Kaduna 2015: Strengths and weaknesses of Gladiators



The political temperature in Kaduna State seems to be getting very high as so many political gladiators have joined the race for the general election slated for February 2015 by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

At press time both the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) are conducting their primary elections to elect candidates for all the elective positions – presidential, governorship and parliamentary elections next year.

Though the primaries are inclusive as of the time of this report pundits had argued that the governorship contest in the state would be between the incumbent governor, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero of PDP and Malam Nasir El-Rufai, former Minister of Federal Capital Territory and APC governorship candidate.

Malam Nasir El-rufai was elected APC governorship candidate during the party’s gubernatorial primaries on December 4. El-Rufai got 1,965 to defeat Isa Ashiru who scored 1,379 votes. Others scored less than 30 votes each.

The governorship primaries was held at the Trade Fair Complex, Rigachikun, Kaduna amidst tight security with 3,557 accredited delegates from the 23 Local Government Areas.

Five aspirants vied for the ticket of the party, including El- Rufai, a serving member of the House of Representatives, Isah Ashiru; a former Accountant-General of Kaduna State, Haruna Saeed; the Director-General of Progressive Governors Forum, Salihu Lukman and another member of the House of Representatives, Shamsuddeen Abdullahi.


In the other hand, the contest for the Kaduna North Senatorial District election will also likely to be between the former governor of the state and a serving senator, Ahmed Makarfi and a grassroots politician, Alhaji Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, Deputy National Organizing Secretary of APC.

In PDP it was observed that most of the positions have already been allocated to the friends and associates of the power that be in the party. A source maintained that the primaries of the ruling party is a mere formality where the anointed candidates will be ratified for the general election.

In the governorship contest, it was gathered that Governor Yero is the sole candidate of PDP. Felix Hassan who is eyeing the exalted seat of the governor of the state under the platform of PDP is seen as a system-man who is seeking for awareness.

Lawali Yakawada, former Secretary to the Kaduna State Government under late Governor Patrick Yakowa was also a governorship aspirant. It was learnt that he cannot raise the party’s flag during the election because he has issues to answer. Governor Yero was the one who disengaged him from office as SSG.  

“All the delegates have been appointed by the sitting government. As you have seen they are all went there to do the bidding of their pay-master,” a source affirmed.

Like every other states in the country, Kaduna state is divided into three senatorial districts namely: Kaduna South, Kaduna Central and Kaduna North Senatorial Districts.

In Southern zone where late Governor Ibrahim Patrick Yakowa hails from, they were a lot of aspirants struggling for the senatorial seat under PDP but unfortunately for them, the seat was allocated to Senator (Mrs) Nenadi Usman. Nenadi Usman is the current senator representing the zone. She is married to a Muslim traditional ruler who is in the minority in Southern part of Kaduna. This arrangement turned down popular aspirants like Tanjuma Lah, Barr. Mark Jacob, erstwhile Director Legal, Nigeria Airport Authority and former commissioner of finance under Yakowa, Ayuba.

Political pundits argued that with this development, it appears PDP have been hoisted to frustrate the natural feeling of the people of Southern Kaduna for the two most exalted positions. This may also indicate that the party is saying we need your votes but we don’t care about your feelings and progress.  

In the Central Senatorial District, a selection was also reportedly made for the all wise people of the Central zone in the person of Alhaji Amodu, the nephew of Vice President Namadi Sambo who also allegedly doubles as caretaker of business of VP.

In the Northern Senatorial Zone, the war appears to be lost for PDP, hence the decision to allow Senator Ahmad Markarfi to go unopposed even though Markarfi reportedly told his confidents that he will never invest a kobo because the battle is a lost battle. As seen there are other important seats between the National Assembly and state house of assembly that have as well been allocated

There also appears to be uneasiness in APC. It was alleged that Ashiru Isah Mohammed Camp of APC is working in strict tandem with the PDP. Ashiru lost to Nasir El-Rufai during the APC governorship primaries.

While the wounded PDP aspirants will try to pull the carpet under Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, Markarfi, Nenadi; the aggrieved Ashiru camp in APC will try to pull the carpet under the perceived APC flag-bearers.

Portrait of some of the political gladiators that will slug it out with each other in 2015 in Kaduna are summarized below:

Mukhtar Ramalan Yero

He is the incumbent governor and godson to Vice President Namad Sambo. His relationship with Sambo dated back to 1997, when he worked in Nalado Nigeria Limited, a company owned by Sambo, where he served at various times as chief accountant, head of administration and later director, finance and administration. He was appointed Commissioner for Finance in 2007, under the Sambo administration. When Sambo became vice president in 2010 and his former deputy, late Patrick Yakowa became governor; Yero was appointed Yakowa’s deputy.

