What makes Kwankwaso tick?

What makes Kwankwaso tick?

The 2023 elections are the first in Nigerian history since 1999 with more than two frontrunners, and the first since 2015 with major contenders outside the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Every expert and layman analysis identifies Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) as frontrunners. Numerous opinion polls have reflected this, showing that they have support in double figures, with Mr Obi currently the favourite. However, a fourth contender exists, even though some polls and analyses do not cover his manifesto. Where he has featured in polls, Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) has only averaged a miserly 2%.

So what makes Kwankwaso a contender?

The answer is simple: Kano.

As a former two-term governor and one-term senator from the state, Mr Kwankwaso commands a huge following there. This was evident in the defections he inspired when he left the PDP to the NNPP: in one week, 10 PDP members and three APC members of the Kano State House of Assembly defected to his party. This is besides the thousands of people who identify as members of his Kwankwasiyya movement with their trademark red caps that now belong to the NNPP, providing the party with a new lease on life.

We expect that the NNPP will be the APC’s strongest opponent in the 11 March governorship elections, with Mr Kwankwaso’s protege and son-in-law, Abba Kabir Yusuf (Abba Gida Gida), as its (NNPP) candidate. In 2019, Mr Yusuf was the PDP governorship candidate and lost the election by less than 9,000 votes out of more than two million votes cast after the elections were initially declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Mr Kwankwaso’s popularity and influence in Kano State matter as the state have the second-highest number of voters in the country, with 5.9 million people able to cast ballots. This sets up the state as an important battleground where all candidates seek to secure as many votes as possible. It is for this reason that SBM Intelligence, in its 15 December 2022 projection of the presidential election, put the state as being ‘Too Close To Call’.

Is there any permutation that shows Mr Kwankwaso as the winner of the presidential elections?


His support is almost entirely in one state and, at best, very small percentages of neighbouring states such as Bauchi and Jigawa. However, his ability to win votes in Kano as a key state can deny any potential winner the constitutional requirement of a simple majority of votes cast and 25% of votes cast in 24 states to emerge a winner. He could be a key reason if the presidential elections should get to a runoff.

There is also the scenario where Mr Kwankwaso could back another candidate for concessions, with the likely beneficiary being Atiku Abubakar in exchange for the PDP supporting Mr Yusuf to emerge as governor. After all, Kwankwaso still retains significant control of the state chapter of the PDP, as it played out in the contention over who emerges as the valid candidate of the party.


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