The Task to Heal Wounds in Kaduna

Nasir El-Rufai has won his election for a second term as governor of Kaduna State. He must now win the hearts of the people who rejected him at the polls for the state to have peace.

Governor Nasir el-Rufai, had in November last year explained why he picked Hadiza Balarabe, a fellow Muslim, as his running mate for the 2019 governorship election, breaking the tradition of Muslim-Christian ticket in the state. He said there was no room for religious sentiments in his administration. “Muslim-Muslim ticket is not a religious ticket but a competent and performance ticket,” he had said, indicating that his running mate was picked for her qualities rather than her religion.

Nasir el-Rufai and Hadiza Balarabe Photo
Nasir el-Rufai and Hadiza Balarabe

But his major challenger in the election, Isa Ashiru picked aChristian, Sunday Katung, as his running mate. That is one of the reasons whyUmar Sani, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Stakeholders Forum inKaduna who spoke to TELL was confident of his party’s victory. “If we lose thiselection, it can only be by rigging, not by the actual votes cast by people.”

But when the results were counted, the APC candidate trouncedAshiru, who came second, by 231.269 votes. El-Rufai polled a total vote of 1,045, 427 to beat his rival, Ashiru who received a total 814, 168 votes. ButAshiru and his party have rejected the results as not reflecting the will ofthe people.

However, the pattern of the votes in the just concludedgovernorship and house of assembly elections, showed that a significantpopulation in the state did not agree that El-Rufai didn’t pick a Muslimrunning mate to spite them. The distribution of the votes indicates thatEl-Rufai won in 14 local governments while Ashiru of the PDP won in nine.El-Rufai lost the election in all Christian dominated local governments in thestate, including in Sanga, where his running mate comes from.

The results of the election showed that El-Rufai got hiswining votes from the Muslim dominated parts of the state in Kaduna North andKaduna Central senatorial districts. His highest votes came from the four localgovernments of Zaria, Igabi, Kaduna South and Kaduna North where he scored111,041; 102, 612; 102, 035 and 92, 243 respectively.

On the other hand, the PDP’s candidate, Ashiru, who pickedSunday Marshal Katung, a Christian from Zango/Jaba Federal Constituency ofSouthern Kaduna defeated El-Rufai in all the seven Christian dominated localgovernments in Southern Kaduna and two from Kaduna Central senatorial districtsof Chikun and Kajuru.

The state had gone into the election with significantapprehension on how religion could impact the process. The Muslim-Muslim of theAPC and the Muslim-Christian ticket of the PDP had polarized the state withsome religious leaders interpreting developments to their congregations frompartisan perspectives. The state commissioner of police, Ahmad Abdurrahman hadrevealed that intelligence report showed that some religious leaders werepreaching politics to their congregation, which heightened political tensionbefore the election.

This was confirmed on election day by most of the voters whospoke to TELL on why they voted. Matina Francis and her husband, Francis Otanwawere among voters at the Gaji Ward 029 polling unit located on ConstitutionRoad, Kaduna. They are Christians from Kachia Local Government in SouthernKaduna. They told TELL they voted against El-Rufai because “he hatesChristians.”

The evidence, they claimed, is that his government has donelittle for the Christian dominated people of Southern Kaduna compared to theMuslim dominated Northern Kaduna where he had done new roads, rehabilitatedschools and hospitals. “But more importantly, he uses hate speech againstChristians and his actions show he doesn’t like us. That is why he picked a Muslimrunning mate instead of a Christian running mate,” Matina, more outspoken thanher husband, said.

Most of the people who voted against El-Rufai told themagazine he is a divisive figure who had done little to unite a state wrenchedby ethnic and religious rivalries. Prominent preachers in the state have calledhim unprintable names on account of what they perceived as his one-sidedinterventions.

The APC structure in the state had also been ruptured by theabrasive style of El-Rufai, which saw many leaders of the party move to otherparties. Prominent among them are two serving senators from the state-SuleimanHunkuyi (Kaduna North) and Shehu Sani, (Kaduna Central).  Both accusedEl-Rufai of not consulting party leaders and stakeholders before major decisionsare made.

El-Rufai rattled the state through some executive actionsthat caught most leaders of the party unaware. He sacked nearly 20,000 teachersfor being “incompetent” and scores of district heads of villages to cut cost ofgovernance. He demolished alleged unauthorized buildings, including theresidence of Senator Hunkuyi who was then a leader of the APC.

But his choice of a Muslim running mate was one controversymany thought would consume him. It had never happened in the state that aMuslim governorship candidate would run with a Muslim deputy. According to UmarSani, Chairman of the PDP Stakeholders Forum in the state, the tradition hadbeen that when the governorship candidate comes from the North, his deputycomes from the South. It was a balancing act for a religious sensitive state.

“But El-Rufai introduced religion and stoked religioustension when he picked a Muslim running mate,” Sani told the magazine inKaduna.

However, El-Rufai had justified his actions as necessary, andchoice of running mate as based on competence. And there are many in the statewho supported those actions. Like Usman Yahaya, a civil servant and one ofthose who acted as agents of the APC in the governorship election. He saidEl-Rufai does not discriminate based on religion or ethnic sentiments but putspremium on the competence of his staff.

“That is why I think, if he wins this election, it would restthe issue of religious sentiments in the governance of the state,” Yahayastated. The distribution of votes did not, however, support Yahaya’s view.

But Ashiru, who spoke to the magazine before the election,believes the first task of anyone who won the election is to begin the processof reconciliation. “There has to be peace and unity for us to have development.That is why what we must do urgently is to bring everybody back to the table,”he said.

El-Rufai also admitted this much in his victory speech lastTuesday. He said even though he was victorious in the election, he acknowledged‘the preferences of our fellow citizens who did not vote for us.” There goesthe pride some people complain of about el-Rufai. Definitely over 800,000voters cannot be regarded as few in a state that has 3.2 million registeredvoters. A leader who will take the path of peace will refrain from makingstatements that will further enrage those who did not vote for him. But may bethat was a slip.

He said: “We would listen to their concerns, but we invitethem to join hands with us so that we can together build a better KadunaState…where there has been strife through accord and conciliation. Wheresuspicion and ill-will have reigned, let us enthrone goodwill. We can do somuch for the good of our state and its entire people when we come together…”

If El-Rufai wants unity in his state, many believe he musttalk and show that he belongs to everywhere and to everyone. That is whenpeople like the Francis’ from Southern Kaduna would truly believe Kaduna isone.

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