The speculations and permutations as to who will occupy the Sir Kashim Government House, Kaduna State, in 2015 is gathering momentum. This is evident going by recent political activities, with various groups drumming up support for their preferred candidates ahead of the elections. ISAIAH BENJAMIN x-rays the possible factors that may make or mar the chances of the former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who, according to well-informed sources, is nursing the ambition to wrest power from the incumbent Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of the PDP, in 2015.
The Abuja Factor
His activities as Minister of the FCT are viewed differently by Kaduna residents. To some, the demolition exercise when he was FCT minister turned so many homeless; others lost their dear ones whose houses were demolished and could not stand the shock. This among other reasons may stand against him in the Kaduna elections; but to some, the demolition exercise restored the master plan of the federal capital and has turned Abuja into an enviable capital. It was also said that prior to his becoming the FCT minister, the Ministry of then FCT was rotten but when he came on board, he cleansed it. The Wuse market was rebuilt by his administration and tenants were subsequently made shop owners thereafter. This among several others reasons might work in his favour, all things being equal. But to some others, should he become the next Executive Governor of the state, the present landlords might become tenants while so many others might lose their business places. But others feel when he comes on board, the state will be better for it.
Emergence of State APC Chairman
The role of Mallam el-Rufai during the state congress which led to the emergence of the state APC chairman in the person of Bala Barnabas (Bantex) is seen by some of his party members as a minus for him. According to some of the aggrieved party members, the state congress in which ten persons contested for the Chairmanship position was rigged in favour of Bantex, while accusing fingers were being pointed at Mallam el-Rufai and others as masterminds. El-Rufai is also accused of bringing in Bala Barnabas into the system from the southern part of the state to brighten his chances of picking the governorship ticket coming from the central district. Considering the role he played in which most of those who contested the chairmanship position and their supporters were said not to be satisfied and convinced and as such they have vowed at various fora to work against his emergence as the party’s flag-bearer in the first instance; but should he escape it, plan B will be brought into focus to forestall his ambition during the actual election.
The Isah Ashiru Factor
Honourable Isah Ashiru is a two-termer in the Federal House of Representatives under the PDP until recently when he defected to the APC with an intention to vie for the Sir Kashim Government House come 2015. He was, before going to the National Assembly a former member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly. People see him as a grassroots politician who stands a better chance than el-Rufai. Again, his relationship with the former Governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Muhammed Makarfi, PDP, a well-respected political figure in the state, might yet be another factor that may brighten his chances. Although much was not heard of him (Ashiru) during the state congress as to whom he supported, it is very obvious that he is certainly not in the el-Rufai group.
The Elitist Factor
Just like what happened in the just concluded Ekiti governorship election in which the incumbent of the APC lost to the former Governor of the PDP, the winning was largely attributed to the PDP Governor being a grassroots politician and the incumbent being an elitist governor. Similarly, political observers see Mallam el-Rufai as an elitist politician who lacks grassroots support, and in the present-day political contest, elitist politicians can hardly make any headway. It is therefore obvious that unless Mallam el-Rufai takes to the path of relating with the actual electorate who will come out in their numbers to participate in the election, and again attempt changing their perception of his person, it will certainly be a herculean task for him. He has largely played his politics at the national level with little or no impact on the state.
The PDP Factor
This perhaps may be one of the major factors that may affect el-Rufai’s chances. It is on record that Kaduna has always been a PDP state right from 1999. The party has won its elections landslide; therefore, attempting to change the equation with a very ‘unpopular person politically’, as some people referred to el-Rufai, will certainly be a very difficult task. Presently, of the 23 local government chairmen in the state, el-Rufai’s APC has only one with PDP having 22; even the one, according to political analysts, was a protest vote — the PDP has the majority of the councillors from that same local government . So, if the local government, the closest to the electorate, with all the chairmen pledging their resolve to work for the PDP, fighting such party will not be a bed of roses. Again, the state House of assembly is also dominated by the PDP members, some of whom will want to retain their seats while political appointees of the PDP who are grassroots politicians will certainly not leave any stone unturned to garner support for the party.
The power of incumbency is yet another factor that cannot be waved aside. Although it failed to work in Ekiti election, the reasons are not farfetched: one is the elitist factor which worked against the incumbent. But in Kaduna, it may be a different ball game altogether. The incumbent governor, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, started as a Finance Commissioner from where he was elevated to the position of Deputy Governor, and upon the death of the then Governor Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, Yero became the Governor. So many people see him as a governor having some sort of grassroots support prior to becoming the Governor. Although tongues are wagging about his slow nature of running affairs in the state, political experts say that will in no way affect his chances of retaining the seat. Therefore, attempting to wrestle power from somebody who is ‘grounded’ politically with local, state and national support will require major efforts.
If the presidency could be influential to the emergence of the Ekiti PDP Governor, it is not debatable that it would put more efforts at ensuring that PDP remains the ruling party in Kaduna State. Again, the Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo, is from Kaduna State and was a Governor before he was elevated. Although the Vice President lost his polling unit in all the elections in 2011, informed sources said he has learnt his lessons and he is ready to give it all it takes this time around to ensure that his home state remains a PDP state. In view of this, a combination of incumbency factor and the powers that be from the Presidency is very likely to play out el-Rufai in the contest.
Internal Wrangling Within the Kaduna APC
The APC has, since its emergence, been bedevilled by crisis in the state. Observers however said it was expected because for three political parties to come together to form a merger party, there will be issues of attempting to gain superiority by members of the defunct party. This perhaps explains why all the chairmen of the legacy party sought to become the party chairman of the APC. It all started when some members kicked against the chairmanship of the Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed-led state Interim Management Committee (IMC) as alleged concerted efforts were made to remove him by those who were not comfortable with him. This however was not successful. But soon after Dr Baba Ahmed opted to resign his position, which he later withdrew and, according to him, it was due to persuasions from relevant stakeholders. Just as that was about to die down, the PDP defectors into the APC wanted to stamp their foot on the ground and to call the shots in APC, the members of the legacy parties that formed the APC felt it was a slap on their faces. Then, the issue of who becomes the chairman of the party came up, and el-Rufai was fingered to have masterminded the emergence of the present chairman of the party in the state with the support of some well-respected leaders of the party within and outside the state. This alleged singular act is yet to go down well with some aggrieved members of the party, some of whom have vowed to work against him in any contest.
Mallam el-Rufai should have to first and foremost settle the internal wrangling within his party if he must scale through his party primaries.