Kaduna State and crisis of electoral choices
…Three shadow forces propelling guber contest
It was a measure of Kaduna State’s strategic importance that concerns were raised when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled its campaign rally on October 17. In the past seven years, the state had been under the political control of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Prior to the coming of the party, which won the 2015 gubernatorial election in the state, the Crocodile state had seen a cycle of PDP governors, including those that graduated to be Vice President and national caretaker chairman of the party.
By the time the 2015 poll was held, Kaduna State under PDP was made to inherit the complaints about the party’s overall performance as the federal governing party, particularly the quest for a presidential position to return to the North.
Incidentally, the political dislocations occasioned by Architect Namadi Sambo’s (escape) elevation to the office of Vice President and the death of Governor Patrick Yakowa, did not allow PDP to cement the achievements of Governor Ahmed Makarfi in office.
Consequently, when General Muhammadu Buhari and the APC featured on the polity with the change mantra, it was easy for Mallam Nasir El Rufa’i to defeat Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero in the 2015 governorship race.
As the build-up to another general election cycle gathers steam, Kaduna State is once more turning out to be a polity of interest, especially given that similar circumstances that preceded the 2015 change of guard seem to be on display.
Kaduna State is not a stranger to political upheavals and unexpected transitions from one political tendency to another. In the second republic, for instance, the candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Mallam Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, won the 1979 governorship poll only to be complemented by a National Party of Nigeria (NPN) dominated state legislature.
In the subsequent governorship poll of 1983, NPN crushed all opposition to claim the state as a citadel of conservative politics. However, in the military coup d’état that disrupted the democratic governance, Rimi was brought to trial and convicted for the N500, 000 ‘welfare gift’ to the lawmakers.
Some observers contrast the unanticipated change of guards that transpired during Governor Balarabe Musa’s stint with the elevation of Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa to state chief executive, when his principal, Architect Namadi Sambo, went to deputise for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Vice President.
However, expectations that history will witness a repeat in 2022 failed when the presidential candidate of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, turned his back on Governor el Rufai to choose Senator Kashim Shettima as his presidential running mate.
Although the governor was able to swallow his disappointment and chew the slight with equanimity, emerging indicators in the election environment indicate that his party, APC, would be at the receiving end in the forthcoming general elections in the state.
As happened to PDP in 2015, APC candidates are expected to answer for the insecurity, poverty and social decline in the country under the party’s leadership of the Federal Government. Moreover, having lived in Kaduna for a greater part of his retirement life, President Buhari is being accused by residents of not doing enough to sustain the delicate peace and social harmony that the state has grappled with for years.
Nonetheless, the Kaduna electorate is already looking up to the forthcoming polls to pass their verdict on the type of government and representatives they expect to see at the helm of affairs from May 29, 2023.
That enthusiasm could explain why virtually all the frontline political parties have been trying their best to ensure that Kaduna State ends up in their corner. But, in the rush to clinch the governorship seat, three powerful political figures have been on the forefront of efforts to capture the state.
These powerful political forces include the outgoing governor; his predecessor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and the presidential running mate of Labour Party (LP), Senator Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.
The outgoing governor said his remarkable achievements in the state, particularly in the area of infrastructure uplift is enough to fetch the reward of the voters. But, his predecessor, Makarfi, told The Guardian in an interview that the situation in the rural areas shows the true picture of degradation, dilapidation and deprivation of basic amenities at the grassroots.
“You can praise the roads, but those things are only in the capital city. Leave the township and get to the rural areas, you will be confronted with the true picture. Apart from insecurity, the people are distressed by the lack of basic amenities and economic opportunities,” he stated.
Both Baba-Ahmed and Makarfi had represented Kaduna North Senatorial District in the Senate, while El Rufai, prior to mounting the saddle as governor, was a Minister of the nearby Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Part of the issues defining the forthcoming election in Kaduna is El-Rufai’s years and track record. For Makarfi, his ability to build peace, social harmony and progress during his two terms as governor is fuelling PDP’s optimism that it could regain power in the state.
However, Baba-Ahmed, who, like his principal, Mr. Peter Obi, left PDP for the otherwise fringe LP, is banking on the new youth political consciousness and promise of moving away from the old order to replace APC and PDP and establish LP as the people’s platform of choice as PRP did in 1979.
