Sunday Oguntola reports on the huge political horse trading that led to the resolution of a leadership crisis at the Kano State House of Assembly last week. Additional report by Kolade Adeyemi, Kano
AS G24 lawmakers walked into the Kano Government House last Tuesday night, the last thing on their minds was reconciliation with the faction loyal to Speaker Yusuf Atta. As far as they were concerned, the Speaker and other principal officers of the House of Assembly were as good as gone.
They knew they had the upper hands. They were not only in the majority but also clearly more clinical and strategic. The Speaker and his principal officers looked helpless, completely down and out. But as it turned out, they were banking on a last-minute intervention from Governor Abdullahi Ganduje to pull through.
The intervention came but it was almost too late. Investigations revealed that the governor decided to wade into the leadership crisis that rocked the Assembly because of the massive political implications. Sources close to his camp said he knew the collateral damages the crisis would cause might be too far-reaching and difficult to manage.
The governor, it was learnt, was bothered his political adversaries might capitalise on the crisis to alter control of the state politics. It was this fear as well as the suspicion that the crisis was triggered off in the first place by political hawks that made the governor step into the messy situation, our correspondent reliably gathered.
The gathering storms
Led by former Speaker Kabiru Rurum, members of the G24 faction accused Atta of alleged financial embezzlement, incompetence, localisation of activities of the House and not carrying the members along.
They vowed only impeachment of the Speaker would save the House from disgrace. Rurum, who handed over to Atta in July 2007, is a veteran in political warfare with mass followership in the House. They were unconfirmed reports he was plotting to return as Speaker of the Assembly.
He was believed to have realised Atta is a political lightweight that can easily be thrown away with the massive support he (Rurum) enjoys from other lawmakers. He led the faction on Tuesday morning to the Assembly Complex where the sack of Chief Whip of the House, Labaran Madari, representing Warawa Constituency and the Deputy Majority Leader, Muhammad Butu-butu, representing Rimin Gado/Tofa constituency was announced.
The declaration came amid sealing of the complex by Police operatives acting to forestall breakdown of law and order. Sources in the know confirmed the ‘sacks’ jostled Atta and his camp. “It made them realise the G24 opposition faction meant business and was bent on having its way,” a lawmaker, who craved anonymity confirmed last Friday.
Sensing it was losing out, the Speaker reportedly ran to the Government House to seek intervention of the governor, who was said to have also become uncomfortable with the dangerous dimension the crisis was assuming. The crisis, impeccable sources said, originated from the just-concluded ward congresses in Kano where most of the lawmakers lost out.
More than 80 percent of the Assembly members were said to have failed in their bid to retain control of political structures in their constituencies, leading to insinuation that the Speaker was responsible for the development. Members who lost out alleged the Speaker was working with political forces to forestall their return to the House.
While some of them believed the Speaker was in league with Ganduje to cut them to sizes, others were said to be working with the assumption that their alleged closeness to former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso could have been responsible for the loss of control at the congresses.
Kwankwaso and Ganduje have been locked in a perpetual control for political power in the state with the former governor alleged to be working towards leaving the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
As the sentiments settled among members on the losing side, it was learnt they became more determined to hit Atta and Ganduje where it would cost them more by effecting a change in the Assembly leadership. The governor was initially reported to be indifferent to the crisis until strategists in his camp explained the implications to him.
The battle for compromise
It was based on this that he summoned a meeting with the warring factions to broker peace last Tuesday night. At least two sources at the meeting confirmed it was as stormy as tough. “Everyone was edgy and felt justified in his position. Nobody was ready to shift grounds or concede anything,” one of them stressed.
The governor, according to reports, decided to allow both factions vent their grievances. He realised it would be counterproductive to gag discussions or agitations on either sides, it was learnt. The meeting, which was reportedly on for over four hours, considered many issues affecting political temperature of the House.
“The G24 faction was insistent the Speaker has been running a one-man show and inaccessible to members. The members believed the Speaker was too amenable to certain forces in the state. They also felt they needed some strategic influence in the House to coexist,” a source confided.
The Speaker’s faction was said to have been disturbed by the alliance of Rurum with the G24 since he was privy to the emergence of Atta. The faction’s members believed Rurum, who was saved from impeachment in July 2017 over allegations of financial impropriety, was being ungrateful and overtly ambitious.
After much haggling, the governor was said to have told the lawmakers to be prepared to cede grounds for their collective political destiny.
