In Kaduna, it’s replay between El-Rufai and Ashiru

For the two gladiators, 2019 is more like a replay between them. Will El-Rufai make it a two straight win? Or will Ashiru level up? Only time will tell.

Ismail Omipidan

The 2019 governorship contest in Kaduna State will be a straight fight between the incumbent, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and his main challenger, Isa Ashiru of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

2019: I’m concerned about re-uniting Kaduna – Ashiru

Interestingly, the two political gladiators are no strangers to each other. They had met before in 2014, following Ashiru’s defection from the PDP to the APC at the time. Both contested for the governorship ticket of the APC. El-Rufai triumphed. Therefore, for the two gladiators, 2019 is more like a replay between them. Will El-Rufai make it a two straight win? Or will Ashiru level up? It seems only time will tell.

Like in the previous governorship elections in the state, religion and ethnicity will influence the way the electorate will vote. Zoning is no longer an issue in the state.

For it was, El-Rufai and Ramalan Yero, who were the candidates for the APC and PDP respectively in 2015, should never have been put forward in the first instance. They are both from the northern senatorial district of the state, the zone that produced Senator Ahmed Makarfi, in 1999.

Also, like in 2015, Ashiru and El-Rufai, who are the major candidates in the 2019 governorship contest, one of whom will eventually win the contest, are from the northern senatorial district.

Regardless, Kaduna State is like Nigeria, where government officials and sometimes private individuals, pretend they are detribalised and do not pander to religious and or ethnic sentiments in the discharge of their duties. But their actions and inactions, intentionally or otherwise, portray most of them as highly tribalistic, and as people who are daily influenced by their religious and or ethnic leanings.

This no doubt explains the reasons appointments and even election into public offices are often time determined by one’s faith, ethnicity and sometimes even tribe.

Until 2011, since the creation of the state, Daily Sun learnt, no Christian from the Southern part of the state, whether military or civilian has ever ruled the state. However, a Southern Kaduna Muslim, in person of late Air Vice Marshal Usman Mu’azu (Rtd), emerged Military Administrator from 1984 to 1985, and that was the closest, the people of Southern Kaduna ever came to, in the governance of the state.

Since then, Daily Sun further learnt, it was alleged that the Hausa/Fulani Muslims who are in control of political power in state vowed that even if a Southern Kaduna man would ever be governor again through the ballot, such a person “must be a Muslim.” However, following the incessant ethno-religious crises in the state, the agitation for the creation of a new state out of the existing one assumed a frightening dimension, with the two groups contesting the location of the boundary at the time.

Dousing the Tension

In order to douse the tension, the political elites in the state, Daily Sun learnt, were said to have come together, after the February and May Sharia crises in the state, to fashion out a power sharing formula.

According to the elites from the Southern Kaduna area, the pact was supposed to see Southern Kaduna people take over the mantle of leadership in the state, effective from 2007, after Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi’s tenure.

As if to lend credence to the above fact, during the party’s primary election in 2006, the election that produced Namadi Sambo as the party’s candidate, about three people from Southern Kaduna were in the race, including late Patrick Yakowa, who eventually became the first Southern Kaduna Christian to be governor of the state.

Curiously however, of the three Southern Kaduna aspirants at the time, Daily Sun can authoritatively reveal, late Isaiah Balat stood a better chance of picking the ticket, even ahead of Sambo, who from events leading to the primary showed he was the “preferred candidate.” This, Daily Sun investigations further reveal, made political observers in the state to conclude that Yakowa, may have been influenced to join the race then, by his then boss, Makarfi, to act as a “spoiler” to Balat’s ambition.

To further confirm Daily Sun’s findings of Sambo’s status as the “preferred” candidate then, he was born in Sabon –Gari, which is in the Northern part of the state. But to make him eligible to run, the powers that be, who had insisted that it was the turn of the central zone and not the southern zone to produce the next governor, further insisted that, Sambo’s area of residence, which falls within the central zone, should be what “must be taken into consideration,” and not his birth place.

In spite of all that, Balat, who investigations reveal, played a leading role in Makarfi’s emergence as governor, in 1999 and in 2003, went into the race with “everything”. In the end, he gave both Makarfi and Sambo, a run for their money, to the extent that at the end of the first ballot, there was no clear winner between Sambo and Balat, even when most delegates from Balat’s Southern Kaduna area, fail to vote for him.

