2019 Guber Race: The Many Odds Against el-Rufa’i

… Can he weather the political storm?

[Ishaku Yohanna]

With less than 24 hours to the commencement of the 2019 gubernatorial elections across the country, Kaduna State, no doubt, would be a centre of attraction for a very obvious reason: many would want to see how the Governor of the State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai will fight the political battle of his life as he seeks a second term in office.

Starting with so much rhetoric and grandstanding, el-Rufa’i made it clear during his inauguration on May 29, 2015, that he was going to embark on certain reforms to restore Kaduna to what he described as its ‘lost glory’; with a vow to make the state great again, and blamed successive administrations of various levels of mismanagement of the state’s resources.

He exuded so much promise and charm when he came glib-talking, and radiated rays of enchanting brightness with an epic sound bite of ‘Making Kaduna Great Again’, thereby becoming governor amid high hopes and huge expectations.

But those who have been watching the political development of the state since the time he assumed office to date may rightly conclude that the governor, in his excited interest to clean up Kaduna State, has made costly political blunders.

It was, therefore, small wonder that the euphoria that greeted his emergence as governor began nose-diving just within months in office. He has committed so many faux pas which also appears to have cancelled the short distance he had covered and reversed a virtual process of glorification into that of political extinction – a hypothesis that may be difficult to be refuted.

So, today, converse is truly the case, much as depicting the saying that “all that glitters is not gold.” And, overall, the Governor’s political behaviour has been awkward, even by Nigerian standard; a development that is ominous for the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Kaduna State in the coming 2019 governorship election.

Governor el-Rufa’i is no stranger to controversy as his over-heating of diverse tempers is legendary. As if never planning for the political rainy day, he mounted this old hobby-horse of his no sooner than his swearing in, which to date has dogged every action he has taken and every word he had uttered so much so that one begins to have the feeling that “Controversy” is, perhaps, his unofficial middle name. It is for such reason that his political fortune appears to have completely changed; especially for having failed to restore the confidence of the citizenry on government.

Enthusiastic and brilliant, but perhaps woolly-minded is el-Rufa’i mistaken if he ever thought that his kind of principles will work wonders in Kaduna State. Many have taken exception to most of his policies, which often times become unreliable in use; while many also are of the opinion that his policies are ‘hostile and vindictive’. The Governor had also shown early enough that the kinds of his policies are not needed. This is attested to, for example, by the many court cases instituted by citizens against his government.

He is at odds with almost all the APC members that made the journey with him to 2015; he has threaten many communities with demolition notices, including markets; he has sacked more than 30,000 civil servants without paying them their entitlements; his government’s unpardonable indiscretion of sacking 370 District Heads and thousands of Village Heads in one fell swoop; his complete lack of tact in handling the killings in Southern Kaduna, which brings him out as having bias against the Southern Kaduna people, are among the many odds that he has staked up against himself; So much that chronicling his activities as Governor of Kaduna State is like writing a fiction!

“Your government has failed to unveil any pragmatic agenda that will convince skeptics that it has a functional master plan, rather all its energies have been dissipated on how to make life more depressing to the hapless and poor people of Kaduna State…Another indication that your government has divested itself from the governed can be seen in the barrage of Court Orders and Injunctions being obtained against the government on a daily basis by people of the State. The explanation is simple: most of the government’s policies are anti people,” the Kaduna Restoration Group (KRG) had said.

However, for the Janus-faced el-Rufa’i, the Sun could rise in the North and sets in the South against the natural order of its’ rising in the East and setting in the West. It is this uncompromising posture that has pitched him against many to the extent that he is today a man many citizens of Kaduna State ‘love to hate’. But as they say: “Those the gods want to put to shame, they first make dump, deaf and blind to realities.”

For el-Rufa’i, it has been all years of laudable actions. “They have been trying to distract us, but they will not succeed,” he had once said. And while reacting to the allegations that not a single major project has been commissioned by his administration he said, “Those who say that know they are lying. In Education, Health, Roads, Water and Agriculture, we have done what we promised in our manifesto. As governor, I am proud that it is our commissioners that are commissioning schools, distributing text books for students, opening solar-powered primary health care centers, completing township roads, launching the farming season and fertilizer sales, commissioning solar-powered water works in Lere, roads in Kagoma etc,” he had once boasted.

Meanwhile, nothing is more articulate than the crisp counterpoise capturing the state of affairs in Kaduna State as expressed by the KRG in which the Governor was told in unmistakably terms that: “Our group has painfully observed that despite your government’s saintly and pious declarations especially in your midterm report read on your Democracy Day speech, on having delivered in terms of your Party’s Manifesto especially in the area of welfare delivery for the poor, the reality on ground is that the so called achievements are nonexistent, rather your administration largely exists for itself and a few band of core loyalists with mercantilist tendencies imported into the state. Your so called positive and high credit ratings are therefore trivial, feeble and delusional.

