BABA NEGEDU reports on the power play that led to the emergence of Hon. Isa Ashiru as the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna State out of the 10 aspirants, who vied for the ticket
Long before now, keen watchers of Kaduna State politics were aware that the gubernatorial ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) squarely belongs to the incumbent governor of the state, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. This is because as the incumbent governor and the way and manner the party structure in the state were construed, it will be easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for any party man to snatch the gubernatorial ticket from the governor.
It was not surprising then that while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna State had 10 governorship aspirants, the APC had only one in Governor Nasir el-Rufai. The attention then, prior to the primaries of the political parties was directed at the PDP in the state to see who will emerge to square up against Governor el-Rufai.
By the time the nomination forms were purchased and high wire politicking started in earnest, 10 aspirants were ready to slug it out and capture the ticket of the main opposition party in the state that had ruled Kaduna for 16 years before the APC seized the mantle in 2015.
However, the victory of Hon. Isa Ashiru Kudan was long foretold, barring any last minute eventuality according to many political insiders in the state. By the time the over 2,000 PDP delegates gathered at the Kaduna International Trade Fair complex along Kaduna -Zaria Road to choose the governorship candidate of the party in the state, unknown to many the battle had almost been won and lost.
Among the nine that contested against the eventual winner, only three aspirants, a former governor of the state, Muktar Ramalan Yero; former Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mohammed Sani Sidi and the incumbent Senator representing Kaduna North Senatorial zone, Sulieman Hunkuyi were the main contenders for the ticket.
Others like former Commissioner of Science and Technology in the state and former Financial Controller at the ECOWAS, Dr. Muhammad Sani Bello; former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice; Barr. Jonathan Kish Adamu, businessman and former Manager Dangote Flour Mills, Alhaji Shauibu Idris Mikati, were only just positioning themselves for bargaining and position. They had no chance even though politicians many at times are known not to give up until they are defeated at the polls.
For former Governor Ramalan Yero, the odds were stalked against him even before the campaigns. Even though sources in the state said he had allegedly severed ties with his erstwhile godfather and political mentor, former Vice President Namadi Sambo, the manner of his emergence as governor in 2012 and the way he was defeated by Governor Nasir el-Rufai in 2015 governorship election had left many delegates wondering whether they should again entrust him with the ticket of the party.
Yero emerged as the state governor in December 2012 following the death of Patrick Yakowa. But the real deal was how he became the deputy governor in the first place. Following the death of Late President Umaru Yar’adua, Sambo was elevated from governor to vice president to President Goodluck Jonathan. Yero, who was the then commissioner for finance was not among the front runners as deputy to late Yakowa. But against popular demand by the stakeholders including the then Governor himself who was said to have favoured his then commissioner for information, Saidu Adamu, Yero was foisted on the stakeholders.
Consequently, when Yero eventually became governor his relationship with many that worked with the late Governor Yakowa became frosty a development that led to mass exodus from the party to the then newly APC and the rest as they say is history.
This is in addition to what many in the state also attributed to his not so impressive performance in office. Just before the commencement of political hostilities in the state, Yero was also arrested, detained and charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over the handling of the 2015 elections campaign funds. The case is still pending in court.
On his part, the Ex-NEMA Director-General was seen as a strong contender for the top job in the state because of his strong connection to Sambo who was seen as the driving force behind his aspiration. However, many saw the battle between him and the eventual winner as a tug of war between former governors, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Sambo.
The state of the relationship between Makarfi and Sambo is still a matter of conjecture with many believing that the romance between both leaders is not as cordial as it used to be. While Makarfi was supporting the eventual winner, Sambo supported Sani Sidi.
The closeness between Sambo and Sidi were not in doubt. During his administration in Kaduna State, Sidi was commissioner for works. In fact at the time Sambo left Kaduna for Abuja, Sidi was not only commissioner for works but also overseeing the Ministry of Health at the same time. But a cabinet reshuffle that followed Sambo’s exit saw him ‘demoted’ to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a development that many say did not only anger the former Vice President Sambo but hasten the appointment of Sidi as DG of NEMA.