But Sambo eventually emerged the party’s candidate, ahead of Balat at the end of the re-run.

A Feeling of Betrayal

After the primary, Balat and his people felt betrayed by Makarfi. In spite of that, they still delivered Sambo, as governor of Kaduna State in the 2007 election. But soon after Sambo assumed office, he fell out with Makarfi, and the rest as they say, is now history.

But on the alleged pact to hand over power to the southern Kaduna people in 2007, Makarfi has this to say in an exclusive interview with Daily Sun, sometimes in 2009: “Yes, there exists a Memorandum
of Understanding that governorship would rotate within the three senatorial zones. That’s why when I served two terms from zone one (Northern zone), nobody from zone one aspired for it in 2007. Now, Central (zone two) is serving its first term. Of course, anybody from zone three (Southern Kaduna) has the right to go for it. But, like I said, the PDP like a party, except for a situation in Anambra, in 2003, where an incumbent didn’t get the party’s ticket for second term, and maybe future developments will determine that. But, naturally, you expect an incumbent to be favoured for a second term.”

The Divine Intervention

If Sambo had not been elevated to the position of Vice President in 2010, it is unlikely if any Southern Kaduna Christian would have been willing to challenge him. The challenge, Daily Sun learnt, would have come from his fellow Hausa/Fulani Muslims from either the southern or central part of the state, while the southern Kaduna Christians would have patiently waited till 2015, to know whether or not, their brothers and sisters from the two other zones would keep to their promise.

But rather than wait till 2015, providence came into play. Yakowa was sworn in as the first Christian to be governor on Thursday, May 20, 2010. By Thursday, September 30, 2010, he declared his intention to run for the office in 2011. And by Thursday April 26, 2011, he became the first Christian, from Southern Kaduna, to be democratically elected as the governor of Kaduna State.

In his first address, after taking his oath office, in May 2010, Yakowa had said “I take the honour bestowed on me by God seriously in serving the people of Kaduna State, and I am not a Christian governor, but a governor for all.”

He further said “I enjoin you all to take my hand, take the hands of one another, and together, we shall show the rest that Kaduna is really the heart of Nigeria. Your security will remain our investment. Even though I am your governor, I consider this merely an office. At heart, you are my fathers, mothers, brothers, my sisters, my friends and my neighbours; I open my heart to you and offer you my friendship. I invite you, all the good (indigenes) of our beloved state to please join me to make Kaduna a united family. Together, we can make it happen.”

However, the PDP primary that produced the party’s candidates for the various positions in the state for the 2011 poll, barely a year after Yakowa made the above pledge, appears to leave much to be desired.

Yakowa hails from Jama’a council. But he is from a small tribe called Kagoma. Daily Sun’s findings however revealed that the PDP’s candidate for both the House of Assembly and House of Representatives are all from Kagoma. As if that is not enough, Daily Sun further gathered that one of the governor’s sisters, who is married to a Ninzom man, also won the ticket of the party, for the House of Assembly election, aspiring to represent Sanga. Ninzom is the dominant tribe of all the tribes in Sanga. Sanga, is about one and a half hour drive from Jama’a. And the three people, Daily Sun further learnt won their elections at the time.

Before Yakowa became governor in 2010, from 1999, there has always been a deliberate act of political balancing in the state, whereby the SSG and the deputy governor, will always come from Southern Kaduna. But when Yakowa, from Southern Kaduna became governor, he retained the SSG, from his area. He was however quick to correct it, after he won the election in 2011, by bringing on board Abdullahi Yakawada, a Muslim, the first Muslim to be so appointed since 1999, as SSG.

Interestingly, opposition to Yakowa’s emergence is not limited to the central and northern parts of the state alone. Daily Sun can authoritatively confirm that even from Southern Kaduna where Yakowa comes from; there were those who were ready to sacrifice him for the position of a deputy governor. For instance, the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) from the area, travelled several miles to the state capital to endorse the candidature of late Senator Mukhtar Aruwa for the 2011 governorship contest election in the state. Incidentally, the endorsement was carried out the same day the PDP stakeholders in the state endorsed Goodluck Jonathan and Sambo for 2011, and by extension, Yakowa.

