Shahidu Anka believes that his party’s New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso, has what it takes to be Nigeria’s next president.

So strong is Anka’s conviction that she quit her job in the civil service to join the growing recruits of Kwankwaso supporters in northern Nigeria.

Katsina NNPP Government Event

“We have a candidate we can defend. Someone we know has less political baggage than the other presidential candidates,” Anka told PREMIUM TIMES.

Kwankwaso, a former Kano state governor and defense minister, is not new to politics, but the party he chose to run for is. This means that unlike the two main parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the NNPP lacks the scope, structure and perhaps the resources to fight in all areas.

Although NNPP says its reach extends throughout the country, it has turned its attention to the country’s northwestern region, Nigeria’s top-voting region, where it is most competitive.

Although at one time or another he was a leading member of both parties, for many of his supporters, Mr. Kwankwaso is a departure from the corrupt status quo, which is represented by the APC and PDP.

In 2015, Mr. Kwankwaso ran to become the APC presidential candidate, but lost to President Muhammadu Buhari. But Mr. Kwankwaso, who came in second during the primary, said it helped catapult him into national computation.

Similarly, he competed to become the PDP candidate in 2019, but lost to Atiku Abubakar, who is again the main opposition party’s candidate.

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He left the PDP and joined the NNPP last March after losing a fight for control of the party’s zonal structure to Sokoto state governor Aminu Tambuwal.

So is the charisma of Mr. Kwankwaso who, in less than a year after joining the NNPP, transformed the party into the main opposition party in his home state of Kano. In that period, he has also shown detractors who said his influence only ends with Kano, that his appeal transcends the commercial hub of northern Nigeria.

So what makes Mr. Kwankwaso tick?

He is considered by many to be one of the best governors the state has ever had in terms of infrastructure development. Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, his arch-rival, attested to the fact that he and Kwankwaso are the “architects of modern Kano State”.

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Mr. Kwankwaso’s administration also sponsored hundreds of Kano students to study abroad, endearing him to the city’s young voters.

“Here in the state of Zamfara, there are many beneficiaries of your educational policies. When we see them, we feel happy. The reality is that Kwankwaso has done a lot for the Northwest because it’s not just Kano State that has benefited,” Mr. Anka said.

A Katsina resident, Abdullahi Dandagoro, said he would vote for Kwankwaso even if he did not win.

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“Kwankwaso won’t win because ‘they’ won’t let him win,” he said. “But my vote is for him because he is a true leader. When you look at what he accomplished in Kano, no Northern governor has ever done that. Yes, Nasir El Rufai (Kaduna) has also done well, but Kwankwaso is way ahead,” he said.

Mr. Kwankwaso opens party office in saminaka Kaduna
Mr. Kwankwaso opens party office in saminaka Kaduna

There is also the belief that Mr. Kwankwaso is the candidate of the masses. Some of his followers compare him to Aminu Kano, the Second Republic leader of the Northern Element Progressives Union (NEPU) and the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).

But Kwankwaso himself takes pride in the “good deeds” he has done for the masses in Kano.

“One of my most telling legacies as Governor of Kano is the vast improvement in the human capital of our people. I have fond memories of thousands of our citizens taking advantage of scholarship opportunities to advance major and specialized courses including engineering, medicine, aviation and the like,” he tweeted.

“This is what we intend to scale at the national level and that will definitely end the current educational gap. We must bring our students back to their classrooms, thus avoiding incidents such as the recent blocking of the access roads to the airport by these students”.

Kano resident Abdullahi Namama told PREMIUM TIMES that he decided to support Kwankwaso because of the capital projects he built in Kano when he was governor.

“Kwankwaso’s track record is too obvious to ignore. He transformed Kano to the point where everyone who was in or came to the state could see it. He doesn’t need to ask you to “go and check” because unless you’re blind, sunlight doesn’t require your check,” he said.

Erect more political structure

Aside from his Kano, Mr. Kwankwaso has also reached out to bases in the remaining six states. In recent weeks he has toured Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna and Kebbi.

