In Kaduna, it’s el-Rufai versus Ashiru
The governorship primaries of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna have come and gone but the emergence of the two candidates of the parties, El-rufai and Isa Ashiru, was not without a fight. Both candidates emerged through a rigorous process and high level of politicking,re-alignment, dialogue, manipulation and manoeuvring.
How El-rufai emerged in APC
For Governor Nasir el-Rufai, since his assumption of office, governance has not been easy as political interests between him and some prominent members of the party came to the fore. The formation of Akida and Restoration groups within the party ignited the crisis as both parties didn’t shift ground until the time of the primaries.
A resilient El-rufai weakened his perceived enemies by tactically replacing them with his loyalists in the party hierarchy. The election of stateexecutive committee under the leadership of Air Commodore Emmanuel Jekadanailed his critics.
Thus when it was time to seek elective positions, there was no opposition from within to challenge him. The duo of Senator SheuSani and Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, who were his greatest critics were sliced and could not do anything tangible. While, Senator Saniremains behind in the party, Senator Hunkuyi defected to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Others too like Hon Isa Ashiru, LawalAdamu, UsmanBawaetc all also defected to PDP to seek elections into various positions. When the APC began to sell its nomination forms,only Governor El-rufai picked the nomination form. Attempt by one of the youths, Jalal Falal,to pick the nomination form, saw him withdrawing from the race, making governor El-rufai the sole aspirant.
On the day of the primaries, delegates queued up behind El-rufai. It was gathered that out of the 3,000 delegates that converged at the Murtala Mohammed Square, Kaduna venue of the primaries, over 2,000 delegates voted for the return of the governor in 2019.
How Ashiru emerged in PDP
While for Hon Isa Ashiru, who was former member of the APC, haven realised that he cannot achieve his ambition of governing the state if he continued to remain in the party, he hurriedly defected to his former party. Since he was an old horse in the umbrella party, re-connecting was easy. Convinced that an enabling playing field would be provided, he finally made up his mind to vie for the governorship ticket.
But he realized that he had an herculean task ahead in eight other aspirants had equally indicated their intentions to contest. Indeed, the number of aspirants did not go down well with the party’s leadership.
According to the state secretary, Ibrahim Wusonu, “we were disturbed by the retinue of aspirants,”adding. ‘We felt, if we prune the number, it will be healthy for the party. Wusonu continued, “So, we summoned a meeting of all the aspirants on the need to have a consensus candidate. However, findings revealed that attempt to have a consensus candidate failed as three aspirants, (Isa Ashiru, Mohammed Sani Bello and Mohammed SaniSidi) who were leading on the condensed list could not agree among themselves. Thus, the party leadership realised it was not achievable.
However, what could have led to serious crisis in the party few days to the election was averted. Five of the aspirants had accused the party leadership and Presidential hopeful, Senator AhmedMakarfi of favouring Isa Ashiru. The aggrieved aspirants called on the national leadership of the party to sack the state excoand appoint a care taker. The quick denials by both the chairman of the party, Hyet and Senator Makarfi saved the situation, and normalcy was returned to the party.
On the day of the primaries, consultations and re-alignments were still going on even when voting started. This would be seen as mid way into the exercise, five aspirants withdrew for Isa Ashiru. Those who withdrew from the race were Mohammed Sani Bello, Jonathan Kish, JaafaruSani, BelloKagarko. While four others- Mohammed SaniSidi, RamalanYero, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyiand ShuaibuMikati- fought on. At the end of counting Ashiru polled over 1,000 votes to clinch the gubernatorial ticket of the party.
Factors that will influence 2019 election in the state
There is no doubt that the battle for Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House has begun with Isa Ashiru locking horns with El-rufai at the polls in 2019. For Governor El-Rufai, who is enjoying the power of incumbency, he has the chance to use it to his advantage,especially taking into account that the party is still enjoying the goodwill of the electorate at the grass roots.
Nonetheless, the governor has to contain and convince the people that some of his policies and reforms, seen as anti-people, were not meant to undermine the people but rather for the development of the state.
Pundits have accused the governor among others of dismissing thousands of teachers and civil servants, destroying people’s houses as well as dismissing thousands of traditional rulers.They also accused the governor of marginalisation in Southern Kaduna and not doing enough to curtail the incessant cases of kidnapping and banditry in BirninGwari local government area.
For Ashiru and PDP, they will have to confront the issue of image. Even though the popularity of the party has soared, most of the electorate still attribute their sufferings to the PDP sixteen years of looting and maladministration.
Besides, some saw the emergence of Ashiru, who is not known in the state as a serious threat to the party’s chances of defeating the APC. According to them, Kaduna needs a popular candidate to withstand the present governor at polls. To pundits, Ashiru will need to do more and get the support of not only members of PDP but other political parties and stakeholders to win.
Also, the biggest task before the PDP candidate and its leadership now is how to unite the aggrieved aspirants, especially those who contested and were defeated.Indeed, the contest for the 2019 in Kaduna state will be won by the candidate who has the pedigree to mobilise more support to his side by the end of the day. Who wins? Only time will tell?