The zonal chairman of the ANPP, Daniel Adankati who led the delegation of Southern Kaduna Elders and Youth Forum in the ANPP to the state party secretariat, told the party state secretary, Kennedy Musa, that they were in the state to endorse Senator Aruwa for 2011. Aruwa, though of the ANPP is from Kaduna central.

But even as governor in 2010, there were moves to stop him from running in 2011 on the grounds that Kaduna central would have to complete its two terms. Those pushing this line of thought suggested that, Southern Kaduna should wait till 2015.

Before Yakowa’s emergence, the southern Kaduna people had attempted seizing power in 2007, through Senator Isaiah Balat, who gave Sambo a run for his money during the primaries that eventually threw up Sambo as PDP’s standard bearer in the state. With the feat achieved by Balat in 2007, analysts had suggested that the southern Kaduna people should have seized the opportunity of the circumstances at the time, to negotiate with other stakeholders, to reason with them, with a view to allowing Yakowa have a go at the governorship in 2011, especially considering the fact that the PDP in the state had on its own altered the existing zoning arrangement when rather than allow the new deputy governor to come from Sambo’s zone, which is Kaduna central, it went for someone from the north senatorial district.

But following his death, Ramalan Yero, Yakowa’s deputy, who became governor, removed Yakawada, and brought in another Muslim, from the Zaria axis, as SSG, thus altering the political balancing act of the state again.

Like his predecessors, El-Rufai too, not only altered the political balancing act by appointing an SSG from his area; he took it a step further by picking a fellow Muslim, though non-Hausa/Fulani from Southern Kaduna as running mate.

There are those who believe that El- Rufai’s choice of running mate, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, may be his greatest undoing in next year’s contest. But there are others who see it as a sure way of guaranteeing victory for El-Rufai.

Those who hold this view are quick to point to the fact that the women population may likely queue behind El-Rufai for elevating one of them to such an exalted position, a feat that was last witnessed in the state in 1990 during the military regime.

Justifying the governor’s choice, his spokesman, Samuel Aruwan argues that it was part of the government’s deliberate policy of promoting women.

“There are five female commissioners in his 14-person cabinet, a feat not attained even by governors that had much larger cabinets. This is the first time in the history of Kaduna State that a major political party will select a woman as running mate.

“Dr. Hadiza Balarabe is the current Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Primary Health Care Development Agency, a position she has held since February 2016. In that role, she has overseen the Kaduna State Government’s programme to revitalise and strengthen primary health care as the core of health service delivery in the state. Under her watch, the state is renovating and equipping 255 primary health centres with tools to assist better antenatal services and safer delivery. The agency has also helped expand vaccine coverage to protect children across the state.

“Prior to joining the Kaduna State Government, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe was Director of Public Health in the FCT. She studied Medicine at the University of Maiduguri, and graduated in 1988. She was a Senior Registrar at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital before joining the services of the FCT in 2004. Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, who was born in 1966, is from Sanga local government which is located in the southern Kaduna senatorial district,” Aruwan noted.

Intrigues and politics of voting pattern Kaduna is made up 23 Councils. The state for political convenience is further divided into three senatorial districts: Kaduna north, Kaduna south and Kaduna central. But while Kaduna south senatorial district, which is predominantly Christians, has eight councils, the remaining two senatorial districts, which are predominantly Muslims, have 15 councils. But there are also about two councils, within Kaduna central that are also predominantly Christians.

Although, in the southern senatorial district, there are pockets of Muslims who are indigenous to the state, there are also substantial numbers of non-natives, who are equally Muslims, same, goes for the two other senatorial districts.

But while it is easier for Muslims to claim to have come from either the north or central district of the state for the purpose of political benefits and patronage, it is always difficult for a Christian to claim either of the two senatorial districts, just as the Christians would also resist any attempt to allow a Muslim nominee to represent Kaduna south senatorial district for the purpose of political patronage. This perhaps explains the verbal attacks on El-Rufai for daring to pick a Muslim from Southern Kaduna as running mate.

Before 2011, the winning votes used to come from Southern Kaduna. All that however changed in 2011, when Kaduna central, courtesy of Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, donated the wining votes, which led to Yakowa’s emergence as governor.