For Senator Hunkuyi, he was late in defecting from APC to PDP. A source in the state told New Telegraph that “before Hunkuyi came the primaries had been won and lost.”
By the time Hunkuyi left the APC with other senators to the PDP on July 24, the permutations and ground work for the emergence of Isa Ashiru had been concluded. A source who is conversant with the details told New Telegraph. Even though a grassroots politician and mobilizer, his efforts were either late in coming or not good enough to sway the delegates.
Many traditional PDP faithful were also still holding Hunkuyi ‘responsible’ for joining forces with the incumbent to topple the party at the polls in 2015.
So it was like fighting a lost battle, when Hunkuyi tried to rally some of the aspirants to his side, to also step down for him and enable him tackle the eventual winner.
Worried by what he and some other aspirants then said was the preferential treatment for Isa Ashiru, by the Felix Hassan Hyet-led PDP executive in the state, Senator Hunkuyi and few others had addressed a press conference calling for the sack of the state party chairman.
Hunkuyi and others had accused the Hassan Hyet-led executive of favoritism and working for a premeditated end. Addressing members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the aspirants under the aegis of Kaduna Governorship Aspirants Unity Forum comprising of Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, Mohammed Sani Sidi, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, Dr Muhammed Sani Bello and Dr Shuaibu Idris Mikati “condemns strongly the activities of the Kaduna State Chairman of our Party, Hon Felix Hassan Hyet, who has openly attached himself to one of the gubernatorial aspirants, which is against the norm and the principle of fair play.”
The aspirants said: “He has, without a sense of decorum, been openly working against the aspirations of the other gubernatorial aspirants in favour of his ‘anointed candidate’ because he has been promised the position of a running mate.
“After the recent congresses in which ad-hoc delegates were elected, the state chairman threw caution to the wind by tempering with delegate lists of several local governments areas sent to the state party secretariat to the advantage of his ‘anointed one’. There is great tension in the state as a result of the partiality of the party chairman; whereby the bright prospects of “bringing back” Kaduna State to the PDP is in jeopardy.
“Forum further notes, the attempt by the party chairman to surreptitiously foist the preferred candidate using a certain group called ‘Southern Kaduna Stakeholders Chairmen Forum’. This act is capable of destabilizing the party and its prospect in the 2019 polls and undermining the efforts of the aspirants to find consensus among themselves,” the aspirants said.
The aspirants who were represented by their spokesmen, Ahmed Maiyaki, Dr Allahmagani Yohanna, Mock Samuel Kure and Yakubu Lere insisted that, “In view of the above, the Forum humbly requests the national leadership of our great party to take ‘full charge’ of the party’s activities in Kaduna State, in order to rescue the situation and restore the confidence of majority of Party members and loyalists in the state once more.”
New Telegraph gathered that a meeting of the stakeholders after the press conference settled the impasse and restored confidence in the aspirants. However for Isa Ashiru, who won the primaries, the battle to contest the governorship position in Kaduna State did not start today.
After two terms in the Kaduna State House of Assembly and another two terms in the House of Representatives, the lawmaker moved to the APC in 2014 and contested the primaries of the party against Governor el-Rufai, but lost.
Ashiru was among those that formed the APC-Akida (True APC) in the early days of the el-Rufai administration to demand a change of tactics and policy in the governing process in the state. He was also among the first sets of politicians to dump the APC for the PDP where he started plotting on how to grab the ticket of the party ahead of the 2019 elections.
New Telegraph gathered that he was able to rally many of those that left the PDP during the 2015 elections to return to the party and work with him to wrest power from the APC. He was also among the first sets of aspirants to signify interest in the governorship race in the state.
Haven picked the ticket, the stage is now set between him and Governor el-Rufai, who narrowly defeated him in the APC primaries in 2015. Who will triumph in this second contest for the ultimate price? Only time will tell.