By Sulaiman Abdulmalik
John Quincy Adams, an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States said in one of his famous quotes that “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
The wise saying depicts and fits perfectly just as it also captures the lifestyle and the essence of life trajectory of the immediate past governor of Kano State, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as he clocks 65 today.
A man of many parts whose life journey seems very difficult to capture in a single write up to mark his six and half decades sojourn on earth.
For those who don’t know, Kwankwaso is a scholar and thinker by choice, a thorough bred professional as a water engineer having horned his formal training both at home and abroad traversing major Ivy League institutions to garner the requisite knowledge and training that now stands him in good stead to better the lots of humanity in whatever capacity he finds himself.
Not only that, Kwankwaso is an ideologue and a welfarist by inclination as well as in outlook, a quality he has continually put to good use in many leadership positions that he has found himself both local and international notwithstanding whether in political office or not.
His journey to greatness started exactly 65 years ago today at the remote village of Kwankwaso in the present day Madobi Local Government Area of Kano. On that eventful day, the household of Mallam Musa Kwankwaso, the then village head welcomed a son whose fortune they never reckoned would be as great as it is today.
The young Rabiu as with any other child in the Muslim households in the Northern parts of Nigeria began the learning of the Holy Quran by attending a Madrassah under the wise guidance and tutelage of eminent scholars in his native Kwankwaso village.
This however did not dampen the enthusiasm of his parents to expose him to formal Western education as he commenced formal elementary education at the Kwankwaso Primary School and later Gwarzo Boarding Senior Primary School.
He proceeded to Wudil Craft School and Kano Technical College before proceeding to Kaduna Polytechnic where he did both his National, and Higher National Diploma Certificates.
Tasty for further knowledge, Kwankwaso proceeded to the United Kingdom where he was between 1982 to 1983 for his postgraduate degree prgramme. While there, he enrolled at the Middlesex Polytechnic; and Loughborough University of Technology where he received a master’s degree in water engineering in 1985.
It was at this time that Kwankwaso’s leadership traits began to manifest when he emerged as a leading student leader and was elected as one of the officials of the Kano State Students Association abroad.
Upon his return home from the United Kingdom, he secured employment into the Kano State Civil Service and was posted to the state’s Water Resources and Engineering Construction Agency (WRECA).
Not content with bureaucratic lifestyle being a budding leader in his own right, he took a big gamble that eventually paid off when in 1992 he ventured into partisan politics.
In that year, he left the comfort zone of the civil service and made his entry into politics on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He found allies in the membership of a powerful caucus within the party called the Patriotic Front (PF) led by late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’adua of blessed memory.
The gamble paid off as he was elected into the Federal House of Representatives to represent Madobi Federal Constituency and was subsequently elected as deputy speaker in the House.
This brought him to the limelight of national politics just as it also provided for him the launch pad for him to assert himself as a political force not only in Kano but throughout the country.
Subsequently, Kwankwaso was elected into the 1995 Constitutional Conference as one of the delegates from Kano State on the platform of the People’s Democratic Movement also led by the late Shehu Musa Yar’adua.
Though he joined the defunct Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) in the political transition programme of late General Sani Abacha, Kwankwaso was one of the leading lights in the formation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998.
Not having mastered the game so well, he alongside many leaders of People’s Democratic Movement led by Mallam Musa Gwadabe, Senator Hamisu Musa and Alhaji Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila became so formidable that it was almost impossible to defeat the new party in Kano and eventually, the PDP became the dominant party in Kano for so many years.
In 1999, he contested and won the PDP primaries and was subsequently elected as the governor of Kano State on 29 May 1999 but lost the contest in 2003 to his major rival, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. The loss provided an opportunity for him to return to national limelight as he succeeded Lt.-General Yakubu Danjuma as the nation’s defence minister.
As a cat with many lives, Kwankwaso staged a comeback and was reelected in 2011 for a second term from 29 May 2011 to 29 May 2015. He used the opportunity provided by his return to rejig his political platform called the Kwankwassiya Movement to achieve two pronged objectives which are political and philanthropy.
Apart from his numerous political achievements, it is to Kwankwaso credit that he built many roads, hospitals and schools as well as instituting scholarship programmes that would later make the state secure in the area of manpower development.
Cumulatively, in his eight years as the governor, he awarded over 2,600 postgraduate and undergraduate foreign scholarships in 14 countries across the world. This is in addition to the local private university scholarship in Nigeria.
Kwankwaso’s time in office was characterised with a number of notable achievements. During his first tenure in office as governor (1999 to 2003), he established the Kano University of Science and Technology in Wudil, the first and only state university in Kano at the time.
During his second tenure (2011 to 2015), Kwankwaso established the North West University, Kano, the second state University in Kano.
