By Ibrahim Ibrahim
Kano, the political headquarters of Northern Nigeria was agog yesterday in a fanfare atmosphere. The occasion? Over 5,000 members of the Kwankwasiyya movement decamped from the PDP to join the APC. This is just another in a series of defection we have witnessed in the Country since the beginning of this year.
It amazes me when I hear people say Buhari and some other people will share Kano votes. I laugh at the level of ignorance in such statement. Buhari is now practically an institution in Kano politics.
Since Buhari joined politics early in the new millennium and contested the presidential elections in 2003, it had become evident to all that the political landscape in the north had changed by his coming and nowhere else was this change expressed more evidently than in Kano State.
In the 2003 elections notwithstanding allegations of widespread rigging by the then ruling party PDP, General Buhari got over 1.6m votes whilst the PDP candidate then President Obasanjo scored 492,755 votes. Obasanjo polled just about 22.7% of total votes cast there by denying him the required 25% as part of requirements for winning the election.
That same election saw Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the incumbent Governor losing to Shekarau of the ANPP. The loss of the incumbent was due largely to Gen Buhari’s membership of the ANPP and his attendant influence on Kano politics.
Fast forward to 2007 when Buhari contested against Yaradua, Buhari went ahead again to win Kano by a large margin thereby denying Yaradua the required 25% of votes cast in Kano.
In 2011 the story was not any different, this time around the incumbent Governor Ibrahim Shekarau had fallen out with Buhari over the issues of participating in the government of National unity, an idea Buhari rejected as immoral and untenable especially when he was still challenging the same government in court over the conduct of the elections. This led to Buhari leaving the ANPP and forming another party- CPC where he contested the 2011 elections.
Despite the CPC being a new party formed less than 18 months to the general elections, Buhari got over 1.6m votes again. The closest person to him in Kano State election results was Ibrahim Shekarau , the incumbent governor and presidential candidate of the ANPP and he was only able to score 526,310 votes. The PDP where Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso contested on its platform for governor was able to score only 440,666. The sum of the total votes of Shekarau and The PDP Kwankwaso’s party then was not anywhere close to what Buhari alone got in Kano under a newly formed party with little or no political structure on ground.
It was a total trumping in 2015 as Buhari/APC got over 1.9m votes in Kano as against just about 215,000 votes gathered by his closest rival- the then incumbent President and presidential flag bearer of the PDP.
Buhari is a phenomenon in Kano, succinctly put Buhari is Kano and Kano is Buhari. The enthusiasm of mammoth crowd at the defection event yesterday says it all, the support base for President Buhari in Kano is massive and intimidating.
Even though president Buhari was not at the event, his name alone was enough to draw such crowd of supporters, sympathizers and hailers. All came out en masse to show their support for PMB. Many even boasting that this time around they will be delivering 5 million votes to the president. It is uncertain if INEC processes and logistics may be able to accommodate that, but don’t be surprised if they double their 2015 vote. There are no word adequate to describe the support for Buhari in Kano.
In the APC primaries held in Kano state, President Buhari got over 2.9 million votes, this is from just his party members only. Expect much more at the general elections from Kano this time around. Many of the beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer program are from Kano, plus many other social intervention programs of this government are from Kano. This group of beneficiaries and their dependents are in their millions. They will most likely vote for Buhari including the many supporters of President Buhari that are not even members of the APC.
Whatever crowd you saw yesterday is a shadow of things to come. Whenever Buhari decides to visit Kano himself it will be a total shut down. When the campaign proper starts and every party is given the opportunity to say what they have done for the people of Kano that is when you will see how massive the support base for President Buhari is in Kano. The current Kano state Governor stated a while ago and I quote “We have told Buhari not to lift his hand when he comes to Kano, he should just walk shoulder down. If he lifts his hand up, we will lose control of the crowd.”
In the 2019 general elections the good thing is that the two leading parties have ruled Nigeria ta some point. So everyone will be running on their record. Those who spent 16 years looting the common wealth of the people will get the opportunity to come out and tell the people of Kano how they bettered their lives in the sixteen years they ruled and the APC too will get the opportunity to state what it had done in the last three and a half years to better the lot of Nigerians and indeed Kano people.
Buhari’s base of supporters is really with the masses . He is endeared by this group. There is no other politician in the north or anywhere else in Nigeria that has this type of followership. The epicenter of this followership emanates from Kano. Please find out if you doubt my assertion.
Three states in the North west region of Nigeria have a combined registered voters number of over 11.5 million, just three states! Katsina , Kano and Kaduna. President Buhari outside of government traditionally wins these three states with a landslide now that he is contesting as the incumbent, are you thinking what I am thinking? I will rest my pen here. I wish his challengers good luck and a happy contest.
Ibrahim is a public affairs commentator based in Kano.