By Emmanuel Aziken
Death and the condolence visits that follow are remarkable opportunities for inward appraisal and sometimes rapprochement. However, in these climes, death and the sympathy visit that follow could also lead to the eruption of hitherto political animosities. The political burst up between Governor Umar Ganduje and his one-time political leader, Senator Rabiu Kwankwanso as many would recall was triggered by the condolence visit to Ganduje on the death of the governor’s mother last March.
Unlike Kwankwanso and Ganduje who before the burst-up had tolerated one another for months in Kano, the face-off between Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani had flared since last year in neighbouring Kaduna State. The faceoff between both men had been an embarrassment to many stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress, APC climaxing in the suspension of the senator from the party by his local government chapter of the party. The suspension was also upheld by the state chapter of the party.
However, unbeknown, to many APC partisans the conflict between Mallam as El-Rufai is popularly called in Kaduna and Sani is believed to be part of the proxy political battle between potential successors of the Muhammadu Buhari political heritage.
The trouble between both men first surfaced during the APC Kaduna Central Senatorial primaries when Mohammed Saleh, a former army officer belonging to the Buhari/El-Rufai tendency was defeated by Sani. Saleh despite having the quiet support of Buhari and El-Rufai was reportedly defeated because he was seen as being out of touch with the masses. The faceoff worsened during the governorship election in 2015 when according to some accounts the two men were divided over the management of the resources earmarked for the election.
By the time El-Rufai was inaugurated, the division between both men was almost beyond repair. In constituting the local government caretaker committees, Mallam El-Rufai took input from major stakeholders of the party, but Senator Sani was conspicuously avoided. Indeed, to compound the situation for Sani, most of those who were appointed in Senator Sani’s Kaduna Central Senatorial District were from Mohammed Saleh’s political family, a situation that inevitably put the senator at the mercy of Saleh who he defeated in the Senate primaries.
Not surprisingly, Senator Sani again donned his toga as a human rights activist and became one of the harshest critics of the policies of the El-Rufai administration. When the governor abolished the Ramandan feeding programme, the senator went round Kaduna distributing grains and other essential commodities. When the governor banned street begging, the senator flayed the move as an anti-people move; when the government initiated the salary verification exercise that caused a delay in the payment of salaries, the senator saw it as a move to make life difficult for the populace. When the governor introduced a proposal to make union membership voluntary for civil servants, Senator Sani joined labour leaders at a rally in Kaduna to denounce the governor’s cruelty against labour.
The climax of the faceoff came after the recent fuel price increase when the senator for the first time took his barbs beyond El-Rufai to Buhari. For a state chapter seeking an opportunity to bell a cat it was not surprising that the state chapter quickly came out to denounce the senator for siding with the subsidy thieves against the people and the revered Buhari.
The faceoff between Sani and El-Rufai has remarkably been situated within the emerging power struggle in the APC. Sani according to sources is backed by political rivals of El-Rufai within the APC in the Northwest Zone who see him as a potential threat to their aspirations in the post-Buhari era. Among the chief rivals to El-Rufai in the zone are Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and his associate, Senator Aliyu Wamakko.
When Sani’s suspension was ratified by the state chapter of the APC, mischief makers were quick to note that the national vice chairman of the party, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir from Sokoto State was quick to reverse the suspension. Indeed, it is the assertion by some that Sani is working to Tambuwal and Wamakko’s benefit by unsettling El-Rufai at home.
However, when death called on the home of Senator Sani last weekend, the political fisticuffs were temporarily put aside. The governor was in South Africa when news of the senator’s mother reached him last Saturday and reportedly asked his chief of staff to represent him at the burial. After his return, the governor was with the senator for the Third Day prayer on Tuesday, making it the first time that the governor was seen with his political foe in public this year. It was quite remarkable. Unlike Kwankwanso’s visit to Ganduje, the visit passed off uneventfully and it crowned a week of positives for the governor who also immortalised his predecessor from a different political party, Ibrahim Yakowa by naming the Kafanchan Hospital after him.
After Oroh who’s next in Edo?
The sack of Abdul Oroh as the Edo State Commissioner for Commerce was by most political accounts because he refused to heed the directive to support Godwin Obaseki for the All Progressives Congress, APC ticket. Some may fault Governor Adams Oshiomhole for being high-handed, but the question is ‘should a subordinate work against his principal’s political objective?’ But that is not the issue. The problem for the comrade governor is that some may have taken the Oroh to heart and now quietly work against his political objective.