Kaduna state appears to be under siege. Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufa’i, a man known for his massive campaigns in favour of good governance, has regrettably, been at the root of this civic and political turmoil. For a major part of his tenure, he has leapt from one tempest to the other, and from one controversy to another; he has also been driven by dispute and litigation, not only from opponents but also, even from members of his own Intimate political fraternity.
The APC, the ruling party in Kaduna State, is a broken vessel. Whereas the governor controls one faction, two Senators, Suleiman Hunkuyi and Shehu Sani control the other two factions. Last week, the crisis in the Kaduna APC, reached a horrifying low, when officials of the Kaduna State Urban and Property Development Agency, demolished a duplex on 11b Sambo Road, Kaduna. The house which belongs to Senator Hunkuyi, also served as the secretariat of the Hunkuyi faction of the APC in Kaduna State. The demolition of the building has not surprisingly, provoked considerable outrage within and outside the APC, as well as among members of the wider Nigerian public.
Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi has little doubt that Governor el-Rufa’i is the hangman in this sordid drama. However, the Kaduna State Urban and Property Development Agency says the demolition was carried out under its jurisdiction, and that the building had not paid ground rents which had been due since 2010. The agency also made unclear and vague noises about the building having been appropriated for undeclared purposes. The demolition was carried out reportedly at dawn and at a speed intended, possibly, to upstage any pleas for mercy or checkmate the prospect of popular resistance.
There is no tasteful way of bringing down a building. In this instance, because the demolition is perceived as politics-driven, the event has given a new edge to the sense of growing crises and unrest in Kaduna State. Presumably, it has also amplified el-Rufai’s sense of political isolation. He now works in clear dissonance with all two of his Senators in Kaduna, in addition to the alienation of a huge swathe of members of the party and the Kaduna electorate. Yet, this same man came into government on the crest of a populist agenda which promised to change Kaduna from a beggarly state; to transform it from a divided entity to a state of prosperity, love and unity. Many will now search in vain for the Kaduna of el-Rufai’s dream. Surely that dream has now become a peripatetic nightmare. The demolition was carried out in intemperate haste, and the infraction invoked to justify this sanction makes little sense. How does the total destruction of a building weigh against a ground rent default? There is obviously an imbalance, which can only be accounted for, by intolerant tyranny and political malice.
The demolition of the headquarters of the factional APC in Kaduna had been prefigured by other extreme policy choices, all of them avowed by Governor el Rufa’i or his agents. He had earlier carried out the demolition in the Alhudahuda College in Zaria; without sufficient reflection or preparation, he proscribed begging, and displayed amazing insensitivity in dealing with the killings in Southern Kaduna. In the same mode, el-Rufa’i sacked 390 District Heads, 5000 village heads and disengaged over 20,000 primary school teachers. Governor el-Rufai’s school feeding programme has been chaotic, ill-planned and prodigal. Kaduna state according to some reports, spent over 10 billion naira in four months on the feeding programs. In contrast, Kano State spent a mere 1.2 billion naira in two years on the same initiative. In Kaduna, the feeding programme has attracted a huge crowd of pupils who come, clutching plates rather than books. Meal time over, the schools turn empty.
Governor El-Rufa’i is obviously a persuasive populist ideologue. But in terms of practical policy implementation, some say, he has been a dismal failure. He has left Kaduna state, riven by in-house polarities, troubled by barely concealed cronyism, and has himself come out of it all, a figure of grave desolation. His demolition of Senator Hunkuyi’s building is a parable for the use of personal malice as an instrument of public policy. Last year, he also demolished the private residence of Inuwa Abdulkadir, APC’s national vice chairman, northwest. No one said anything. This tendency must be resisted at all cost and by every legal means possible. It should be a point of some public interest, that Governor el-Rufa’i, the perpetrator of the horror on Sambo Road, luxuriates in the reputation of being regarded as one of the blue eyed boys of President Buhari. El-Rufai’s misconduct is not only a stain on this privileged relationship but also a slur on the dignity of a state, which should never surrender itself for the purpose of private vengeance.
Both Governor el-Rufa’i and the victim, Suleiman Hunkuyi belong to the same political party. Many will therefore be dismayed that this vindictiveness unravels in an incestuous political environment. How much more virulence might we have been saddled with, were Governor el-Rufa’i dealing with a different political party, rather than a faction within his own. The stakeholders on all sides must come together and address this scourge. We condemn the whole episode on 11 Sambo Road, Kaduna and request that all steps must be taken to restore good sense. The intemperate demolition is not only a moral horror, but also a danger to good governance in Kaduna and a setback for democracy in Nigeria.