Yakowa: Kaduna’s Delicate Dance By Salisu Suleiman

By Salisu Suleiman

The tragic death of Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna state on Saturday has brought to the fore once again the delicate balance in majority/ minority politics in Kaduna and other states in Nigeria. Like Kaduna, where barely muted distrust exists between the largely Muslim north  and the substantially Christian south, states like Plateau, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno, Benue, Cross River, Taraba, Nasarawa and others also have challenges with majority/ minority politics.

In the case of Kaduna, only the elevation of Mohammed Namadi Sambo from state governor to vice president made it possible for his deputy, Yakowa to become governor of the state. This by itself raises serious concerns about our brand of politics, the concepts of majority and minority, competence in the selection of candidates and the entire electoral process itself.

Based on public service experience, if there ever was a candidate qualified to be governor of Kaduna state, that candidate was Yakowa. He rose to become a director in the federal civil service in key ministries like Water Resources and Defence, was state sole administrator of a political party, commissioner in Kaduna state for several years, federal permanent secretary and minister of solid minerals under Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar.

After retiring as a federal permanent secretary, Yakowa became Secretary to the Kaduna state government, and upon the death of the former Kaduna state deputy governor, took over that position under then Governor Makarfi. Ordinarily, he should have stepped into his boss’s shoes and become governor in 2007, but so timid was minority politics that he hardly bothered to contest the primaries.

After the political abracadabra that brought the then relatively unknown Sambo to Kaduna Government House, Patrick Yakowa was content to remain as deputy governor: That was the limits of his political aspirations, restricted as it were, not by lack of ambition, but the issue of minority and majority politics.

The questions are: what if President Yar’adua had not died? Or what if another of the numerous contenders for the position of vice president had been nominated? That would mean that Yakowa, as qualified as he was  - with his far reaching contacts and many Muslim friends in Kaduna and elsewhere across Nigeria would never have become governor, though he had more experience in public administration and governance than his two predecessors in office – Senator Makarfi and Vice President Sambo combined.

When in 2011, Yakowa decided to contest the seat in his own right, the groundswell of opposition was massive. Clearly, the issue was not about his qualification, but about why a candidate from the so-called minority should govern the majority. Though eventually declared winner by INEC and the courts, there were many who believed Yakowa did not legitimately win. The violence that broke out left hundreds of people dead. Today, Muslim refugees from many parts of southern Kaduna have been unable to return home – what is left of their charred homes, that is.

And that, precisely, is the point of this piece. As long as the indemnity of identity – be it ethnic group or religion remain more important than experience and qualification  in contesting public office, the kind of mediocrity that is visible in the Presidency and the federal executive council and virtually all public office in Nigeria will continue. As it were, despite many qualified people, southern Kaduna must now be wondering if they will ever produce a governor again, barring unforeseen circumstances.

In Benue state, the Tivs would probably never surrender the governorship to an Idoma no matter how qualified and experienced. This was reflected in 2007 when Mike Onoja, an Idoma with all the right contacts lost the PDP primaries to the relatively inexperienced Gabriel Suswan from the majority Tiv. If the Idomas succeed in getting Apa state, the Igedes would become the minorities in the new state and may never produce a governor. In Taraba state, only the unfortunate plane crash of Governor Suntai paved way for a minority to become acting state governor, pending Suntai’s return.

Similarly, in Adamawa state, religion and ethic group remain key determinants of who gets what, where and how. In Plateau State, no member of the Muslim minority has managed to become even a jobless deputy governor. The highest elected office grudgingly conceded to them is that of deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly. Even in relatively cosmopolitan and homogeneous Ogun state, disputes exist between the Egbas and the Ijebus.

In Cross River state, Ogoja people feel neglected. In Kogi, tensions exist between Igalas and Igbiras.

In essence, at a time when Nigeria should be electing its best people to strategic positions, too many states and local government areas in the country remain bogged down by the politics of balancing ethnic and religious interests. Thus, competence, capacity, qualification, experience, honesty and other considerations that should determine a candidate’s eligibility and electability are relegated to the background.

In the final analysis, this is a time when Kaduna, like other states battling with majority/ minority agitations should reach out to all groups to forge a consensus. This is a sombre, delicate dance that the new leadership must do in order to rebuild trust and togetherness.

Suleiman is a director at the Civic Media Institute of Nigeria.  (suleiman@nigeriaintel.com)


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters


16 comment(s)
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Who told you that Ardo-Kola, Bali, Yorro, Jalingo and all those LGA's you mentioned are dominated by moslems. Please read facts very well,and be truthful for once, not because you are a moslem. Taraba is 70% Christians and 30% moslems. Go get your facts right.

taraba muslems are not minority

let me call d attention of d writer when makng analysis, devote ur time and all necessary thngs that wil enable u get genue information about TARABA otherwise dn't mek any comnt about what u dnt have d clean picture of it. Taraba state is highly dominated by MUSLEMS, simply bcus Jalingo, Ardokola, yorro, gassol, sardauna, ibbi, bali and gashaka lgas are 90percent muslems while k/lamido, wukari, zing, lau, takum n donga lgas we are 50/50. Also,kurmi/ussa are 90percent xtain.
Out of 13 1st, 2nd n 3rd chiefs, 10 are muslems. It's only d trust shows 2 xtain turns 2 hatrate and betrayal dat side_line muslems.

