ISAIAH BENJAMIN in this analysis looks at political equations in Kaduna state with the choice Dr. Hadiza Balarabe as running mate to Malam Nasir el-Rufai in the forthcoming governorship election in the state
The political permutation in Kaduna state ahead of the 2019 gubernatorial election in Kaduna state took a new dimension when the incumbent governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai of the All Progressives Congress (APC) announced his choice of Dr. Hadiza Balarabe who is presently the Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Primary Health Care Agency (SPHCA), as his running mate.
Balarabe, a Muslim, hails from Sanga local government area of Southern Kaduna, a Christian dominated zone.
Following the announcement, tongues have continued to wag as to the choice of the governor who for the first time is embarking on a Muslim/Muslim ticket in a state that has maintained to a greater extent of religious balance in the sharing of political positions since the return to democracy in 1999.
Recall that, in 1999, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi (Muslim, PDP) was elected and sworn in as governor on 29th May, from the Northern Zone. He picked his running mate in the person of the Late Stephen Rijo Shekeri (Christian) from Southern Kaduna. When he died, the late Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa (Christian) from the same area was picked to replace him and served with Makarfi till 2007.
In 2007, Mohammed Namadi Sambo (Muslim, PDP) emerged as governor and retained the late Yakowa as his running mate. Following the death of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua and the elevation of his vice president, Goodluck Jonathan as president, he picked the then Governor Sambo as vice president on 19 May, 2010 and the late Yakowa was sworn in as governor on 20 May, 2010.
The late Yakowa from the Southern zone and a Christian (PDP) picked Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, a Muslim, from the North as his running mate, a position they both held till 15 December, 2012 when the Yakowa died in an helicopter crash. On 15 December, 2012, Yero became the governor according to the provision of the constitution. Again, for religious and zonal balancing, like his predecessors did, he also picked his running mate from the southern zone in the person of Ambassador Nuhu Bajoga, a Christian, a position they both held till 29 May, 2015, when they both lost the election to the incumbent governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai. On 29th May, 2015, el-Rufai following his emergence as governor on the APC platform also toed the line of those who ruled the state before him picked his running mate in the person of Barnabas Bala Bantex (Christian) from the Southern zone.
However, preparatory to the 2019 elections, the deputy governor indicated interest to vie for the position of Senate to represent his senatorial district in which case he emerged as candidate on the APC platform. His intention was, however, greeted with various interpretations.
To some, it was a tactical way of bowing out of this government owing to the fact that the APC does not stand a chance of producing a Senator from his zone in the present circumstance.
When Mohammed Isa Ashiru from the Northern Zone emerged the candidate of the PDP, he had no issues picking a running mate, he followed the existing pattern and picked his running mate from the Southern zone in the person of Sunday Marshal Katung, a Christian, and people waited patiently to see who emerges the running mate to the incumbent governor. Governor el-Rufai picked a woman as his running mate, being the first to do so since 1999 but what became a surprise was the fact that the woman is a Muslim albeit from the Southern zone.
The issue of Muslim/Muslim ticket then became an issue of discussion with divergent views.
Reacting to the development, Dr. John Danfulani who took to his Facebook page wrote, “Mr. el-Rufai’s action did not collide with any provision of our 1999 constitution (as amended) and our electoral act. There is nothing unconstitutional in his decision. Not at all. As a human rights fighter, I should be seen supporting people enjoying rights bestowed on them by our constitution and God, no matter how controversial and divisive their actions are.
“In electoral tangos, actors have the right to fashion strategies and tactics that will give them victory (which is the ultimate). Observing Machiavellian dictum is not a crime.
“Northern Kaduna is not 100% Muslims and Southern Kaduna is not 100% Christians. In 1999, there were three Christian councillors in Ikara and three in Makarfi LGA. Southern Kaduna had LGAs that produced Muslim elected officers, that also holds for some LGAs in zone 1. Kaduna is a mixed state”.
Although he established the above facts, he went further to say, “Those astonished with Mr. el-Rufai’s action are either naive or missed his 6th April 2016 Sunrise Daily interview on Channels TV. That chat laid the foundation of what we are seeing today. It was in that chat he made his unfounded 70/30 Muslims/Christians population ratio and linked it with Plateau state. In other words, Muslims are 30% of the total state population in Plateau state but Christians candidates of the Plateau don’t pick a Muslim as their running mates.