In 2015 again, the votes from Southern Kaduna to El-Rufai’s victory were insignificant. This may have informed the strategic decision of El-Rufai to pick a Southern Kaduna Muslim as running mate. But with the groundswell of opposition against El-Rufai, he is not likely to get the votes of the entire Muslim population in Kaduna north and Kaduna central senatorial districts. The central zone has the highest number of voters in the state. In fact, the zone is reputed to have the largest single ward – Rigasa – in the entire country, with a population of about one million. The ward alone, Daily Sun further learnt nets in an average of N10 million, monthly, as internally generated revenue. Yet, it is just a single ward.

The two candidates at a glance


He is the incumbent governor and candidate of the APC. He was former FCT minister. He calls himself an “Accidental Public Servant,” but Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai’s idea about governance stands him out, as a purposeful public servant, desirous of changing the face of public service and governance in Nigeria, with a view to leaving behind an indelible mark of leadership, wherever he served.

Daily Sun recalls that as the then FCT minister, from 2003 to 2007, he pioneered and popularised Town Hall meetings that enabled him not only get feedbacks from FCT residents, but also inputs on how best to run the nation’s capital. And by the time he left office, despite some of the misgivings against him, especially, on the issue of demolition, it appears, FCT has never had any minister after him.

Back in Kaduna, El-Rufai has again introduced the Town Hall meeting. But beyond introducing the Town Hall meeting in Kaduna, the Kaduna State governor, since assuming office, has continued to blaze the trail, in several respects.

First, he was the first governor under the current dispensation to announce a 50 percent cut in his salary and that of his deputy governor, including reducing the overheads of the ministries and MDAs. He was the first to reduce government ministries, from about 19, to 13, thus reducing the commissioners from 24 to 13. He was the first to announce the abolition of State/LG Joint accounts.

Although, pioneered by Ogun State, under Mrs. Kemi Adesoun, as Finance Commissioner, El-Rufai, was however the first governor, to popularise the Single Treasury Account,( TSA), before it was embraced by the Federal Government. And so far, he remains the first and only governor, who attached portfolios to the commissioner designates, a thing Nigerians from all walks of life have been clamouring for, before sending the list to the state House of Assembly for screening and confirmation.

Once El-Rufai assumed office, he showed early signs that it would not be business as usual, and he wasted no time in dismantling all the traditional ways of doing things in government circle in the state. But these are also some of his sins. And they may be used against him by the electorate.

Isa Ashiru

He is the candidate of the PDP. He was in the Kaduna State House of Assembly for eight years; he was also a member of House of Representatives for eight years. In 2014, he attempted securing the governorship ticket of the APC, after defecting to the party from the PDP. But he lost to the incumbent governor, El-Rufai.

But there has been some controversies surrounding his educational qualifications. His case is made worse by the fact he was accused of alleged certificate forgery by a member of the PDP and a governorship aspirant on the platform of the party, Dr. Muhammad Sani-Bello. Sani-Bello has since defected to the APC and he is a member of the state campaign council. However, Ashiru has since debunked all the allegations, describing them as unfounded.

Last line

In the build up to the 2015 polls, December 26, 2013 to be precise, majority of the members of the Makarfi’s political family, openly declared for the APC. Interestingly, one of the defectors, Ambassador Sule Buba, who led the campaign, that saw the PDP, producing the first Christian, from the Southern part of the state, to be elected governor in 2011, was among those whose houses were burnt, during the 2011 post-election violence that rocked some parts of the country.

The defectors, led by the pioneer chairman of the PDP, in the state, Alhaji Audi Yaro Makama, comprises former commissioners, former lawmakers, from both the state and National Assembly and former council chairman, majority of whom are founding members of the PDP, in the state.

Addressing the gathering at the time, Makama said injustice in PDP forced them to leave the party for the APC, describing the defection going on in the country at the time as a “political revolution” and that they, as a group, could not afford to wait to be consumed “by the political tsunami. “

“We are going to show the people of Kaduna State that the next government in this state will be produced by APC.” And true to their boast, APC won the 2015 election convincingly. The defectors, no doubt helped APC to victory. But today, most of them, including Hunkuyi, who led the APC campaign to victory, are back in the PDP ahead of 2019. Can they unmake El-Rufai and APC in the state next year? It seems only time will tell.

El-Rufai converts Hunkuyi’s demolished house to children’s park

The post In Kaduna, it’s replay between El-Rufai and Ashiru appeared first on The Sun Nigeria.

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