Following the demise of Yakowa in a helicopter crash in Bayelsa State, Yero was sworn-in as substantive governor.The 2011 election result in Kaduna State shows that PDP got its victory from Southern Kaduna. This was because their kinsman, late Patrick Yakowa, the first civilian governor from the zone contested the election under the platform of PDP. The other two zones, Kaduna North and Kaduna Central zones did not really vote for the ruling party.
Now that the game has changed basically because of mysterious death of Ibrahim Patrick Yakowa in helicopter crash and recent sudden death of Isaiah Balat, the disengagement of one of their own, from NNPC job, PDP may have difficulty to get support from Southern Kaduna in the next general election. This calls for serous work for Yero who is being accused of abandoning of his predecessor’s project in the zone.

Malam Nasir El-Rufai

He is the former FCT minister and immediate past deputy national secretary of APC. He is the governorship candidate of APC for the next gubernatorial election. He established a Quantity Surveying and Project Management Consulting firm in 1982 with three other partners. The firm was quite successful, handling mainly building and civil engineering projects in Nigeria. From November 1999 to July 2003, he was the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Secretary of the National Council of Privatization where he spearheaded the privatisation of many government owned companies.
With the establishment of the Abuja Geographic Information System within 12 months of being Minister of the FCT, Abuja became the first municipality in Nigeria with a computerised land register and information system. Along with the President and members of the Economic Management Team, he led the reform of the Nigerian public service which had become dysfunctional during years of military dictatorship. At various times during his tenure as Minister, he oversaw the Federal Ministries of Commerce (twice) and Interior. He also chaired several high-profile cabinet committees that led to the establishment of a mortgage system in Nigeria. National ID card system for Nigeria, Electric Power Supply Improvement and the sale of Federal Government real estate in Abuja.

As the candidate of APC, he will definitely challenge the incumbent governor Yero. One of his challenge will be how to settle the post-primary election crisis.

Shortly after he was declared winner on penultimate Friday morning, he promised to immediately embark on reconciliation process with his colleagues in order to build a formidable APC that will defeat the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Kaduna State in 2015 polls.

Ahmed Makarfi

He was elected Governor of Kaduna State under the platform of PDP from 1999 to 2007 and was elected senator for Kaduna North Senatorial District in 2007 under the same platform.

It was alleged that he planted one of his boys, Hon. Isah Ashiru, in the APC for the governorship ticket in 2015. Though it cannot be immediately verified, Markarfi reportedly told his confidents that he will never invest a kobo in the senatorial election because the battle is a lost battle.

Makarfi, lost his senatorial re-election to Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed of the defunct CPC in 2011, but later reclaimed his mandate through the court.

Though the parliamentary primary elections was inclusive as of the time of writing this report, if Suleiman Hunkuyi eventually picks the APC flag for the senatorial zone, then Makarfi will have a lot of home work to do because Hunkuyi is a grassroots politicians admired by several people irrespective of political affiliation and religious inclination.

Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi

Hunkuyi is a political household name with a large followership in the State. He is a politician with a lot of dedicated supporters who move with him in thick or thin. Apart from the 2003 contest that he directly challenged Markafi, no other contest was done without him leading the campaign. He led Namadi’s 2007 campaign and also spent sleepless nights in Sir Kashim Ibrahim House to see to the victory of Sir Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa in 2011.

He was elected chairman of Makarfi Local Government Area under the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC and served as the state chairman of the All Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON. Described as one of the strategists who pushed for NRC’s victory at the gubernatorial race that saw the emergence of Alhaji Mohammadu Dabo Lere and James Bawa Magaji as governor and deputy governor, he was the brain behind the emergence of Makarfi as governor in 1999. He was Director-General of the Makarfi campaign Organisation and appointed Commissioner, Ministry of Finance in Makarfi’s administration. He resigned to challenge Makarfi in 2003 under the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.

Hunkuyi also contested PDP governorship primaries in 2007 and 2011 and lost at both instances due to what pundits argued was as a result of lack of level playing ground. For example, prior to 2011 election, he was disqualified by PDP screening committee for primary election over an inconsequential matter but he was only permitted for the contest few hours before the primary election.

Hunkuyi defected to APC and emerged its Deputy National Organising Secretary in the just concluded APC national convention. He is going to slug it out with Makarfi for the Kaduna North Senatorial District Election.

Ashiru Isah Mohammed

He is one of the governorship aspirants under APC.   Ashiru who represents Makarfi/ Kudan Federal Constituency also have some support base but some political analysts opined that he was planted in APC by Senator Makafi. Both of them are from the same zone. He recently defected from the PDP to the APC. He will contest the APC primaries with the likes of Nasir El-Rufai. General Mohammed Buhari, former Head of State and APC presidential aspirant has since endorsed El-Rufai for the governorship poll. This indicates that if Ashiru is really interested in the race he needs to work harder.

Bantex Barnabas Bala

Though, there are no indication that he is contesting any election, he is a formidable force to reckon with in the politics of Kaduna State. He was a former chairman of Kaura Local Government Area of the state and former member of the House of Representatives. Bala, was elected Kaduna State chairman of the APC during the last state congress.

Bala is from Southern Kaduna. His presence in APC means a lot in Southern Kaduna where many of them believed not to be treated well by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, both at state and national level.


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