KADUNA STATE 2019 : The Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi gamble

February 14th, 2018

“If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country” E. M. Forster

By Emmanuel Ado

One of the most well-known cries of anguish over a betrayal is Julius Caesar’s “Et tu, Brute?” uttered by Caesar, when Marcus Brutus, a Roman senator, joined the plot to oust him from power. Brutus, an adopted son of Julius Caesar, was not only part of the conspiracy, but struck the fatal cut, hence the deep cry of anguish by his uncle Caesar. It was the unkindest stab that sent Caesar to his early grave. Brutus’ betrayal of Julius Caesar was fueled by complicated concerns for the Roman Republic.

He was convinced his beloved Caesar wanted to become a dictator, even when there was no hard evidence. But Brutus’ inflexible sense of honour made it very convenient for Caesar’s enemies to manipulate him into believing that Caesar had to be killed for Roman Empire to survive. The story of Marcus Brutus is the story of how man can be very complex and unpredictable. The story of Caesar and Brutus is the story of the “noblest of Romans” ultimately betraying his friend because he believed he was acting in the very best interest of the Republic that he loved more than Caesar.

Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, a junior brother of Nasir El- Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, like Brutus, is leading the political offensive against El-Rufai, his benefactor, in his words, for the “greater interest of Kaduna State,” just like Brutus. The only striking difference between the betrayal of Caesar by Brutus and that of Nasir El -Rufai by Hunkuyi, is the element of surprise that was missing. He should have taken a cue from Narendra Modi of India, whose hallmark is surprise. El-Rufai hasn’t felt the Hunkuyi stab like that of Marcus Brutus, that led Julius Caesar to cry ‘Ettu, Brute?’ because it was a stab long, long expected from Hunkuyi, whose burning desire to govern Kaduna State is well documented.

Senator Ahmed Makarfi, a former political soul mate of Hunkuyi, tells anyone who cares to listen that it is in the very nature of Hunkuyi to pick up fights without justification, to betray, more out of his inordinate ambition to be king than for any other reason. Makarfi should know. Having tasted what politicians now refer to as “Hunkuyi Dose,” Ahmed Makarfi would no doubt feel vindicated that Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi has meted same dose to Nasir El Rufai.

But what are the issues between El- Rufai and Hunkuyi whose senior brother, Idi Othman, is El-Rufai’s bosom friend and junior brother. Hassan Othman is the State Commissioner for Rural and Community Development under El-Rufai? Is Hunkuyi’s real problem with E-Rufai in the greater interest of Kaduna State like he claims? Has Senator Hunkuyi miscalculated in picking a fight with El-Rufai, who is not known to shy away from one? The critical question is, can Hunkuyi pull off this gamble which if he fails might send him into political oblivion? And how will he handle the burden of being tagged a “serial betrayer?” And if Hunkuyi fails to get the ticket of All Progressive Congress (APC), what are the other options before him?

Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi is an ambitious man, which is not a crime. He has never disguised his burning desire to govern Kaduna State. And that’s a very big problem because Kaduna State seems not like aspirants that appear desperate- Dalhatu Tafida, Ango Abdullahi are good examples. Despite being eminently qualified, they never made it. Hunkuyi has contested for the Governorship of Kaduna State in 2003 and 2007. The indications, contrary to his stated position, is that he will contest against Nasir El-Rufai for the Governorship ticket or play the role of a spoiler, because the forces opposed to El- Rufai see him as the one with the “clout,” an insider that can take on Nasir El-Rufai.

A theory popularized by Kim Philby who argues that “To betray, you must first belong.” There is no doubt that Hunkuyi saw an opportunity to realize his age long ambition, which explains the standard “Hunkuyi Dose” for Nasir El-Rufai. When Hunkuyi broke away from Makarfi in 2003, many were convinced that he was badly treated by Makarfii, hence Hunkuyi ditched him. The move against El-Rufai has exonerated Makarfi.

The silent war between El-Rufai and Hunkuyi didn’t blow open until September last year with Hunkuyi vowing never to support the re-election bid of El-Rufai due to what he tagged “El-Rufai’s non-challant attitude to the problems affecting the people of Kaduna State.” But unknown to observers is the fact that the relationship once considered deep and unshakeable had gone real sour from the very outset due to their differences on governance, amongst other issues. The first major crisis being the choice of a Deputy Governorship candidate. Hunkuyi wanted Makiai, his long-time political associate, which was firmly resisted by El-Rufai. The second crisis was in the constitution of the cabinet, while Hunkuyi reportedly preferred politicians. El-Rufai wanted technocrats that can drive the far reaching reforms he was going to initiate. And like they say the rest is history.

