NIGERIA: Barnabas Yusuf Bala: The Deputy Governor that’s not a spare tyre

By Emmanuel Ado
As deputy governor to Namadi Sambo,late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, suffered untold humiliation in the hands of Sambo,then governor of Kaduna State, who later became Vice President and his bunch of marauding gang. Yakowa had no safe refuge, as the home front – southern Kaduna was more hostile,than the seat of power. Insulting Yakowa was a routine  pastime of most people from the Southern Senatorial District. If Patrick Yakowa received a single dose of abuse, Amina,his amiable wife  received double doses of  the humiliation he was subjected to daily. Under Amina Namadi, life was a nightmare and she was never left in doubt as to who was in charge. Only God knows how the couple survived the horrors of the Namadi Sambo era. Her only period of respite was with Asmau Makarfi,the wife of Ahmed Makarfi who treated her with utmost courtesy.
Things got worse for the Yakowas, when Sambo precipitated a quarrel with Ahmed Makarfi,whose staunch support against stiff opposition,had made him governor. Namadi, the proverbial cat with nine lives joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), weeks to the primaries and won. From the outset Yakowa was treated as a leper, an outcast,the ultimate “outsider” in government. He was hardly consulted,even though he was very experienced. Being a friend of Makarfi, further worsened his already precarious situation,as he  was caught in the cross fire between Sambo his boss and Makarfi, his friend and former boss. That was the lot of Yakowa, who languished in silence and bore with philosophical equanimity the several indignities meted out to them. They were strictly on their own.
John Adams,one time vice president of the United States described the office as “the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived”. Adams’s frustration stemmed from the constitutional ambiguity surrounding the office of the vice president. Constitutionally the vice president is only relevant in the event of a tie in the Senate,the other assignments according to Nelson Rockefeller, another frustrated vice is attending funerals of third world leaders and commiserating with victims of disasters.The office of the vice president like that of a deputy governor in Nigeria is treated with utter contempt,though with few exceptions. Under the Umaru Musa Yar’adua regime,the major assignment of Goodluck Jonathan was reading the newspapers. Though marginalized and sidelined in running the country,any Nigerian  vice president is definitely better than the vice president of the United States, as he constitutionally chairs the National Economic Council,the boundary commission and several other agencies,including the Privatization Council.
Chukwuemeka Ezefie, one time governor of Anambra State derogatorily described deputy governors as useless spare tyres, that are hardly needed, unless there is a puncture.And in some many instances, when there are, most governors prefer to use inferior and low quality tires (Chiefs of Staff, like Kogi State where the Chief of Staff is actually the de facto governor), than the constitutionally recommended size (the deputy governor, whom most often is sidelined). Which explains why since the advent of the Fourth (4) Republic,only the deputy governors of Zamfara and Kano States have succeeded their principals as governors. Bola Ahmed Tinubu “the democrat” in his eight (8) years as governor of Lagos State experimented with  three(3) – deputy governors. His main “spare tyre” was Babatunde Raji Fashola his Chief of Staff, who eventually succeeded him. Never mind that Fashola gave a “good account” of himself, the fact remains that deputy governors are endangered species.
But the deputy governor of Kaduna State, Bantex as he is popularly known, must be the envy of his colleagues- he is a spare tyre, that is as used as the main tyre – the governor, if not more. Whenever Nasir El- Rufai travelled out of town,Bantex acted with the full power of a governor, and there has been no decision that he took as the acting governor that has been reversed by Nasir El-Rufai, a mark of complete trust and confidence in him, as a treasured member of the Nasir El- Rufai team, with the necessary capacity to effectively run the state. The Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency is directly his responsibility,and he heads several strategic committees. The chemistry and mutual respect between both men definitely goes beyond them being professional colleagues in the building industry, while El- Rufai is a quantity surveyor, Bantex is an architect. They share same world view,just as they enjoy dancing.
