Why Muslim-Muslim ticket remains major hurdle for el-Rufai in Kaduna
Despite the fact that the electorate will determine who governs them in Kaduna State in 2019, a lot of interest is generated by the choice of Hadiza Balarabe as running mate to Governor Nasir el-Rufai. The reason is that Balarabe, like el-Rufai is a Muslim. By the peculiar nature of Kaduna State, the choice of backgrounds of political actors has capacity to enhance or diminish overall presentation of a party in the eyes of a perceptive audience.
Considering the ethno-religious configuration of the state, notable political platforms that underwent primaries recently, invested immensely in choice of candidates and their flag bearers. This was to ensure that the overall interest of the majority was a crucial part of that determination.
Kaduna State has three senatorial zones – Kaduna North, predominantly populated by Muslims; South, principally made up of Christians and the Central, which is 60 per cent Muslims and 40 percent Christians. But the North and Central zones have largely produced governors for the state, while the position of deputy is reserved for the South.
In the choice of governor and deputy therefore, it is expected of a party to weigh all the options and be guided by an unwritten guide of equity. But el-Rufai, in his choice seems to want to change this old order, even though Balarabe is from Sanga LGA in southern Kaduna. She is a Muslim.
Nasir el-Rufai announced his replacement for incumbent Deputy Governor, Bala Barnabas Bantex, who has opted not to join him in the race for 2019, preferring to represent his people at the Senate on the platform of the same party.
In defending his choice, the Governor who chose Balarabe on the basis of her competence, is also acting on the basis that he may not need too many votes from the South, if he could secure just 20 per cent from there to add to his 60 or more from the other two zones.
While receiving in audience people of Sanga Local Council at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House, Kaduna, on a thank you visit for picking their daughter, he said: “The people that have criticised me most on this (Muslim-Muslim ticket) are people who never voted me in the first place. So, are they not supposed to be celebrating it?
“If in their own opinion, I have made a wrong choice, then, why are they mourning? From the beginning, I had told my team that I will never choose or deny anyone appointment because of religion or ethnicity. The Government House is not a place for worship but where people work. Muslim-Muslim ticket is not a religious ticket, but a competence and performance ticket.”
No matter how elegantly or arrogantly the matter is presented, there are stakeholders who still think the decision to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket in a place like Kaduna is unwise. They say el-Rufai’s action may further fragment the state and promote disunity in a state that is constantly on the edge.
The Coalition of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) has said the governor’s decision would surely overheat the state.
As things stand, calculations point at a tendency that votes from Kaduna North and Central may be divided on the ratio of 45/55 between the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Central zone is comprised of seven councils, of which Chikun and Kaduna South are predominantly Christians, especially the Chikuns, who already have an impression of the incumbent governor.
Isa Ashiru, candidate of the PDP for 2019 came second in the APC gubernatorial primary that threw up el-Rufai in 2014. He is not a small fry, but a notable grassroots mobiliser. This is the political battle awaiting el-Rufai.