The Oasis Reporters
February 7, 2019
Kano city is usually a delight for any crowd pulling or publicity seeking event such as musical concerts, political rallies or religious gatherings, as such remain the opium of the most densely populated city in northern Nigeria. This is a costly lesson that Kano state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje would learn later to his utmost discomfiture.
Right on the heels of the highly attended political campaign rally of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection campaign, the Kano Stadium at Kofar Mata was ordered shut, for what officials said was to enable a renovation of the stadium aimed at giving it a face-lift. It included the installation of the new scoreboard, running track and provision of sources for steady water supply, the government said.
But whispers on the streets of Kano say that the hurried shut down of the stadium by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, was to deny Nigeria’s former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar who is the main challenger in the February 2019 Presidential Elections to President Muhammadu Buhari the use of it, because the largest stadium in northern Nigeria would attract a large number of spectators in the events loving ancient city, which may be a boost to the chances of Atiku Abubakar, as well as Ganduje’s immediate predecessor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who has long since switched camp to the PDP.
Kwankwaso and his erstwhile deputy, Abdullahi Ganduje are locked in a supremacy battle on who really commands the loyalty of the massive Kano state citizenry who take the game of politics very seriously.
Realizing the backlash the opinion on the streets could provoke to his own reelection campaign chances and that of Muhammadu Buhari, Abdullahi Ganduje later bowed to public opinion by ordering the contractor handling the renovation of Sani Abacha Stadium in the state to halt work to allow the campaign rally of Atiku Abubakar to hold.
The governor, who is of the ruling All Progressive Congress, in a statement signed by the commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, said the directive does not affect ”the ongoing overhaul of the indoor sports complex.”
Accordingly, the contractor has been directed to remove all its equipment until the end of the rally.
The state’s football team, Kano Pillars, has also been instructed to use the Pillars Stadium, Sabon Gari for training sessions.
His counter order may have been a little too late, for sympathy seems to be swinging more to the perceived victim of high handedness and arbitrary executive order, especially when Rabiu Bichi, the acting chairman of the PDP in Kano, had earlier on Wednesday accused the state government of embarking on the renovation to deny PDP access to the stadium whereas, it had earlier been used for President Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential rally in the state.
In a belated face saving statement by the state government which said, “prior to this development, the PDP had slated February 2 for the rally, which informed government’s decision to mobilise the contractor only for the party to fix another date for the campaign rally when the contractor had already moved to site,” the official explained.
“As a democrat who believes in freedom of association, His Excellency the governor did not order the closure of the stadium to frustrate the campaign rally of the PDP. The stadium only closed for the intended renovation works,’’ the statement added.
Question everyone is asking is, why would a stadium by shut down in the only season when the demand is high for Party campaigns ? Besides the two biggest parties, the APC and the PDP, there are over a dozen more parties that may require the use of the stadium throughout the month of February, and no more.
Bichi had earlier said the PDP applied twice to use the stadium for the presidential rally prior to the government’s decision.
While waiting for the approval, the rally was shifted to February 10, he said.
He said the party then wrote another letter to Kano Sports Commission requesting to use the complex during the PDP re-fixed presidential rally.
“When we wrote the second letter, the commission replied that they would discuss the matter with Governor Ganduje first. On that very day, we heard through the media that the stadium has been closed for two weeks for renovation.
“I was surprised we are still in this primitive politics of intolerance. President Buhari has visited all PDP states, and he was granted venues for his rally. Atiku has also visited APC states and he was granted permission to use their stadiums for presidential rally. But here in Kano, we were confronted by (an) intolerant (governor) who does not understand contemporary politics,” he said.
In neighboring APC controlled Kaduna state, the government wisely kept a low profile while the PDP presidential campaign rally was holding in the Ahmadu Bello Stadium which was massively attended, and Governor Nasir El Rufai maintained his dignity.
With the videotaped alleged bribe taking scene allegedly involving Governor Ganduje of Kano, his dignity may have suffered another round of buffeting as a result of the stadium permission saga.