Two issues are helping to define the shape of things to come as
Kaduna warms up for the 2019 general elections
The first is the issue surrounding the change in plan by the Governor Nasir El-Rufai team to field the deputy governor of the state, Yusuf Barnabas Bala, popularly known as ‘Bantex,’ as El-Rufai’s running mate in 2019.
The deputy governor declared recently that he would be stepping from the exalted post of a deputy governor to contest for the Kaduna South senatorial seat.
“It is my firm desire to take this course, persuaded that if we are to save our people from the scourge of poor representation and divisiveness, major steps like this are required,” he stated.
The second is the refusal of Senator Shehu Sani who represents Kaduna Central senatorial zone, to defect from the All Progressives Congress (APC), to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Sani remains one of the earliest critics of the APC government at both state and national level that it was almost concluded that he would most definitely fly the flag of another party in 2015.
This has led to certain permutations within the state chapter of the party that totally excluded the senator.
But when Senate President Bukola Saraki read the names of senators that were defecting, that of Sani was conspicuously missing. The implication was that the permutations had to be reconfigured to either accommodate the senator or make sure he is thrown out for good.
Bantex was the state chairman of the APC in Kaduna State before he was paired with El-Rufai in the build-up to the 2015 elections and became deputy governor when the APC won the election.
His intention to abandon the joint ticket in 2019 has given rise to all sorts of interpretations that has affected the calculations of both parties.
The first is that it is an indication of a rift in the Government House and that the deputy was being sacrificed for political exigencies.
The second is that the race for Southern Kaduna senatorial seat will no longer be a walk-over for the PDP candidate since the governor would be showing more than keen interest in order not to allow his deputy be disgraced.
It has also created a vacancy in political positions and intense lobbying has started for who to replace Bantex.
The first issue stems from indications that the deputy governor may not have stepped down voluntarily but may have been compelled due to his inability to deliver the South senatorial zone where he hails from in the May 12 local government elections.
The PDP won in four out of the eight local governments in the senatorial zone while elections in two local governments were shifted indefinitely alongside two other local governments in the Central Zone.
Bantex was two times local government chairman of Kaura Local Government Area and in 2007 won a seat to the House of Representatives.
Projections over who will replace him as El-Rufai’s running mate and his seriousness about winning the seat have already altered political calculations in the state.
The suspension of Shehu Sani from the APC which all of a sudden has been resurrected is not without reason.
First to raise the matter was Governor El-Rufai who on a radio programme said Sani stood suspended and the only way the senator would be considered for readmission was if he goes back to his ward and apologizes for what he said about the party and its leaders.
The Tudun Wada North chapter of the APC affirmed that stance shortly after.
The chairman of the ward chapter, Ibrahim Salisu Togo, said the decision was based on the constitution of the party.
“We, the Tudun Wada North (Ward 6) Exco of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Kaduna South Local Government Area wish to affirm our decision on the indefinite suspension of Senator Shehu Sani.
“We make bold to say that our decision was based on the provisions of the constitution of our great party. Therefore, Senator Shehu Sani remains suspended.
“In all fairness to the party and Kaduna State voters, the only pre-condition for lifting this suspension on Senator Shehu Sani is for the lawmaker to openly apologize to the leadership of our great party for his various acts of misconduct and disrespectful attitudes towards both his constituents, party leadership and his vicious media attacks against our amiable President, Muhammadu Buhari.”
But the senator reacted immediately, saying the report of his ‘suspension’ by ‘a ward chairman’ was nothing but a “comical and clownish” stunt.
He said anyone who cared to search in Google would find that he had been suspended every month in the last three years remained in the APC.
The twists have to do with recent developments in the APC when 15 senators, including Senator Suleman Othman Hunkuyi from Kaduna, defected to the PDP.
The defection of Hunkuyi, who has had a running battle with the state governor, tilted the majority of the senate seats in the state to the PDP, giving the latter two of the three seats it previously had.
Shehu Sani was expected to be one of the senators to defect due to his criticism of the government and the no love lost relationship between him and El-Rufai.
But surprisingly, Sani did not move and a day later he was seen among the APC senators that went to visit the president and as people were yet to get over the shock, pictures of the president raising his hands surfaced.
In the APC circle, this is like an endorsement by the president which no other member of the party dares oppose.
Taking advantage of the development, Shehu Sani was to affirm that he remained a member of the APC because certain political leaders had prevailed on him not to defect.
But this is no good news on the side of the state government which had almost concluded that Sani would not be running on the party’s platform given his rabid criticism of the party and its leaders.
The subtle reference to his membership of the party implies that his eyes were in the party and he intends to contest the APC ticket for Kaduna Central Zone.
The position is seriously being eyed by a close friend and confidant of the governor, Uba Sani.
Shehu Sani, though a member of the APC, was one of those that opposed the idea of the state securing a $350 million World Bank loan, and helped to kill the matter in the Senate.
The governor has repeatedly asked people of the state to hold the senator and his two colleagues responsible for his inability to develop the state as he wanted.