“Finally, if Southern Kaduna people and Christians in the entire state are not cherry of Mr. el-Rufai’s action, they have a date with history in 2019. Let’s see their anger and dissatisfaction in most polling units from south of the bank of River Kaduna down to Sanga, parts of Lere and Kubau, and in pockets of wards in Ikara and Makarfi LGAs in zone 1”, he posited.
Another resident of Kaduna state, Mr. Segun Onibiyo, also has this to say, “While el-Rufa is trying to play the religious card of a Muslim/Muslim ticket for 2019 gubernatorial election, let us quickly run through some events shaping our corporate existence both as Muslims and Christians in Kaduna state.
“Let us not shy to peep into our yesterday, so as to take critical decisions today, with the intent of building and having a better tomorrow. It is in view of the above that a list of carefully compiled events, have been snipped from various documentations to help us decide if el-Rufa’i has the best interest at heart for Kaduna state, and/or if el-Rufa’i is healing our already fragile relationship or aggravating it.”
On his part, the regional secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam said that with the choice of Hadiza, the governor had displayed political and religious insensitivity of enormous proportions.
Para-Mallam, who is the founder of the Citizens Monitoring Group, which works with Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, said, “Governor Nasir el-Rufai has embarked on a wild political ride or shall we say flight? Kaduna state is one of the most ethnically diverse states in Nigeria.
‘Kaduna state is also multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and most important of all, a multi-religious state. This is our reality in Kaduna state.
“Beyond the natives of Kaduna state, the state is also a miniature or micro-Nigeria. By his choice of a Muslim/Muslim ticket at the governorship level, he has displayed political and religious insensitivity of enormous proportions which now borders on political ignorance or naivety, or both.
“I know governorship candidates have a right to choose their running mates and this is okay. What should be of interest to some of us is this: did Governor El-Rufai involve the people from Southern Kaduna by way of receiving nominations or feedback from them before settling in on this Muslim-Muslim ticket? Also, did the people of Sanga Local Government Area make any input? Did they nominate names?
“If yes, what are these names and who did they finally recommend? Was this woman, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, one of the names they submitted?
“El-Rufai claims to be a cosmopolitan politician but his politics sadly lacks the civility expected of his self-acclaimed credentials.
“He claims that he does not support injecting religion into politics, but by his actions, he is inadvertently promoting religious politics”, he further reiterated.
For Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, leader of the Northern Emancipation Network (NEN) the current development is “Another typical el-Rufai penchant for making political capital out of controversies by mind-contolling the largely gullible section of the public.”
“It is a dangerous attempt to apply religious sentiment in the hope that the predominantly Muslim northern Kaduna voters would form a block in his favour.
“The game plan soon to unfold is to get the Ulamah to deliver sermons on the obligation of Muslims ensuring the success of a same-faith ticket for the first time since Katsina was carved out of the old Kaduna state.
But if they treat it as a normal ticket, the Muslim North is likely to continue its war on el-Rufai purely on political basis.
“Already, there are discordant interpretations of the injunctions regarding the leadership of women over men, but this is strictly jurisprudential.”
He added that what he plans to do next is to settle the unpaid entitlement of sacked workers in the state with the hope of getting them to his side as well as explore the inconsistencies of such political actors as Sule Hunkuyi who might have no qualms reverting their positions for a price.
“There is bound to be significant offset in the calculations for the governorship but certainly not enough to guarantee victory for el-Rufai”, he said.
Some Muslims who spoke but did not want their names mentioned were all of the view that Kaduna state of today could not afford to have a same faith ticket.
One of them who says he is a member of the APC said, “The choice of the governor picking a Muslim as his running mate is an attempt to kill our party in the state, because some of us who are Muslims will not support his choice and it is obvious that the Christians some of whom are feeling insulted out rightly will vote against our party.”
Another Muslim respondent said, “This is not Zamfara, Kano or Katsina that is predominantly Muslim, we must take action with the peculiarity of our environment in mind, this in my opinion’. Another Muslim, Mundi Danladi said, “ the governor has just signed his handing over note, he knows he will not win the election following his records of non-performance and antecedent which include the sack of teachers, traditional rulers, demolition of houses and planned demolition of more houses, so his choice of a Muslim/Muslim ticket is to have an excuse that he lost the election because of that”.
However, whether or not Governor el-Rufai’s choice of a Muslim as his running mate will affect his chances of winning the election positively or negatively, time will tell and in a matter of months.
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