By Ibrahim Musa.
Great men are indeed mortals, but their works or rather entries on pages of history often have attributes of immortality. Their stories, some even from grapevine, are repeatedly told to generations in such a way that they are projected as legends in a towering legendary. Whether Kwankwaso fits this definition or not is something worthy of a PhD thesis. However, what is not debatable is that he is such phenomenal in his own unique way.
As a young man, I watched his legendary evolution with keen interest. I am quite amazed by enigmatic character. In this case, his resilience and uncommon determination stand out. I don’t think political pundits have done justice in analysing his Lincon-ian iron will, which is what made him being feared, revered and loved in equal measures. His passion for development is dizzying as well as comforting for those in the progressives fold. Prior to 2011, you would think that you are coming into chimney when approaching the borders of Kano metropolis. Kano that was known for groundnut pyramids retrograded to grabbing the national medals, consistently, for open refuse dumping; with heaves of solid wastes and gulf of liquid wastes adorning its nooks and crannies. In the night, it was literally the elusive black holes. A textbook definition of an urban slum with the most abused rules for town planning was what Kano used to be as at 2011. Almost all of these gone within 4 years and replaced with a Dubai-like city in evolution can be nothing short of a miracle. One must have the Midas touch to be such revolutionary in his thinking and action at such a challenging period when Boko Haram was all out to cripple the state- and opposition was using federal might to pin the state down. Even Sheikh Maktoom must be green with envy.
To the majority, this is what defines Kwankwaso’s greatness. But to some of us who are a bit critical we rather sum up this as an ordinary. Our yardstick is the ability to excel in both infrastructure and human capital development, and creation of shared prosperity. Getting right this delicate balance would fetch one our admirations as well as commendations. And here he reigns supreme with his unparalleled record in office. It was almost a weekly affair to commission one or two empowerment projects. Thousands of students were given scholarships to acquire advanced degrees in universities across the world. The two public universities he conceptualized and actualized against all odds eventually shamed the critics who ruled them out with wave of hand.
One day I was strolling in the local area where I grew up, when a boy ran after me with a second hand necktie in his hands. At the beginning I was startled since that was the peak period of Boko Haram invasion of Kano. I was relieved when he said to me “please, could you help tie this?” I quickly asked him, ‘what would you do with a tie?’ He answered, “I am going to join Bell’s university and it is mandatory to dress with a tie- that is why I went to wambai market and bought it.” His answers even made me a bit confused. So I inquired further, ‘since you could afford an expensive private university- why didn’t you buy a new tie?’ He smiled while replying, “I can’t afford it. Both my parents are blind. But I sat for an aptitude test and won Kano state scholarship. The state is going to pay for me.” I instantly felt a joy overwhelming me. Thus, I instructed the boy to follow me so that I would gift him a new tie. This boy is now certified biomedical engineer!
Kwankwaso must be a proud man. Anybody who has done so much must be. You also can’t take it away from him that he is successful and ambitious. But now is his most critical phase. Thus, he must weigh carefully all his options. He is facing betrayal from the same man he helped built with everything at his disposal. The federal government, which is evidently run by a small clique, appears not quite disposed to factoring his interest in its workings. He has the people at heart and the people like him. Apart from President Buhari there is no single politician alive who commands his kind of loyal followership. However, politics is like a chase game- every move counts. Any distraction can be costly. As saying goes, all politics are local. Thus, the focus should be on getting Kano back to the progressives fold.
Finally, whatever happens to project Kwankwaso, history would remember all these. It would remember how an initially clumsy coinage of kwankwasiya, which people laughed at, has transformed into a powerful movement cum ideology. It would remember a governor who dared the storms and started an independent hydroelectric power station. It would remember his beautiful dreams and his witty, often controversial, commentaries. He who thought it wise to create clusters of garment industries to take of advantage of local content. He who was pro-local content shall never be forgotten.
Happy 61st birthday, Sir!