IBy Comfort Obi
By way of introduction, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje is the governor of Kano state. Many Nigerians don’t know the names of their governors. And may not even be able to identify them physically. In 2017, during an interview at the Police Academy Wudili, Kano, to select candidates – Cadet ASPs – for that session, I had asked a candidate from Zamfara state the name of his state governor. I drew blank. When I insisted, he mentioned the name of a former governor of the state.
Here is why:
Many governors hardly stay in their states. They govern from either Abuja, USA, Britain, Dubai or the Caribeans. Their subjects hardly see them. They are away governors. They are not known in their states. They are strangers. The little money that accrues to their states, they spend on estacode. They have government lodges and/or Liason offices in Abuja, but they would rather stay in hotels, where they occupy presidential suites which go for as high as N400,000 per night. Their subjects see them only during campaign and/or election period when they visit to ask for votes. We are fond of claiming that our democracy is modeled after the USAs. How many times does any governor of a US state visit Washington? Rare. They are busy in their states, working hard to improve the lot of the people.
Ganduje is not one of those unknown governors. He is well known, not because he has done anything extraordinary. It is basically for two reasons. One: He is superintending over one of the largest states in Nigeria. And two: Ganduje is a controversial character. The latest controversy is the reason why he should either resign as governor, or publicly apologise to Kano state’s children whose rights he has brazenly abused.
I have, since he was sworn into office as a governor, kept a tab on him. My interest in Ganduje stems from the fact that he succeeded his former boss, Rabiu Kwankwaso in office – a rare occurrence in Nigeria. The two had come a long way, resulting in Ganduje becoming Kwankwaso’s Deputy, two times, and, in between, his Personal Assistant when he was the Minister for Defence.
But that was then.
Now, the relationship between the two men is that of mutual hatred, with Ganduje, mostly on the offensive. He has, almost, banned Kwankwaso from visiting Kano, thus confining him to Abuja. He has pushed him out of the APC. And, Kwankwasiya, a political group, founded by Kwankwaso, which member Ganduje was, has become endangered in the state.
The Police Service Commission, PSC, then, under the Chairmanship of Mike Okiro, IGP rtd, and which member I was, tried two times to intervene in the near-violence between the Ganduje group and the Kwankwasiya group. The Kwankwasiya group had petitioned the PSC against the Commissioner of Police, Kano state Command, over his alleged alignment with Ganduje to frustrate its group. The Commission, two times, held audience with the CP, who explained his helplessness. “I need to be careful, else the situation could turn bloody,” he tried to explain. We worried, and struggled to understand how a two-term governor, a former Minister for Defence, and a serving Senator, could be barred from visiting his state or constituency. The PSC’s intervention did not help much, for the two groups were bent on violence. Mercifully, the CP listened to the PSC, and restricted himself to his lawful duties.
Ganduje is talkative. And, he is very boastful. But recently, the talkative, boastful Ganduje has been quiet. It is like ice-water has been poured on him. He is fighting the political battle of his life. In more civilized climes, recent events would have marked his political death. He would have quit from office, to enable him concentrate on clearing his name. But, that’s not our style here. For the purpose of this write-up, l will briefly recap.
Jaafar Jaafar, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Daily Nigerian, had shocked an otherwise unshockable nation, when he displayed an uncommon courage, and up-loaded, for public consumption, scandalous photographs of Ganduje, allegedly, collecting bribes to the tune of five million US Dollars from a contractor. The photographs were degrading. They were humiliating. They were damaging. There, an alleged Ganduje was, in a less than gubernatorial position, smiling sheepishly, confirming the dollars in their bundles, and shamelessly stuffing them into the pockets of his big babariga dress. Those photographs reminded me of a scene I witnessed at a branch of the Zenith bank, Lagos, a few years ago.
One middle-aged man had come to withdraw the sum of six million Naira. When he was given polythen bags to pack the money, he politely rejected. We wondered. But as we watched, mouths agape, he stuffed the bundles of money into the pockets of his babariga, and quietly walked away. Now, that was the type of thing Jaafar alleged Ganduje did. He insists he has 15 clips of the alleged shame.
Expectedly, Ganduje denies the allegation with every weight he and his babariga can muster. He says the photographs are cloned, you know, photo-shopped. And yet, another set of photographs of an alleged bribe-receiving Governor has again appeared – this time, not from Jaafar, but from another source. But Ganduje says he would sue Jaafar and his publication for everything they have got. He is threatening fire, and more fire. I cannot confirm that Ganduje has approached even a magistrate court to seek redress. But the Kano state House of Assembly has intervened, and is probing.
