Kaduna governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, is no doubt facing what could pass for a political battle of his life. And the outcome would make or mar him politically.
Already, following the long memo he wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari, in September 2016, details of which was leaked to the media last month, there are moves by some All Progressives Congress, APC, chieftains, to block him from seeking a second term, and to also frustrate any effort that may see him replacing Buhari, as the party’s presidential candidate, should Buhari decide not to run in 2019.
Two persons, Saturday Sun further learnt, have been penciled down as possible replacement for El-Rufai, ahead of the Kaduna governorship contest. They are: current Senator, representing Kaduna North, Suleiman Hunkuyi and former House of Representatives member, Hon. Isa Ashiru. But for Buhari, it would have been difficult for El-Rufai to defeat Ashiru at the APC’s primary in the run up to the 2015 polls.
Ashiru is a member of the APC-Akida, while Hunkuyi, from his public appearance is not. But like all members of the APC-Akida, Hunkuyi too, Saturday Sun can reveal, is not pleased with the way El-Rufai is running the party and the affairs of the state.
Although, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, representing Kaduna North, who incidentally provided the structures that saw El-Rufai defeating Isa Ashiru, at the APC primary election in the build up to the 2015 elections, seems to be appearing in public with el-Rufai, Saturday Sun can reveal that at the appropriate time, Hunkuyi, would confront el-Rufai frontally for the governorship contest. If that happens, it would no doubt further deplete the support base of the governor.
Long before el-Rufai’s memo was leaked, he has been having a running battle with the APC faction in the state, known as APC Akida. Once the issue of the memo became public knowledge, the APC Akida came out publicly to upbraid el-Rufai, declaring that everything the governor accused Buhari of, he too was guilty of them.
Addressing a press conference last Sunday in Kaduna, Chairman, APC-Akida, Mataimaki Tom Maiyashi, said unless all aggrieved members are brought under one roof, the party was doomed in the state, adding that the governor was not the right person to write a memo to the President because, “It was a case of a pot calling the kettle black”.
He further said that the Kaduna governor lacks the moral standing to raise the issues he raised in the memo as his approach to governance was not different from the observations he made in his memo to President Buhari.
el-Rufai’s lopsided cabinet
Kaduna is made up of 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 the 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 number 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.
For instance, when Senator Nenadi Usman first signified her intention to run for the Senate, to represent Kaduna South Senatorial District, the mere fact that her husband is a Muslim, was used as campaign tool against her. Though a Christian, the people of the area believed that she was not likely to stand up and be counted when the need arises.
What however helped Nenadi’s election in 2011, was that the then serving Senator, who later defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, had alienated himself from the people. Ironically, this was the same man the people had queued behind in 2007 against a more formidable Hassan Hyet, the then SSG, heavily backed by the then government.
However, for the Muslims in the state, it is always easy for them to navigate between North and Central Senatorial Districts of the state, for political gains.
Before Patrick Yakowa became governor in 2010, from 1999, there was a deliberate act of political balancing, whereby the SSG and 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 Samaila Lawal Yakawada, a Muslim, the first Muslim to be so appointed since 1999, as SSG.
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.
el-Rufai’s case appears worse. Saturday Sun’s investigations revealed that he not only altered the political balancing act; he has continued to carry on, as if the Southern Kaduna area does not matter in his future political calculations.
For instance, while el-Rufai, from Zaria, is the governor, the SSG, Chief of Staff and the Head of Service are not only Muslims, but are all from Zaria. Also, out of 15 commissioners, only five are Christians from Southern Kaduna, the remaining 10 are all Muslims from either the Central or the Northern Senatorial districts. Again, in a minor cabinet reshuffle, el-Rufai removed a Veterinary Doctor, Manzo Daniel Maigairi, as Commissioner for Agric and Forestry and replaced him with Professor Kabiru Mato, a Political Scientist, a Muslim, from the Northern Senatorial district. Maigari, a Christian, from Southern Kaduna, is now Commissioner for Trade and Commerce.
Also, since coming on board of el-Rufai as governor, he has sent not less than five Southern Kaduna youths, including a traditional ruler to prison. “With all these, how do you expect the Southern Kaduna people not to scream? And the governor’s arrogant silence and arrogant explanations do not also help matters, most of the time,” a former government official, who is a Muslim, from the Central Senatorial district of the state, told Saturday Sun.
The Kaduna APC memo
Before the APC faction’s reaction to el-Rufai’s memo, the chairman, APC caucus in the state, Alhaji Ahmed Tijjani Ramalan , who had all along been on the side of el-Rufai, also fired a memo to the governor, once his memo to Buhari, became public knowledge.
In the memo, titled “OPEN MEMO TO GOVERNOR NASIR EL- RUFAI ON THE REPOSITIONING OF APC KADUNA STATE AND GOVERNANCE,” the APC caucus chairman said “The party is docile in its statutory duties and activities as a political party. No Excos, and Stakeholders’ Meetings from the Ward to State Levels.
“Most Stakeholders and members are feeling used and dumped and lack of consultations in decision making processes as it affects the party at the Local, State and National Levels.”
The party also complained of the governor’s long standing ally, Jimi Lawal, insisting that Lawal was not known to the APC in Kaduna state, as he was reaping from where he did not sow.
el-Rufai fires back
Efforts by Saturday Sun to get el-Rufai’s reaction, proved abortive, as two weeks after making contacts, and sending two mails to one of his media aides, he was yet to get back. However, one of the governor’s confidants spoke to Saturday Sun in confidence, just as el-Rufai, tried to address some of the issues in an interview he granted one of the northern-based Newspapers last week.
According to one of the close confidants of the governor, who spoke to Saturday Sun in confidence, “El-Rufai could not have leaked the memo to the President, because he handed over the memo to him, hand-to-hand. Those within the corridors of power, who are not happy with Kyari and Babachir Lawal, may have leaked the memo”, the governor’s confidant, declared.
On his part, el-Rufai, took the chairman of the party’s caucus to the cleaners, saying “I will talk about Jimmy Lawal. Those that said he did not contribute to our election are totally ignorant. He was a member of the CPC from 2010. He was in the presidential campaign council of President Buhari in the 2011 elections. After we lost the election and started the process of merger, he was in the renewal committee. He was a member of the APC Merger Committee under the chairmanship of Tom Ikimi, representing the CPC.
“The people who are making that claim are those from the PDP who joined the party after we had struggled and formed it. They don’t know the history. One of them is Tijjani Ramalan, who wrote and I responded to say: “When Jimmy was working for the CPC and was in the APC merger committee, you were in another party. That’s why you don’t know. The fact that you don’t know doesn’t mean you are right. If you don’t know you should ask.
“There are people who were not part of our campaign; they were not even members of our party, but we made them commissioners. We were looking for people like Dr. Ya’u Usman, who has a PhD in Physics and was a director in the Federal Civil Service. We were looking for somebody with those kinds of skills to be appointed as commissioner for environment. I did not see him until the day I swore him in as commissioner. We just looked at his curriculum vitae and appointed him. Government has to have a mix of that.
“What I observed in the Federal Government was that people who were in the PDP were brought in and given positions of responsibility that should have gone to longtime APC members with similar or even better skills. But those that were saddled with the task of recommending those to be appointed did not even know the history of the APC. These mistakes were made. This is what I wanted us to avoid because many longtime party members are complaining. If anybody says this is happening in Kaduna, I will say that it is just sour grapes. I picked people I knew could deliver”.