The crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna State has escalated, following the demolition of the factional secretariat of the party owned by Senator Sulaimon Hunkuyi. ABDULGAFAR ALABELEWE reports that the war of attrition may mar the chances of the party in next year’s elections.
Peace had eluded the Kaduna State All Progressives Congress (APC). The crisis rocking the chapter escalated two weeks ago when Governor Nasir El-Rufai used the instrumentality of the government to deal with his antagonists.
The factional secretariat belonging to Senator Hunkuyi, who is representing Kaduna North District, was demolished on the orders of the governor.
Hunkuyi, a grassroot mobiliser, was a c;ose ally of El-Rufail until last year when the duo fell apart. But, the senator has closed ranks with other stakeholders, including his colleague from Kaduna Central, Senator Shehu Sani. Both are fighting the governor over what they describedd as his high handedness.
Hunkuyi became a major critic of El-Rufai’s government. He has engaged the governor in verbal war, but without commensurate response, except from political praise singers loyal to El-Rufai.
Apart from Hunkuyi’s group, the APC-Akida, led by Mr. Mataimaki Tom Maiyashi, the Restoration Group, led by the Kaduna based media mogul, Alhaji Tijjani Ramalan, and Senator Sani, are also up in arms against the governor.
The APC Akida broke away from the main party, accusing the governor of high handedness among others.Former interim chairman of APC, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, blamed the crisis on El-Rufai’s style of leadership.
Baba-Ahmed, who is the Chief of Staff in the office of Senate President Bukola Saraki, said APC Akida was not a political party, but a group of people that were not happy with the way the governor was running the affairs of the state. “We are not a political party. We only want the best for the party and we are out to ensure that party guidelines are followed.The governor is destroying the party. We are only out to safeguard the party from being destroyed,” he said.
Last year, the group passed vote of no confidence on El-Rufai. Its chairman, Maiyashi, said: “APC Akida is passing a vote of no confidence on the governor. We will consult widely, if he continues with his anti-people’s policies, and look inward for his replacement before the 2019 elections because we cannot afford to let him sink this party that took us time to built.
“Two years down the line, our people have only witnessed greater hardship, dehumanisation and complete disregard for the basic sense of humanity. Government’s policies have put the APC on a cliff running up to 2019 when we have to give account of our stewardship. We must not wait until its too late to effect correction.”
He chided El-Rufai for intolerance, adding that he has hired mercenaries to attack individuals who opposed him.
Maiyashi added: “Regrettably, the state is walking into another circle of avoidable crises. This time around, it is the attack on traditional and community institutions that have sustained our sense of community for ages from pre-colonial days. The circular that contained information on sacking of over 4,000 district and village heads simply on the feeble reason of wage bill is worrisome and detrimental to peace process in the state.”
But, El-Rufai described the actions of the group as a demonstration of their “frustration and greediness” and a deliberate attempt to set the state on fire.
The governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan, said: “Government cannot be deterred from doing what is important, necessary and consequential for our people. That is a more important goal than the ego and private interests of certain individuals.
The APC chieftains had condemned the sacking of over 4000 district and village heads. In his reply, El-Rufai said they were playing to the gallery. “Those who always condemned and displayed disrespect to our traditional institutions and religion, are now pretending to be their champions.
“The government is aware of funny games being played regarding the return to 77 districts. We have letters from some of the former district heads who are alleged to have sued the government dissociating themselves from the litigation.
“The government has consulted, made its decision and it has already implemented it. Districts have been restructured in the better, longer-term interest of Kaduna State. Those who are concerned have already applied for appointment as district heads. There is no need for all the baseless scaremongering,” he added.
Senator Sani, the Senate Committee Chairman on Foreign and Domestic Loans, has maintained a stiff opposition to the governor. His committee has apparently stood on El-Rufai’s way of getting $350m World Bank loan to finance certain developmental projects.
There is a crisis of ego between the governor and the senator. Sani had allegedly submitted his list of appointees to El-Rufai, which was turned down. The senator felt slighted when the governor said his candidates were diploma certificate holders and therefore, fell below the standard required for his government.
As the war of words between Sani and El-Rufai intensified, the party suspended the senator for 11 months. Efforts to reconcile them last year by the APC national leadership met a brick wall A bigger crisis ensued, following the demolition of the Kaduna home of Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, the National Vice Chairman of the party, who was sent from Abuja to broker peace in Kaduna.
The government explained that Abdulkadir’s property lacked requisite building plan approval. But, political observers said El-Rufai was not comfortable with Abdulkadir’s perceived position on the crisis, hence, the demolition of his house.
But, the crisis got to a peak when El-Rufai and Hunkuyi parted ways. The bone of contention is Hunkuyi’s ambition to succeed El-Rufai, who has a second term ambition.
A source said Hunkuyi’s disagreement with the governor over appointments and control of the party’s structures led to the crisis.
There is also the dimension of leadership crisis in the troubld chapter. Although the APC had dismissed the insinuation that Danladi Wada was its vice chairman when Bala Bantex, who is the deputy governor, was the chairman, party members loyal to Hunkuyi believe that, it was Hunkuyi allegedly connived with El-Rufai to unseat Wada, who is the now the acting chairman of the Hunkuyi’s faction.
They said El-Rufai and Hunkuyi were not comfortable with independent minded Wada, who was replaced with Shuaibu Idris, the who is now the acting chairman.
Hunkuyi had mobilised a forum of aspirants to resist the alleged move by the governor to impose his candidates. He also opened a factional secretariat in his house from where the faction issued a query El-Rufai and suspended three of his allies. Irked by the action, the party suspended Hunkuyi for six months and expelled the factional chairman, Wada, from the party.
Aruwan said: “The government is aware of the boastful and pompous claims of Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, that he will change the leadership of Kaduna State in 2019 by installing himself as governor.
“Senator Hunkuyi has further illegally created a faction, headquartered in his house, as a bargaining chip. This Senator has failed to understand that you cannot create party executives at your whim. It is the party’s prerogative to consider appropriate responses to this breach of discipline. But as a government, we view these actions as the needless drama of political traders.
“In 2015, it was God Almighty and the good people of Kaduna State that made Malam El-Rufai Governor and Hunkuyi a Senator. It appears that Hunkuyi has forgotten how his previous attempts to be Governor in 2003, 2007 and 2011 failed miserably. With the Almighty’s gracious help, his association with the El-Rufai brand helped get him elected as senator in 2015.
“Kaduna State is not for sale. Ordinary people,including in Hunkuyi’s Kudan local government area, now know that governance can work for them. The era of political traders is over.” El-Rufai.
The governor justified the demolition of Hunkuyi’s house, saying that he had refused to pay grant rent for eight years.
However, Hon. Isa Ashiru, who contested the2015 primary with El-Rufai, has remained silent. Many believed that he would have secured the ticket, if President Muhammadu Buhari had not thrown his weight behind El-Rufai.
Ashiru’s close ally and the former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Yaro Makama Rigachikun, has returned to the PDP. Thus, it is believed that Ashiru is only marking time in the APC as Rigachikun and others are already preparing ground for his return. Ashiru is still interested in the governorship race.
According to observers, the crisis has implications for the party, ahead of next year’s polls. Since the Presidential Reconciliation Committee headed by the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has hit the ground running, it must take holistic look at the crisis in Kaduna and safe the party from permanent crack.
If reconciliation fails, the party may face a perilous future. Apart from Ashiru, Hunkuyi, Sani and the majority of Akida and Restoration Group members may leave the party. They fear that the governor may edge them out of the primaries and fix his loyalists.