Former Kano State governor, Musa Kwankwaso is one man who cannot be ruled out when when the achievements of the state for the past 50 years of its existence are enumerated. In this interview with Stanley Nkwocha and Durojaiye Hassan, he talks about the Kwankwasiyya movement which became the hallmark of his political strides in the state as well as other issues of governance.
What was it like growing up; did you ever see yourself becoming governor of a big state like Kano?
I was not born in Kano but in Kwakwaso town, which is about 25km away from the city. I started my primary education and finished there. From there I got admission into craft school, Wudil, and then into technical school and the polytechnic, Kaduna and of course to Middlesex university. I came back in 1991 and with all the training and education I had from technical school upwards I started work under the ministry of water resources which was then called WRECA – Water Resource and Engineering Construction Agency. It responsible for the construction of the state. When I came back in 1991, I decided to join politics but in 1992, I contested election as a member representing my local government. I was so lucky that when I came to Abuja I contested and I won the election and of course Abacha came and kicked us out. Even though it was a short period it was very eventful. From there, there was constitutional conference which I represented six LGAS from Kano in 1995 and of course, after that, we participated in the Abacha experiment, that time, I was in DPN and when Abacha died, Abdulsalam came and there was the PDP and other parties, five parties were introduced and I was lucky also to win election; after winning the election in 1999 we were there for four years and lost the election in 2003.
I am happy to say that Obasanjo, the then president, appointed me minister of defence. I was minister till the end of 2006. From there I resigned my appointment and contested gubernatorial election in Kano but the government and the party decided that I should withdraw which I did and I was appointed an adviser. I was there till Obasanjo handed over and Yaradua nominated me to be an ambassador. Specifically he wanted me to go to china, but I told him that I wanted to re-organize PDP again and take over from the party then, the ANPP. Of course they insisted, but I didn’t want to leave the country. At the end of the day I was given member of the NDDC, until 2010 when I decided to voluntarily resign because what I saw in the NDDC was not very good. Some of us were very angry then. In a matter of months, the president had to dissolve the board. From there we went back to Kano where we worked so hard to strengthen the party and I contested governorship election again in 2011.
In the 2015 presidential primary, I contested with Mohammadu Buhari in Lagos. I didn’t win the ticket for many obvious reasons, but for somebody who started very late in 2014/15, very late, everybody was saying that the contest was between Buhari vs Atiku and others. I became second which I think was very encouraging. So, when I went back, my people decided that for some reasons they wanted me to come and represent Kano central. I had a total vote of 758,000 over 780,000 but in the contest itself, because the same day was the presidential election, it gave us the opportunity to see many people that were supporting Buhari and all supporters. That was why we had about 1.9million votes in Kano and we were so happy that other parties could not match us. We had about 484 councilors and 44 chairmen in a very peaceful election, nobody was scratched. Also, the 40 state assembly members are all APC, 24 House of Rep members, 3 senators, the governor and of course the presidential election. So, I am happy to say that if you add all these contests, primary and secondary election, I contested 15 times, including the one in 2015 and the one in 2014 in Lagos, and I won 13 times. So, I thank Almighty God. If you look at it from that angle, I am also happy that we have done so much. Our philosophy is that one should do his utmost best at every opportunity given to him/her. That is the kwankwasia philosophy.
We have done our best in Kano State; you are a witness to that and anybody who went to Kano before 2011 and on the day I handed over will be happy that so many things have been done to change the face of the state. I am happy we succeeded in that and I hope that all governors that will come after that will continue to consolidate on our own achievements.
Kano was 50 years on May 27. You had the opportunity of leading the state between 1993 and 2003 and again between 2001 and 2015. What did you find worrisome and what strategy did you put in place to deliberately change that.
Personally, I joined politics not because I had no job, but because I believed I had something to offer. It was tug of war between me and the leadership of my agency back then in 1991, many of them thought I should stay because they saw a future in me. They said it was just a matter of time and I would become a director and so on an so forth. But inward, especially for somebody who had travelled much, somebody who had spent about ten years in Europe where we have seen their politics, their strengths, weaknesses, and where we read history and geography, not only of Britain or Europe but across the world, I believed there was need for me to play some role not only in the ministry or agency of a state but at the national level. That was why when I came back and decided to contest the election and of course become a legislator at the national level. So, that was the beginning and I am happy to say that my exposure helped me a lot in all this position that I was opportune to hold over the years. I was so happy that I was able to go round the world to see things for myself, to see areas where people failed and of course avoid these areas and areas that people had worked and succeeded. So, it is not only that in 1999-2003 we had worked so hard, we had just taken over from the military and what we did was so much that what we did was not initially appreciated because we took over from the military and everybody believed at that time that anybody could do at least what we did.
