As the 2015 presidential election draws closer, politicking will eat up more space than ever before. The latest evidence is the death of the emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, and the appointment of his successor. The media drama was as exciting as anyone would want it.
Practically, it was a battle between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). The candidate of the PDP was Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Ado Bayero, son of the late emir, and that of the APC was Mallam Sanusi Lamido Aminu Sanusi, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Although the candidates were nominated by the four kingmakers, the ultimate decision was that of the governor, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso ─ who is in the APC. The choice was obvious. More so, the late emir was close to the former governor of Kano and Kwankwaso’s rival, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau ─ who is in the PDP.
Appointing another Bayero would have been a self-inflicted injury for Kwankwaso, who is also said to be preparing to run against President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. Conversely, a Sanusi on the throne was never going to get Jonathan excited. It would only mean the two most powerful positions in Kano are now being held by his fierce opponents ─ Kwankwaso and Sanusi.
At the end of the day, APC won a decisive victory in Kano ─ forcing some frenzied and weird reactions from Aso Rock ─ but how important is the state to Jonathan in the 2015 race? Below are the scenarios.
Yes, Jonathan needs Kano
To start with, every politician needs the vote he or she can get. Every single vote matters. Kano is even very important both for electoral and political reasons. It is the second biggest state in Nigeria ─ after Lagos. It is the biggest emirate in the northern part of the country. It has the second highest number of registered voters, boasting of over 5 million, next only to Lagos’ 6.1 million.
Kano has become important to Jonathan for many reasons, one of which is that his political base has been weakened considerably in the last three years. Some of the governors who worked for him, or subtly supported him, have now moved to the APC and working actively against him.
Although he got 22.4 million votes nationwide in 2011 ─ compared to the 12.2 million garnered by his closest rival, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari ─ the dynamics in 2015 will be different and no one can yet predict the pattern of voting to come. Therefore, Jonathan cannot afford to toy with an all-important state like Kano. He needs Kano for whatever it is worth.
In 2011, Jonathan was not well loved in Kano. It was heavily suspected that Kwankwaso did not work for him but rather preferred Buhari, whose support he needed to win the governorship election. Nevertheless, the 440,666 votes Jonathan got there ─ representing a mere 16% of total votes cast ─ were just 60,000 less than what he got from his home state, Bayelsa. Compared to Kano’s 5 million voters, Bayelsa has just 591,000. And although Jonathan scored nearly 100% at home, it was so insignificant to his overall score. Therefore, Jonathan needs Kano.
Lagos supported Jonathan in 2011. He got 1.2 million votes there, but voter turn-out was poor: a mere 31%, compared to Kano’s 53%. While a total of 2.6 million turned out in Kano, only 1.9 million voted in Lagos. The state with the second highest number of voters had more voters turning up than the state with the highest. In other words, more people vote in Kano than Lagos. Therefore, Jonathan needs Kano.
But Lagos is not even guaranteed for Jonathan this time. Things have changed. There is a now a real chance that APC could form government at the centre, unlike in 2011 when its candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, did not have bright chances. The apathy in 2011 is not likely to be repeated in 2015. If Lagosians turn out en masse to vote and they choose to vote for the opposition, that would not be pretty for Jonathan. Therefore, he needs Kano.
No, Jonathan doesn’t need Kano
On the other hand, safe political calculations dictate that Jonathan should not as much as worry himself about Kano voters: they will never vote for him. Meaning, essentially, that he should not worry about who is emir. Even if Bayero were to be emir, his influence would do Jonathan no favours.
Rarely does Kano vote for a PDP presidential candidate. It has happened only once ─ and you have to go all the way back to February 1999 when the most important Kano politicians were in the PDP. Late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi was about the strongest politician in the state then and he was with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Kwankwaso was the PDP governorship candidate. The party won the presidential and governorship elections.
In 2003, things had changed. Buhari had entered the fray. He was in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and the party won both the presidential and governorship polls in Kano. Ever since then, Buhari has won every election in Kano: 2003, 2007 and 2011. It is safe to conclude that Kano will always go where Buhari goes. But since he has never been voted president, it means winning Kano is not the magic formula. Therefore, Jonathan does not need Kano.
Obasanjo, with all the incumbent power, did not as much as win 25% of the votes cast in Kano in 2003. It was a disastrous outing for him. The sentiment then was that power should return to the north. Obasanjo was assumed to be interested in only one term, and his decision to run a second time was met with resistance in many parts of the north. In fact, Obasanjo did not win 25% in Jigawa, Kano, Katsina and Zamfara. The north-west, it seems, is a tough nut for the PDP. Therefore, Jonathan does not need Kano.
What does Jonathan need then?
Jonathan has managed to get some Kano politicians to his own side of the ring ─ notably Shekarau, former speaker Umar Ghali Na’Abba, and Alhaji Tanko Yakassai. Their combined weight, however, cannot get Jonathan anywhere in Kano. The sentiments of the Kano people are for APC ─ as recently demonstrated in the council elections which they swept clean.
The best the Kano PDP can do for Jonathan is get him at least 25% of the votes ─ which, in any case, may be more than what he will get from Bayelsa’s 100%. Anything above that will be a miracle.
Sanusi or no Sanusi, Kano is obviously a no-go area for the president. Maybe he should now send a congratulatory letter to the new emir of Kano.