By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Last Tuesday’s demolition of a Kaduna property belonging to an estranged political associate of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has positioned the governor as a combatant against all three senators in his state.
For a man who has survived serial political bumps in a very eventful political lifespan, the ensuing face-off between Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi could be said to be just another combat.
A year ago, part of the Kaduna property of Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, the national vice-chairman, Northwest of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC was demolished allegedly for building violations.
Abdulkadir, a lawyer refused to speak much on the issue when contacted by Saturday Vanguard. The governor when confronted on the issue last year claimed ignorance of the demolition which was allegedly carried out by the Kaduna State Urban Planning Development Authority, KASUPDA.
Abdulkadir as the senior party official from the Northwest, was at the time of the demolition intervening in the crisis in the Kaduna State chapter of the party apparently to the discomfort of the governor.
The demolition which involved part of the building eventually led to a court case which is yet to be settled.
However, the demolition of Senator Hunkuyi’s house in the wee hours of Tuesday was in the opinion of some, a marked increase in political bellicosity. The house located in the up class Ungwar Rimi area of Kaduna remarkably has been intertwined with El-Rufai’s political journey.
When the going was good between El-Rufai and Hunkuyi, the building was provided as a base for El-Rufai’s gubernatorial campaign, and following the election, it was used as the state secretariat of the party before the relocation to a more permanent secretariat along Ali Akilu Road in the heart of Kaduna.
As El-Rufai fell out with Hunkuyi, the building was turned over to the rival faction of the APC led by Hunkuyi, and it was from there that the faction last week issued the controversial order suspending El-Rufai from the party. That was apparently the last straw that struck the camel’s back.
The demolition of the house was the latest culmination of the topsy-turvy relationship between the senator and the governor.
After the governor’s inauguration, it seemed for some time that Hunkuyi who represents El-Rufai’s Kaduna North Senatorial District would remain the only one of the three senators who would remain in cordiality with the governor. Senator Shehu Sani, APC Kaduna Central, and Senator Danjuma Laah, PDP, Kaduna South from the beginning were not with the governor.
However, last July what was at best a lukewarm relationship turned violent when thugs invaded the Kaduna State secretariat of the party where Senators Hunkuyi, Sani, and other aggrieved party members were addressing a press conference to object to alleged manipulations in the election of delegates to the still forthcoming national convention of the party.
“The list of the delegates was not known to us. The list was fake, so we wrote two petitions to the National Secretariat of the APC and the zonal office to buttress our grievances,” Hunkuyi had hardly finished his assertion when thugs armed with clubs invaded the National Union of Journalists, NUJ Press Centre in Kaduna and disrupted the conference.
Journalists and the APC factional leaders were bruised while property belonging to them were damaged. There was a respite until penultimate Thursday when the faction to which Hunkuyi and Sani belong issued a query to the governor on alleged anti-party activities. The faction also disclosed that it had relocated the party secretariat from its known site at Ali Akilu Road to Sambo Road, the very building belonging to Senator Hunkuyi.
By last Sunday the situation deteriorated when the faction suspended El-Rufai on the claim that he refused to respond to the query.
In the early hours of Tuesday, the factional secretariat from which the suspension of the governor was announced was flattened by operatives of KASUPDA escorted by heavily armed security agents.
The charge from KASUPDA was that the owner of the building had not paid ground rent since 2010.
However, the frontline against Hunkuyi, an enduring political operative in Kaduna State has inevitably put the governor in battle against all three senators from the state.
The governor and Senator Laah had never been on the same page being that Laah emerged from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Though Laah worked as a staff of the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA when El-Rufai was minister between 2003 and 2007, their paths never really crossed.
Senator Laah representing the Christian dominated Kaduna South has been vocal in faulting the governor’s policies and programmes in the region especially on issues pertaining to the herdsmen/farmers clashes.
The problems with Senator Sani arose after the senator beat General Mohammed Saleh, a favourite of Buhari’s for the APC Central Senatorial ticket during the party primaries in late 2014. The defeat of the stiff former general was helped by Sani’s grassroots popularity.
However, after Sani emerged as the candidate and subsequently as senator on the ticket of the APC, patronages, and appointments that ordinarily should go to the elected senator such as appointments were reportedly being diverted to Saleh to the disappointment of Sani and his supporters.
Speaking in an interview with Vanguard last year, El-Rufai dismissed assertions of lack of empowerment of Sani’s supporters.
“I can choose who to empower. I am the governor of the state, and I have to make appointments, and in making the appointments, I have to balance merit, loyalty and paying off other debts.
“I don’t owe Shehu Sani anything; he owes me. I asked all of them including Shehu Sani to give me names of people that I will appoint to positions, they gave me, and I looked at them, and none of the people from Shehu’s list was good enough to be a commissioner in my cabinet.”
The seeming political bellicosity of the administration in Kaduna it is feared could be causing distractions to the good governance initiatives that El-Rufai brought as governor.
Among the memorable policies are the attachment of portfolios to commissioner nominees and the reform of the land administration system in the state achieved through the establishment of the Kaduna Geographic System.
Governor El-Rufai’s leading profile as one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s closest confidants may have opened him up to conspiracy theories among fellow governors, and APC chieftains across the country and hope for succour at home has now been turned to despair with his fight with all three senators from Kaduna State.