Hunkuyi attempt at selling his problems with El Rufai as being in the greater interest of Kaduna State and not crass opportunism would be a very difficult sell because of his ambition and the ties between his family and Nasir El-Rufai. His senior brother, Idi Othman, is Nasir El Rufai’s friend of over 40 years. The present commissioner for Rural and Community Development, Engineer Hassan Othman is his immediate junior brother. There are other members of his family holding key appointments in the El-Rufai government. To crown it all, Hunkuyi himself got elected courtesy of the El-Rufai connection as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The question for Hunkuyi would be, at what point did he realize that El-Rufai was not spreading the appointments round? Was it after the Hunkuyi family had obviously been over patronized?

Hunkuyi’s fatal mistake was in appropriating the victory of El-Rufai as his sole making. The consequent mistakes of the toga of a kingmaker stemmed from this error of judgement and the root of the crisis. Hunkuyi committed the same cardinal sin Atiku Abubakar, the former Vice President committed with his I “made Chief Olusegun Obasanjo swagger” that complicated relationships and sowed the seed of the war of attrition and the genesis of his political demystification. It was craze political arrogance on the part of Atiku especially as the political pendulum was swinging in Obasanjo’s direction in atonement for the June 12 election that was annulled to claim he made Obasanjo. The same situation was true of Kaduna State in 2015- anyone that the APC threw up would have defeated the lackluster Ramallan Yero, coupled with the Buhari hurricane. Yero, by the way shouldn’t have held any office higher than that of a Councilor – tragedy of our recruitment process.

If Hunkuyi fails in his challenge of El- Rufai, the options open to him are very limited. Defecting to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), wouldn’t be an option as Makarfi will most likely not trust him considering their encounters in the past. Though the PDP might be tempted use him to cause maximum damage. This is obviously one gamble that Hunkuyi didn’t think through, or was he consumed by ambition that he didn’t pay attention to an issue that might sound his political death? Can Hunkuyi make allegations of corruption against the government without calling into question the role of his brothers?

El- Rufai was always going to run into trouble with politicians whose ways are not his ways. Only an El-Rufai will stop the age long practice of distribution of grains, milk, sugar to politicians for fasting, stop sponsorship of Muslim and Christian pilgrims to the Holy Grounds, effect a surgical reduction in the unreasonable number of District/Village Heads, drive with real vigor the revitalization of the civil service and take on primary teachers that all previous administrations confirmed were incompetent, but were too scared to take action, due to fear of the Electoral consequences.

Though some of these policies initially appeared unpopular, they have overtime gained acceptance and definitely repositioned the local governments, the service etc. The freed up resources are being put to the development of the state. The simple fact is that for most politicians a Government is considered good, depending on how they are treated. And policies that will ruffle feathers must be left untouched. They simply don’t give a hoot about Service delivery.

Hunkuyi dumping Nasir El-Rufai can’t be because he has failed to deliver the goods. The reform of the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service raised the Internally Generated Revenue from a paltry N600 million to about N2billion monthly. To attract N62 billion capital investment in 2016, N70 billion in 2017 and the more than 280 million United States Dollars investment is not a joke. The essential Nasir would always be misunderstood due to his nature, but it was the responsibility of the likes of Hunkuyi, who have long known him to smoothen things for him, and not to jump ship. Hunkuyi jumping ship after years of associating with him,including El-Rufai and Nenadi Usman sponsoring his 2007 governorship, smacks of sheer opportunism.

The times ahead promises to be interesting. El-Rufai would rather lose the elections than negotiate with Hunkuyi, this is obvious from the body language of some of his key officials. In 2011 Patrick Yakowa was believed to have “settled” Hunkuyi. Many politicians, including Muhammadu Buhari believe that his politics is defined more by “logistics” than principles. Muhammadu Buhari, for instance, believes Hunkuyi traded off the 2003 elections, though there is no concrete evidence that Hunkuyi won that election. But it is the kind of issues that have shaped the perceptions of Hunkuyi.

El-Rufai, like Makarfi, will be going into the 2019 elections with “doubts,” not doubts of whether he will win, or not but about the margin of victory, which might be lower than the figures of 2015. He has clearly given a good account of himself especially in the areas of projects, reforms and policies. And a reformist will never be popular.

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