Small Wars Journal

Exploring Networks Competing for Influence: Kano State, Nigeria

Sun, 10/18/2015 - 1:12pm

Exploring Networks Competing for Influence: Kano State, Nigeria

Jeffrey Julum and Daniel Evans


In our previous paper entitled, “The Specter of Ungoverned Spaces & How Advances in Network Analysis Can Assist Policymakers,” which was published in Small Wars Journal in August of 2015, we:

  1. Introduced the concept of Ungoverned Spaces, one of the U.S. military’s current and future operational challenges,
  2. Illustrated that recent U.S. military strategy documents such as the National Military Strategy, the U.S. Army Functional Concept for Engagement, and the 2015 Chief of Staff of the Army’s Strategic Studies Group Report acknowledge this challenge.
  3. Identified four factors that contribute to the growth of Ungoverned Spaces: 1) Urbanization, 2) Globalization, 3) Increasing wealth of non-state actors, and 4) The advance and spread of affordable technology.
  4. Introduced the Tri-Border Area (A geographical intersection of two major rivers in South America, Rio Parana, and Rio Iguacu.  Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet here and have established a free trade zone.) as a case study that describes an Ungoverned Space and how the four factors above contribute to the characteristics of this region.

In this paper, we will introduce another region in the world in which there are networks that are competing for influence, Kano, Nigeria. Kano is a state in north central Nigeria (the state capital is also called Kano) that has managed to, for the most part, fend off the advances of Boko Haram. While likely not an Ungoverned Space as defined in the previous paper, we plan on analyzing this area in more depth because the topology of these networks has resulted in a resilient structure.

Kano State in north central Nigeria. Boko Haram is strongest in northeastern Nigeria in places like Borno State. Map courtesy of The Scoop, Nigeria.

Specifically, we will examine the competing institutions that operate in Kano.  This will necessitate examining institutions outside of Kano State, such as the federal government in Abuja and Boko Haram that are competing to control Kano.  Moreover, because of Nigeria’s history of political turmoil, local political institutions can be seen as both cooperative and in competition with federal institutions. 

Kano, Nigeria

Kano Nigeria is an old trading town, dating back to at least 1000 AD.  It is also the capital and focal point of Kano state.  At one point in the 1820’s, Kano was one of the wealthiest states in West Africa.[i] Present day Kano is a commercial and agricultural center, which is known for the production of peanuts and textiles as well its mineral deposits.  Kano state has more than 18,684 square kilometers (7,214 sq mi) of cultivatable land and is the most extensively irrigated state in Nigeria.[ii]  The population of between 9-11 million people speaks Hausa and Fulani and is primarily Sunni Muslim.  The population is poor and the state relatively undeveloped.  More than half of children under five in northern Nigeria are stunted from malnutrition.[iii]  The capital city, Kano, is Nigeria’s second largest city.  It is old and sun-baked, yet economically vibrant.  Its dense neighborhoods and streets contain a great deal of traffic and numerous markets. The city is also recognized as a center of learning, as it hosts Bayero University and the Kano State Institute for Higher Education.[iv] It is also the seat of the Emirate of Kano, which we will discuss below.

Overlooking Kano, Nigeria

In this space, several groups vie for power: the Federal Government, the Kano State Government, the Nigerian National Police, the Nigerian Defence Forces, the Emirate of Kano, and Boko Haram.

Note:  This paper was completed before the results of the March 28th elections and does not reflect the changes as a result of those elections. Despite this fact, our proposed analytical framework remains relevant.


The Nigerian Federal Government

Let’s begin by looking at the federal government, the presumed source of power in Kano.  It is headed by a president who is both head of state and head of government.  The president also appoints the heads of each ministry.  Nigeria has a bi-cameral legislature, the National Assembly.  It consists of the 109-seat senate and the 360-seat House of Representatives.  There are two major parties currently, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive’s Congress (APC).[v]  The PDP has dominated federal politics since the return to civilian rule in 1999.[vi]  To counter that power, the APC was created in February 2013 as alliance of Nigeria’s four biggest opposition parties; the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), and a faction of the All Progressives grand alliance (AGPA).[vii] There is also a judiciary branch which closely models the judicial branch of the United States government including a Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals and other High Courts as well as numerous specialized courts. 