Therefore, in the 2003 election, many things came to play against us, especially the sentiment of religion and sharia at that time, which was started in Zamfara State. Of course, it went across the Northern part of the country. At that time people didn’t care about your performance, people didn’t talk much about water supply, agriculture or education, people were talking about going to paradise and so many people came out and worked against. At that particular time, sentiments were so high and coincidentally, then President Obasanjo was contesting against Muhammadu Buhari. The issue of Christian vs Muslim came in; the issue of North vs South came in; but to me, based on my experience and belief, I maintained that party is supreme and that if you are in a political party you stand by your candidate. At the end of the day, many governors in 2003 were so scared and said ‘vote for so so candidate or any candidate of your choice at the presidential level, but vote for me at the governorship level’. I never did that, I stood by my party and I stood by our presidential candidate, even when people were saying ‘which one are you voting, is it mosque or church?’ Of course in Kano if you think that you know what people will choose, you are deceiving yourself. If you go to other parts of the country like Enugu and use that sentiment, you will know what people will choose. So we stood our ground, we worked so hard but a lot of confusion and the issue of vice president wanting to contest in 2003 against the sitting president crept in. That, we felt, was not proper. At the end of the day, there was a lot of anti-party activities in our state.
What was your reaction when you lost the election?
We lost the election anyway and I was the first governor to accept defeat. Not only that I accepted defeat, I took the deputy governor then, who is the governor now, together with my commissioners and went to the then governor-elect and congratulated him because we see politics like any game. You go into it bearing in mind that you win this time, or you lose next time.
So, we lost the election. Right inside me I wasn’t happy that we lost the election, but I knew I didn’t lose the election because I didn’t perform or because I did anything wrong to the people. I love them, they love me, but sentiments just came but I was lucky that Obasanjo appointed me minister of defence. It was as if I lost the election in kano, but I got the seat as minister. Many people would ask me, ‘which one is better, which on is more difficult, which one do you like most’ and all sorts of questions but the issue then was that I spent four years as governor, but I equally spent almost four years as minister of defence. With that experience, I got a brand new constituency, very important constituency which I am still happy to enjoy today because I believe the constituency still believes that I am a member of their extended family.
That was a good experience I had, to be in the ministry of defence for a period of time and member of the NDDC board and adviser in that eight years. At the end we launched a comeback bid in Kano. At the end of the day, it was difficult because the president of our party at that time, or the government at that time was not behind me. They were not supporting us, the government of the day at that time was under an opposition party. We were in another party, and we had no adviser, no commissioners, no chief executive, we had no contracts or appointments to give to anybody. But you see, we did some programmes when and we were doing those programmes, we never thought that those programmes were very important and we would benefit from them. For example, take the issue of feeding. We were feeding pupils five times a week in all our primary schools. By the time I left, that programme was stopped. Even when the federal government selected Kano to be part of the two states in the North West to be supported I was a member of the committee. For one month we sent N284 million, but they refused to do it thinking that it was my baby. So, at the end of the day they refused to do it. By 2011, all those children in the school, many of them were 18 and above and were ready to vote and they came out. They were not interested in what you will give them: money or anything.
They did it free of charge and I believe that was when Kwankwasia was really launched in Kano. People were coming out to voluntarily vote. In 2011 and 2015, people were voting in Kano based on ideology, based on belief in good governance. We had no federal government, no Police to support us, no SSS. We had no government in Kano, we had no money but young men and women came out. These were those who benefited from us. We empowered thousands and thousands of young men and women in various trades and sent so many people to schools within and outside the country and in 2011, they were ready because they had seen the difference between our first four years and the four years that followed that our first term. They came to the conclusion that four years was better than eight years. Therefore, they came out, supported us under that difficult circumstances and we won election in Kano, both the gubernatorial and the assembly polls. So, that really encouraged me to say that look, it is good to be good because I have seen it. If you ask me, how much did you spend to become governor in 2011, I will tell you zero Naira. Everything we did, either campaign materials or logistics, people provided money, to the extent that after the election we even had surplus, if you asked somebody to come and take his money he will say no go and celebrate with that money.