Frank Victor:You are Ignorant

Frank Victor you simply need to be conversant with the Nigerian current affairs before venturing out to comment on National issues you know little about.In Borno for example the post of Deputy Gov is always reserved for the Biu people and in Niger where the issue of majority minority politics is handled much better than most of other states the post of Deputy Gov for whatever it is worth is usually reserved for the Christians.But you seemed to completely missed the point Sulaiman is trying to advance which is simply that we should do away with minority/ majority politics and go for merit as a basis for electing our leaders at all levels that is the only way we can make progress as a nation. I can see that from what you are saying you also agree with his position but your problem is that you did not comprehend the write up before attacking.This is a case of shooting before aiming.


that is the Nigeria our so called leaders are building for their children yet on born and they have perfectly called it one NIGERIA....A Country you are not allow to get any thing unless you come from a particular group May God have mercy on us all......

Nice piece Sulaiman

Many Nations started this way. Hopefully, Nigeria will ovecome this despicable attidude of ethnicity and religious intolerance. I want to also draw the attention of the first commentor up there. Sulaeiman only gave examples of states where Majority/Minority politics is taking place. But because people like you are hell bent on creating such ill feelings, u tried to prove what's not there. Sulaiman only made reference of Plateu, a xristian dominated state, just like he gave an instance of Kaduna, where Muslims are the dominant. And as far as he points out, he's not trying to justify what happens in any state. May God gice us the wisdom to place our reasoning beyond sentiments.

Yet we suffer together

Yet we attend same bad schools&hospitals, we use same bad-roads, we suffer lack of electricity& water together! What are the benefits?

Mr suleiman,av read ur

Mr suleiman,av read ur article but don't tink u were objective about ur analysis. How do u exlain a situation where a section of kaduna state were jubilating over the death of patrick yakowa simply because he is not of same faith or tribe with them?

A Good Article

Mr. Suleiman, you hit the nail on the head. I didn't know that Mr. Yakowa was a well-grounded, hard working individual until I read your article. Your analysis is excellent, and thank you for expanding my realm of knowledge.

frank victor

As d name implies say Frank Victor is it not obviuos u are not from nasarawa state. For ur information Aabdullahi Adamu that spend 8years as d first civilian Governor is Afor by tribe, Aliyu Akwe doma is alagbo by tribe and d present governor is neither hausa or fulani by tribe. So ask question if u don't know things don't just speek for us cus we are living in peace in nasarawa state u should not bring any confusion in to our peace loving state.

@Mr Frank Victor

I read your comment Mr Frank Victor, but is totally contrary to the meaning of this write-up. the man is just siting some examples with some few states that have majority/minority problems among many states in Nigeria. the aim of this write-up is to read and learn how to make our nation great. otherwise we should remain undeveloped nation trap with insecurity, poor education, poor leadership, looting of public fund, corruption etc.

Salisu Sulaiman: You are a biased

Are you making us to believe that there are no religious or ethnic minorities in the core north of Borno, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina and Jigawa states who deserve to be the governor or deputy governor of these states. What of Nasarawa state that has been totally taken over by the hausa-fulanis with no hope for the true owners of the state to become governor because of the faith they belong? The so-called minorities you made reference to in Plateau state do not form up to 10% of the population of plateau state. How then can they be deputy governor if the larger population of people in Biu and other places in Borno state cannot even be allowed to be speaker of Borno state house of assembly? The christian population in Niger state is more than 35% but they can never become governor. Same for Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa and Katsina states. Don't think we are fools my friend. You first do what you are saying others should do then they will automatically follow.

Mr. Suleiman sir, with due

Mr. Suleiman sir, with due respect to your analysis of the situations on ground, I want to let you know that your analysis of Taraba state is not correct. Taraba state has a majority of muslims. According to the 2006 census Taraba state has More than 60% muslims as against christians. Out of the 16 local governments the christians can only claim majority in two local government councils which are Ussa and Kurmi LGAs. Even the brain damaged governor's Bali local government area has more muslims to christians. Thank you.

Struggles between the

Struggles between the majority and minority, fear of domination, primordial sentiments is at the root of instability in these states and indeed Nigeria. This has succeeded in exalting mediocrity to the commanding heights of our polity and economy. This piece captures it well.

God bless you Suleiman

God bless you Suleiman, that is all I can say. You objectivity has made my day.

Where do we go from here.......

At times I keep wondering what the hell is wrong with a black man but on a second thought, this differences does not refer to Africans or Blacks alone its a global thing. Now when we need to come to term on a reasonable level, I think this sort of descriminations occur when "others" feel lopsided or inferior. And when the victims finally won the position he or she would pay back this same coins likewise. So, knowledgebly this is human thing right from day one on the existent of human. I once argued concerning state creations, telling anyone who is sensible to know that it wont solve anything and breaking up Nigeria will not solve anything either. So Suleiman, if is not religion or tribe is other thing, thats human, but still we have to keeping on going no matter where "life" takes us, at least we still got it.
God bless Nigeria.

Suleiman thanks for your

Suleiman thanks for your analysis but go and do more research on Taraba. Muslim are not minority.