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Christian governor of Kaduna – so what?

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THE nation was placed on another keg of gunpowder by  those who do not wish it well when the nomination of Governor Namadi Sambo as the Vice-President of Nigeria automatically occasioned the emergence of his Deputy, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, as the new Governor Kaduna State.

Text messages began flying round Kaduna State and beyond, calling for street protests against what was made to look like a ploy by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to tele-guide President Goodluck Jonathan to “impose” a Christian governor on the state by selecting Sambo as the new Vice-President.

According to the enemies of peace and national integration, the emergence of Yakowa as the governor is a replay of the Adamawa State experience where, in 1999, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, contested and won the governorship but was selected by the same Obasanjo as his Vice-President, thus making erstwhile Mr. Boni Haruna, a Christian from one of the numerous predominantly non-Muslim minority groups to emerge to rule the state for eight years.

Those who were making this connection did not, however, say how Haruna’s eight-year stewardship in Adamawa State in any way compromised the rights and interests of Muslims in that state. If nothing like that happened, in what way would the emergence of a Christian governor of Kaduna State be different? In any case, why should the emergence of a Christian be a problem to Muslims if Muslims who have ruled the state since its creation were not seen as a threat by Christians? It is true that some Muslim military governors were very irresponsible in the ways they handled the sensitive relationship between the adherents of the two religions in the state, but that was not because they were Muslims. It was squarely because they were insincere and they happened to be Muslims.

On the other hand, it is also true that former Muslim governors of the state have been great architects of the current relative peace and stability reigning in Kaduna State. It was Col. Ja’afaru Isah who, during the Abacha regime and as the Military Administrator of the state, worked hard to douse the bloody Zangon-Kataf crises that led to the return of the erstwhile sacked Hausa settlers and the pardon of General Zamani Lekwot and others, who were sentenced to death for their roles in the mayhem.

When Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi was elected governor he followed the herd and declared Sharia Law in Kaduna State in 2000, which led to the death of over 5,000 people in subsequent riots. However, he later made amends by working out a formula that led to the current peaceful coexistence in the state. It was this legacy that Governor Sambo kept alive until his nomination as Vice-President. Muslim governors have, therefore, contributed their quota to almost 10 years of stability in the state.

We are, therefore, gratified to note that the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III quickly waded into the simmering but uncalled-for tension. He told Daily Trust in a telephone interview that it was not true that he opposed the emergence of a Christian governor of the state as a result of Sambo’s nomination. Daily Trust quotes him as saying: “It is not true at all. Nothing like that happened. Why should I say that? Why should anyone feel that a Christian should not be the governor of Kaduna State? Are we the only ones in the state? This country is multi-ethnic and multi-religious, and anyone can aspire to lead it. That does not in any way stop Muslims from practising their religion. It also does not stop them from demanding for their rights and protecting their interests.”

We thank the Sultan for his enlightened and patriotic intervention and hope that some elements in the North who have maintained a closed mind to the fact of the rights of all Nigerians to aspire to any position even in the North will adjust to the reality of our diversity and constitutional imperatives. For as long as we continue to maintain the old mindset that presupposes that privileges belong to only a class of Nigerians while the others must remain under subjection, for so long must we continue to contend with periodic violence and bloodshed, especially in the North.

There is no big deal in the emergence of Yakowa as Governor of Kaduna State. It is something that came naturally out of our constitutional practice and we must accept it in the interest of democracy, peace and national development.

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