BBC Kano State Governatorial Debate: Performance and Lessons

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Photo credit: Sani Maikatanga

By Isah Nasidi

The mutual respect among the co-debaters, issue-based attack, preparedness, and responses based on key performance indicators are a few of the important lessons that I observed during the Kano State Gubernatorial Debate organized by BBC Hausa on January 14, 2023, at Bayero University, Kano. However, there are many issues I observed based on how election debate is organized at the national level and in other advanced democracies, notably the United States of America.


Election debate has been part of democratic culture and is one of the last-minute avenues for influencing voting decisions. As I explained in my book Political Communication in the Post-Truth Era “Political debate gives voters a chance to gauge the preparedness of candidates in terms of physical and mental fitness and their ability to enunciate their policies and agendas eloquently.” Some candidates have good agendas but do not have the skills to communicate them effectively, or the agendas are not their ideas. On the one hand, some are eloquent speakers and have all it takes to win an argument with or without facts. They can manipulate, disrupt, provoke, and attack their co-debaters. For instance, during the 2016 debate, Donald Trump employed the trick of making the audience laugh with insults and quips to divert their attention from critical issues. I will base my analysis on how the BBC team arranged the candidates, starting with Hon. Shaaban Ibrahim Sharaa of the ADP.


Shaaban Ibrahim Sharaa of ADP is the youngest and was prepared for the debate. One of his key strengths during the debate was the demonstration of mastery of the issues at hand and the usage of key performance indicators that can be used to judge his performance if elected. In other words, Shaaban’s proposals are clear and very specific. For instance, he promised to make a comprehensive assessment of the educational problems and make some improvements in the quality and quantity of the teaching staff and the learning environment in his first hundred days in office. This is something that we can easily use to measure his performance, and I think he is the only one that refers to the hundred days in office assessment. His weak point was being a bit emotional and too ambitious.


Historically, the incumbent parties in Nigeria used to dodge election debates. For example, NN24 held the first and most widely watched election debate in this republic. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (CPC), Nuhu Ribadu (ACN), and Mal. Ibrahim Shekarau (ANPP) all took part. The incumbent PDP candidate did not attend. Similarly, the current incumbent party presidential candidate, Ahmad Tinubu, did not attend any of the presidential debates organized among the 2023 presidential candidates. In most cases, the incumbent party candidate is mostly on the defensive, and most attacks are directed at him. At the same time, the opposition candidates are there to make proposals and launch attacks on the ruling party.


Therefore, the courage to attend the debate is one of the most important strengths of Dr. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna of the APC party. In addition to that he was very diplomatic during the debate, for instance by supporting Abba Kabir Yusuf of NNPP with some statistics. He has also demonstrated his experience in governance having worked with all three governors that ruled the state. For instance, he gave his personal experience on the youth empowerment program during the administration of Kwankwaso and Ganduje. He said, they empowered about 9,900 youth during Kwankwaso, and they conducted an assessment later and found about 80% of the male youth sold the empowerment tools given to them while about 70% of the female youth retained the tools given to them. He used that experience to change the strategies of youth empowerment in this administration and the result was positive. Gawuna was also a bit emotional during the debate.


Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf of NNPP, which is the leading opposition party in the state, was also very polite in his issue-based attack on the ruling party candidate. This is a very good demonstration of safe and progressive democracy. Although he left before the debate ended, another important credit for Abba is his confidence in solving the issues raised by making reference to the performance of the former governor and his party presidential candidate, Dr. Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, such as free education, tackling corruption, and working with donor partners and other agencies like UBEC. Abba was a bit confused about getting some statistics right.


Muhammad Sani Abacha of the PDP was recently declared by the court as the legitimate candidate of the PDP. Despite the court issues which I believe affect his preparedness, Muhammad has demonstrated his knowledge about the condition of the Kano state in terms of education, health and agriculture. He gave his experience about the condition of education when he visited a public school and found out that the teacher cannot speak correct English. However, Muhammad was not fully prepared as he spent most of his time lamenting about the condition instead of giving solutions.


Finally, is Salihu Tanko Yakasai of PRP aka Ɗawisun Kano. Salihu showcased his readiness and was very proud of his campaign manifesto as he always referred people to it. Salihu showed that he knows the problem of Kano and also the solution. For instance, while talking about education, he said Kano needs about 28,000 thousand classes and based on his analysis it will cost Kano 14 billion Naira to build the classes and he can achieve that by building 7,000 classes each year. Like Abba Kabir, Salihu got some points wrong while making reference to Aliko Ɗangote Skills Acquisition Centre which he claimed is not working but Dr Gawuna debunked his claim instantly.


The essence of organizing election debate is for people to make wise voting decisions based on how candidates present themselves, their physical and mental readiness, and their ability to explain the practical solution they have for voters’ problems. Many town hall meetings and debates were organized some months back and I can say media stations and nongovernmental organizations have done their best, the rest is for people to act wisely.


The most important take-home lesson for the supporters in this debate is mutual respect. He saw how the debaters addressed themselves politely even when they disagreed on an issue. Look at how Salihu Yakasai addressed Dr Gawuna as “yaya na” my elder brother, look at how Abba Kabir accepted corrections from Gawuna and look at how Gawuna thanked Shaaban for bringing up an issue. Finally, A yi Siyasa Ba Da Gaba Ba.



Isah Nasidi is a media consultant and author and can be reached via

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