By OBINNA EZUGWU
Perhaps no governor in Nigeria today has courted more controversy and engaged in more political fistfights in recent years than 71-year-old Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. But the governor is increasingly proving an interesting character; a man that has been able to maintain an appeal to the two sides of Nigeria’s political divide, with perhaps as many admirers as there are many despisers.
Last week, when the challenge of herdsmen, reached boiling point, with a Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo giving quit notice to herders in Ibarapa, Oyo State, amid tension over the criminal activities of some herders, Ganduje restated his stance, calling for a federal law banning movement of cattle from the northern part of the country to the south.
The governor who made the call while speaking to journalists after he and APC governors met with President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina state, said if the movement of cattle is not stopped, there will be no end to farmer-herder conflicts. He is perhaps the only northern governor who has consistently differed with the federal government led by President Buhari, accused of stoking the fire with its tacit support.
He once emphasised that his administration was already constructing a settlement for herders in a forest near Kano’s border with Katsina, which according to him, will have houses, a dam, an artificial insemination centre, and a veterinary clinic.
“My advocacy is that we should abolish the transportation or trekking of herdsmen from the northern part of Nigeria to the middle belt and to the Southern part of Nigeria,” argued. “There should be a law that will ban it, otherwise we cannot control the conflicts between herdsmen and farmers and cannot control the cattle rustling which is affecting us greatly.”
The governor’s stance, many say, has shown him to be a realistic and broad-minded person, who should be listened to.
“Governor ganduje was right when he asked the herdsmen to come over to his state to graze, and it’s not the first time he will be asking them to come to his state,” says Chief Goddy Uwazurike, senior lawyer and president emeritus of Aka Ikenga, an Igbo think tank.
“He said if he has enough land for all the headers, but they ignored him. The man was talking sense. He said, ‘don’t move cattle about, it is in the process of moving from north to south that you trample on people’s farms and therefore cause problems. It is sound English and sound logic.
“I agree with him in the first instance when you have ranches in Kano and they want to sell their cattle, they will have a big market there just as they have in Damaturu and Borno. So if I want to buy, I’ll go to the dealer, buy the much I need and have them transported to the South.
“That way, the owners of the cattle will make money; the seller will make money. It’s a very sound advice but because those who are sponsoring the herdsmen have a hidden agenda, they are ignoring him.”
Others, however, suggest that while Ganduje’s suggestions are germane, more should be done to end the herders challenge.
“The problem of Fulani herdsmen has become hydra-headed. You cannot seek solution from one angle. It also now requires hydra-headed,” argues Oladotun Hassan, president of Yoruba Council of Youths Worldwide.
“Much as Ganduje’s suggestions are apt, I think the solution to the menace would require more than simply asking them to return to the North. You have to understand that we are also now dealing with terrorism. But, of course, his solution has portrayed him as a progressive thinker.
“However, it would appear that the government of the day is not really interested in solving the problem. What we are seeing is that when the herdsmen are arrested for committing a crime, before you know it, a call will come from Abuja for their release.
“In the Southwest here now, we are facing an insurgency. These people are terrorists who were brought into the country for the 2015 election by those who thought they may not win.”
First sworn in as governor on May 29, 2015, after serving as deputy governor twice, from 1999 to 2003 and from 2007 to 2011, under his erstwhile friend and political ally, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, he wasted no time in carving his own path by dumping the famed Kwakwasiyya movement, under whose wings he rode to power, and turning against his boss of many years in what subsequently developed into an epic battle.
Ganduje’s falling out with Kwankwaso cannot, however, be said to be unexpected. Governors fighting with their predecessors in office have been in fact, a common feature of Nigeria’s politics, and the reasons are not farfetched. Outgoing chief, who basically impose the would-be loyal friends and assumed stooges as successors, often want to stick around and call the shots through them, but it’s often ended in tears.
Emerging from the war with his predecessor, the Kano governor is increasingly proving himself to be an uncompromising gladiator. His eventual ousting of former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, despite spirited attempts by many prominent individuals, including the presidency, speaks to a character that never gives up a fight.
But in general, Ganduje cuts a hugely controversial figure. His public image perhaps is more of a corrupt, babariga-wearing religious fanatic. One formed by a 2018 viral video released by an online medium, Daily Nigerian, that appeared to show him stuffing wraps of dollars, apparently collected from a contractor, into his overflowing ‘babariga’, an episode that earned him the alias, ‘Gan-dollar.’
