When electioneering season kicked-off in 2014, four main issues dominated the landscape in Kaduna State. These included inadequate and decaying infrastructure; falling and deteriorating quality of education; insecurity and lack of effective leadership. These were issues that had dogged the state and led to gross despair, frustration and hopelessness.
Interestingly, in a matter of weeks the 2019 electioneering season will kick off once again in a revolving door ritual. Obviously, even before then questions are being asked already. They include: are the pre-2014 issues of concern still there or there have been developments that have shifted the focus? Which areas have been attended to or not been attended to?
There are more and more questions but answers to these are subject to individual interpretations. Meanwhile, a look into who the gladiators or candidates are and how they won their primaries suffice. Since the political contest in Kaduna State is between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC) on one hand and the rest on the other, let us consider the former. That is, how APC’s Nasir El-Rufai and PDP’s Isah Ashiru emerged; thereafter, let us contemplate their chances in the 2019 elections.
Generally, the APC’s primaries were characterized by chaos and dubious brinkmanship. Despite the national leadership spelling out guidelines, the party’s serving governors disregarded with same. Both APC’s National Working Committee and President Muhammadu Buhari’s exhortation and subsequent directive that primaries into all political offices should be through direct processes were rebuffed by the governors who preferred indirect processes.
Given the financial power the governors boast of, both President Buhari and the party’s NWC swallowed their pride and caved in to the governors’ demand. Consequently, chaos was let loose across the country. All governors, including Malam Nasir El-Rufai, seeking re-election were, of course, returned unopposed. Unfortunately their lackeys and associates were not that lucky in every case. In Kaduna State, at least the governor’s preferred candidate, Uba Sani, was ballooned out of reckoning. He was given the senatorial ticket.
On the other hand, Alhaji Isah Ashiru won PDP’s primary after defeating four other candidates. They include second placed Mohammed Sani Sidi, former governor Muhktar Ramalan and Sani Sidi. What this means is that Ashiru emerged through a rigorous and exemplary democratic process which was hailed by party members, supporters and neutral observers. That puts him on a higher moral pedestal or high-ground than his APC counterpart who muzzled his way through to win the ticket.
In contemplating the chances of the incumbent and the challenger, there are many variables to note. In this sense, we have to perceive of them from three perspectives; that is, their human dispositions, their politics and their policies. In this context we should be providing insights into whether El-Rufai or Ashiru is a gentleman or brash and inflexible? The kind of politics both practice: elitist or grassroots; and the policies and programmes of the two candidates?
So far the incumbent, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has enunciated and attempted to implement his programmes. These include ingantacen ilimi – quality education; infrastructure development and rural development. Of course, during his tenure attempts were made to encourage stepped up pupil enrolment into primary and secondary schools through government’s feeding programme. However, it is impossible to say the programme has worked given its haphazard implementation.
Interestingly, too, is the fact that government did not properly address the main issue in the crises in the education sector: inadequate founding; improving the capacity of the teacher; and improving the teaching/learning environments. Rather, attention has been focused on sacking teachers on grounds that they are unqualified.
On the other hand, Alhaji Isah Ashiru has promised to address these issues in more concrete terms by taking a holistic look of the problems. Rather than involving “consultants” and sacking teachers, Alhaji Ashiru insists that involving all stakeholders and experts would produce better results. Central to his policy and programmes on education would be the improvement of the capacity of the teacher and the quality (conducive) of the environment for teaching and learning.
It is clear that while the incumbent administration believers in the typical neo-liberal approach, the Ashiru in-coming administration believes in a people centred approach. While the El-Rufai administration focused on the ideal, no matter the pain, the Ashiru team believers that there should be a human face to ALL policies and programmes. It does not also believe in selling off public property/infrastructure to the rich in other to build fanciful hotels and shopping malls for the privileged.
A final note on this: Ashiru is vehemently opposed to sacking any civil servant and traditional rulers. He believes that training and re-training, where and when necessary, are better options to addressing problems in the system. As to the traditional institution, rather than antagonizing office and title holders who are custodians of our cultures, and play an important role in ensuring peace and unity in our communities, Ashiru believes they should be accorded more respect.
While incumbent El-Rufai seems to be brass and aloof to the feelings of ordinary citizens or residents of Kaduna State, candidate Ahsiru believes as a gentleman that people, no matter their station in life, should be treated as human beings and not things. He believes that as stakeholders their opinions matter; as such he intends to introduce a culture of consultation rather than the elitist “consultancy” on ALL matters of policy, programmes and governance.
The dispositions of the two candidates vary and contrast. The incumbent governor grew up in a cozy elitist environment (which, of course is not a crime), while candidate Ashiru grew up within a grassroots environment. Thus, this has made him a grassroots man.
However, both attended school and had their education which has seen them rise in their chosen professions. It is in the context of association that both men differ. While Malam El-Rufai has lived his life and worked in the cozy environment of Zaria, Abuja and Kaduna, candidate Ashiru has mixed, lived and worked with the people as a grassroots man in his native Kudan Local Government Area from where he was elected to serve, first, in the House of Assembly, and, second, in the House of Representatives, Abuja.
In the final analysis the question would be: who, of the two, can concretely address the burning issues citizens of Kaduna State are confronted with: inadequate and decaying infrastructure; falling and deteriorating quality of education; insecurity and lack of effective leadership which has resulted in frustration, despair and hopelessness. Isah Ashiru would seem to be the answer.
Fadason is former Editor of New Nigerian Weekly.He wrote this piece from Kaduna.