All these factors are weighing in as the parties struggle to win the support and approval of voters. But, APC, which turned the heat of popular opposition on PDP in 2015, is feeling the heat from both the former governing party and the new sensation, LP.
That double onslaught could explain why the state government had been doing all in its tactical power to avert defeat. Such efforts played out when the Obidient Movement was stopped from staging its signature Million Man marches in Kaduna State.
When the planned march was initially aborted, Mallam Sani Kazaure, who is a member of the LP presidential campaign council, disclosed that police officers allegedly scuttled the exercise on the orders of the state governor. Kazaure said it was inexplicable that the state government could move against the march, arguing that such peaceful rallies were held in Port Harcourt, Nasarawa and Calabar.
Kazaure stated that Obi’s emergence has been generating a lot of interest in the North because the people of the region have noticed how APC and PDP’s misrule gave rise to “insecurity, underdevelopment and internal displacement.”
However, in what came as a sign of the emerging pressures on the APC administration in the state, Governor El-Rufai had in a tweet expressed doubts that as many as 200 persons would show up at the Obidient rally when they march in Kaduna.
He declared that Obi would be lucky to have 200 persons participating, in apparent response to Abdullahi Zarma’s summon on residents to attend the two million persons’ march in Kaduna in support of Mr Obi. It was, however, gathered that the organisers were invited to the Police Command headquarters in the state, where they were advised to put off the event “for security reasons.”
The climate of apprehension was again raised penultimate Monday when PDP held its presidential campaign in the Northwest state. Midway into the campaign rally, some sword-wielding youths forced their way into the campaign ground, dispossessing people of their phones amid attacks.
PDP had earlier alerted Nigerians to a plot to disrupt the party’s presidential campaign in Kaduna, stressing that the leadership of the party had resolved not to give in to plots by “anti-democratic forces to cause tension and disrupt the PDP presidential campaign rally.”
In a statement, PDP’s national publicity secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, declared that those behind the plot to disrupt the rally “are uncomfortable and unhappy with the success of the ongoing reconciliation efforts, stability and popularity of the party.”
While assuring that the Atiku/Okowa Presidential ticket, as well as, Senator Iyorchia Ayu’s leadership remain undeterred by the plot, Ologunagba explained: “Our party’s position is predicated on information at our disposal of how these anti-party elements who are not happy with the campaign successes achieved by the national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu and other party leaders.
Despite the use of the power of incumbency, APC appears to be searching for a workable strategy to outwit PDP and LP. In the area of gubernatorial contest, PDP’s Hon. Isah Ashiru Mohammed, who is said to have been rigged out in the 2019 governorship, is squaring with APC’s Senator Uba Sani.
The mood in the state is that Makarfi’s sterling leadership qualities would count in the favour of the PDP standard bearer, while Senator Uba is being seen from the prism of El-Rufai’s years of socio-political experimentation.
But, another veritable pointer to the 2023 gubernatorial battle comes from the Senatorial contests, which tend to suggest that the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) would provide added disruptions.
APC and PDP shared the Senatorial seats on a 2-1 ratio. While APC represents Kaduna North and Kaduna South Districts in the Senate, the Southern Kaduna axis is occupied by PDP. The incumbent, Senator Danjuma Laah, however lost his re-election bid to Sunday Marshal Katung, who won the PDP Senatorial primary.
However, despite sharing the Senate representation between themselves, APC and PDP will no longer monopolise the electoral space, because of the influence and impact of new contenders like ADC, LP, SDP and NNPP.
Consequently, apart from the influence of the three powerful shadow political forces represented by El-Rufai, Makarfi and Baba-Ahmed, the strength and showing of the political parties at the Senatorial contest would impact theirs over all outing.
FROM Kajuru through Kaduna North and Kaduna South, to the restive Birnin Gwari, Igabi, Giwa and Chikun Local Government Areas, Kaduna Central Senatorial District occupies the major battleground in the coming polls.
In the 2019 contest, the state governor succeeded in supplanting Senator Shehu Sani and replacing him with the governor’s former aide, Uba Sani, ostensibly to equip him (Sani) with the much-needed visibility, national clout and fiscal muscle to contest the governorship.
Expectedly, Senator Sani effortlessly picked the APC gubernatorial ticket and thereby yielded his senatorial place to Muhammad Sani Abdullahi, another El-Rufai enforcer. From the look of things, APC and ADC seem to be the frontrunners, while the influence of Baba-Ahmed is positioning LP for good mention.
