Presidential poll: Can Tinubu harvest Kano’s ‘5.9m’ votes?

From Desmond Mgboh, Kano

Can the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu harvest the bulk of Kano votes in next month’s presidential election like President Muhammadu Buhari did in 2015 and 2019? That is the question many have been asking.

Kano State has about 5.9 million registered voters, going by latest figures from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). And expectedly, many of the presidential candidates have their eyes on harvesting these votes. Bola Tinubu and the APC have their eyes on harvesting these huge votes by next month.

Tinubu hopes to assume the position once occupied by Mohammadu Buhari, a candidate who singularly polled about 1.9 million votes from Kano State, a development that enabled him dust his opponents in 2015 and 2019?.

Eyes on Kano’s who’s who

Nothing demonstrates Tinubu’s diligent eyes on Kano’s votes more than the roles he has enacted, the choices he has made and the vigour he has put into doing all of these, like his life depended on them.  In the first place, he reserved a lion’s share of the composition of his Presidential Campaign Council to players from the state, bringing on board veterans such as Tanko Yakasai, Musa Gwadebe alongside amazons like Hajia Najatu Mohammed. He was instrumental to the resolution of the party’s hydra- headed disputes in the state, ensuring the party remained cohesive and intact to deliver the presidential election.

That is not all, his eyes on Kano’s votes is also self- evident in his recurring visits to net- worth individuals, politicians and non – politicians alike in the state, with some of these visits predating the flag -off of the political campaign.

Late last year, Tinubu was in the state to consult with various stakeholders as well as inaugurate his presidential campaign offices along Club Road. In that three day visit, he shook hands with different groups at the Government House and enlisted their support ahead of the polls. The groups, to mention but a few, comprised the leaders of various Islamic sects, the Christian Association of Nigeria, the coalition of ethnic nationalities (non indigenes), including Kannywood actors.

Even before that historical visit, his daughter, Folashade had been a perpetual guest in the state, operating silently among different women groups. And about a month ago, Tinubu exerted more pressure on the state, dispatching his running mate, Kashim Shettima on a strategic mission. During this visit, Shettima visited several key players, notably 93 -year old multi-billionaire businessman, Aminu Dantata, who is synonymous with the business community of the ancient commercial city. Shettima was also at the homes of Jafaru Isa, a one- time military governor of Kaduna State, Tanko Yakasai, an influential statesman and Musa Gwadebe, another doyen of politics in the state. He also stopped over at the palaces of some traditional rulers and emirs.

Promises, assurances

Very early in January, Tinubu returned to the state for the umpteenth time, to the flag off of the North-West rally of his party. A day earlier, he hosted Muslim clerics in the region, where he outlined his agenda for the Muslim community in Nigeria, reassuring them that their best interests would be firmly secured under his watch. On that occasion and in the company of Nuhu Ribadu, a one- time Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abubakar Badaru, the Governor of Jigawa State, as well as some leading lights of his party, Tinubu vowed to do the followings: Tackle insecurity on Nigeria’s highway, set up a council to review the Almajiri menace, construct good roads, raise the standard of infrastructure, revive agriculture and revitalize business and market opportunities in the state.

On the day of the rally, Tinubu danced in triumph but spoke less, paving way for his party men to illuminate the  podium with remarks.

The speakers included the APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Simon Lalong and Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badaru, among others. In all, they made elegant speeches that sought the heart of Kano and the votes of the highly complex, politically unpredictable state.

Fears, doubts

But despite these commendable run of events ahead of the presidential elections, there are still fears, big fears in certain circles that the “Lagos boy” would not win in the state and may end- up broken hearted. There is a whole book of history to learn from. One of the most consistent features of the core- Hausa man is that he does not stand against his own in politics. Everywhere and anywhere he stands, he stood together with his brother. The case of Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike versus his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal at the PDP National Convention in Abuja is a book on its own, some analysts have insisted. According to several respondents who were interviewed, there is a silent sympathy in the state, at the moment, for the emergence of a fellow Northerner as the next president of Nigeria.