“From the wrongly thought-out school feeding programme which by your government’s own admission, gulped more than N10bn in 8 months (excluding so many schools in the villages) to the commissioning of the so called Zaria Water Works which has failed to provide water to end users and to the mindless demolition of houses of citizens and perceived opponents, the story in Kaduna State has remained a tale of woes on the populace especially the poor that came out in droves to vote for the APC led government in anticipation of positive change. We appreciate the level of inherited decay in the polity before the advent of this administration, however, two years is sufficient for any responsible government to implement and execute its marshal plan if any that will ameliorate the depressing conditions of the poor.

“The Civil and Unified Local Government Services in Kaduna State has been thoroughly bastardized, discredited and replaced by an amorphous contraption called ‘Consultants’ whose terms of reference are at variance with bureaucratic culture that triggers development. The multitude of these imported and rampaging consultants parading the political and economic firmaments of Kaduna State are unknown to the locals and because of their backgrounds as vampires, their function is to dispossess the locals from participation in the economic activities of their State and allow these set of people who do not ordinarily live in Kaduna State to way of capital flight move resources of the people out of the State thereby making the populace politically redundant and economically exploited. Little wonder that on paper there is development, while in reality there is stagnation.

“Under your watch as an ‘A’ listed professional project manager, capital projects initiated are mostly never completed, and those projects like roads that were completed despite huge expenditure have been washed away by the rains. So many dug culverts remain uncompleted and the flood that comes as a result of the rains has made Kaduna city an eyesore. The touted solar street lights development in the state still remains a figment of imagination. The lightings on Kaduna streets are so inferior that residents refer to them as “tokumbo”, that expression normally being used in local parlance to depict substandard items. This no doubt defeats the expectations of Kaduna State citizens in anticipating “the Dubai enactment” as promised by your humble self during the campaigns.”

Also, many keen observers of political trend in Kaduna State are in agreement that most programs of the el-Rufa’i led administration are not in favour of the people, saying the allure which had attracted people to him has waned. According to Mohammed Shehu, “the damage done by el-Rufa’i in just two years has surpassed the damage done by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) government in sixteen years. He has damaged the Civil Service; He has damaged the very political party that sponsored him to power; He has exacerbated an already tetchy division along religious and ethnic lines; He has also damaged the traditional institution. The whole state is lamenting.”

Forgetting that he is not running an autocratic government, the Governor has not only made a niche for speaking offensively, but has also given the bad impression that he is an unrestrained chief executive who fails to manage the enormous power and goodwill put at his disposal by the electorates. And besides becoming even more tempestuous by the day, el-Rufa’i seems not to understand that not everything that is lawful is expedient.

Unlike the proverbial traveler to distant places who must not cultivate enmity on his route, the Governor has taken the road of infamy; Over the years down this road, he has been busy cultivating foes instead of commissioning projects. He has turned into a bull in a China Shop. He has destroyed and dismantled the state’s social order. But he has now realized that in politics, polarization works only as a short-term electoral tactic. In the long term the only factor that allows electoral success is inclusiveness: with allies, with communities, and with ideas, which he fails to adhere to.

The political rainy day has now come, and it remains to be seen if el-Rufa’i can weather through the present political storm! However, what are visible on the ground are the frenzied activities by the administration in its battle for political survival. He has been all over President Muhammadu Buhari with cap in hand for electoral victory, and also taken to playing the religious trump card for survival. He has allegedly bribed some Islamic Scholars to use their preaching this Friday to campaign in his favour as he seeks reelection. This was disclosed through a leaked memo, which shows the amount disbursed, the names of the recipients and the purpose of the funds.

Meanwhile, with no wasted words, Reuben Buhari, spokesman to one time Governor of Kaduna State, the late Sir Patrick Yakowa, provides the clincher thus: “4 years after, el-Rufai shouldn’t be sweating to win another election. But unfortunately, that is what is happening.

“He rode on the back of Buhari’s popularity to win the 2015 guber election. He had an excellent opportunity to connect well and bond with all, but surprisingly, he didn’t. I mean he thought he did but he didn’t. He was ready to insult at the drop of a hat. He went unrestrained in words, in deeds and thought. He did everything possible to make himself a strong man without the essence of humanity.

“Then 2019 elections came and the essence of the strong man disappeared. To fix it, he introduces religion. Yes he did. But with that not working, he had to plead with Mr Buhari to come to his rescue. He still needed the President’s influence to win in 2019!

“Today, El-rufai should be able to win any election on his own merit. Anything short of that strips him of credibility even if he wins.”

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