He also established 26 academic and manpower development training institutes and through these institutes over 360,000 youth and women were trained and empowered to be able to fend for themselves without depending on anyone else for their survival.
Kwankwaso remains the first governor in the country to introduce free school feeding and uniforms for primary school pupils. The result of this was the exponential increase in school enrolment figures from 1 million in 2011 to over 3 million in 2015 when he left office.
His passion for education saw to the introduction of free education at all levels in the state and saw to the adequate provision of teaching and learning materials.
The former minister also established 230 secondary schools of which there are 47 technical colleges, 44 schools of Islamic studies, a Chinese college, a French college, and the first boarding girls’ college as well as a boys’ college in Damagaran and Niame, a collaborative effort with the Government of Niger Republic.
In the area of infrastructure for the first time in the history of Northern Nigeria, three flyover bridges were constructed, 5 km dual-carriage lighted roads were constructed in each of the 44 Local Government Areas of Kano, and two underpass bridges were constructed.
He also initiated the covering of drainages with interlocking tiles in the state, including the covering of the Jakara River which cuts across the city of Kano with a dualised road, which greatly improved the environmental and sanitary condition of the entire city of Kano.
Kwankwaso has also built many houses and estates in both his first and second tenure in office. Three modern cities, Kwankwasiyya, Amana and Bandirawo were built with about 3000 housing units of various capacities put up for sale to the general public.
About 1500 houses have been constructed and donated free to rural poor communities and victims of flood disasters.
In the arena of politics, build up to the 2015 general election, he joined six other governors of the PDP to reject the planned move by former President Goodluck Jonathan to contest the presidential poll from where he became one of the major promoters of the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In 2014, Kwankwaso used his large political following in Kano to contest the APC presidential primaries at the event that took place at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos.
When the results were declared he came second to incumbent Muhammadu Buhari who polled 3,430 votes while he (Kwankwaso) polled 974 votes.
He later rejoined the PDP in July 2018, alongside fourteen serving senators of the ruling APC to contest the PDP presidential primaries.
At the presidential primaries held in Rivers, Kwankwaso came in fourth behind Atiku Abubakar, Aminu Tambuwal, Bukola Saraki but as a democrat, he extended an hand of friendship to Atiku just as he refused to seek re-election into the upper legislative chambers.
His efforts to assert his popularity in Kano in 2019 was violently thwarted by the shenanigans of the incumbent Abdullahi Umar Ganduje who used all foul means to prevent the PDP’s candidate from emerging winner.
Out of power, Kwankwaso launched the Kwankwasiyya Development Foundation (KDF), an initiative designed to help the people of Kano state as well as those across Nigeria out of extreme poverty and lack. It is instructive to note that the effort of the foundation is not limited to students of Kano alone.
It is to the credit of the foundation that brilliant and indigent students from across the country have benefitted from the programme. In 2018 no fewer than 3 students in all the 36 states of the federation benefitted from the scheme.
The first batch of 370 beneficiaries of the foundation’s overseas scholarship returned to Nigeria in 2021 after successfully completing their degrees.
Upon completion of their studies they secured jobs with various national and international organisations such as Dangote and Bua, which was facilitated through the Kwankwasiyya Development Foundation.
When asked why he launched the foundation, Kwankwaso stated that the reason was simply to promote literacy and alleviate extreme poverty in Kano state and Nigeria at large. To support the foundation, Kwankwaso sold his property and donated the money to the foundation.
Apart from education, the foundation under his patronage has secured the release of 170 inmates in various prisons across Nigeria by paying their fines and providing transport to enable them to get to their destinations and reunite with their families.
Kwankwaso has also donated sports kits and cash worth over 150 million naira to amateur football clubs across states in Nigeria. This is part of his effort to support the growth and development of local sports in Nigeria, an area that provides young people with opportunities across the globe.
The foundation also donated cash and food items to the poor and needy, including widows, people with disabilities, and orphans, in an effort to alleviate poverty especially among women in Nigeria.
Not done yet with his philanthropic gesture, Kwankwaso on his 64th birthday in 2020, floated a 300-pupil capacity school which he built in Rano Local Government, Kano. The school is solar-powered and has a block housing six classrooms. The school was built through KDF in line with Kwankwaso’s vision and mission to support education.
At 65, Kwankwaso has not shown any desire to put his intellect, energy and resources at the disposal of the needy members of the Nigerian public who have come to terms with his enigmatic leadership.
I can only wish him good health, Divine resource provision and continued wisdom in his self assigned task of ensuring an egalitarian Nigeria where no one will be left behind in the developmental strides as equal partner in the Nigerian project.
Long live Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso