By Hassan Zaggi
On March 11, the Kaduna State Collation officer, Prof. Muhammed Bello, announced incumbent Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufa’I, as the winner of the March 9 governorship election.
El-Rufa’i polled 1, 045, 427 votes to defeat his closet rival, Isa Ashiru of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who got 814,168 votes.
With this announcement, it means, the battle for the revered Kaduna State Government House, popularly christened – Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, has come to an end.
For now, it means whether one likes it or not, Nasir el-Rufai, will still govern Kaduna state for the next four years.
The question therefore, is, what is next for the people of Kaduna state?
The campaign leading to the 2019 governorship election in Kaduna state was very tense. The state was literarily divided into different lines.
In fact, many keen observers of Kaduna state politics over the years, were of the opinion that there has never been any election in the history of the state that was as tensed and divisive as the 2019 election.
The days preceding the election were ‘dirty’ as various tactics were deployed by individuals and groups to de-market and in fact, pull down their opponents.
With the kind of stiff opposition and in some cases blunt hatred different groups in different parts of the state showed to Governor el-Rufai, many residents of Kaduna state believed that there was no way he could come back for second term.
Most residents of the state are yet to come to terms how el-Rufai managed to get the number of votes he got.
There is no doubt, some of Malam’s (as he is popularly called) policies in his first four years were not popular, hence, this created bad blood for him. One of such policies was the sack of over 22 thousand primary school teachers because they were “not competent.”
This policy generated huge bad blood for Malam and his government. Those affected by this policy cut across different zones, religious and ethnic groups in the state.
What further compounded the situation was the allegation that the teachers el-Rufai recruited to replace those he sacked were members of his political party and that they were not even better (competent) than those he sacked.
Another issue that nearly brought el-Rufai to his knees was the down-sizing of traditional rulers across all local government areas of the state. Most of those affected and their followers vowed to ensure that he does not return as governor of the state.
One of the issues that also brought bad blood to el-Rufai as a person is his inability to curtail the incessant killings of innocent farmers by herdsmen in different parts of the state. Even though, the government claimed to have done its best, but, it seems, the best was not good enough as killings continued unabated.
The killings of peasant farmers and destruction of farm lands that took place in Kaduna state during the first tenure of el-Rufai, especially in the southern part of the state, according to many, has never taken place during any of the previous governments in the state.
This is one of the major reasons that the residents of the Southern part of the state were and are still not happy with el-Rufai. Most of them vowed to come out in their numbers to ensure that their votes count in ensuring that el-Rufai does not return as governor of the state.
Many residents of the area alleged that the failure of the governor to protect them from the heartless and dare-devil herdsmen was deliberate, hence, they vowed to join forces with residents of other zones to unseat him.
They just needed someone who will protect them.
Another issue that came up and generated a lot of tension in the state prior to the election was the decision of el-Rufa’i to pick Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, a Muslim from the Southern part to be his running mate.
Many residents of Southern Kaduna saw this action by the governor as being insensitive and a ploy to destroy the Christian /Muslim long standing relationship in the state.
Despite the fact that el-Rufa’I said that competence motivated his choice of a muslim running mate, many interpreted his action as a deliberate plan to put the state into crisis. Therefore, they resolved to vote him out.
The task before el-Rufai
Now that el-Rufai has been declared winner of the election, it is important for him to go back to the drawing board and check why many residents of the state cutting across religious and tribal lines are not happy with him.
Considering that no human being is perfect, Nasir el-Rufai needs to engage with different segments/groups in the state to see how he can make amends so as to regain their confidence, support and buy-in. This is important.
He needs to ask himself several questions about his relationship with residents of the state, especially, the Southern part.
As a governor of the state, he is literarily the father of all, regardless of religious, tribal or political differences.
El-Rufai must assume the position of a true father and bring all residents of the state not minding their differences to discussion table.
el-Rufai must see his coming back for the second term as an opportunity to correct the mistakes he made in his first tenure. He must strive to do everything humanly possible to erase the ‘wrong’ impression most Southern Kaduna residents have about him. This is important for brotherliness.
el-Rufai must try by all means to resolve the fragile security situation in the state which is the major grouse residents of the Southern part are having against him.
For example, the killings in Kajuru are still ongoing. As the Chief Security Officer of the state, the bulk falls on his table. He must take responsibility for the killings.
el-Rufai must ensure he resolves and stop the killings, once and for all, in the next few days, if he must get the support and buy-in of majority of people of the state.
In this second term, el-Rufai needs to build bridges of brotherliness and friendship. He must strive to erase all forms of suspicion different segments of the state have about him.
In this last lap, el-Rufai must ensure he unites the state and also ensure he closes any gap that may bring disaffection, especially, in the area of religion.
Considering also that both the governor and his deputy are Muslims, el-Rufai needs to ensure that he injects many Christians as possible in his cabinet so as to engender trust and confidence in any policy he will introduce in the days ahead.
In fact, el-Rufai has a lot of work to do in order to erase the already heavy cloud of suspicion hanging on his head. He must demonstrate and very clearly too, to his brothers and sisters in the Southern part that his choice of a Muslim deputy does not have any ulterior motive, as is being speculated.
On the other hand, the residents of the Southern part of Kaduna need to give the governor the needed support to succeed in the next four years.
Their cooperation is key. This is because if el-Rufai fails to deliver, it is the entire residents of the state that will suffer the consequences. They must proof to el-Rufai that their concerns about him are not personal. They only need policies that will improve and protect the lives of all residents of the state.
Four years is not forty years, this new mandate will definitely come to an end in the next 48 months, hence, el-Rufai must not miss this opportunity of writing his name in gold in the hearts of residents of the state, especially, residents of the Southern part.