FROM morning till the evening of Thursday, February 14, 2019, Kano, Nigeria’s northern biggest commercial hub was playing host to people from all over the country.
The weather was extremely cold, and everywhere was covered with dust but people are accustomed to such hostile Kano climate. One after another, aeroplanes kept landing at Malam Aminu Kano Airport.
Election observers, journalists, electoral officials and of course ‘Kanawa’ (indigenous Kano people) who reside outside the city were hauling down their bags from the conveyor belt and walked away to join the teaming Kano city crowd. By sunset, the airport was deserted, and no one was travelling out of the state.
About 40 hours to the election, expectations were high amidst uncertainties everywhere.
Kano is crucial for both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP)—based on results patterns of past elections. Whoever wins Kano and Lagos States will likely emerge the overall winner. The state has 5,457,747 total number of registered voters. Out of this figure, only 587,440 permanent voter cards were not collected.
At Bompai in the afternoon, where the State Police Command is situated, Haruna Abdullahi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police and Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) was parading over 500 political thugs arrested with caches of weapons, and two others caught with 47 bags of ballot paper specimen.
“In continuation of Kano State Police Command’s raiding criminal hideouts, we arrested more than 500 suspects. You can see all their exhibits including dangerous weapons and drugs. As I’m talking to you they will be charged to court for criminal activities comprising public disturbances, drug addiction and other offences,” Abdullahi said as he answered questions from journalists.
Abdullahi said the police were still investigating how the suspect got hold of ballot papers they were found with.
“The ballot papers are not original, they are not real and they are specimen. Two suspects were arrested with them, however, the investigation is still ongoing. But from preliminary investigations, it was learnt that they are not indigenes of Kano State,” he said.
From that moment, no news was bigger than the arrest of the suspects with the ballot papers. It further heightened the already deep-seated fears and anxiety Nigerians were having about the possibility of credible polls. Calls were coming from concerned citizens to establish the veracity of the report and many were less worried about the cache of arms recovered and the number of urchins arrested with it—over 500 of them.
Buying vote with style
By Thursday evening, somewhere along Zungeru road, a certain Abdul was already wooing an elderly woman to cast her vote for his party and his candidate in an election that would later be delayed for another week. He was promising her a sum of N1500 for her vote to which the woman, a kitchen staff of a hotel in the area, agreed.
“You get PVC,” Abdullahi asked the cook, as he sipped from a can of Bullet energy drink in his right hand. “Yes, I have but I no dey vote except dem give me money,” she replied quite frankly.
“If you go vote for my candidate, I go transfer N1500 to you,” he added, with a stick of cigarette about to be lighted in between his fingers on the left hand.
Though she said she has no bank account to receive the transaction, they both agreed on the deal.
Similarly, two friends who operate a barbing saloon along Miller Street at Bompai, near the State Police Command insisted that the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari must go. To the two of them, the president is not a leader but a ruler who does not listen to others. Both of them are from Adamawa, they refer to Atiku as a business man citing how he is paying even the least of staff in his employment good salary.
“Buhari is not a leader, na dictator, me I cannot vote for him. I’m from Adamawa and I will vote for Atiku,” one of them said. “Do you know Atiku pays even the security men in his companies better than the Nigerian government pays the police,” the other one said.
They were not just the only one with that sentiment, on the edge of the same street where the AIT Kano office is, a driver who was washing staff bus said he would not give his vote to the president because the “president metaphorically is slim and would not understand that Nigerians are hungry.”
Thank God it’s Friday- Kano Night Life
Friday in Kano started like every other day. Unlike in 2015 when many fled the town over what could be the outcome of the poll between Goodluck Jonathan, a Southerner and a Christian, and Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim and a Northerner, the city was calm and residents were looking towards a blessed Jumat prayer and a violence-free election on Saturday.
At No Man’s Land Central Mosque, opposite Royal Tropicana Hotel along Zungeru road, the crowd that attended the prayer was a reflection of a people desiring divine grace. But it was not unusual; Friday prayers are usually massively attended. Ending his sermon, the Chief Imam prayed for Nigeria and the success of the election.
There was an unprecedented crowd at gas plants with residents rushing to fill their cooking gas at many of the plants in the city. Many attributed the rush to the uncertainty that may come with the conduct of the elections and release of the results.
But there was somewhere in Kano where felicitation replaced apprehension— Aitken Road Sabon Gari—life was as normal as exciting around the whole place. Someone once described it as Kano’s red light zone. Night life mode was activated and in full gear. That was about the time INEC Chairman, Yakubu Mahmood and his commissioners were in the meeting to decide whether or not to shift the polls.
Night crawlers were having fun, bottles of beer were emptied and smoke from cigarettes hover around the space. The day could hardly pass as election eve in Kano. And contrary to reports that non-indigenes were fleeing the state because of the election, residents of Kano were indeed enjoying the moment to the fullest.
Security at Kano INEC office
As with many Nigerians home and abroad, Kano people woke up to the news of the postponement of the elections. In the beginning, the roads were deserted; shops were locked but by mid-day vehicular movements picked up.
A few shops and mechanic workshops opened to customers. Commercial Keke riders (tricycles) were out doing their businesses. Life seemed to pick up again.
At the state INEC office at Katsina Road by Hajj Camp roundabout, hordes of ad-hoc staff and heavy security personnel were on sights. Top officials of the Commission were locked in a meeting up till past afternoon. Security operatives conducted a search on vehicles attempting to drive through the road leading to the INEC office.
The mass exit from Kano
As early as 9am on Sunday February 17, it was a roll call of who-is-who in Kano politics at Malam Aminu Kano Airport. There were also election observers and journalists leaving the city. All rushing to catch the first flight to Abuja after the eleventh hour and disappointing shifting of the polls.
From those in public service to those holding political offices and political appointees, the departure lounge as well as the VIP lounge of the airport were places for lamentations. All of them despite their different political leanings were disgusted about the postponement of the elections.
At the airport that morning were former governor of Kano State and a chieftain of PDP, Rabiu Kwakwanso, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, former BOT member of PDP, Musa Babayo. Others were Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Abdulrasheed Abubakar, Director of Information at NUC, Ibrahim Yakasai and Vice Chancellor of National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) Uba Abdallah Adamu.
They all came to cast their vote in the city but were returning to Abuja after the shocking postponement. As they exchanged pleasantries among themselves, they also discussed the implications of the shifting of the polls.
Some expressed worries over the financial implications of the INEC’s decision, others were heard lamenting that the action had painted the country in bad light to the outside world. Some said it would lead to apathy as they were not sure of coming back to the city for the February 23 polls.
For all of them, a feeling was common and it was discernible on their faces —it was disappointment.
As they kept discussing and analysing the pros and cons of the postponement of the elections, the boarding announcement was made, there and then, everyone headed for the Abuja bound Airpeace plane waiting at the tarmac.