Jigawa NNPP Governance Event
Jigawa NNPP Governance Event

The northwest is predominantly Hausa and Fulani and one strategy Mr. Kwankwaso has adopted is to visit traditional rulers when he visits the states. In every northwestern state he has visited, Mr. Kwankwaso has visited one or two monarchs, including first-class emirs.

“No doubt this will help him gain a kind of acceptability because Northerners, despite everything, still respect their traditional rulers. You and I know that our people respect those emirs and district chiefs more than they do the governors. In most cases, it is the monarchs and religious scholars who show the way when elections come around,” said Saifullahi Kuraye, a political affairs analyst.

That has also taken his campaign beyond the Northwest region. The party is gaining ground in the Northeast and the Center-North, at least, as witnessed by the recent departures of the party leader in those two regions.

The party launched its campaign in Bauchi. The APC and PDP are the main contenders in the state, but Haliru Dauda-Jika, the NNPP leader in the state, is not a pushover.

North West, APC and Buhari

The region, with seven states, is considered to have the most votes in the country. The region has 22.25 million eligible voters for the 2023 elections, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, ahead of other regions. Kano, Kwankwaso’s strongest base, has 5,921,370 eligible voters.

While Mr. Kwankwaso focuses his energy on the North West in particular and the North in general, the region is known to be Mr. Buhari’s stronghold, but the ex-governor’s supporters believe he has what it takes to conquer the region.

The Northwest has seven states, six of which are all under the APC, while one is run by the PDP. The NNPP has members of the House of Representatives and a House of Assembly specifically in Kano.

Since Mr. Buhari, who is considered to have the most support among the residents of the region, is no longer participating, the contest will be open to all and Mr. Kwankwaso, being from the region, has an advantage over the others. the rest.

Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate is supported by Mr. Buhari. However, that is not guaranteed because sometimes it is difficult to retain loyalty.

Winning Kano will only boost your chances of winning the region. His candidates in Katsina and Kaduna, two states that usually get big votes, are also not letting up in their campaign to win over more NNPP voters.

The chairman of the party in Katsina state, Sani Liti, during a local radio show, bragged that the NNPP would win the state because the APC had failed.

“When you look at it, the APC has created hunger in every home in the state and beyond. There is insecurity and unemployment among young people. It said about the party and its government. This administration has set us back and I can say that Hausaland has never witnessed anything worse than this,” Liti said.

Liti has something to prove. The state, being Mr. Buhari’s own, is where APC’s Mr. Tinubu expects big votes, but Mr. Kwankwaso has foot soldiers ready to make sacrifices.

Three members of the House of Representatives, Babangida Talau (Malumfashi/Kafur), Armaya’u Kado (Kurfi/Dutsin Ma) and Aminu Ashiru (Mani/Bindawa). Former National Youth Service Corp CEO Maharazu Tsiga, former Senator Abdu Yandoma and former Petroleum Trust Development Fund Executive Secretary Muttaqa Rabe-Darma have found a new home in the party.

Why Kwankwaso can change the narrative

Jamilu Abdussalam, senior professor in the department of political science at Katsina’s Musa Yar’adu’a University, said two factors could give Kwankwaso an advantage over his seemingly bigger rivals.

“Kwankwaso is one of the popular politicians in the country and he is from the region. He has influential politicians supporting him, especially in his home state of Kano. These people are key players in deciding the outcome of the elections.

“Two, the elections here are no longer about a mass movement. We’ve seen it in 2015 and 2019, which gave Buhari the edge. There is a difference now. This massive movement has been destroyed because people believe they have been fooled. I am sure that the result will surprise a lot of people,” said Mr. Abdussalam.

But the academic believes that Kwankwaso may not win the region, but possibly win his state.

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He said that while Mr. Kwankwaso’s membership of the NNPP has improved the party’s fortunes, the NNPP needs time and resources to consolidate as much as the PDP and APC.

“And you know that money plays a key role in elections and APC and PDP have more money than NNPP. So the possibility of Kwankwaso winning the entire zone is very limited, but he can definitely get votes,” he said.

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