From Sola Ojo, Kaduna
The political atmosphere in Kaduna State with regards to both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems beclouded by uncertainties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The APC in Kaduna under the leadership of Governor Nasir El-Rufai is suffering from many challenges. They include a divided house, ban on Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) in Northern Senatorial district where the sect has its stronghold, inability to end herdsmen and farmers’ crisis in Southern Senatorial district within a reasonable time and internal disagreements between the governor and some party stalwarts including the Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Shehu Sani.
Though political watchers expected the opposition PDP under the leadership of the immediate Vice President, Namadi Sambo and immediate past governor of the State, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero to rise and take advantage of the loophole created by the APC, the party seems to have gone into oblivion. This is even as some believe that the former vice president may dump the party for APC anytime from now.
While the governor strongly believe that working for the people of the state may earn him another turn of leadership whether at the state or federal level, the activist-turned lawmaker keeps winning the heart of locals at the grassroots through his constituency projects and personal encounter with people who never thought of having a handshake with him.
Arising from the crack in the party’s leadership since its Chairman in the State, Architect Yusuf Bala Barnabas became deputy governor, APC members like Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Senator Shehu Sani, Isa Ashiru and Hafsat Mohammad Baba among others have formed what they called true APC ‘Akida’, an Hausa word which means ‘our interest’ sometime in February 2016. They said they were not against policies of Governor Nasir El-Rufai because they were not appointed commissioners, as all of them are already above 60 and would not have interest in such positions, but to have a successful and credible political party that can go beyond 2019 in the state because the party is already being damaged due to lack of accessible leadership.
It would be recalled that about 14 party executice members of the party in the state are currently serving in different political offices thereby rendering their offices vacant.
“In Kaduna State, we have been blessed with many people who can contribute in many positive ways, but the system has locked out all these people out and what we see inside is not sufficient to run APC that will do justice to the people of Kaduna State.
“We don’t want a situation whereby in 2017, 2018, so much damage would have been done to APC in Kaduna State that somebody will just walk in and take over the government of Kaduna State. We want another APC government to come and build on what Governor El-Rufai has done and that is why we are jealously guarding the success and integrity of the party. We also want to redeem the damages that have been done between the governor and some members of the party.
“What we are agitating for is a united party so that our enemies, PDP, will not have to use our disunity against us in 2019,” Dr Hakeem Baba said one year ago. But the situation has not improved an inch as the status quo remains.
Now, the APC Akida too has been silent shortly after the visit of the former secretary to the Kaduna State government and frontier of the group, Baba-Ahmed to El-Rufai during the 2016 Ramadan, though he has said that his faith as a Muslim is first and very important to him than politics thereby refuting the insinuations that he had gone to settle scores with the governor on personal ground. Baba-Ahmed was known to be a key stakeholder in the APC Akida in Kaduna State which appears not to be on the same page with Governor El-Rufai as it frowns at the government’s policies and style of leadership.
The APC stalwart however said though the invitation for the break of fast by the governor which he described as symbolic turned out to be good as El-Rufai saw the need to resolve and look into the problems rocking the party and issues to do with policies of government of Kaduna State.
As regarding the bloody clash between members of IMN and men of the Nigerian Army that left scores dead in December 2015 in Zaria, the sect members, who ironically constitute significant voters in the state believed that the state government has already taken sides with the Nigerian Army by arresting their leader and the destruction of their property both in Zaria and Kaduna before setting up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the clash. The IMN has since rejected the report of the commission because they did not participate in the hearing that led to the report. This group of people may not vote for APC if El-Rufai will re-contest in 2019.
Also, the incessant killings in southern part of the state by alleged armed herdsmen is another critical factor that may pull down APC in the next political dispensation in the state. Tongues have been wagging within and without the country against the slow pace at which the state government and security apparatus in the state have been reacting to the attacks. Already, the people in that senatorial district felt neglected by both the federal and state governments.
For those who have been following the shenanigan and bleak future of Nigerian politics, it would be recalled that loyal party members to the governor have in late 2015 suspended Shehu Sani from the party’s affairs for 11 months due to the allegation of anti party activities.
Though the activist-turned politician did all he could to reverse the suspension, he apparently could not. Many believe that he has not been seen in public functions to avert possibly coming in contact with his perceived enemies within the party. He seems comfortable with the Akida faction of the party but in the estimation of critical observers, that is not also good for the party.
Towards the end of 2016, the sleeping dog was once again reawakened. There was allegation of N3million given to the party executives at ward 6 where the senator comes from to effect his indefinite suspension from the party. The money was allegedly given by Special Adviser to El-Rufai, Uba Sani to expel the senator upon the expiration of eleven months suspension. It was rumoured that Uba Sani is fueling the suspension of Shehu Sani so he could replace him as the Senatorial candidate in 2019.
To make the episode more interesting, some members of the ward 6 executive, led by the Chairman, Abbas Mohammed Anni at a press conference in Kaduna, had alleged that there were “some unscrupulous elements acting on the orders of the state governor to create rancour and disaffection within the APC in the state alleging that, the governor’s aide was hatching a plot against Senator Shehu Sani.
Abass said: “we have been reliably informed that the political advisers to the State Governor held a closed door meeting with few members of this Exco and bribed them with the sum of Three Million Naira (N3,000,000.00) just to engineer the expulsion of one of our most illustrious leaders in the person of Sen. Shehu Sani.
“It is very unfortunate that this ugly move is popping up again after the disgraceful episode of a Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500, 000.00) bribe that was purportedly given by the same set of people to instigate the alleged suspension of Sen. Shehu Sani about a year ago.”
But in a swift reaction to the alleged bribery brouhaha, the Secretary of APC Ward 6, Alhaji Auwal Abdulhamid Garba said, the allegation is not only malicious, but unfounded and baseless, stating categorically that it was not true that monies were given or shared to either extend suspension period or expel Senator Sani from the party, “if there is any proof that we collected money, they should provide or we sue them.”
On efforts put up to reconcile the warring parties, he said, “we have made several efforts to reconcile the erring senator with the party, we were even attacked by one of his boys and one Jamilu Mohammed’s confessional statement is already with the police. We have even withdrawn that case in the spirit of peace; up till now, he has not made any attempt to see us and reconcile.
“The Senator has continuously violated party rules and even raised dust over the removal of subsidy and $30billion loan request by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We expected that period of your suspension would have given you the grace of being remorseful, but you rather choose to go otherwise and this made our party to be vulnerable to disunity, disharmony and further shattering the existing peace mechanism within our ward and the state at large.
“Therefore, in consideration of the constitutional provisions as contained in Article 21 (A) i, ii, iii, v, vi, and vii of the constitution of the All Progressives Congress (APC), you are hereby suspended indefinitely from active participation of APC activities. “This is in conformity with article 21 (D) i-(F) which provides punishment for any erring member of the party”, he stressed in a letter sent to Sani on November 30, 2016.
For now, the dust is believed to be temporarily settled and missiles are not forthcoming from both sides of the divide. Critical observers argue that the party crisis is also gradually infiltrating from the state to the entire North-west zone even as Kaduna has been and is still the political melting pot of Northern Nigeria. The thinking in many quarters is that any serious political party will not just fold its arms and watch the party going down the drain without making any move.
To this end, one can only have his fingers crossed and watch where the political pendulum in Kaduna State will swing. As it is now, the APC is not certain whether the vast majority of voters in the state will vote for the party in the next election. Many insist it may be one of the reasons the party is yet to fix a date for local government election in the state. As it appears, only time will determine the fortunes of the APC in Kaduna State.