When I intended but discarded the idea of writing an open letter to Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso few days before his botched visit to Kano, little did I know that I was few days away from meeting him for the first time. One of the reasons why I didn’t write that open letter was because many of my very good friends and associates who happen to be his followers mostly consider whatever I write on him as animosity towards him irrespective of my justifications. I don’t know of any political figure that has many followers among my friends, relatives and associates like the Kano Central Senator.
I have often asked myself why virtually all Kwankwaso followers do not tolerate criticism or take it lightly, no matter how constructive and well-intended and even if from people who have proven to be neutral or something close to such. I got a clue to my answer when I finally and unexpectedly met him over the weekend in his residence.
Our group’s visit was official and not political but going to Kwankwaso without discussing politics is like going to the ocean and not finding water. Before the end of our short meeting, he discussed some very significant and current political issues.
My major takeaway was that Kwankwaso himself, like most of his supporters don not take criticism lightly, for he narrated to us how he had read newspaper articles completely critical of him and his movement; he referred to such criticisms as lies. Though he said, it was sometimes a political success to be in the news even for negative but not so damaging reasons, for it gives you the free publicity which others will kill to have, but I observed from his body language, the discomfort he has towards criticism. At a point, I was so uncomfortable myself that I was afraid he was going to make reference to me, only to be calmed when I was able to convince myself that I must have been too tiny for his notice.
One other question I have kept asking since 2012 was how Kwankwaso keep getting more mass and organic followership amidst all odds. I got my answer the moment we were ushered into his waiting room. People from diverse demography, statuses and backgrounds sat there waiting for him. I don’t know of any elite of Kwankwaso’s calibre or even below it who accommodates close to that. May be there isn’t much or perhaps because I’m not used to visiting politicians, I don’t know. But the truth is that, Kwankwaso has long been known for giving the lowest of people access to him even amidst the busiest of schedules. The people who appear to be closest to him in Abuja are the same local politicians I see in the streets of Kano.
One good thing about people coming to him is that unlike in other cases, many of them are not coming to receive gratification, but rather coming to pay gratitude. While waiting to see him, we heard discussions with others who were beneficiaries of his scholarship programmes. One of whom we met in the room, who is now an Air Force Officer dressed in his uniform, was so excited and happy with Kwankwaso that he stood up and greeted everyone who came to see the Senator. When we spoke to Kwankwaso about the young lad, he grimed with smile, the kind of which expresses a deep sense of happiness and fulfilment. The former Kano Governor may have his flaws, but you can’t deny his passion for human development.
One thing I understood very well was that Senator Kwankwaso is no longer the local champion that his distractors may want people to believe. People of political influence came from different states to see him and even while he was attending to us, I saw notable personalities well outside his traditional political base waiting to see him. Besides, on my way to Kano from Abuja, I observed that at least one out of every four commercial vehicles from diverse locations had a sticker of Kwankwaso’s picture pasted on its back.
Sometimes, I use to imagine the level of success, Kwankwaso’s political movement will achieve if he had not made it very personalized and conservative. I used to believe that if he had been more concerned about people keying into his vision more than being interested in the type of clothes he wants to see them wear, his movement would have been stronger.
It was once told that, you don’t dare go to see him without a red cap on your head. Gradually, I believe his presidential ambition and his several months out of the Kano Government House must have soften that aspect of him; for the lack of red caps on our heads didn’t appear to give us any disadvantage as far as his attention towards us was concerned.
However, on our way out of his living room just at a time when I was filled with appreciation on how well he had received us even without white attires and red caps, I saw a dining table which was an exhibition of a sort. From table water to toilet paper, it carried most of the utilities you may think of branded in the Kwankwasiyya red colour. Almost every other thing in the room was either white or red. You may criticise the man all you want, but he’s not giving up on his Kwankwasiyya brand any time soon.
We were very cautious not to turn our visit into a political one, but there were two issues I had wanted to raise in my botched open letter which Kwankwaso directly and indirectly addressed. On his visit to Kano, he said it was carefully designed to achieve a win-win situation which it did. If they had allowed him visit Kano, he would have definitely demonstrated who actually has the people on his side. If they don’t, the world would know that they are afraid of him and the consequence of his visit. On his political future, he appears to be less concerned about it than most of us. From the way he appears relaxed, confident and determined, it is evident that he has a very good plan which may remain secret for a while.
May be, I was star stricken, but I must confess that Kwankwaso is not only a strong personality, but a political genius as well. Apart from Buhari, I don’t know of any politician in contemporary Nigeria who has more organic followership. What makes his even more impressive is the shorter time it took to achieve and while Buhari’s is more natural, Kwankwaso’s is more effort-driven. If he doesn’t get the presidency in 2019, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying.
One of his associates once told me that Kwankwaso’s 24 hours are virtually about politics every day. I used to consider it as an exaggeration ever since, but considering the fact that we left his house well after 12 midnight and he was still receiving people without any sign of stopping soon, I began to have a second thought. By the time I woke up in the morning after a heavy sleep and switched on my TV set only to see Kwankwaso already in Porthacourt after such a long night, my doubts were completely cleared.