduje’s action.
Ganduje in spite of his Puritan pontificating as radical has been enmeshed in scandal. During his deputy governor days, he was in People’s Democratic Party, but when the heat was on him from the Kwankwanso’s camp; he moved to the All Progressives’ Congress to save his political career, his colleagues in PDP shouted treachery.
There was also allegation of corruption leveled against him. The most popular was a circulating YouTube video clip showing Ganduje stuffing hundred dollar bills believed to be kickbacks for contracts into the folds of his capacious agbada. The rookie journalist responsible for the expose was arrested in the wake of the revelation.
In the wake of Edo election, the APC picked Ganduje to lead a 49-strong campaign committee alongside governors Hope Uzodinma and Yahaya Bello from Imo and Kogi States respectively.
In April 2019 when the whole world was in the grip of Coronavirus, and there were deaths everywhere, including Kano, Ganduje insisted the deaths were due to malaria but locals said that was supposition as there was little testing for the coronavirus in the city.
That was another of his iconoclastic tendency, his inability to toe the official line. Just when some governors in the north were providing justification for the atrocities of herdsmen who are terrorising Nigerians, destroying farmlands, Ganduje refused to join the pack. Ganduje, instead, called on the Federal Government to enact a law banning movement of cattle from the north to other parts of the country in order to resolve the incessant incidences of clashes between farmers and herders.
This position countered what Bala Mohammed, Bauchi State governor, said that herders carrying AK-47 do so to protect themselves against attacks. Ganduje made his own position known even when governors in the South West, South South and South East zones of the country kept mute on the matter.
But Ganduje insisted that having a ban on movement of herders would also address the challenge of cattle rustling in the country. He said: “We are building a Ruga settlement in Samsosua Forest, our border with Katsina and we have succeeded in curtailing the effect of banditry in that area.
“ So, we are building many houses, we are constructing a dam; we are establishing a Cattle Artificial insemination Centre; we are establishing veterinary clinic and already, we have started building houses for herdsmen.
“My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the Middle Belt and Southern part of Nigeria. There should be a law that will ban open grazing, otherwise we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers and cannot control the cattle rustling which is affecting us greatly”.
As a radical bridge builder- though some commentators have said Ganduje is angling to be Tinubu’s vice presidency if the later wins 2023 presidential election – he elected to host Tinubu’s 69 birthday colloquium in Kano.
For alleged moves to turn Government House, Kano into venue for the birthday party of National leader of the APC, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) had cautioned Governor Ganduje and advised him to move the event elsewhere.
“The plan is an insult on the symbol of authority that the Government House has been to the Kano people for decades,” they said. A statement issued by the AYCF National President, Alhaji Yerima Shettima on March 27, frowned at the choice of Kano Government House as the only place in the North for celebrating Tinubu’s birthday.
“He kept quiet while Northerners were under attack in Oyo and some parts of the Southwest,” they said.
“While people from Ganduje’s Northern Nigeria were being maimed, Tinubu kept mute even when Northerners’ assets were being destroyed in some parts of the Southwest,” they alleged.
“In the guise of hunting down imaginary herdsmen he could not even condemn the violence. Yet, this is shamelessly the special guest for Ganduje in Kano Government House,” they said.
“Kano is not only the financial nerve centre of the North, but also the symbol of the region’s cultural and historical pride, up to today and we won’t fold our arms and watch this pillar of the North turned into a birthday party venue for people who are not officials of any government in the country.”
The youths urged Ganduje “not to allow himself to be used as the only governor in the North to avail a whole symbol of authority — the Government House for a private citizen’s birthday party, something no Lagos State Governor has ever done to even the most respected politicians or private individuals from the North.
“Why can’t the governor of Lagos State, where Tinubu has a lot of influence do so inside the Government House, Alausa? Has Governor Ganduje ever hosted Aminu Kano’s remembrance in Government House? And if Governor Ganduje is so desperate about pleasing Tinubu, either as associate or political godfather what stops him from using any event.
In spite of opposition from Arewa Youth, Ganduje hosted the birthday colloquium. At the event, vice President Yemi Osinbajo described Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state as a bridge builder for hosting this year’s Colloquim to honor the 69th birthday celebration in Kano.
“Governor Ganduje graciously accepted to host this physical aspect of the Colloquim this year. At this juncture, governor Ganduje has helped us to tell two stories. The first is that, this is the first time Colloquim is being hosted outside Lagos or Abuja, Capital City.
This is the City of radicals and progressive ideas and ideologies. Which is the dominant tendency in our party,” he said.
The second story according to the Vice President is “…this underscores the point that this country and its people are more powerful and stronger, when together than apart. If not we respect each others’ ideas, we wouldn’t have accepted Governor Ganduje’s acceptance to host the event.”
Ganduje was born in Ganduje village of Dawakin Tofa Local Government Area of Kano State,to a Fulani family in 1949. He started his early education in Qur’anic and Islamiyya school at his village, Ganduje, where he was trained in Islamic knowledge.
He later moved to headquarters of his local government where he attended Dawakin Tofa Primary School from 1956 to 1963. Ganduje attended the prestigious Government College, Birnin Kudu from 1964 to 1968.
Ganduje attended Advanced Teachers’ College, Kano between 1969 and 1972. He then attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, where he graduated with a Bachelor in Science Education in 1975.
In 1979 he obtained Master’s degree in applied educational psychology from Bayero University Kano and later returned to Ahmadu Bello University from 1984 to 1985 for a Master of Public Administration degree. He received his doctorate in Public Administration from University of Ibadan in 1993. He is married to the academician Hafsat Ganduje.
Ganduje joined the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) during the Second Nigerian Republic and served as Kano State Assistant Secretary from 1979 to 1980. He contested the House of Representatives election in 1979 under the NPN but lost the election.
Between 1984 and 1994, he held various government positions in the Federal Capital Development Authority, and in 1994 he became the Kano State Commissioner for Works, Housing, and Transport.
In 1998, he joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and aspired to be the party’s gubernatorial candidate, and lost to Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. Ganduje was later picked as the deputy to Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso between 1999 and 2003.
In addition to the deputy governorship, he was also appointed as the Commissioner for Local Government. From 2003 to 2007 he served as the Special Adviser (Political) to the Minister of Defence. Ganduje also served as executive secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission in Ndjamena