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Race for Kaduna State governorship poll begins

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Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai PHOTO: TWITTER/GOVERNOR KADUNA

• El-Rufai’s popularity rating drops
• PDP strategizing to take over power

The race for the 2019 governorship in Kaduna State has begun, as aspirants in the various political parties are engaging in underground consultations and grassroots mobilization for support against the incumbent Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who has openly declared that he will vie for a second term.

But the popularity rating of Governor El-Rufai has declined tremendously due to the policies of his government, which many stakeholders in the state have criticized. The situation has even worsened as a result of the crisis bedeviling the All Progressive Congress (APC), following the factionalisation of the party in the state.

Hence, the governor is being challenged by an array of governorship aspirants.

Aspirants who have eyes fixed on Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House are some of the APC Chieftains, including Senator Shehu Sani, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and Alhaji Isa Ashiru.

Aspirants from other parties include the former Governor of the State and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Alhaji Ramallan Yero, Dr. Sani Bello, Dr. Sani Jafa’ar and Alhaji Shuabu Idris Makati.

Posters and other campaign materials of some governorship aspirants are already being circulated in Kaduna metropolis and environs.

But some of the contestants have not yet declared interest for fear of political witch-hunting, especially with the recent demolition of the properties owned by individuals opposing the incumbent.

Billboards erected by aspirants in the factional APC have been destroyed, and their posters defaced.
The only campaign posters and billboards that remain standing on are those of Governor El-Rufai and of others in his party.

Hunkuyi

The brave ones within the ruling party such the Senators representing Kaduna Central Zone, Sani and Kaduna North Zone, Hunkuyi have already made their case clear to Governor El-Rufai that nothing will deter them from contesting against him. In fact, the crisis between the governor and the senators has worsened.

El-Rufai policies that have pitched the people against their governor include the review of religious laws, labour laws, tax laws, and the demolition affecting houses, market stalls, shops and other buildings regarded as illegal structures.

Opponents have capitalized on the unpopular policy of the governor.

Recently, Senator Sani recently received traders from a local market (Kasuwan Barci) in Kaduna whose shops have been marked for demolition.

According to them, the ‘anti-people’ policies of the APC’s administration in Kaduna State are sending people away from the state.

And Sani did not disagree. “Most programmes of government in the state are not in favour of the people and if it continues, APC will pay for it,” said the senator.

He has, however, urged the state government to shelve plan to demolish the market, famous for the sales of textile and second-hand clothing materials.

Demolishing such market with 4,800 shops at this time of hardship would spell doom for thousands of families, he said.

So far, neither the governor nor his media handlers responded to Sani. In fact, the mainstream APC faction loyal to the governor in a swift reaction described the senator as a political ‘scavenger’ who feeds from the suffering of a common man.

The party’s scribe, Salisu Tanko Wusono, urged the APC supporters to ignore Sani. He said, “The lawmaker is a reckless and disloyal senator whom the party has placed on indefinite suspension.”

He added that, “The Kaduna State APC team is proud of the record of the APC state government. We are delighted that we have a government that is ready and able to take decisions, and a government that is willing to engage constructively with those who share its passion for progress.

“Whether it is roads or markets, the government has an obligation to improve them. As shown in Rigasa and Ungwan Dosa, to really improve roads means to dualise them. This means that some structures have to be removed to make this possible. Engagements between government and the residents of Rigasa and Ungwan Dosa have made it possible to arrive at mutual agreements on compensation and cooperation for the projects.

“Similarly, the government wishes to modernise markets where it is necessary to do so. Traders in Kasuwan Barci have written to government to express their views on why their market should be excluded at this time.

The government has directed the relevant agencies to have stakeholder engagements with the traders on the matter. And we trust that once that directive is implemented, a positive solution will be agreed with the traders.

“The APC urges all its supporters to ignore scavengers like Shehu Sani, a reckless and disloyal Senator that the APC has placed on indefinite suspension. Political scavengers treat the concerns of ordinary people as an opportunity to eat.

He continued: “When citizens struggle to find constructive paths to solve the challenges of life, he inserts himself into processes that are advanced. But he will not get what he wants. He will not be allowed to derail the legitimate wishes of the government and the traders of Kasuwan Barci for a better market”, he said.

Be that as it may, looking at the body language and Senator Sani’s constant engagement with those having one issue or the other with El-Rufai, one would be quick to conclude that, he is really determined to slug the governorship seat with El-Rufai in 2019. Aside several interventions he has made within his constituency, observers said some Hausa singers have recorded tracks already addressing the Senator as Kaduna governor by 2019.

