By Danjuma Musa
It is on record that late Senator Isaiah Balat was a very influential, strategic and pragmatic politician. He was the consummate politician. The astute Balat used his network to pave the way for the smooth emergence of Ahmed Makarfi as the Kaduna State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999. Balat also contributed financially towards Makarfi’s eventual victory in the 1999 general elections.
For his tremendous contribution and efforts, Balat was duly rewarded with a ministerial position by President Olusegun Obasanjo, on the strong recommendation of Makarfi, ahead of Professor Ango Abdullahi, who was only compensated with an advisory position.
Balat’s sterling achievement was an eloquent statement that political networking and financial contribution to the victory of a political party and the candidate are very critical in the calculus for political appointments and patronage. Political reward, to use the computer language, is garbage in and garbage out.
Balat clearly understood these basic political facts, and never hesitated to deploy his contacts and deep pocket towards advancing the political interest of his beloved Southern Kaduna and Kaduna State in general. He was also instrumental in helping then Governor Namadi Sambo emerge as the Vice-President of Nigeria, after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the subsequent elevation of Goodluck Jonathan to the Presidential seat.
It’s very important to stress that Balat achieved these feats because he built bridges across the country and bluntly refused to be seen as a local champion. He was a man of immense drive and ability. No obstacle was insurmountable to Balat once he sets his mind to achieving any objective.
Balat became the president of the Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, organisers of the famous Kaduna International Trade Fair not by an accident, but because he had earned the trust of stakeholders. Balat was a big player in the oil and gas sector, a shareholder in many publicly quoted companies and a major player in real estate development.
Southern Kaduna has big decisions to make regarding its political direction in the 2023 elections, because of the consequences of a wrong one. The area has, since 1999, been loyal to the PDP, which lost power to the APC at the national and Kaduna State levels in 2015.
Will Southern Kaduna, again opt for the grave danger of four more years with the PDP, in its political wilderness, or would it develop a new pragmatic political arithmetic?
Thankfully, Southern Kaduna has proven several times in the past that it has the capacity to successfully navigate the 2023 governorship election, like it did in 1999, when its elites chose the PDP over the defunct APP, and planted itself with the party which went on to dominate the state for the next 16 years.
Like in 1999, the way forward for Southern Kaduna in 2023, is to warmly embrace the APC and reject the PDP.
If only Southern Kaduna elites will decide to elevate and define the interest of the area beyond the narrow interest of a few, it will surprise cynics by overwhelmingly voting for Senator Uba Sani, the Governorship Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in what will be a fundamental reset of relationship between it and the rest of the state. It’s thus incumbent on the elites to show leadership by looking forward to the future with optimism.
There are several ‘Isaiah Balats’, who can engage with Senator Uba Sani, to ensure that Southern Kaduna interests would be adequately addressed under his administration. But they have to deliver to be in a position to benefit.
Nasir El-Rufai, who they seem to have issues with, is not on the ballot. Southern Kaduna should and can do business with the APC governorship candidate, Uba Sani,like Isaiah Balat did with Markarfi, which laid the foundation for the several appointments the area enjoyed.
El-Rufai’s several efforts to reach out since 2014 to date were thwarted by some Southern Kaduna elites for their selfish reasons. He was largely ignored because they sold a lie to themselves and the people that he would be defeated, which hasn’t happened and is not likely to in 2023.
Some of their leaders, who ought to have championed an engagement with El-Rufai, opted for confrontation because it guaranteed them continuous political relevance, to the detriment of the larger interests of the area.
Southern Kaduna should negotiate with Senator Uba Sani, whose chances of winning the 2023 election are very bright, like Balat singlehandedly negotiated the deal with Makarfi, which led to the ministerial position being zoned to Southern Kaduna.
Makarfi, it must be emphasised, didn’t do Southern Kaduna any favour. It was a deal, a classic case of rub my back and I rub yours. The area needs another farsighted Balat who can negotiate with Uba Sani. El-Rufai is past.
Southern Kaduna voters must note that the PDP of today is so fragmented and damaged that it cannot offer any serious challenge to the ruling APC, which has shown a great desire to win at the centre and in Kaduna State. If the area decides to cast its lot with the PDP, it will no doubt be a strategic error.
Will Southern Kaduna again queue behind Isa Ashiru Kudan, the PDP candidate, who was roundly defeated in the 2019 election? Are the elites comfortable with the fact that Isa Ashiru’s secondary school result (WAEC) is being contested in court? Presently, Isa Ashiru is in court with Prof. Mohammed Bello, who in 2019 accused him of allegedly parading forged results.
Some Southern Kaduna elites are regrettably misleading the gullible ones, that the Deputy Governorship candidate, Dr John Ayuba would benefit from Isa Ashiru in case the latter is disqualified. That is a blatant lie.
Douye Diri is governor of Bayelsa State because he benefited from the disqualification of David Lyon, the APC governorship candidate. Lyon’s election was quashed by the Supreme Court a day before his swearing in, because his deputy, Degi-Eremieoyo allegedly presented forged certificates for the election.
Politics is about interest. The critical question that Southern Kaduna elites must honestly ask themselves is, between Uba Sani and Isa Ashiru, who will best serve the interest of the zone? For instance, despite representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Uba Sani attracted an ICT Centre to the College of Education, Kafanchan, and has equally thrown his weight behind the actualization of the Federal University, Manchok.
Will the 2023 elections be another case of the Southern Kaduna elite pushing the area into political irrelevance? Or will they build bridges of inclusion? Only time will tell.
•Musa writes from Kaduna