BY SIMON REEF MUSA
It’s not about ethnicity or religion; it is about our humanity and brotherhood cutting across our fault lines that have threatened our unity and turned our communities into flowing streams of bloodshed and hatred. Kaduna State once served as the mirror of Northern politics and became the guiding light of our national politics; but today the state has found itself enmeshed, not in the politics of development, but almost swallowed up in the contemptible politics of religion and ethnicity for political power.
The shadowy smokes of our woes did not start today; its origins were discernable in the last two decades or so. All what was needed was someone to ride the storm and ignite the entire state ablaze. Contrary to expectations by some that Mallam Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai will end the threatening spectre that loomed over our skies; nearly eight years after, we discovered that such faith was an exercise in futility.
His emergence as governor in 2015 proved both spring and winter time for our renewed hope in democracy. Many had looked forward to recover from the deep hole of hatred and despair that have enveloped us. The promise of a new dawn where the horror of the past was to be turned into sunshine of hope was about to be realised. Our hearts were filled with dreams of ‘Making Kaduna Great Again’ and recapturing the fondest of our hopes. Alas, it turned out we had been fooled and cornered into a hopeless curve of perplexing disillusionment.
Dreams and hopes were turned into a crippling mirage, as in less than a year, we saw through the hollow brilliance of el-Rufai to rein in banditry and other activities of criminal gangs became an impossible dream to be realised. The peak of this annoying ineptitude was when the Kaduna State Government threatened to arrest relatives of the kidnapped paying ransom to secure the release of their kidnapped relations.
Since the APC-led State Government assumed the position of ‘Obituary Announcer’ of Kaduna citizens cold-bloodedly murdered by bandits and other criminals, no fewer than 2,000 are annually announced as being killed and hundreds kidnapped, with billions of naira paid as ransom.
Incessant verifications of pensioners by the el-Rufai government have only subjected retired workers to recurring and unimaginable sufferings. Some of the workers who retired from public service in 2016 are still yet to be paid their gratuity. Payment of gratuity is now restricted to those with less than N1. Million in most cases, while a little number of retired workers entitled to above N1 million have been paid. Nearly seven years after their retirement, these former workers, abandoned by government in their hours of need, are dying by installment while awaiting payments that have lingered for nearly a decade.
While thousands have been sacked, including no fewer than 22,000 teachers deemed to be unqualified; the treatment of survivors on state government’s payroll is less compassionate. Many public secondary schools are without science teachers, with erratic salary payments that have thrown a blanket of frustration over them. Teachers at the Kaduna State University are still at daggers drawn with government over four month salaries owed them during the strike called by the national body of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The pledge by the el-Rufai government to ensure quality education for the poor has become a terrifying nightmare due to increase in tuition fees in state owned tertiary schools, leading to students’ mass dropouts on account of inability to pay.
In spite of billions of Naira and dollars in loans secured for development, the so-called applause of turning Kaduna State into a massive construction site is only restricted to Zaria, Kaduna and Kafanchan township, with nothing done in rural areas. Increased fees in medication have denied many from accessing medication as mass sacking of workers and rising spates of insecurity across the three zones turned Kaduna State into a safe haven for terror gangs. With nearly 5,000 district heads and village heads sacked by the government, insecurity took over the state as that critical structure involved in management of security was wiped away, leaving bandits and criminal gangs to have a field day.
Governor el-Rufai’s crocodile tears and determination to salvage the state from the grip of both foreign and local loans has only led to the acquisition of more loans, including the whopping $350 million loan from the World Bank. Now that the capacity of the State to repay these debts is set to be put to test in June 2023, there’s doubt in the capacity of the state to live up to the repayment schedules expected to cart away no less than 50 percent of the Monthly FAAC allocation.