Perhaps, due to Obi’s late entry into the party, LP has a lot of grounds to cover through its Senatorial standard bearer, Muhammad Sani Ibrahim. But, in terms of the vibrancy of campaigns, the ADC candidate, Ibrahim Musa, appears to be turning the heat on the incumbency rating of APC.
The PDP recently received the order of the court to repeat its Senatorial primary following the ruling on a case filed by Usman Ibrahim alleging gross violation of laid down procedures and irregularities during the Senatorial primary election.
The plaintiff had contended that the exercise was riddled with over-voting, mutilation of the delegate list and disenfranchisement of his supporters. He, therefore, prayed to the court to annul the primary.
Prior to the Federal High Court’s ruling on Wednesday, the PDP had forwarded the name of Lawal Adamu to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the Kaduna Central Senatorial primary.
This Senatorial District’s election promises to be the real battleground because the incumbent Senator’s governorship aspiration renders the field even for the contenders. But, the level of insecurity and the socio-political gallops that define El-Rufai’s years, as well as the absence of the Buhari factor, among other motley combinations of factors would influence voter preferences.
ON paper, ADC’s Suleiman Abdullahi, APC’s Sulieman Abdu Kwari and PDP’s Khalid Mustapha are the frontrunners, leaving LP’s Sidi Ibrahim Bamali as the underdog.
The Senatorial contest remains fluid though because the APC Senatorial primary that threw up Kwari is the subject of pre-election litigation. An aggrieved aspirant, Ibrahim Haliru Auchen, had approached the Federal High Court, Kaduna, to challenge the return of Senator Abdul Suleiman Kwari, as the winner of the primary.
Unlike in Kaduna Central, where Governor El-Rufai’s loyalist clinched the APC ticket, incumbent Senator Kwari beat Ibrahim Haliru, who is among the governor’s supporters providing support for the governorship ambition of Senator Uba Sani,
It is not known whether the court would rule in favour of Haliru, whose major relief is a prayer for the cancellation of the straw poll, which he claimed was manipulated by Kwari.
However, while the litigation lasts, the LP candidate, Bamali seems to be enjoying the mass followership trailing Senator Baba-Ahmed’s selection as the Vice Presidential candidate of the party. The LP presidential running mate represented the zone in the seventh Senate for a brief period.
Whether LP will reap electoral benefits from APC’s wrangling over the Senatorial ticket for the Kaduna North seat is left to be seen. But the party is optimistic that the strong youth backing it is receiving could translate to electoral triumph in the coming polls.
Deputy national leader of the party, Comrade Ladi Liya, explained that LP’s large followership shows the impact the party is making in the country’s politics ahead of the 2023 election.
Liya, who spoke while unveiling the party’s governorship candidate for Kebbi State, Mr. Tase Paul Gembu, at the party’s headquarters in Abuja, declared: “This party is completely different from other parties in the country. Whether we like it or not, the Labour Party has made its impact in the country with the large turnout of supporters we see at rallies across the country, definitely, we are going places.”
KADUNA South, otherwise known as Southern Zaria, has been a traditional electoral base of the PDP. But, like the squabbling for APC’s Senatorial ticket in Kaduna North, where the incumbent is struggling for air, the displacement of Senator Laah by Marshal Katung, is making the district open for any electoral chance occurrence.
During the PDP Senatorial primary in Kafanchan, Katung trounced Laah by 112 to 74 delegates votes, while the second runner-up, Shehu Nicholas Garba, polled 52 votes. For the fact that the sum of Laah and Garba’s votes exceeds Katung’s winning tally shows how divided the people are about their leaders in the light of APC’s slight and disdain.
It would be seen four months later how far this disenchantment could lead to voter resentment or reinforcement of support for PDP. Consequently, although the Senatorial contest is PDP’s to lose, NNPP’s Tokwak Machu and LP’s Michael Ayuba, are showing signs of serious challenge.
However, at the end of the day, a combination of factors, especially the loss by Senator Leah and LP considerations may throw up surprises and instigate a possible runoff.
Kaduna South Senatorial District boasts of politically conscious local councils, including Zangon Kataf, Kachia, Kagarko, Kaura, Sanga, Kauru, Jema’a and Jaba. If the district returns a red ribbon of LP victory in addition to Kaduna North, the party would have recorded its first upset.