The last is yet to be heard in the ministerial nomination saga involving former Kaduna state governor, Nasir el-Rufai, whose botched clearance by the Senate has left the ministerial slot for Kaduna State conspicuously vacant, 30 days after the first batch of 28 ministerial nominees, including el-Rufai, secured Senatorial clearance and almost a fortnight after all cleared 45 Ministers were sworn into office.
While the power play and web of intrigues that led to el-Rufai’s ouster is already in the public domain, there is, however, a heavy dose of infighting back home in Kaduna where he once held sway.
THEWILL learnt that Governor Uba Sani and his predecessor are currently engaged in a subtle supremacy battle, following the botched ministerial nomination.
HOW IT STARTED
The first signs of disagreement between the duo manifested when the former governor’s chance of clinching a ministerial position was sacrificed on the altar of power play within the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), whose antagonistic big wigs flaunted lack of security clearance against him, whereas, as a matter of fact, the larger issue of 2027 and 2031 politics was at play.
According to a source within the party, el-Rufai is perceived within political circles as a smaller version of ex- President Muhammadu Buhari in terms of his capacity to commandeer allegiance across political and religious lines, which is divisive for a multi-ethnic and diverse country. A national platform like the ministerial appointment would help him to consolidate his position.
However, upon the failure of his nomination, el-Rufai suggested a replacement that a state government source said was his image and likeness rather than enhance the status of the state. Jafaru Ibrahim Sani, his nominee, was a commissioner in three ministries in Kaduna State, namely Local Government, Education and Environment, while Mr El-Rufai was governor.
Apart from being a loyalist, Sani also comes from the same senatorial district, Zaria Local Government Area, as el-Rufai and the current governor of the state.
Governor Sani is said to have viewed this move as politically insensitive and immediately kicked against it. He was said to have prevailed on President Bola Tinubu to dishonour the replacement for the state’s ministerial slot.
In the first instance, according to THEWILL investigation, the governor was said to have considered his authority undermined by his predecessor when he was not allowed to make the nomination. Secondly, the political implications further deepened the crisis of confidence in the state like previous miscalculations under el-Rufai’s governorship.
PAST POLITICAL CRISIS
Here is the historical background to the ensuing stalemate: Kaduna, like other states in the federation, has three senatorial districts – North, South and Central – which often determine the sharing formula of political offices and appointments within and outside the state. If a governor were to come from one district, the deputy would presumably come from the second and the Speaker of the House of Assembly from the third and so on.
But under el-Rufai, the governor and the Speaker, House of Assembly, politically came from Kaduna North Senatorial District during his eight-year tenure as governor of the state. While his deputy in both his first and second term, Barnabas Bantex and Dr Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, respectively, came from Kaduna South, the ministerial appointment is being seen as a continuation of this distorted pattern.
At any rate, this picture needs some clarity.
The Deputy Governor for the second term under el-Rufai, Dr. Balarabe ,though from Sanga, located in Southern Kaduna, which contains 12 of the state’s 23 local government areas and 51.2 population, according to the 2006 census, is a Muslim. The snag is that as a Muslim by faith and in a secular state, such as Kaduna, her sustained appointment until 2023 has further deepened the old animosity between Christians and Muslims, inflamed passions and become fodder for extremists.
Governor Uba Sani, also a Muslim, who benefitted from this awkward arrangement, is said to have been trying to tread softly but determinedly since assumption of office on May 29, 2023 to address some of his predecessor’s past policies that had fueled mutual distrust and violence among citizens of the state.
The governor is said to be ready to reverse many of the policies that have produced conflict between North and South Kaduna, but then in a rather slow manner that will not raise an eyebrow from any quarter.
In carrying out his reconciliation policies, Governor Sani is said to have adopted what a source called the “Makarfi Option,” a coinage after ex-Governor Ahmed Makarfi who governed the state between 2007 to 2015 and ran an inclusive administration that provided the helpful platform that led to the resolution of a prevailing political crisis before he assumed office. His impartiality in dealing with all the interests in the state and empowering community leaders in decision making, helped to restore order in the volatile state.