Senator Sani has been able to gain grassroots support in all the three senatorial zones of the State, as a result of his human rights posture and talakawa disposition. He has been visiting his constituency, Kaduna Central Zone with the erection of projects and empowerment facilities provided to the people.

With the constant opposition to what he see as anti-peoples policies of Governor El-Rufai in the State, Sani continues to gain popularity for his governorship dream. But with the power of incumbency held by El-Rufai and his control of the mainstream APC structure in the State, the road to the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House may be rough for the Comrade Senator in 2019.

Senator Shehu Sani

Many people in the State have said that Senator Sani may consider the plan to dump APC for another Party under through which he can unseat El-Rufai. To this extent, many permutations have been made by political pundits that he may soon align and declare for the PRP, the Party led by Balarabe Musa where he can easily realize his ambition of governing the State.

Others following the political trends in Kaduna, the crocodile city observed that even if Senator Sani decide to join the PDP and contest under that platform, he will still defeat the incumbent governor.

But, considering that, most of the 11 APC lawmakers in House of Representatives from the state, as well all the 28 APC lawmakers in the Kaduna State House of Assembly are loyal to El-Rufai, the battle promises to be tough for the activist Senator. In fact, if the state party structure remains as it is in the hands of Governor El-Rufai, Senator Sani’s gubernatorial ambition will not only meet a brick wall, retaining his present seat in the Senate, may also be more difficult than a camel passing through the eye of a needle, except he decamps to another party.

However, Hunkuyi, a political ally of Sani is also eyeing the governorship seat in 2019.

According to him, Governor El-Rufai has not been fair to Kaduna State.

He vowed to “do everything possible” to vote him out in 2019 governorship election. Hunkuyi disclosed this in Kaduna at a ceremony to formally unveil a forum tagged: “APC Aspirants Forum”.

He accused El-Rufai of not being fair to the majority of the people in the state, adding that the forum would work toward ensuring that non-performing officials were voted out.

Hunkuyi, whose personal building was given to the APC faction was pulled down by El-Rufai’s bulldozer, said, “The battle line has been drawn; we must vote out El-Rufa’i in 2019.

“We will put structures at all levels to ensure that APC followers get credible candidates that will be rallying points for all; anything less is not negotiable,” he said.

Other bodies that have engaged the governor against his coming back to govern Kaduna State in 2019 include the Nigeria Union of Teachers, (NUT) over the sacking of their members; The Nigeria Labour Congress,( NLC) over the same issue; local government staff, traditional rulers, Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, street beggars, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Council of Ulaama and others. Most of the issues attracted wide attention and were on the front burner of national discourse while they lasted.

Besides, members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, (IMN) whose members clashed with the Nigeria Army, leading to the detention of their leader, Sheik Ibraheem El-Zakzaky have continued to confront El-Rufai’s and Buhari’s government. The IMN have recently directed all its members to go and register for the acquisition of the permanent voters card (PVC) in preparation for next year’s election. The Islamic group which has millions of followers in Kaduna and northern States may also determine the outcome of the 2019 polls in the State and Nigeria in general.

However, El-Rufai seems unperturbed about criticism against his second term ambition. Recently, he launched a campaign showcasing his achievements through a state-wide media tour of projects he had completed.

The projects ranges from road construction and rehabilitation, construction of classrooms in places such as Rigachuku, Rigasa, Tuduwada, and its environs.

And recently, he has also restored the payments of 10,000 naira monthly allowances to traditional rulers he deposed of their positions, and admonished them to help in monitoring the security situation in the areas. This move by the governor is seen in some quarters as attempt to lure the district heads, Akimis, and other titles holders back after been discharged of their titles nearly a year ago.

Meanwhile, reacting to whether the opposition is ready to wrestle back power from El-Rufai in the next election, the former Governor of the State and ex-National Chairman of PDP caretaker committee, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi told The Guardian that the PDP is doing everything possible to defeat the ruling party come 2019.

Makarfi spoke on the forthcoming council polls and other subsequent elections that would be conducted in Kaduna State, saying that the APC has lost all the goodwill that enabled them win elections in 2015.

He said: “already PDP has decided to field candidates in the state and I believe primaries for the council election has taken place.

Everybody has his own way for campaigning. And of course APC is in government, we don’t know where they are getting their money to be doing what they are doing now.

“But when they leave office, maybe we will get to know. Especially, with the belief that when you leave office people will know where the money came from”.

When asked why the presence of the party council candidates and governorship aspirants have not been visible in the public domain, Makarfi said: “PDP is at the moment effectively campaigning and speaking with those that matter in the state. Those who have the money to do bill boards and posters, they will do so. But, you should know that there is no greater campaign than person-to-person and door-to-door campaign. And we are leaving no stone unturned.”


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