Considering the fact that State Houses of Assembly are in the pockets of state governors – except Lagos state – many people are skeptical of what the outcome will be. But I opt to keep hope alive. Perhaps, one House of Assembly in Nigeria would redeem itself and, for a change, serve the interest of the people. The KSHA seem to have started well by inviting Jaafar to tell them his story. As I write this, Ganduje has also been invited. Jaafar did not disappoint the day he appeared. He told them of the spy camera he planted on a contractor friend of his, one of those who exposed Ganduje’s alleged penchant for ripping them off – between 15 to 25 per cent per contract. He confirmed that the photographs were not cloned. He confirmed they were photographs of Ganduje in flesh and blood. He confirmed they were neither edited, nor adulterated. He confirmed that he ran the the photographs by international bodies, including the Amnesty International and the BBC, Hausa Service. All the institutions confirmed their authenticity. He revealed that emissaries from Ganduje attempted to buy him out. He confirmed that he resisted their tempting offer. And now, he is staying in a safe house in Abuja. So, why is the caption of this write-up not something like: Resign, Ganduje Resign. Or, Why Ganduje should Resign. Why am I asking for the whereabouts of his children?
Until a court of competent jurisdiction finds him guilty of the allegations, he remains innocent. Until the KSHA finds him guilty and initiates an impeachment process, he comfortably remains the governor. I am, therefore, not worried about that yet. My worry here is the sacrilege committed by Ganduje and his lieutenants as Jaffar testified against him before the KSHA.
The unbelievable happened. Scores of primary and secondary school children trooped out in their hundreds, to protest against Jaafar. Initially, when I read the headline, I thought they trooped out to protest against the alleged bribe-taker; and/or in support of the KSHA which initiated the probe panel; or in support of Jaafar’s courage; or, to ask the KSHA to do a thorough job; or to ask for the protection of the lives of Jaafar and his family members.
Even if they trooped out for the above, I would still have worried. But they did not. Instead, the misguided children added pepper to injury. They poured petrol on a house already on fire. They trooped out in support of Ganduje. They trooped out in support of an alleged crime. They trooped out carrying placards bearing all kinds of messages denouncing Jafaar, and praising Ganduje. They said whether he took bribe or not, they would always support him. They said they would vote for him in 2019. They cursed out Jaafar. They called him a betrayer. And they called him a saboteur and a destroyer of anything good. See? They were cursing a man who thought he was doing the state a favour and, assuring the children’s future by exposing an alleged bribe-taker, a man who would, in a swoop, allegedly take a bribe to the tune of five million US Dollars, and more; A man who, because of the alleged bribe, would most likely, ignore a shabby job done by any of the contractors who allegedly, shook his hands with US Dollars. And these children, mostly underage, minors, are telling us that they would vote for the alleged bribe-taker again. So, they would vote? Minors?
But the questions are: Where were governor Ganduje’s children? He has a number of them. Did any of them join in the protest? If not, why? Afterall, the protest was for their father, and against their father’s tormentor, their father’s nemesis. They ought to have led that protest. They ought to have been in the forefront. Other children should have queued behind them. But they were nowhere near the centre of that scandalous activity. And we can guess where they were. They were in the best Private Schools in Nigeria; or some of the best schools abroad; or in their husbands’ houses; or in their air-conditioned offices. And the children of nobodies were sent out to the streets, under the blazing Kano sun, to go and protest against something they know nothing about.
Ask some of them why they were protesting. They wouldn’t know. Ask them to read what were written on the placards. They will be incapable of doing that.
Truth is, somebody organised them to troop out and support corruption, allegedly, committed by the highest office holder in their state. Some people wrote the messages on the placards. Some people asked the children of the poor, children of nobodies, to abandon their classes, and troop out to the streets while their own children were comfortably protected somewhere. We should hold these people responsible. Where were the teachers?They were directors in this irresponsible movie. They too supported the abuse of these children. So, what are they teaching them? Is sending them out to protest in favour of an alleged – bribe taker part of the children’s syllabus or curriculum? Was that why parents sent their children to school?
The Kano state Ministry of Education cannot, also, claim ignorance of this aberration. Otherwise, heads would have rolled in the schools involved. What role did the Commissioner for Education play? Otherwise, why has he not querried anybody – from SUBEB to the headship of those schools? And, what does the Governor, who has a PhD, know about the protest? Was he in support? Did he has any idea? Otherwise, why has he not fired his Commissioner for Education and others involved? What if anything had happened to any of those kids that day? And, their parents? Why have they not publicly asked questions? Ignorance? Or fear? You know, some of these governors have a way of instilling fear into everybody.
But this is our story in Nigeria. The story of the big man/woman versus the down-throden. That is why politicians keep their children away and recruit the children of nobodies as political thugs. They do that because they don’t think their lives are important. When they die, they die. It does not matter. Questions are not asked. They don’t count. And those they recruit are so stupid and ignorant they don’t ask them a simple question, which is: where are your own children?
But back to Ganduje. He should do one of two things. Either honourably resign because of those children sent to the streets to protest in his favour, or, publicly apologise to Kano state and the parents of the children.
Finally, if he chooses the latter option because Nigerians don’t ever choose former, he should fire all those who planned, and organised the children on his behalf, to abandon their classes to protest what they know nothing about, or even understand. It was Irresponsible of them.