Nigerian State Politics as of March 2015

Nigeria’s chaotic political history has seen coups, several major restructurings and free elections.  Regardless, the process has left most of the power with the executive branch, especially the president.  The current president, Goodluck Jonathan is from the PDP.  He defeated General Buhari, a Sunni from Katsina state, in the 2011 elections.  Jonathan is also a Christian from the Ija ethnic group and began his political career in the state of Bayelsa.  That also means he began his career in one of the oil producing states of Nigeria.  Oil, not taxes, accounts for much of the government’s revenue.  It has been estimated that since President Jonathan came to power in 2010, $31 billion have gone missing.[viii]

Corruption is so pervasive it is political factor unto itself.  Nigeria is currently ranked 136 out of 176 countries for corruption.  Corruption is no longer just a societal nuisance, it has become institutionalized.  This has a very serious consequence of undermining the legitimacy of government institutions and placing power in the hands of rich, connected people.[ix]  As seen in the map above, this is all the worse given that there is such a great wealth divide in Nigeria.

The Kano State Government

Kano has two main state political leaders, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankaso and Deputy Governor Dr. Adbdullahi Ganduje.[x]  Although there is a state government bureaucracy and political subdivisions, Kwankaso is a dominant figure and politically tenacious.  He served as a civil servant for 17 years in various capacities in Kano, especially at the Kano State Water Resources and Engineering Construction Agency (WRECA), where he rose to chief engineer.  In 1992, he was elected to his first political office, representing Madobi in the House of Representatives.  He was subsequently elected Deputy Speaker of the House, immediately catapulting him into the national spotlight.  He was governor of Kano from 1999-2003, but failed to win reelection. That was partly due to the fact that he was indicted, though never tried, for embezzling $7.5 million in state funds.[xi]  His political clout was such, that he was appointed Minister of Defence in 2003.  In 2011, he recaptured the governorship of Kano.[xii]  He is powerful enough that his choice for the Emirate of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, took power over President Jonathan Goodluck’s choice, Alhaji Sanusi Ado Bayero (son of the late emir, Ciroman Kano).  Kwankaso is currently running for president on the APC (All People’s Congress) platform.[xiii]

Deputy Governor Dr. Adbdullahi Ganduje is running to replace Kwankaso as governor of Kano also on the APC ticket.  He appears to support General Muhammadu Buhari (also APC) in his presidential bid as opposed to Kwankaso.[xiv]  It is not clear if Buhari supports Ganduhe, though he was in a town hall in Kano recently.[xv] Ganduje began his government career at the Federal Capital Development Authority as an Administrative Officer and rose to the position of Director of Planning, Research, and Statistics in 1993.  He was appointed the Commissioner of Works, Housing, and Transport Kano State from January 1994 to November 1998. He served as Deputy Governor for Kwankaso from 1999 to 2003, while simultaneously working as the Commissioner for Local Government.  From 2003 to 2007 he served as Special Adviser to the Minister of Defence.[xvi] In 2011, he once again served as Kwankaso’s deputy.  Both Kwankaso and Ganduje left the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to join ACP and it is safe to assume they are closely aligned politically.

The Nigeria Federal Police

The Nigerian police are geographically divided into 12 departments.  Zone 1 command includes Kano, Katsina and Jigawa states.  The zone is headed by Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Philmon Leha who took command 25 May 2012.[xvii] He would be promoted to Deputy Inspector General in August of that same year.[xviii]  Kano has six area commands and 70 divisional police headquarters.  It also contains Zone 1 headquarters.  Kano city police are headed by Commissioner of Police (CP) Ibrahim K Idris.[xix] Idris appears to quite active.  He figured prominently in several recent stories.  One in particular shows his response to the Kano car park bombings.  He gave the keynote address to a meeting at police headquarters to regional security heads, including the 3rd Brigade Commander, Nigeria Army, Brigadier General Ohi Ejemai; Commandant, Nigeria Air Force, Air Commodore Ahigbe Iyamu, as well as the Director of the State Security Service, Mr. Enteng Bassey.[xx]  The police in general are considered corrupt and not well trained, though that could be said of any part of the government.  In fact, some observers feel those factors undercut the fight against Boko Haram.[xxi]

The Nigerian Defence Forces

The Nigerian Army has seven divisions.  It is hard to ascertain which division and subordinate units are stationed in Kano.  It is likely either the 1st Mechanized Division or the 3rd Armored Division headquartered in Kaduna and Jos respectively.[xxii]  Whichever units or individuals are they likely fit the pattern of the rest of the Army.  The Nigerian Army used to be one of the best in the best in sub-Saharan Africa.  However, it now faces ammunition, equipment and other major shortfalls.  This is despite the fact that the security forces account for 20% of the national budget.[xxiii]  Training has also been an issue, but they are getting some help from the British.[xxiv]  The Army, like the government above, suffers from corruption issues.  Many troops complain that they are not getting the resources earmarked for them to conduct operations.[xxv]  A news report from September 2014, discussed 480 soldiers deserting to Cameroun.[xxvi] In December, the Nigerian Army announced that 54 soldiers of the 7th Division were sentenced to death for refusing to fight Boko Haram.  

