Usually, a Malam does not engage in a gamble. But Malam Ibrahim Shekarau is now in the game. His, however, is not commercial gambling, the one we call caca in Hausa (pronounced chacha). His is political gamble. In contrast to the sinful Vegas-type gambling, the politics game is for all comers, including malams. On Thursday, Malam Shekarau threw his hat into the ring of those wishing to become president. At the crowded event in Abuja, the Kano State governor told Nigerians that he wanted to become president in order to save our country from its sorry situation. “Let us make our country great so that it takes its rightful place as a leader in the African continent,” he intoned. To Candidate Shekarau, PDP was fair game, naturally. His assertions were full of truism. He said: “PDP has ruled this country for almost 12 years but they have nothing on ground to show apart from inconsistency.” On this, one cannot fault him. The political party ruling Nigeria is responsible for our present condition of living as privileged slaves in our own country. Everything is in a shambles, caused by years of PDP misrule. Certainly, there is need for change. As Shekarau argued, we cannot go on like this.
Our dilemma, however, is how to do it. The main debate in the country today is about the zoning of the presidency between the North and the South or, better put, between somebody in PDP and President Jonathan. It is a big hoax that has been turned from a particular party’s policy to a national issue. Unless we get out of the suffocating deceit of this debate and realise that there are options outside the PDP and its zoning logjam, we will never free ourselves from the clutches of a leadership that has failed the nation.
Shekarau is one of those options. He is one of the three state governors that have refused to abandon the ANPP when it was falling apart. All the others have turned coat and joined the PDP. But whether he is a credible option depends on the prism through which you view his politics. On this, the governor attracts different perceptions from different people. While many see him as a consistent, God-fearing and patriotic leader, others consider him an opportunist, one who betrayed his mentor Gen. Muhammadu Buhari after he had pocketed state power in Kano. Others insist that there is a lot of corruption in his government, perpetrated mainly by some officials whilst he looks the other way.
The truth may not be known for sure at this time. His falling out with Buhari, a very credible person whose own leadership credentials speak loud any day, was the classic stuff politics is made of universally. But on the issue of performance, I am a witness to what Malam did in Kano. Love him or hate him, one cannot dispute the fact that he has achieved a lot in the provision of roads, water, health, education, moral reawakening, etc. The Kano of the pre-Shekarau years is incomparable with the one of today. Of course, there are many lapses (even scandals) such as his brutal and directionless war against filmmakers and writers. But compared to the 11 locust years of the PDP at the national level and in some states, Shekarau’s Kano would turn out to be a sterling example of how a nation should be governed. Many of the achievements of Malam would be appreciated only many years after he has gone.
Shekarau is one of the good options available to Nigerians when it comes to choosing between him and our PDP rulers. Others include Buhari, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and – if he eventually agrees to run for president – Nuhu Ribadu. I’d rather vote for a less-than-perfect Shekarau or any of these patriots than the pitiless behemoth calling itself the biggest party in Africa.
Nevertheless, I have an apprehension for Shekarau. It is couched in the knowledge of what happens to people like him in Nigerian politics: a man with good intentions failing to secure power, thereby coming to ruin and degradation. One good example is Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, who ran for president in the 2007 polls under his new party, the DPP. Bafarawa – credible, patriotic and eager – made his bid for the top post from his comfortable lair as governor of Sokoto State. When he left Sokoto to carry his campaign to all parts of Nigeria, pity, the homefront became wide open for exploitation by the opposition PDP, made up of some of his former lieutenants such as Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako. Worse, the PDP at the national level had vowed to take Sokoto at all cost. With its octopus-like spread nationwide, it was unthinkable that Bafarawa would defeat it and set up government in Abuja. When the elections took place, he lost both at the top and at home. Although he scarcely questioned his Abuja loss, the home loss – which was more painful – has been a subject of litigation ever since. And, due to the cloak-and-dagger nature of the contest, Bafarawa soon found himself being harried by the Wammako administration, which indicted him for corruption charges and set the EFCC after him. The bile left from that experience is a life-long one, indeed.
Bafarawa’s Sokoto has a striking semblance to Shekarau’s Kano. It made me ask: why didn’t Shekarau just play safe and run for the Senate? Has he become over-optimistic? Shekarau, a former school teacher, gambled his fate on the political field in 2003 and was voted as governor against the expectations of pundits. The PDP-led government in the state had an iron grip, with a seemingly impregnable Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso seeking a much-coveted second tenure. He was unquestionably in control of everything – money, security outfits, government apparatuses, etc. But the people of Kano – who he cannot control that much – wanted change. That – together with the critical Buhari pedestal – helped Shekarau, who lacked money and materiel, to ride to power easily. Kwankwaso was dramatically replaced the way Caucasian America elected Barack Obama on the wing of the desire for change from a hawkish, suffocating establishment.
Shekarau’s present gamble appears to have been inspired by that surprising upset. I am not sure whether he has money and materiel now. Yes, Nigerians want change, but will the hawks allow them to have it? The PDP hawks in Abuja (under the discredited former chairman Vincent Ogbulafor) have vowed to re-take Kano next year. The mood has not changed in Wadata Plaza. Second, the ANPP in Kano is in disarray over Malam’s choice of his successor. Third, the Buhari factor, now represented in the opposition CPC, is gaining ground in Kano. My fear is: if by any chance, due to these factors and others yet unseen, Malam loses both Abuja and Kano, wouldn’t he find himself in a hole similar to the one in which Bafarawa fell? This is not a prayer, but a pragmatic reading of the crystal ball of Nigerian politics, using events that happened before our very eyes. But as malams are wont to say, all power belongs to God; He gives it to him whom He wants. So be it.
Published in LEADERSHIP, on Saturday, August 7, 2010