Someone at the meeting said: “He told everyone if one of them goes down, everyone goes down. He said our political destinies are intertwined because at the end of the day, it is Kano Assembly that will bear the brunt.
“So, it is better we all slow down on personal interests for collective peace. Besides, he said anything that will affect the political fortunes of APC in the state will ultimately hurt everyone.”
The plea for collective political gains as against personal interests was said to have struck the right chord among the lawmakers who began to soften on their demands and high grounds. After much horse-trading, it was resolved some sensitive positions should be ceded to the G24 members.
But the governor was said to have pleaded for the retention of the Speaker. His argument was to have two Speakers in less than two years will send the wrong signals to political watchers as well as portray the state as volatile. Besides, he said it will make people assume he is not in charge of political activities around him.
The G-24 members were said to have insisted the Deputy Speaker, Engineer Hamisu Chidari, must give away with at least two other principal officers to give them a sense of belonging as a condition for peace in the Assembly, a demand the governor and speaker’s camp easily acceded to.
To save face, Chidari, who has been in the House for 15 years, said he resigned for the sake of peace. According to him:“Being the longest serving lawmaker in the House, I decided to sacrifice my position so that we can have peace in the house.
“I have been in the House for 15 years now. I served in different capacities as principal officer for 10 years and four years as chairman of business committee of the House.
“So, when a meeting was summoned by the state governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and APC leadership, I stepped down from my position in order to broker peace between the two warring factions.
“I thanked God for making my decision to yield a positive result. I am happy that the crisis is now over courtesy of my action.”
It was on this basis Rurum announced the truce on Wednesday. He said his group has agreed to shelve their plan to impeach the Speaker after the governor’s intervention. According to him: “We wish to inform you that the Executive Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, as well as party leadership in the state, have waded into the crisis that engulfed our assembly.
“They also ensured that the crisis ended in a no winner no vanquished state. As loyal legislators of this Honourable House, who respect the supremacy of the leadership of the Executive Governor and party leaders in our state, we wish to state that we are in agreement with the decision taken.”
To prevent a change in the agreements reached, he further announced it was resolved: “1. That Yusuf Abdallah Ata (Fagge constituency) should remain as Speaker. 2. That Kabiru Rurum (Rano constituency) serve as Deputy Speaker.
“3. That Mohammed Bello Butu-butu (RiminGado/Tofa constituency) serve as Majority leader. 4. That Bappa Babba Dan Agundi (Kano Municipal constituency) serve as Chief Whip. 5. That Sanusi Usman Bataiya (Albasu constituency) serve as Deputy Majority leader. 6. That Ayuba Labaran Durum (Kabo constituency) serve as Majority Whip.”
The resolutions, according to feelers, is an intricate balancing act to ensure Ganduje retains support of the House as well as placate opposition lawmakers bent on aligning with political antagonists for a big hit.
The sentiment among some lawmakers and party chieftains that Atta and Rurum might not be able to work together was disabused as the two reportedly hugged and vowed not to rock the boat.
It was gathered Rurum promised to support Atta and the House to cooperate with Ganduje for the collective peace and development of Kano State.
After the pulsating intervention meeting, G-24 members and the other faction emerged with smiling faces. But only the political initiates know so much have gone into arriving at a truce. On Thursday, the plenary session hitherto adjourned to June, resumed in a peaceful atmosphere.
The session, which kicked off at about 11: 29 am saw in attendance members loyal to the Kwankwasiyya and Gandujiyya factions, including the only PDP representative, Hon. Abdullahi Muhammad Chiromawa, who said his participation in the crisis was to effect positive change in the House.
Our correspondent observed the plenary session lasted for about an hour as members were seen exchanging pleasantries devoid of any rancour or ill-feelings among them.
The speaker, while announcing the change, said: “I received information that a new Deputy Majority leader and the Chief Whip have been appointed to the House in persons of Hons Muhammad Bello Butu Butu and Hon. Baffa Dan-Agundi of Kano municipal constituency as the new Chief Whip, Hon. Sanusi Bataitya to serve as Deputy Majority Leader and honorable Ayuba Labaran Durum to serve as Majority Whip.”
In his acceptance speech, Rurum said: “I accept this position as the members of the assembly unanimously agreed. I will try my possible best to harmonise the house and I thank Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and all stakeholders who intervened.
“Today, Thursday, marked 11 months since I stepped down as the Speaker of the House and am back as the Deputy Speaker and as expected of us, I would discharge my responsibilities without fear or favour and carry out my responsibilities as expected.”
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