The Emirate

There is not a lot of specific information on the structure of the emirate.  The current Emir, Muhammad Sanusi II, was Malam Sanusi was a successful banker and was a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.  He also was an Islamic Scholar.  He is also the grandson of Muhammadu Sanusi (The 11th Fulani Emir of Kano).[xxvii]  As such, he is well situated to be a power player in Kano and his appointment is very interesting.  President Jonathan dismissed him from his position at the Central Bank in February of 2014, many people felt it was because he had criticized cronies of the president stealing petroleum money.  However, some observers felt that his appointment was a quid pro quo for his silence.  When Alhaji Ado Bayero (the previous emir) passed away in June 2014, the first son of the late emir was one of the favorites to ascend his father’s throne.  However, for two days following Bayero’s death, Governor Kwankaso met with the four electors of the emir.  After the two days, Kwankaso produced the letter of appointment to Sanusi amid protest from supporters of the son.[xxviii]  The protests soon gave to four days of unrest at the Monarch’s Palace (home of the Emir).  Rumors swirled that large portions of the crowds were actually PPP protesters tied to President Jonathan.  Another news article claimed that Sanusi called the president and asked for forgiveness and he also made a pledge to be neutral in the upcoming elections.[xxix]   

The Emir is very influential and has not shied away from tackling Kano’s problems.  For example, he recently secured a $5.7 million project for sustainable housing in Kano.[xxx]  Of greater note, the Emir called citizens in Kano to arm themselves in light of the threat from Boko Haram.  In response Boko Haram bombed the central mosque.[xxxi] There have even been official calls to make this influence more formal in lieu of corrupt state institutions, or to possibly increase the Emir’s influence through the use of the Hizbah, or sharia police and courts.[xxxii]

Boko Haram

Since the Sokoto Caliphate, which ruled parts of what is now northern Nigeria, Niger and southern Cameroon, fell under British control in 1903, there has been resistance among some of the area's Muslims to Western education.  They still refuse to send their children to government-run "Western schools", a problem compounded by the ruling elite which does not see education as a priority.  Against this background, the charismatic Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed Boko Haram in Maiduguri in 2002. He set up a religious complex, which included a mosque and an Islamic school.  Many poor Muslim families from across Nigeria, as well as neighboring countries, enrolled their children at the school.[xxxiii]  Boko Haram, however, was also interested in creating an Islamic state.  To that end, Boko Haram conducted a wave of attacks on government buildings and police stations in Maiduguri in 2009.  The ensuing shootouts on Maiduguri’s streets, led to the deaths of hundreds of Boko Haram being killed and thousands of residents fled to the city.  The Army responded with a heavy-handed campaign that resulted in the capture of the group’s headquarters, most of its fighters, and the death of Yusuf himself.  It was widely rumored that the police executed Yusuf and then declared the group finished.[xxxiv]

However, the remaining members regrouped under a new leader, Abubakar Shekau, and, after a hiatus, renewed their insurgency with greater fervor. Boko Haram started wider attacks, but usually limited to indiscriminate killings from the backs of motorcycles.  As security forces killed more of them, they have likewise expanded their operations to major bombings, kidnappings and attacks on security forces.[xxxv]  

The Interplay

Let’s take a closer examination of the interaction of the major organizations and networks detailed above. We will focus on Kano State, but will have to examine Borno and few other northern states to complete the picture.  Boko Haram began in Borno state and was comprised primarily of Kanuri who speak Hausa. Borno is one of the most mismanaged states in Nigeria.  Income per head is 50% lower and school attendance 75% lower than in southern Nigeria.  Borno State is considered incredibly corrupt – even by Nigerian standards.[xxxvi]  In contrast, Boko Haram provides free food and education to its members; further highlighting the ineptness of the Borno State government.  Beginning in 2002, the governor of Borno used his institutions, mostly the police, to begin cracking down on Boko Haram actually having the unintended consequence of increasing Yusuf’s popularity.  Not surprisingly, Boko Haram’s rise begins as it fills a void in the space that should have been filled by the government.  It was also fueled by a sense that the federal government in the south doesn’t care about them, which is hard to argue against when one looks at the poverty rates.  It is reinforced by sense that south is predominantly Christian, whereas the north is predominantly Muslim.[xxxvii]