So, we thank the Almighty God, we saw the advantages of being good and that was why all those programmes were not only brought back. They were also improved, we introduced new ones to the extent that many people could not understand how we executed them, but we are very happy that we did because we had already started harvesting what we had done in the second term. Now if you look around in Kano, you will see physical developments. We have the best street lights in the country. We have been adjudged to be the best, we were given so many trophies because Kano was the most lighted state in Nigeria. We had trophies from various organization now, in terms of road network, every road that leads into Kano we dualised them; we fixed street lights, we put drainage, walkways. We have more walkways than many cities. In fact, I don’t know of Abuja now, but we had fantastic road network with walkways and our flyover are the best in the country, they are all there, and of-course, in many places. I embarked on a very important project on Jakara River, one river that cuts across so many local governments. I was personally involved in that project.
But our main area of concentration was education because we believed education is key for us as a government that was why we introduced the feeding of children in all our primary schools and we re-introduced it. You know, the poverty level in this part of the country is very high and that was very much welcomed by the children and their parents. We trained and retrained teachers, paid them on the 28 of every month, built thousands of special classrooms, story buildings, tiles, aluminum roofs. So many things were done to accommodate the increase of young men and women and children that were going into primary schools.
Our activities in Kano helped us to increase the number of children going into primary School from 1 million to about 2.4 million before we left in 2015 and at the secondary school level, we were able to build 47 technical schools, myself and himself attended two, craft school and technical school. The craft school I attended was upgraded to technical school some years ago and now we have four. By the time I went to Kano in 2011, we had four, but we established 44 and none of those four was even bigger than any of those schools we built with facilities. We built over 200 secondary schools in four years. We built schools for Islamic studies because we succeeded in stopping this almajari system which didn’t help anybody in the country or in this part. We stopped street begging. In addition to that we decided to build some institutes. We built 26 institutes, five under ministry of health; one nursing school, one post basic midwifery and of course, two midwifery schools. Some are under education, some under agriculture. We built 26 at the end of the day and when we were going many of them were attached to either the Kano State University of Science and Technology which we built in 2001. Now I understand they have students population of over 20,000 and of course, there is the North West University in the city of Kano, which was built in 2012, during our second term. Most of these institutes were handed over to these universities and now they are making progress. We brought in special training at all levels.
So there were so many good programmes and projects that we did in addition to what people are seeing today.
Under your watch, Kano had legacies that would never go away from the state in the next 100 years. What was your source of motivation in doing all this?
This movement is based on the political ideology of Malam Aminu Kano. You know Aminu Kano lived and died for the less privileged- the talakawas who could not afford to go to the hospital. Even when there are no school fees they still feel the children should go and help them in the farm, otherwise they cannot get enough food for the year. So, Mallam fought for the talakawas. Unfortunately, Mallam was not able to be governor, was not able to be president but all his ideology was there in books. Those of us who had little opportunity, because we were very young, we were not even in the field when he died, but we heard little directly from him and people around him who were our leaders in those days.
So, we decided to build the kwankwasia ideology based on that foundation laid by Mallam Aminu Kano. That is why you always see us in red cap, white gown and black shoes. These red, white, black, was the colour of the PRP flag and that was the colour of Mallam Aminu Kano himself. We decided to take that because we have always believed that if we can adopt that ideology, it will help us and it will help everybody. Not only that, we were able to say it and put it into practice, Unlike Mallam Aminu Kano himself. Our own period of four years was not a time when we had more money than other governments before us or even after us, but it was that ideology which has a lot of things in there, like good leadership, hardwork, commitment, transparency etc. All these are part of kwankwansia. These are the driving force; these are the things that keep us not only in Kano, but in all the Northern states. Young men and women are aspiring to be like Mallam Aminu Kano, like kwankwanso and so on and so forth, which is very good and many of them are in the background. In fact, out of the over 2600 that went abroad, ABU just employed 37 of them to be assistant lecturers and they are in so many universities, at least across the north, and in the next few years you will find out that many of them are the professors, heads of department, vice chancellors.
We are so lucky because we sent our best to many countries where they have now offered them to do PhD in their universities under their scholarship. We sent about 23 to Texas, USA, and they gave most of them Ph.D and they are all medical doctors. So, we had done so much right from primary, secondary and tertiary education. All our teachers who were not qualified- we had many teachers who had no NCE, the minimum requirements- we sponsored all of them to go and do their NCE and many of them have graduated, many are about to finish in many state and federal institutions. So, a lot is being done in these areas. What is important is how we are able to mobilize the people to understand our direction. They worked so hard to support our election and that is why we were able to make 100% and God willing, if there is election today in Kano today or tomorrow you will be seen 100% support.