This is no way a fault of Tinubu’s, but just the way the people feel and the way they were made to reason by their political elite. It was gathered that in some parts of the state, the old mischievous Northern People’s Congress (NPC) politics of “Your own is your own” might be resurfacing in the political discourse. Not long ago, Tanko Yakasai, an old warhorse, had reasons to rebuke an Emir in Katsina State for resorting to this same NPC- styled political slogan to enlist support for his favoured Northern presidential candidate. It is, therefore, doubtful if with this trend, Tinubu would take a voting precedent over the likes of former governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Atiku Abubakar in the state. Some are insisting that Tinubu might not win the state as envisaged by the APC.

Some analysts with a contrary position have cited the 1993 Presidential elections as a basis to affirm that Kano people will vote for an outsider against their own. That was the view of Usman Haruna Bebeji, an academic teaching in one of the tertiary institutions in the region who spoke to Saturday Sun. That was equally the view of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who at a political rally at Rano a few days ago, declared that Kano would vote Tinubu over their own son.

Opponents of this line of thought are many and have reasoned that Nigeria has evolved over the years, from an era when MKO Abiola, a South Westerner could defeat Bashir Tofa in his home state of Kano, to a more frigid, ethnic- minded society, where voters are hostages of their own fears and are distrustful of others to protect their interests in the Presidency.  Abdullahi Mustapha Fagge, who spoke to Saturday Sun noted: “There is just no way Tinubu will come to Kano and defeat Kwankwaso. It is as impossible as Kwankwaso going to Lagos to defeat Tinubu. That would be an unimaginable upset. On one- on- one, Kwankwaso is slightly more popular than Ganduje, the lead promoter of Tinubu in the state and secondly, Kwankwaso is from here.

“Atiku, despite the internal disputes rocking the PDP in the state, is not a pushover either. His promoters in the state are equally capable. Besides, Atiku has the big financial chest to match Tinubu. I see Atiku Abubakar securing at least 25 percent votes in the state.

“Let’s say it this way. Kano’s votes, at the end, will be divided into three slightly equal parts among Kwankwaso, Atiku and Tinubu, with Peter Obi going for the remaining 10 percent votes” he declared.

Tinubu’s actual level of acceptability in the state may be of interest at this point. How many of the people of Kano State will cast their votes for him on their own self will? His religious background would surely count for him, but some of the stories around him and his person, including his fierce grip on the politics and economy of Lagos State even after exiting power, might work against him in a highly religious and politically radical state like Kano.

Tinubu’s die-hard supporters are quick to cite the huge crowd at the North-West rally of the party to measure his positive rating in the state. But crowds at rallies rarely count in Nigeria politics. Former President Goodluck Jonathan and Atiku Abubakar walked the same enthralling but deceitful path of hugely attended rallies in the state, but struggled breathlessly to secure 25 percent of votes cast in the state during their presidential elections.

One of the areas that might interest Tinubu and his campaign team at this point of their struggle is the margin of difference between the population of actual voters and those of the registrants in the state. Does Kano really have the hugely celebrated voting figure? Are there ghost registrants that do not ever show up on election day? In the past two election years (2015 and 2019), Kano has always posted over five million voters, yet it recorded just about 2.3 million actual voters during these elections.  While the current number of registrants in the state as announced by INEC is about 5.9 million, certainly only about 50 percent (or even less), of this figure would cast their votes in the state. And if all the checks put in place by INEC against irregularities work as promised, Kano might even record a further decline in voters compared to the number of those that registered. In other words, there might be no multi – million votes to simply harvest from Kano.

What do all these imply for Tinubu’s perceived hopes on Kano votes? Adebayo Abdulgafar, a public affairs commentator, who was part of the focus group discussion for the report, noted: “Put together, Tinubu must have a Plan B or risk a heart break”. He counselled that Tinubu must think of reinvesting in alternatives at this moment and by so doing, edge up his games in states where he is currently weak, rather than depend on votes from Kano, like Muhammadu Buhari did years ago, to get to Aso Rock. He added: “With the way he is working tirelessly in the state, I mean the time, energy and resources he is expending here and less elsewhere, Tinubu appears to be entrusting too much hope on Kano votes. But I think differently and I hope he would read this. I am worried that things may not go the way of his calculations

“In the first place, we are already hearing that some of the governors from the North-West are not happy because they were not appointed as his running mate. There is also that feeling that some of his lieutenants are in it for the money they are likely to make.

“I do not have proof to these claims, but stories like this are not to be ignored. There must be a Plan B. There has to be because in the politics of Kano State, nothing is certain, no promise is binding or no hold is abiding until it is delivered,” he stated.

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