The 2009 crackdown reinforced this viewpoint.  The governor brought in extra security service members from outside the state and military forces from the south.  The crackdown killed over 1000 people, not all of them terrorists.  Thousands more were rounded up and held without trial.  Soon after, many Kanuri in Borno and Hausa-Fulani in Kano began to view Boko Haram more sympathetically than the combination of southern ethnic groups (exemplified by the National Government), heavy handed security forces, and corrupt northern elites.  This led to the quick recovery of Boko Haram.[xxxviii]

The first major Boko Haram attack in Kano occurred on January 20, 2012, when Boko Haram bombed the city police headquarters, 2 other police stations and an immigration office.[xxxix]  The next attack on Kano was on 19 March, 2013, when a van of explosives was detonated in the Sabon-Gari district.[xl]  Up to this point the targets were typical Boko Haram targets, government institutions and Christians.  One item of note, an article from September 2012 notes that the Hisbah in Kano mentioned above, had a practice of using part of its budget to pay Boko Haram protection money and apparently the governor sanctioned this.[xli]  This would explain why a major target like Kano had not been hit before 2012.  From Boko Haram’s standpoint, using the Hisbah removes any ideological taint.  Apparently, the practice had been discontinued under pressure from Goodluck Jonathan’s government before this violence.

So, up to this point, we can see one of our actors in the space, the Hisbah, being used by the state governor, Kwankaso, to keep the threat of Boko Haram out of Kano.  Under pressure from the president (national government), that arrangement was terminated because it ran counter to his strategic goal of defeating Boko Haram.  What were the other players doing?  The police and some military units set up checkpoints to increase security.  Kwankaso has opened new schools, set up streetlights and squeezed the federal government for more money.  There were two more bombings, the bombing of the Grand Mosque in November 2014 and two suicide bombers striking markets in December 2014.[xlii]  The most recent event was the 24 February attack by two suicide bombers on a bus station in Kano.[xliii]  As discussed above, the Grand Mosque bombing was a direct reply to the new Emir’s call for citizens to arm themselves against Boko Haram.  The others were designed to punish the state and its citizens.

So who controls the space?  That is not an easy question to answer.  Nominally, the state and federal government have control.  Despite four or five gruesome attacks, Boko Haram has not had the presence it does in Borno.  Moreover, all of the attacks appear to be outsiders who came in to Kano state, not home grown cells.  However, the economy is diminished and checkpoints are a ubiquitous nuisance.  Those conditions are partially a result of Boko Haram activity.  The Army’s influence is extremely hard to assess.  There are troops in Kano, but it is hard to establish how many and what they do.  There is also the stressor that two political parties control the states (PPP and APC discussed above).  There is some speculation that APC state governments are dragging their feet somewhat in the battle against Boko Haram, in order to discredit PPP presidential candidate Goodluck Jonathan.[xliv]  Conversely, it is possible that Boko Haram’s presence could depress APC turnout in its strongholds in the north.

This paper has shed light on the many layers competing for control in Kano.  This, however, is a very cursory examination.  What is needed is more complex and thorough examination of these layers using network analysis.  Such an approach would make it possible to see who is really tied to whom and in what magnitude.  Traditional analysis focusing on institutions and structures would be unhelpful at best, given the weakness due to corruption discussed above.  A network analysis of the influential individuals and their networks would give a better much assessment of who really influences the space and to what degree.

End Notes


























[xxxiv] ibid












About the Author(s)

Daniel Evans a Senior Research Fellow at the Network Science Center, West Point and is the Founder and Managing Director of Storm King Analytics. He is a retired Infantry/Operations Research officer and is a former Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy.

Jeffrey Julum is a researcher at the Network Science Center, West Point and is the Director of Intelligence at Storm King Analytics, a firm developing innovations in network analysis to address applied social science challenges. He is a retired Military Intelligence officer, a former Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the United States Military Academy, and was a Rhodes Scholar.