For the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kano State, Sunday, November 24, 2018 was a day of history. A day that marked a turning point in the fortunes of the party. It was a day when thousands of supporters of former Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who chose to remain in the PDP when the former minister rejoined the APC, decided to join him in his new party at a lavish ceremony held at the Sani Abacha Stadium. Tony Akowe was at the stadium to witness what transpired.
The Sani Abacha Stadium in the Kofar Mata area of Kano metropolis is used to receiving one set of people almost on a weekly basis. This set of people are football fans that besiege the place to support their preferred teams or to watch football matches. But on this particular Sunday, November 24, it played host to a different type of crowd who came not to watch football or any other game of sport, but to join the growing list of APC members in the state.
They came from all over the 44 local government areas of the state. The event was planned for 2.00pm. But as early as 9.00am, supporters of former Kano State governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, had started converging at the main bowl of the Sani Abacha Stadium in the Kofar Mata area of Kano for what could be described as a harvest of members. Several associates of the former governor who chose to remain in the PDP when he rejoined the APC, came to pitch their tent with him.
They had been denied ticket to contest various offices under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by the leadership of the party. The decision of the national leadership of the PDP to hand over the party structure in the state to another former governor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, had not gone down well with the man they simply call Mallam all over Kano. Available, but unconfirmed, information have it that while Kwankwaso was given 51 percent stake in the PDP, Shekarau and other leaders were made to share 49 percent.
A situation that did not go down well with Shekarau. Conscious of the fact that Shekarau has always had a running battle with Kwankwaso, the leadership of the APC moved in to convince him into returning home. Shekarau was a key member of the merger team that mid-wifed the APC at its inception, but left the party in 2014 when the APC leadership handed over the party machinery to Kwankwaso, who was then serving as the Kano State governor.
So, when the supporters he left behind in the PDP decided to join him in the APC, it was no doubt a harvest of members. While many trooped into the main bowl of the stadium, others simply stood outside the stadium, waiting for the arrival of the state governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and Mallam Shekarau. The arrival of the two and other invited dignitaries created some form of commotion as the crowd broke loose into the main arena, making it difficult for the governor and his guests to come down from their vehicles.
Security was practically compromised as even the reserved area in the state box was taken over by the crowd who were drumming and dancing to various tunes. The crowd waited patiently as the governor made his way into the state box, with chants of ‘sai Mallam’ and ‘Allahu Akbar’ occasionally rending the air. It was a day of glory for the former Kano State governor and what could be described as a home coming. Even though he had formally joined the APC at a previous rally, he was celebrated by the APC for convincing his supporters to join him.
The defectors, which included ten former governorship aspirants of the PDP, were led to the event by Dr. Umar Musa Mustapha and Engr. Bello Sani Gwarzo. Chairman of the APC in Kano State, Alhaji Abdullahi Abbas, who apparently was the happiest man at the event, said the decision of the defectors to join the APC was as a result of the achievement of the Buhari government as well as that of the Kano State government, led by Gov. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, pointing out that they were conscious of the fact that Nigeria has returned to economic boom because of the economic agenda of the government.
He said Nigeria cherish Buhari’s approach to national security and has restored confidence to the fight against insurgency and corruption. He believed that the modest achievement of the president is attracting more people into the party, adding that they were discussing with many more people who are interested in joining the party. Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Ado Dogowa, said the opposition should forget winning Kano State as the state was clearly for the APC.
Ibrahim Shekarau, who is the arrowhead of the defectors, described the event as a great day in history, especially as one who helped midwife the party. He said: “I am one of the midwives of the APC. In 2014, we had reasons to step aside and now, we have a greater reason to come back into APC. I want to express our gratitude to the national chairman and the executive governor of the state for accepting us back into the party and for standing behind us and I want to assure you of our total commitment to the APC and pray that God, in His wisdom, will grant APC victory in all positions contested for. I want to also assure you of total victory in Kano State.”
Shekarau who was once demoted from the position of Permanent Secretary to the position of a school principal by Kwankwaso in his first term as governor, but eventually left the service of the state to wrestle power from the PDP in 2003, said further that “we are happy to be part of APC. It is our sincere prayer that God, in His wisdom, come 2019, will grant APC victory from presidency, governor, senator, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly. Insha Allah, it is going to be a total success.”
Jigawa State governor, Badaru Abubakar, told the gathering not to allow the PDP return to power in 2019, describing the 16 years of PDP government as wasteful years and years without achievement. He told them that despite the fall in oil revenue which he said forced countries like Saudi Arabia to cut costs, President Buhari is making serious efforts to move Nigeria forward. He said across the country, serious construction works are ongoing, adding that with an APC government at all levels, the country was on its way to moving to greater height.