The deliberate efforts at deploying religious sentiments by the APC-led government remain an albatross in pulling the state from the precipice of self-destruction. More than anything, the orchestrated exclusion of a section has fueled fires of disunity and turned our politics into poison that is tearing our state along religious lines. Since 2015, our state that was once a symbol of unity in diversity has been turned into a fiery zone of discord. With the state governor pretending to be nationalist, he has engaged people outsiders of the state to be at the forefront of managing the state as consultants, while relegating citizens at the background. As these ferocious disempowerment policies are unleashed by the government, it was followed by merciless demolition of shops, worship centres, residential buildings, among others. A government that is not empathetic cannot serve the interest of the governed. A government that sees people as number and not as citizens to be cared for runs counter-productive to democratic norms.
In all this display of heartlessness, Kaduna citizens, from North to South, have not been spared the horrors and pains of destructive exercise. Not even the Muslim-Muslim ticket that had become the silent barrel of engendering religious discord shielded Muslims from the destructive hurricane of bad government. In nearly eight years of rulership, the APC Government of Kaduna State has been undemocratic, serpentine and destroyed the hope of citizens in Kaduna, once seen as the pride in defence of humanity.
It is commendable that, considering the outcome of the February 25th Presidential and National Assembly elections, all the three zones of the State have left no one in doubt that they are fed up with the dark schemes of a government that has turned out a woeful failure in the state. If the results of the penultimate Saturday polls were anything to go by, then, there is a glimmer of hope that Kaduna electorates, across the divides, are set to end the inglorious era of religious and ethnic manipulation that has been entrenched in Kaduna State.
In the fight over who succeeds el-Rufai, two candidates are set to breast the tape. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by Rt. Hon Isa Ashiru Kudan, and Senator Uba Sani of the APC. The desperation between the two camps is threatening to tear down our communality and brotherhood and inflaming passion. I advise citizens to stay the course and restore hope for our distraught state that is being trampled by undemocratic forces.
The APC Governorship Candidate has vowed to continue with the anti-people policies of el-Rufai, while Rt. Hon Kudan has promised a new dawn for our state. Throughout these years, Governor el-Rufai has shown nothing but despicable disdain and outright hatred for a section he considers as constituting only 30 percent in Kaduna State. Despite the incessant attacks and bloodletting that has rocked the southern part, he has refused to visit and commiserate with them. That he visited the northern part and commiserated with them, while ignoring to do same for the south, only portrayed his hatred.
As the electorate return to the polling units this Saturday, they must note that no section of the state can win election with its votes alone. This is an opportunity for those described as constituting only 30 percent to rise up and join forces with the other zones to pull the curtains over the el-Rufai legacy. All the zones must join hands to end the nightmare caused by the APC in Kaduna State and vote the PDP candidate, Ashiru, who has promised justice for all citizens. Those appealing on the south to vote for the Labour Party are not sincere as they know that Southern votes can become inconsequential in this contest. Seeing what happened last Saturday, all the parties must remain vigilant to avoid a repeat of 2019 and put to shame those who seek to divide us in perpetuity for their selfish gains.
The task of renewing our hope should go beyond partisanship. Unseating the APC could prove a tough task, as the involvement of President Muhammadu Buhari in appealing on Kaduna electorates to vote Uba Sani only reveals the desperation being deployed by the APC. Never in the history of the state have we seen a president stooping to such a level to engage in governorship contest. Since Buhari is on record never to have appealed to Governor el-Rufai to slow down on his anti-people policies, many are at a loss for such strange intervention from a president on the eve of his departure from power.
No matter what happens, I am convinced far beyond reasonable doubt that the end of el-Rufai’s tenure is capable of birthing a new beginning for our beloved state that has become a bloodbath. This Saturday offers a new beginning and refreshing hope for citizens to make hay while the sun shines by walking past the hate-filled demons of religious sentiments that have found accommodation in our state. We have no any other state other than Kaduna. Let us resolve to make it work so that we can bequeath to future generations a state we all can be proud of. Let’s end this cold wind of religious animosity and ethnic hatred as we move in unison to build a state and nation were religion and ethnicity don’t matter. Whoever wins, our humanity shall outlive the shenanigans of political roguery that is only poised at serving the interest of self-seeking politicians.
Simon Reef wrote in from Abuja and can be reached via: email@example.com