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Kaduna 2019: Pitfalls that make returning to Kashim Ibrahim house tall order for Governor el Rufai

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Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai

As 2019 draws closer, a number of aspirants have indicated interest to vie for the number one office in Kaduna, challenging the incumbent Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who himself nurses the desire for a second term. Despite widespread discontent by the people for the failure of his government to improve their welfare and that of the state, the man is not deterred.

Leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the longest list of 11 governorship aspirants as of today. They will slug it out during the party’s primary to produce a candidate who will battle the incumbent. So far, no serious challenger has come out in the All Progressives Congress (APC) to give el-Rufai sleepless nights.

What are the main issues driving the Kaduna governorship towards 2019? The inability of the current government to decisively deal with issues of insecurity, poor economic condition of the state, as well as controversial labour, religious and social policies of Governor El-Rufai have forced the people to look for alternative hands to run the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House – seat of Government.

The situation today has changed significantly from what it was in 2015, when el Rufai’s election was made easy, largely by prevailing political factors, top of which was the bandwagon made available by Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari, then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) personally raised el-Rufai’s hand and asked his supporters to vote for him. According to reports then, Buhari personally asked el-Rufai to contest the governorship of Kaduna State, which is seen as his second home and one of his political strongholds. That Buhari streak that worked wonders in 2015 has waned and cannot pull same crowd as it did.

Also, many residents of Kaduna, just like other Nigerians are tired of the kind of arrogance of power exhibited so far in Kaduna State, which against the background of el-Rufai as minister of the Federal Capital Territory once gave the people hope that he had the magic wand to turn things around in Kaduna. What people see more is arrogance of power, instead of real governance. The lackluster performance of then governor, Ramalan Yero, was credit to el Rufai.

Yero was accused of abandoning many road projects started by his predecessor, late Patrick Yakowa, mainly in the Southern part of the state. Some are still not completed till date. This development, coupled with persistent attacks and killings in Southern Kaduna have assumed more frequency and ferocity under El-Rufai, contributing to loss of faith by the people. These were the same conditions that imperiled Yero’s chances in 2015.

Feelers that Governor el-Rufai, after assuming office in 2015 is yet to improve upon the conditions he met. His labour policy has pitched him against workers while religious protested the way he introduced some stringent anti-preaching laws. Residents, traders have battled his urban renewal scheme and his penchant for destroying homes, markets and other structures, which they considered as anti-peoples policies.

In fact, the governorship aspirants in the opposition parties, particularly the PDP have leveraged on the poor governance model of the Governor and the state of mind of the citizens over the prevailing situation in the State in their political campaign strategies against El-Rufai.

Within the APC, el-Rufai has stoked trouble, forcing some of his former allies to abandon the party for him, and also now threatening to unseat him.

At the last count, those in the PDP warming up for the governorship primary, include former governor Yero, Alhaji Isa Ashiru, Dr. Sani Muhammed Bello, Alhaji Shuaibu Mikati, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, Sani Sidi, and Jonathan Kish.

The Senator representing Kaduna Central Zone, Shehu Sani who had been eyeing the governorship suddenly opted out, hoping to contest the senatorial seat in 2019. Even though the matter is not fully resolved, it is hoped that with the assurance given by President Muhammadu Buhari to secure the ticket for him, Sani will not be deceived at the end of the day.

In his own case, while declaring his intention to contest the governorship seat on the platform of the PDP, after dumping the APC, Senator Hunkuyi, who was the chairman of the el-Rufai campaign organisation in 2015, vowed to unseat the governor in 2019.

Suleiman Hunkuyi

“This is a failed government and we must put an end to such government in 2019,” he said. Addressing hundreds of his supporters, at the reception by the PDP to welcome him and others, Hunkuyi further said: “For those who have not got their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), please try to get your own, so that we can collectively wrest power from the el-Rufai led administration. God gives power but the APC regimes in Kaduna and Nigeria have dealt with the electorate and the electorate will retaliate at the right time. I am telling el-Rufai to use the remaining time he has in office to pack his things and be prepared to leave Government House.”

The senator disclosed that they were the ones who assisted el-Rufai to grab power in 2015, but vowed that APC will never come back to power in the state. But in a swift reaction, Kaduna APC in a statement described Hunkuyi as a frustrated politician who would be retired politically in 2019.

Governor el-Rufai also defended himself, dismissing the campaign mounted against him as the 2019 general election draws closer.

He charged the people to hold Senators Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central), Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna North) and Danjuma Laah, (PDP, Kaduna South) responsible for the uncompleted projects across the state.

The governor said the Senates’ rejection of the $350 million World Bank loan to the state was responsible for the inability of the state government to complete many of its projects.

The Governor’s challenges are not just within the state. He is reported to be at loggerheads with the Presidency and the National headquarters of the APC over the suspension of Senator Sani. He said the Senator’s suspension still stands, whereas Sani has got President Buhari’s nod to return to the party in order to prevent his defection.

Senator Shehu Sani

According to stakeholders, the reason el-Rufai is hell bent on Sani’s suspension is to pave way for his political ally and confidant, Mallam Uba Sani, who is said to be the present engine room of government. The Governor wants to replace Senator Sani with him for the Kaduna Central Senatorial Zone in 2019.

The Governor fears that if Sani’s suspension is lifted, his own political calculation to bring his Political Adviser, Uba Sani on board will fail.

The situation may also be counter-productive for his second term, if Uba Sani is not adequately compensated for the job he is doing for el Rufai.

Another factor working against the Kaduna Governor is the decision by his Deputy Barnabas Bala Bantex not to run with El-Rufai in 2019. Instead, Bantex wants to contest for the Southern Kaduna senatorial. The tactical withdrawal by Bantex is seen as a safe landing from attacks and pressure from the people of Southern Kaduna who have consistently criticized the government for poor performance and marginalization of the people of the zone.

The senatorial district, currently represented by Danjuma Leah, is the only one the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) controls in the state. Bantex’s declaration has sent a signal that all may not be well within the circle of government in the state, even though he has attempted to be diplomatic with his next move.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson to the Kaduna State Governor, Samuel Aruwan has defended the aspiration of Mallam el-Rufai to retain his office despite intense opposition against his second term, saying that no governorship aspirant in the state can defeat el-Rufai in 2019.

According to him: “None of the current aspirants for the position of governor of Kaduna State can beat Malam (El-Rufai). They only aspire to be there but they don’t have clear-cut vision for development, clear-cut policy to move the state forward, statesmanship among others.

Speaking in an interactive session with journalists in Kaduna Mr. Aruwan said: “Malam el-Rufai has empowered young men and women, he has ensured emergence of young leaders, he has shown discipline in public service, development of the education sector, development of the health sector, significant reduction in maternal and child mortality.

“Since they cannot beat him in policy formulation and development, they decided to go with divisive politics, blackmail, pettiness, manipulation of religion and demonizing him as a path to succeed him.”

Mr. Aruwan also said that the governor underwent tutelage, both in public and private sector, to be prepared for leadership positions.

“He was advisor to Abdulsalami Abubakar in 1998. He was the Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprise. He was FCT minister where he achieved so much and so many firsts. He went to study law and obtained Masters degree in public policy management from Harvard University as an Edward A. Mason Fellow. Also, study his rich and astute contributions (to) the political development of the country.”

Aruwan believes that with the credentials and quality exhibited by Governor el-Rufai, he is set again to move Kaduna forward for a second term in 2019.


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