Strategically, Sani has begun his moves by carrying out popular policies. The first was to reduce prohibitive school fees in all government schools. In the ongoing distribution of palliatives, he has set up an all-inclusive committee comprising workers and persons with disability under the headship of local government chairmen to target 1.5 million houses in the first instance.
“Most remarkable in his adoption of the “Makarfi Option” is the governor’s frontal attack on the insecurity situation in the state through dialogue. Indiscriminate killings, which occurred almost daily, have reduced significantly since his assumed office,” said a source, who craved anonymity for obvious reasons. He added that, “Any move that has the potential to lower morale and endanger the fragile peace is unwelcome.” El-Rufai’s ministerial nomination is said to have upset many in the Kaduna government.
STARK POLITICAL REALITY
Also, fueling the supremacy battle is the precarious position of the APC, the governing party in the state, following a sort of referendum on the policies under El-rufai’s governorship during the 2023 general election.
It came in the form of the results of the 2023 General Election in the state, which showed in bold relief the people’s verdict on el-Rufai’s tenure. In the National Assembly Election, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, won all three senatorial positions. Of the 14 House of Representatives Seats in the contest, PDP picked 11.
Even the Presidential Election in the state was won by Atiku Abubakar of the PDP. He polled 554,360 of the votes cast to beat the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, who got 399,293 to come second, while Labour Party’s Peter Obi polled 294,494 to claim the third position.
The Governorship Election, which Governor Sani won by a slim margin of 730,002 votes to 719,196 for the PDP candidate, Isa Ashiru, is currently a subject of litigation at the State Election Petition Tribunal.
“This is the political verdict of former Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s policies. Most voters did not vote against APC because they loved the PDP. They delivered a statement with their votes,” a government source told THEWILL, adding that the former government’s ministerial manoeuvring,“ has raised “a similar angst in government circles here, which is an unhelpful distraction, given the post -election political situation in the state.”
According to the source, those praising the former governor for working very hard to deliver Tinubu as party candidate and eventually as president, should wonder why the same man failed to deliver his party in the state under his power.
“Governor Sani is uncomfortable with the kind of politicking whereby the replacement his predecessor nominated for the ministerial position is from the same areas as him and the former governor,” said the source, adding that any action that would generate criticism or antagonism from groups in the state, such as the reaction from the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, SOPEKU, which insisted that el-Rufai should allow fairness, Justice and equity to rein, would be avoided.
Attempts to get reactions from former Governor El-Rufai did not yield positive results. Calls made by THEWILL to his three telephone lines, Saturday morning, did not go through even as there was no reply to the message sent to his lines. His close aide, Muyiwa Adekeye, could not be reached as of the time of filing this report.
EL-RUFAI FIGHTS BACK
In the meantime, el-Rufai is said to be scheming to get back the ministerial position he earlier withdrew his interest from and nominated Jafaru Ibrahim Sani as replacement. The first sign showed up on August 20, when he took to his X platform handle to bemoan his ministerial loss as a betrayal. In the social media platform on that day, the ex-governor posted a reggae hit song, “Who The Cap Fits,” by late Boy Marley, who laments that a friend who knows your secrets, eats and drinks with you is more dangerous than an enemy.
Ex- Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, is said to have spearheaded the lobby for El-Rufai’s return as minister because he currently feels like a fish out of water in Kaduna where his past policies and current actions have returned to haunt him.
The former Emir who broke the diplomatic ice on the situation in Niger when he successfully contacted the coup plotters alongside the Emir of Damagun, after a failed visit by a presidential delegation led by former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, is said to be pestering President Tinubu to take El-Rufai back.
A dependable source in support of the lobbying told this newspaper, “Regardless of what Nasir El-Rufai may have done in the past and now, he still has an indispensable aspect, which is the capacity to take hard decisions and execute projects to the letter. What Tinubu could do if the hawks within the party and Aso Villa think el-Rufai will undermine the government will be to appoint a tough Minister of State to watch over the former Kaduna governor.”
How Governor Sani, whose opposition has also slowed the president’s hand in filling the ministerial vacancy, will react is yet to be seen.