The leading presidential candidates have intensified efforts to capture the over 5.9 million votes in Kano State, Daily Trust reports.
The state’s votes in the past five election circles have been majorly dedicated to President Muhammadu Buhari, who enjoyed unrivalled acceptability among the voters, but with his absence on the ballot paper for the first time since 2003, the leading presidential candidates of the opposition parties are now scrambling and tapping all potential avenues to get the majority, or a fair share of the now available ‘Buhari bloc votes’.
But while there are 5.9 million registered voters in the state, voter turnout in the previous elections was below 50 per cent, except for the 2011 presidential election, based on available records.
Thus, beyond just hoping to win the state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), among others, would be hoping the voter turnout improves considerably and favour them.
Tinubu, observers say, believes Kano voters are considering his closeness to the powers that be, among them Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje while also hoping that Buhari would deploy his winning charm to his favour.
Despite these, Tinubu has not taken the state lightly as he has been frequenting it even before he emerged the presidential candidate which saw him hold his annual colloquium in 2021 in the commercial state, a departure from the usual venue of Lagos or Abuja.
Most recently, his presidential rally in the state was the talk of the town for days due to the massive turnout of supporters; a turnout his campaigners said was unprecedented in the state.
During his recent visit to the state and the previous ones, Tinubu met with different stakeholders, but most especially religious leaders, who he hoped would mobilise the residents to support his resolve to go for same-faith ticket.
In the same vein, Tinubu’s vice presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima, has also visited Kano to meet with various stakeholders, including visiting the four emirs outside Kano metropolis after Tinubu had paid a courtesy call on the Emir of Kano, Aminu Ado Bayero.
Governor Ganduje, who currently enjoys the unchallenged leadership of the party in the state, following the exit of the G-7 faction, has not held back in deploying every asset at his disposal to the Tinubu presidential ambition.
The governor is supported by two serving ministers, two APC senators, over 15 House of Representatives members, and 44 local government chairmen, among others.
Tinubu is therefore hoping for a repeat of the goodwill the party has enjoyed in the state since 2015, when Kano gave a total of 1.9 million votes to the then APC presidential candidate, Buhari, which represented about 12.5 per cent of the total 15.4 million votes the APC got in the election.
Although the figures decreased in 2019, the party still won the state with a substantial margin against the then-major opposition party, PDP.
However, since the defection of former governor Kwankwaso from PDP to NNPP, and his emergence as the party’s presidential candidate, the permutations as to which party will have a good outing in Kano have become more complex.
Speaking on Wednesday, Ganduje told party supporters in the state that Kano will repeat what happened in the 1993 presidential election when it supported a southern candidate (late MKO Abiola) and rejected a citizen of the state (late Bashir Tofa), in a reference to voting massively for Tinubu against Kwankwaso.
Atiku banking on Shekarau, others
Atiku recognised the complexity of Kano politics early enough when he cashed in on the dissatisfaction of another former governor of the state, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, to woo him back to the PDP, which had hitherto lacked a strong leader since the exit of Kwankwaso and his Kwankwasiyya Movement.
This move decimated the chances of NNPP and the ruling APC, but both have since moved on and deployed new strategies.
The former vice president, who also enjoys personal goodwill in Kano, is therefore hoping that his party’s recent recruit (Shekarau) will help him improve on his 391,593 votes in 2019.
But he is not leaving any stone unturned, as evidenced by his three-day visit to Kano in late August, when he received Shekarau back to the party and also held several strategic stakeholder consultation meetings. These, analysts believe, have injected life into his hope to capture Kano’s votes in the election.
Kwankwaso cashing on grassroots support
For Kwankwaso, despite being regarded by his loyalists as the most influential politician in Kano, nothing points to the need to take the state more seriously than the results of the 2011 presidential election, which saw Shekarau, who was then the sitting governor, garner only 526,310 votes, against 1,624,543 Buhari (then of the CPC), and President Goodluck Jonathan’s 440,666 in the results that emerged from the state.
While he is also yet to hold his campaign rally in the state, his recent visits have all had the undertone of campaigning. From his commissioning of the party’s secretariat to several consultative meetings and a tour of several local governments, the leader of the Kwankwasiyya Movement is putting his foot on the ground.
Similarly, his loyalists and candidates of his party have been holding rallies across the state, and the massive turnout of youths and women donning their red caps and hijab insignia.
Interestingly, the breakdown of the new voter register by INEC indicated that Kano has 44.4% female voters and a huge number of youths, a group that forms the core of his support base.
Political analysts believe the NNPP stands a stronger chance of winning Kano because the party and its leader appeal to the youth.
A member of the party, who asked not to be named, said all members of the party, who are working, have taxed themselves to provide the finances and logistics the party would need throughout the campaign period.
The party has also been buoyed recently by the defection of major leaders of the APC into its fold, including a former legislative aide to President Buhari, Honourable Kawu Sumaila, former Speaker of the state Assembly, Alhassan Rurum, and former federal lawmaker, Abdulmumin Jibrin Kofa, all of them from Kano South Senatorial Zone, where the party was hitherto believed to be light in support.
Anybody who works against me will regret -Kwankwaso
Apparently not taking things lightly, Kwankwaso had said, “I had a rally not long ago, which was one of the best rallies. I had one in Wudil, the southern senatorial district. I had one in Bichi, northern senatorial district. I opened my office in Kano Central and one of the best rallies because, you can’t compare it with the ones by some of the candidates who had crowds that came to Kano from neighbouring states and so on.
“Now, you see, I don’t want to talk about that man. I don’t know whether he said it or not. But the reality is that, anybody who worked against NNPP or Kwankwaso in 2023, one day, he will regret it, that he made a mistake.
“Anybody who knows me, who knows my antecedents believes that, if I win this presidential election, Kano will have maximum benefit, of course northern Nigeria will benefit and of course the country.
“So, I am surprised if you go and say I should hold a rally. Rally, I have done many rallies in Kano. In just recent months, January and December in Kano, in all the three senatorial districts. So, what is the problem about holding rally in Kano?
Obi twice in Kano
For the Labour Party, its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, has visited Kano twice and on both occasions met with traditional rulers, a move political analysts said may be to widen his acceptability in the state.
However, at the moment, the strength of the candidate, according to observers, solely lies within the Sabongari area of the state, where non-indigenes of the state reside.
Why they’re interested in Kano – Prof. Fage
Commenting recently on the attention Kano seems to be getting from the leading presidential candidates, Professor Kamilu Sani Fage of Bayero University Kano (BUK), said Kano had always been a strategic state for anyone contesting for the presidency because of its population and voter turnout in the past elections.
“One thing that will work against the APC is that it is in power and people are not generally happy with its performance. And for the Buhari votes, many people are disenchanted with him and the party in general, so it may not be a bloc vote as it used to be.
“So, it will be a major political gamble to think that because Kwankwaso will chip into the PDP’s votes in the North, they (APC) will have a smooth sail. They have to work for it,” Fage added.