Despite the 36 candidates running in the governorship election in Kaduna State, the political atmosphere has remained rather dull save for a few activities by candidates vying for other elective positions.
Though the official figure of parties contesting in the election is high, those which activities are felt are nothing near the high figure.
So far in terms of visibility, four parties and their candidates have been prominent, namely, the All Progressives congress (APC); the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); the Social Democratic Party (SDP); and the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).
The PRP two weeks ago changed its governorship candidate when it replaced Alhaji Falalu Bello, the national chairman of the party who was elected as the party’s flag bearer with Ahmad Tijjani Umar.
But the candidates of the three other parties, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, APC; Isa Ashiru, PDP; and Malam Haruna Sa’eed, SDP, are well known due to the manner they emerged and the fact that they have been on ground since the conclusion of party primaries.
With the commencement of campaign and the final touches put on preparations for the election, the chances of the frontline candidates based on how they are going about trying to woo voters to their sides are being assessed.
State Governor Malam El-Rufai, who is the APC candidate by far has been the most visible of the candidates contesting the election due to the high publicity that comes with his position as governor and for the fact that by nature, he knows how to draw attention to himself.
He has in the last few weeks tried to showcase his achievements in office but at the same time sustained public interest in his person by certain decisions he had taken.
His choice of running mate and his slamming of the opposition as a gathering of thieves have made him a topic of political discourse for several weeks.
But he was able to constitute a 1342-member campaign council with 14 directorates and capped that up with the flag-off of his campaign.
His posters and larger-than-life billboards have been placed at strategic points in the state, especially within the state capital making it difficult for people not to notice that he is in the race again.
The APC candidate said the struggle to empower ordinary people and to make their lives better requires that he continues in government, adding that the APC has worked hard to begin fixing the rot left behind by 16 years of PDP misrule and neglect.
His major strength stems from his ability to assess political situations ahead of time and take appropriate actions.
He is also seen as a courageous person who does not shy away from taking hard decisions when it mattered.
But he is being perceived by a section of the state as unduly harsh to its people. The perception will affect his chances. The governor also has and in the course of implementing his programmes stepped on some toes and those who are aggrieved may want to get back at him.
Unlike El-Rufai, not much is being heard from the PDP candidate, Isa Ashiru, that many have begun to wonder if the opposition had gone to sleep.
After winning the primary, the PDP governorship candidate was saddled with the task of ensuring the loyalty of other party stalwarts who either had contested or supported other candidates against him.
He succeeded in doing that only partially as one the aspirants who stepped down for him during the primary, Dr. Mohammed Sani Bello, left the party due to the inability of the PDP candidate to assure him of his place in the scheme of things.
The PDP itself has largely been quite reacting only when El-Rufai ‘provokes’ it. When the governor recently said his re-election is a done deal considering the lack of political weight of his opponents, the PDP in the state responded, saying the governor is deluding himself as the people have lost confidence in him.
Ashiru has been able to constitute a 53-member campaign council headed by Amb. Sule Buba as the Director General, his billboards have started appearing at strategic points in the state but not much in terms of activities has been forthcoming from his camp.
A source within the PDP told our correspondent that the near silence from the Ashiru camp is a deliberate strategy to keep the ruling party in the dark about its strategy so that it will not use its size and advantage as the party at the center to thwart their efforts.
What is working for the PDP is that having governed the state for 16 years, it already has a name which it could easily leverage on and the candidate’s ‘harmless’ disposition is appealing to the elites in the state.
The party is also trying to gain from wherever the APC may have gone wrong in the course of governance, especially with policies that did not go down well with the people, hoping that those hurt by such decisions would naturally embrace the party.
But the party’s candidate is yet to convince many that he has the firmness to govern a state like Kaduna due to his shy and evasive posture.
His inability to take charge of the party as its next possible leader is counting against him as he is seen as one that may enter the Government House with a godfather baggage.
Haruna Sa’eed ran a successful campaign in 2011 as the candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC). He left the APC because he said his presence was not recognized as he was not being consulted on any matter affecting the party.
Since he won the primary as the governorship flag bearer of the SDP, he had shown much seriousness in terms of attempts to woo voters through media campaigns and other forms of consultations with stakeholders in the state more than what was expected of him.
His posters and billboards at a time were the second most visible in the state and had a particular colour at the background that marked them as different and unique from those of the candidates of the other parties.
A major constraint for Sa’eed would, however, be finance as our correspondent learnt that while his war chest may not be as big as that of the other two parties, he is made to bear much of the financial burden for the party while assisting other candidates of the party so as to enhance the its chances at the elections.
He told out correspondent, however, that the financial constraint would not be much of a problem for him, as there are other advantages that come to him as the candidate of a party with no negative label like the others.
The party, however, has a lot to do to sell itself given that it is a relatively new party and has not yet registered on the minds of the populace.
Though the PRP is one of the oldest surviving parties in Nigeria, its inability to present a governorship candidate well ahead of time will affect its chances.
When the party held its primary and presented the national chairman of the party, Alhaji Falalu Bello, as its candidate many began to see it as the third force that may spring a surprise in the state, though there were doubts about how feasible it would be for the national chairman of the party to fly the party’s flag.
But two weeks ago, the picture became clearer when the national chairman was replaced with Umar who due to his late entry into the race is only trying to catch up in terms of what his other opponents have done to become popular in the state.
The party, our correspondent learnt, was approached by two aspirants of the PDP who had failed in their primary to be given the ticket of the party but could not meet the conditions stipulated by the party.
Due to lack of time and the relative lean resources compared with others, many wonder if Umar would be able to catch up with the campaigns, especially now that it has started.
Umar has, however, said he will be able to defeat the candidates of the other parties. His working under the image of former governor of the state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who only this year stepped down as national chairman of the party is positive but has its limits.