Election: How El-Rufai tinkered with Kaduna’s winning formula

Kaduna State: Malam Nasir El-Rufai
Governor Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna state

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governorship candidate in Kaduna State, Alhaji Isa Ashiru held a press conference in Kaduna shortly after the results of the governorship election were announced to register his disagreement with the process in which his opponent, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared winner.

At the press conference, he was asked why as he faulted the process in other local governments in the state but could not fault that of Kudan, his local government, where he equally lost.

The PDP governorship candidate in reply said he had no complaint about the results in Kudan though he lost; his response coming as a tacit confirmation that he was ill prepared for the contest.

Governor El-Rufai won the just concluded governorship election in Kaduna with 1,045, 427 votes while Ashiru polled 814,168 votes to come second in the race.

The vote margin between the two stood at 231,259 votes. But a more graphic impression of what happened goes beyond the total number of votes.

El-Rufai won in 14 of the 23 local governments in the state while the PDP candidate won in only nine.

A further breakdown of the voting pattern shows that El-Rufai won in the northern and central zones of the state while the PDP candidate won mainly in the southern senatorial zone.

The North and Central zones where El-Rufai won are populated by Muslims while the southern zone where PDP won is predominantly Christian.

This is not surprising. Before the election, religion became an issue in the campaigns when El-Rufai decided to pick fellow Muslim as his running mate against the grain of the tradition in the state since Katsina was carved out of Kaduna the then larger Kaduna State.

With the understanding that a religiously balanced ticket serves to attract wider interest across the zones in the state, most parties have adopted the practice as a rule in winning elections.

The Muslim-Muslim ticket presented by El-Rufai was the first in a major election hence it was not surprising that the voting pattern reflected the religious persuasions of each zone.

The background to the Muslim-Musim, sources close to El-Rufai, say lied in the fact that since his inauguration as governor, the Christian South have tend to view polices of his administration as tilted against it in spite of the fact that his deputy Yusuf Bala Bantex is a Christian.

In the handling of the crises involving attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen, the South had several times accused him of bias and at a time when he was on a visit to the place, his convoy was pelted with stones.

His last minute resort to choose a Muslim as running mate was said to be out of frustration to get a replacement when his current deputy, under some yet to be unraveled circumstances, chose to opt out of being on a joint ticket with El-Rufai preferring to run as a senator.

One of El-Rufai’s aides said at that point, many things came into the mix tough El-Rufai still wanted to have a balanced ticket. He said the governor changed his mind when one particular official of government from the southern part of the state was approached to step in to replace of Bamtex but declined.

This was confirmed by the governor when he said recently that even if he had chosen the Pope as his running mate that most of the Christians in Kaduna will not vote for him.

Judging on the basis of political expediency, the presentation of the Muslim-Muslim ticket achieved the purpose as it delivered the two zones with predominant Muslim population to the APC candidate.

But aside the issue of religion, other issues worked in favour of El-Rufai.

Some of the decisions he had taken in his nearly four years as governor portray him as one who has the courage to take bold steps and implement difficult decisions.

Many admit that the bulk of the teachers in the state were not qualified and were only given appointments based on political considerations, none has been able to do anything about it until El-Rufa’s intervention which sanitised the system.

The governor’s handling of the crises in the state in the over three years he has been in government has been commended and seen as the best approach towards averting them.

The PDP on other hand had issues that robbed it of that unity and strength required to upstage an incumbent.

Immediately after the PDP primaries, many of their aspirants instead of staying to put up a strong forte to challenge the incumbent began looking for platforms to pursue their ambitions.

One defected to the APC and another approached the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) in vain.

Few days to the governorship election, Sani Sidi, who came third in the primary also defected and joined forces with El-Rufai in the APC. Senator Suleman Hunkuyi had to battle for a long time before he was given the Senate ticket. The implication was that the unity of purpose required for an opposition party to hold was seriously lacking.

This has largely been blamed on the governorship candidate of the PDP who is seen as not doing enough to be a rallying point for the opposition. Many accuse him of being evasive.

Some unforced error committed by the PDP, like when one of its officials was openly inciting the public, backfired as it sent a wrong signal to those who had sympathy for the party from the other parts of the state.

The APC also gained a lot by its association with President Muhammadu Buhari. This worked on the masses whose only political ideology is to focus where the President is.

Though El-Rufai was not the favourite of the elites many of them would rather look the other way than openly condemn or mobilize against him. This watered down whatever opposition he would have received from that quarter

The PDP also had financial challenges. The consequence was that the governorship candidate had to be running outside the state to look for assistance at a time when his presence was required in the state. At the end of the day, inside sources in the PDP, said while he was not able to mobilize the kind of resources that could match that of an incumbent, he also lost valuable time running to Abuja and other places to seek assistance.

The subtle campaign against the PDP candidate was that he lacked the capacity to articulate his position convincingly as a political leader. Unfortunately Ashiru did nothing to correct that impression and every time he was invited to an event which required a show of brain power and articulation and he dodged, it emphasized the point while giving El-Rufai the opportunity to shine.

All these caused deep despair within the PDP in Kaduna and those that stuck with him only did so mainly because the journey had gone far and it would be dicey ditching him at that point.

That the PDP scored over 800,000 votes shocked even many as book makers did not expect that with all the odds against the candidate and his party that he would come anywhere close to that figure.

To many, El-Rufai contested against himself as the votes the opposition PDP were more of protest votes from those who disagree with El-Rufai’s leadership style and not because they were convinced that the PDP candidate has a better programme.

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