Under his watch too, Kano has become the Sharia hub of Northern Nigeria, with Hisbah Police embarking on one audacious move or the other. From destroying millions of naira worth of alcohol for religious reasons in a supposedly secular state, to arresting police officers – the actual officers of the law -for drinking alcohol not forbidden by the Nigerian constitution, to even more bizarre arrest of a barber for giving his customer a hairstyle considered by the religious police as anti Islamic, Kano under Ganduje is come into sharp focus.
The governor himself had caused his umpteenth national outrage, when in December 2019 he announced a ban on men and women sharing same commercial tricycles, popularly called “Keke” or ‘A daidaita sahu’ across the state from January, 2020, in a state where “Keke” remain the only means of transportation for millions of poor masses.
Funny enough, only a few days later he was caught on camera sitting next to a woman in an airplane. The pressure that followed compelled him to suspend the ban, but not until it had added to the list of his many controversial policies.
But beyond the dominant image of the Kano chief executive, the other side of him that doesn’t seem to appear immediately obvious is that he is an exposed and somewhat urbane intellectual with two Master degrees and a doctorate degree on Public Administration from Ahmadu Bello University to boot.
He has instances of progressive thinking, which have ranged from the very light hearted, such as the appointment of Anthony Oneya as his Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Lagos Affairs, to the very serious issue of ravaging herders perpetrating criminality across the country. And already there are talks about him having presidential designs ahead of 2023.
“I know ganduje very well,” says Chief Ebenezer Babatope, elder statesman and chieftain of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). “We were together at the Obasanjo constitutional conference. We were sitting next to each other. He is a good person with a good mind.”
Indeed, the Kano governor has impressed many with stance on the question of solving Fulani herdsmen menace. Though a Fulani himself, his approach, many say, has been sincere and realistic, unlike those of President Muhammadu Buhari led federal government, which many have said appear to more of land grab quest.
When, for instance, in June 2019, President Buhari’s government shocked Nigerians by announcing that it had gazette lands in every local government of the country, to be used as Ruga settlements for Fulani herders, as a solution to the incessant killing, kidnapping and raping perpetrated by them, triggering nationwide outrage, the Kano governor warmed many hearts by pointing out that you could not ask for Ruga in states where Fulani are not indigenes.
He had argued, while answering questions on Ruga after attending the wedding ceremony of Senator Kabiru Gaya’s son, Ibrahim Khalil, in Sokoto, that it would not be realistic to ask states where there are no indigenous Fulani people to provide lands for Ruga settlements, while pointing out that the best way to stop herdsmen crisis was to ban the migration of herders to Southern and Central states.
“The point is that we cannot ask a state to implement RUGA where the indigenes are not Fulani. It is for states, who can cater for the Fulani and improve their herdsmen,” he had said.
“No better way to improve their (herders) lives if you don’t prevent their migration from the North to the north Central and Southern parts of Nigeria. That movement should be banned, otherwise Fulani would continue to suffer and the security problem in the country would continue.”
Ganduje also explained that he was developing Ruga settlements in Kano because there was no better way to settle Fulani, a proposal that received wide applause.
“He (Ganduje) stoutly called for the outright ban of movement of cattle from north to other parts of the country,” notes Akogun Tola Adeniyi, elder statesman and former managing director of the Daily Times of Nigeria, “That’s a sincere call and the right way to go.”
Subsequently, in August 2019, while the Ruga controversy still raged, he insisted that imposing Ruga on Nigerians was like building nightclub near a Mosque, while maintaining that Ruga settlements for Fulani herdsmen should not be a national issue.
Ganduje who spoke to journalists, this time in Abuja, to mark his 100 days in office, while the Fulani in the South have constitutional right to stay there, and should stay if they want to, they have to ensure that their activities don’t harm others.
“Ruga should not be a national issue; it should be a state issue. If there are Fulani in the South and they want to remain there, the Constitution has allowed them to remain there but they should negotiate their stay with the host communities without harming anybody,” Ganduje said.
“If you live in a place, you must not harm the environment and the environment must not harm you and that could only exist when you negotiate. You cannot build a nightclub near a church or near a mosque. That will not guarantee peace.
“In those days, herders-farmers’ relationship was symbiotic. While the cow dung provided manure for the land, the herdsmen get grazing areas. But because of climate change and population expansion, the land became scarce. You can remain wherever you are but you must negotiate your stay.”