By Emmanuel Aziken
When and how President Muhammadu Buhari sanctioned Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s bid for a Muslim-Muslim governorship ticket in Kaduna State will be an issue for those who project the president as a non-partisan leader.
In defending his decision to do away with the religious balancing of the ticket that has been the norm since the creation of the present Kaduna State, Governor El-Rufai said he consulted the president as he does on very important issues.
The decision to go the Muslim-Muslim path was obviously not an insignificant one.
Even when the military toyed with diarchy prior to the advent of the Third Republic, the religious balance was maintained when Mrs. Pamela Sadauki was appointed deputy governor to the then Col. Tanko Ayuba.
At the onset of the Third Republic, Alhaji Mohammed Dabo Lere was governor and had as deputy, Mr. James Magaji. The tradition continued till El-Rufai in 2015 who had Barnabas Bantex as his deputy.
It, however, must not be portrayed that El-Rufai dropped his deputy. Bantex had on his part last July willingly opted out of a second term preferring to go to the Senate.
It is worth to note that El-Rufai had in the past been praised by this columnist for some of his positive strides in government. The early presentation of budgets, the matching of portfolio to commissioner nominees and the adoption of merit in the allocation of offices were among some issues he had been commended for.
Given these positive indicators it is then a wonder that Governor El-Rufai would say that many of the important decisions he takes flow from his consultations with the president. If it were really so, why then is the president not implementing such decisions? Why has the president as at the second half of November not presented the 2019 budget proposal?
His mention of President Buhari for his adoption of the Muslim-Muslim ticket nonetheless, it has since emerged that the decision was framed by political considerations.
In choosing a Muslim woman as his running mate, the governor may well have realized that a great proportion of Christian voters in the state would not vote for him in 2019. So whether he had chosen a Christian or not, the gain for him would have been of little consequence.
So for a man who is also not idolized as a Muslim champion, his decision to flaunt the Muslim-Muslim ticket may well be a good way of winning recognition among critical Muslims. However, the influential Islamic leader and teacher, Sheik Gumi has been reported to have flayed the decision.
The balance of the Christian-Muslim population has always been a knotty issue. The near balance of the adherents of the two faiths is seen in the distribution of people of the two religions in almost all towns of the state with the Muslims dominating in the North and the Christians in the South.
While El-Rufai may have been prompted by political considerations, it is understood that some who have gone along with him are also hoping to use this development to give a Technical Knock Out to those who claim that Kaduna has a substantial proportion of Christians. If El-Rufai is able to prove the point by winning the election it would undoubtedly change the narrative as concerning the distribution of political powers in Kaduna.
Remarkably, there is an option for the voters as the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has come up with Isa Ashiru as its candidate with Sunday K. Marshall as running mate. Ashiru remarkably, is backed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the former governor whose legacy of cohabitation and coexistence remains one of the best legacies of any governor since 1999.
For many of us with family connections to Kaduna, the ensuing political experiment must be very distressing as a state which had recently been prone to much violence is subjected to a twisted political profiling.
Remarkably, the adoption of the Muslim-Muslim ticket is coming at a time that the president is espousing unity. Last Thursday the president launched the Nigeria Unity (Wrist) Band which was conceived to espouse the unity of the country.
Nigerians are expected to wear the wrist band to remind themselves of the unity that they are supposed to have. However, the stratification of offices along ethnic and religious lines as has lately been witnessed in the country run counter to unity.