Politicians, mainly of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are lining up to unseat the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. BABA NEGEDU takes a look at the issues that will shape the poll
As the battle for 2019 elections hots up in Kaduna State, political gladiators eyeing the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House as Kaduna State Government House is popularly called are becoming clearer by the day. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presents an array of aspirants that are ready to give the incumbent Governor Nasir el-Rufai a battle for who steers the ship of the political capital of Northern Nigeria ahead of 2019. Depending on who you speak with, opinion still remains sharply divided over who is likely to out shine the other in the race to the governorship seat in Kaduna between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to replace el-Rufai and the PDP that is shopping for a candidate to challenge the powers that be in the state.
Those in support of Governor el-Rufai are fast to roll out his achievements in the area of health, education, water, reforms in the civil service and provision of infrastructural development. Government had always told those who cared to listen that it had “built and equipped over 100 Primary Health Care centers and also renovated and equipped the over 30 general hospitals in the state.
On the other hand those not satisfied with the governor’s style of leadership and performance, scored him very low and are also quick to point out many promises of the governor, which are yet to be fulfilled. Some of these unfulfilled promises include many roads and drainage projects that were abandoned across the state.
However the governor had blamed his inability to deliver on some of the projects on the activities of the three senators representing Kaduna State, who el-Rufai said have frustrated the state government’s efforts in accessing the $350million dollars World Bank loan needed to complete some of the projects. Apart from the above scenario, the many situations and indicators that propelled Governor el-Rufai to victory in 2015 has changed and if not addressed might tilt the pendulum in favour of the opposition ahead of the polls. In 2015, many politicians of the PDP stock dumped the party due to marginalization and what others said was the lack luster performance of the then Governor Ramalan Yero.
They had accused Yero of insisting on been the only contender. They not only swelled the ranks of the APC but worked for the success of the party at the polls. Many of those are however finding their way back to PDP. Governor el-Rufai rode to power on the popular support of President Muhammadu Buhari, which was at its highest level in 2015. President Buhari personally raised the governor’s hand and asked his supporters to vote for him. However, apart from the fact that the popular support of President Buhari has reduced drastically, some of the remaining ones are also separating the governorship race in Kaduna from the presidential race.
In 2015, Kaduna State was in the eye of the storm over killings in Southern Kaduna zone and the Birnin Gwari axis some of the remnants of the bandits and other criminals have not been eradicated by government both at the center and in Kaduna State, a situation that many opposition politicians had been using as campaign tools. The administration of el-Rufai will also have to convince the voting population that his decision to tinker with the traditional institution in the state, sack some workers in the state civil service including the teachers that failed the competency test is expected to do more good than harm. Presently, most of the notable politicians in Kaduna State are at loggerheads with the state governor over one issue or the other.
Apart from those who have left the party, like Senator Sulieman Hunkuyi, Hon. Isa Ashiru, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Ambassador Sule Buba and Tom Maiyachi, among several others. Some like Senator Shehu Sani and Tijani Ramalan have decided to remain and fight from within, mainly due to what New Telegraph gathered was because of their closeness to President Buhari.
There are also indications that many of the politicians are forming a coalition to remove the governor, a situation that the powers that be in the state will also have to contend with. Multiple sources in Kaduna disclosed to New Telegraph that some of the politicians are more interested in removing Governor el-Rufai than actually becoming governor themselves for the simple fact that he allegedly used them to win the elections in 2015 and dumped them afterwards. One of the source stated that politicians from the three senatorial zones of the state are engaged in meetings to make sure that there is no acrimony after the primaries of the PDP and ensure that they realise their ambitions of changing the status quo in 2019.
However, as the primaries draw closer, at least not less than 10 aspirants have indicated interest in their quest to unseat el-Rufai, among them is Hon. Isa Ashiru. Ashiru is a former two term member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly and also two term member of the House of Representatives, where he was the chairman of appropriation committee.
He contested the primaries of the APC against Governor el-Rufai for the 2015 governorship ticket where he lost narrowly to the incumbent. Sources in the state said he is one of the favoured aspirants and also seen as one of the major contenders of the PDP ticket because he has the support of prominent PDP stalwarts in the state. Ashiru said the APC administration has brought about poverty, hunger and increasing wave of violent crimes on the people and should be voted out in 2019. Apart from being a close political ally to former Governor Ahmed Makarfi, he is also believed to have the wherewithal to challenge the incumbent.
His association with the AKIDA and Restoration group who have all left the APC may boost his chances of clinching the ticket ahead of the other contestants. Senator Hunkuyi, representing Kaduna North Senatorial district is seen in the state politics more as a kingmaker than an election winning politician himself. This is because the senator has been more successful in assisting people to power than grabbing the power himself. He however remains a crucial factor in the politics of the state that cannot be ignored as many in the state said he was a major contributor to the emergence of el-Rufai as governor in 2015. He was also said to had contributed immensely to Makarfi’s emergence in 1999, but fell out and contested against him in 2003 and lost.
He was also pivotal to the victory of late Governor Patrick Yakowa in 2011, when he was alleged to have swing loyalty at the last minute from the Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC) candidate Haruna Saeed Kajuru, who was almost costing to victory.
His critics have often accused him of always switching political loyalty at the last minute, a development that made the state government to describe him as a ‘Political trader’ recently. His house which was used as the parallel office of the APC in the state was recently demolished by agents of the state government. Following his formal declaration to contest against el-Rufai, Hunkuyi has told the governor to start packing his load from the Government House. Yero was defeated by el-Rufai in 2015 after he succeeded late Yakowa, following his demise.
He was accused for his lack luster performance and inability to hold the party together leading to the defection of many party bigwigs and the loss of the PDP. He was also accused of abandoning some of the projects started by late Yakowa. Yero is said to have fallen out with his political godfather, former Vice President Namadi Sambo, who is alleged to be supporting Ex-NEMA Director-General Sani Sidi. He has promised to bring about real change in the state. Jonathan Kish is the only aspirant from the Southern part of the state aspiring for the governorship slot in Kaduna State. He is a former lawmaker in the state House of Assembly and a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.
Kish is one of those who are optimistic that the PDP would return to power in Kaduna State in 2019 because of what he said is the abysmal performance of the current administration. Mohammed Sani Sidi is a former commissioner in Kaduna State under the administration of Sambo and was later appointed the Director-General of NEMA following the elevation of Sambo as Vice President.
Speaking at the declaration of his intention to contest the governorship ticket, Sidi said his decision to run for the position was informed by his passion to rescue Kaduna from total collapse. Shuaibu Idris Mikati is a business man and a former manager of Dangote Flour. He is one of the veterans contesting for the governorship slot in Kaduna, where he has tried and failed at the primaries.
Before now he contested in 2007 and 2011. Mikati had always prided himself as the aspirant to lead Kaduna to prosperity because of what he called his connection in the business sector, whether this dispensation will be different only time will tell. Dr. Muhammed Sani Bello, a former commissioner for Science and Technology and former Financial controller at the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) has promised new lease of life. Bello has promised to rescue the state from what he called vagaries of pervasive mal- administration and restore public trust and confidence in government.
However the coast will become clearer after the PDP primaries as the incumbent who is the only one who have purchased the APC nomination form is already waiting for any one that will pick the PDP ticket. The candidate that will emerge and the attitude of the other aspirants after the primaries will go a long way in determining where the pendulum of victory will swing in 2019.
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