Five million votes for Buhari
Presenting the defectors to Oshiomhole, Governor Ganduje said: “Today, APC is the greatest party in Nigeria, and in Africa. APC is the only party in Kano State. We have the highest number of party members; our intention is to provide the highest number of votes for APC in Nigeria. If you can recall, we promised President Muhammadu Buhari that we will give him over five million votes. Mr. Chairman, we assure you that APC is united in Kano. Kano is the home of progressives. The late Malam Aminu Kano was a progressive, the late Sabo Barkin Zuwo was a progressive, and the late Abubakar Rimi was a progressive. Now, what do you expect in Kano, if not a progressive government, a progressive administration, a progressive voting pattern? That is why we are ready to give President Buhari over five million votes.”
Oshiomhole was on hand to receive the defectors along with the National Vice Chairman, North West, Inuwa Abdulkadir. Although many of the people had left the stadium when he arrived, the former Edo State governor was still able to send the remaining crowd into wild jubilation with his dance steps as he danced round the podium to the Hausa tune being played on the blaring loudspeakers. They became more excited when he decided to address them in Hausa, an exercise he performed excellently to the admiration of the cheering crowd of supporters.
He assured them that the best was yet to come and that he was going to bring the president to them when campaigns kicked off properly. After his initial address in Hausa, the APC leader also spoke in English, in what would turn out to be his shortest public speech. Oshiomhole said the party was waiting eagerly for the campaign message of the opposition and will respond appropriately, saying Nigeria does not belong to those who have a history of making so much from the system, but cannot show what they have put into it.
He said even if the APC has not fixed all the problems of the country because it never promised to fix them over night, it is evident that what they could not be done in 16 years cannot possibly be fixed in three and half years, adding that Nigeria must move forward no matter what anybody thinks. He said those who helped destroy must not be allowed to return to power. In his words, those who hate President Buhari are those who made money without efforts, adding that what the president is saying is that we must build a new country which is the essence and content of change where those who work are the ones who should eat.
He said: “I am happy that my comrades who are the progressives in Kano are united today with a shared commitment to ensure that never again will this country be governed by opportunists. In times like this, people are going to make promises that they will put air conditions on federal roads. But thank God that we have not found any new face. We know their past and we will trace what they have done and ask questions on what they will do differently. I want to appreciate our governor, Governor Ganduje. He has made a mark in the governance of Kano State less than four years and I know that given another four years, he will transform Kano to the highest level.
“For all of you who have made so much sacrifice to be here today, the only way we can pay back is to ensure that the government continue to work in a manner that will deliver the greatest good to the greatest number of our people. The strength of the APC is the poorest of the poor. President Buhari’s constituency is the army of the poor. Those who hate him are those who made money without efforts and what the president is saying is that we must build a new country which is the essence and content of change where those who work are the ones who should eat.
“Not a country where those who don’t work make billions of naira just through telephone and they have no business address. President Buhari is determined to put an end to that and as you would expect, people are fighting back. But God is not on their side. As you can see, they rushed to the other house and found out that it is grounded with old “trickiticians”. When you have too many trickiticians in a house, they will end up tricking themselves. They went to Port Harcourt and tricked others out to produce one of them.
“We are waiting for their message and we will respond appropriately to it because this country must move forward. It does not belong to those who have a history of taking so much out of the system, even as they cannot show what they have put into the system. We haven’t fixed all the problems and we did not promise to fix them over night. What they could not do in 16 years cannot possibly be fixed in three and half years. But I believe that we have shown the most important quality that we need in a leader which is to have a man of honour, a man of integrity and a man you can trust and that man is President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Whether in America or in Britain, they appreciate him, other African heads of state appreciate him and at home, we the ordinary people appreciate him. But those who made money without work don’t like him and as long as they are concerned, he should not stay one day longer. I want to appeal to our opponents in PDP to stop crying even before the elections take place. When they win, everything is perfect, but when they lose, nothing is right. Nigerians will not forget and if they do, we will remind them that it was PDP under President Olusegun Obasanjo that introduced do or die politics. If you remember, he said that the 2007 election was a do or die for him.”
As it is, the opposition PDP may regret its decision to cede majority of the party structures in Kano State to Kwankwaso, forcing Shekarau back to the APC. From the Kano rally of Sunday November 24, it is also evident that Governor Ganduje and his team may be coasting home to victory in 2019 in spite of the leaked video alleging him of receiving bribe from a contractor.
While pouring encomium on Ganduje, Oshiomhole said, “Thank you so much, Your Excellency. You have made a statement. Politics is not about social media where one man can recruit 2000 young men to just be posting fake stories. Politics is on the ground and it is played by real people. When you promised to deliver five million votes I know you will do so because Kano State belongs to President Buhari; and President Muhammadu Buhari belongs to the people of Kano State.
“I think we have changed the game, and the game can never be the same again. Nigeria can now grow from strength to strength. I want to ask you (Ganduje) to have faith. We shall be victorious at the end.”