In spite of being a key player in the Nasir El Rufai administration, someone whom going by the disposition of El- Rufai, that can be governor of the State, Bantex like other deputy governors before him, is passionately “hated” by some people from the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District. The major allegation against Bantex, as against Shekari, Yakowa, and Bajoga is that he hasn’t “defended the interest” of Southern Kaduna “enough”, especially as regards the security challenges that area has faced from the late 1990’s. The Southern Kaduna Senatorial District has like the other sections of the country been subjected to incessant attack by bandits. Though the attack predates the El-Rufai administration,but as the attack has worsened,so has the narrative changed from banditry to claims of planned genocide.
What exactly is the problem between the people of the southern Kaduna senatorial district and political office holders,most especially deputy governors from the zone? Is the problem that of failed expectations or unrealistically high expectations?Do they understand the “powerlessness” of a deputy governor?That a deputy governor is only as effective as his principal is willing to allow him to, as in the case of Bantex? That  an antagonistic deputy would most probably  be impeached or further marginalized? Attahiru Bafarawa, then Sokoto State instigated the impeachment of Aliyu Wamakko, his deputy simply because he was perceived as a threat. That’s how precarious the position of a deputy is. Is the “home” problem that Bantex faces that of party platform?
The problem can’t be that of the political party, as in the case of Bantex,(since 1999, only Bantex has become deputy on another party platform(APC) different from the PDP), because the likes of Late Stephen Shekari,Yakowa and Bajoga elected on the PDP platform didn’t escape the vicious accusations of being sale-outs and useless.
In the specific case of Bantex, who hasn’t always been “politically” correct” it will be misleading to conclude that Bantex’s cardinal sin is his membership of the APC, in an area where the PDP, has held sway and is the dominant and acceptable political religion. Maybe it is the fact that  Muhammadu Buhari , who is hated and perceived as a fundamentalist is a member of the party. Bantex, had convincingly won elections to the House of Representatives under the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) representing Kaura federal constituency. A feat which made him the only ACN legislator in the North West geo-political zone of Nigeria. So what has changed?
Is Bantex guilty as charged for denying the narrative,for not singing the song of the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District “Nasir El- Rufai hates us”,and “we must hate him” in return. Rather than sing the song, Bantex  vehemently refutes the charge. Is this why Bantex is hated? For certain Bantex knows what is expected of him as a true son of the zone and  constitutionally and he has managed the two caps skillfully – considering that his constituency  is the whole state,he can’t and shouldn’t  be seen to be an irredentist. Based  on solid arguments Bantex has influenced the citing of several projects in the zone  – the Vicampro Potatoes Farm, the Manchok Solar power project etc. Agreed the PDP  appointed more than six ministers, three service chiefs and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, from the zone the party never built any industry to address the huge unemployment situation confronting the zone. A factor that is responsible for the grinding and pervasive poverty. So in real terms Bantex has adopted the right strategy – economic and political development of the zone.
Bantex maintains that his unalloyed loyalty to El-Rufai is due to the governor’s high sense of justice and fairness.”Here is a man who has a wholesome sense of justice and fairness. In accordance with our oath of office, this gentleman, in the demand for fairness as enshrined in that oath of office has been placing programmes, projects across the state without preference to any section”. Said Bantex. He cites the various projects which the governor never dissuaded investors from citing in Southern Kaduna,as a sign of the governor sense of justice and fairness.
Going by the reaction that trailed the rumour that El- Rufai and Bantex exchanged hot slaps, it is obvious the kind of relationship that some people would like to see between both men, including those who have canvassed resignation over the killings and destruction in the zone. In 2015 at the height of the the rumor spread that he “slapped” the governor his currency among some southern Kaduna people greatly improved, an indication of the kind of deputy or governor they would like to see. But that will be suicidal.As someone with a State wide mandate should he also resign over the Birin Gwari carnage? But what end would resignation serve,beyond “talk”?
Yakowa, who later  became governor was treated with contempt,because he wasn’t “cast” in that rabid toga. Yakowa understood that Kaduna State being a multi – ethnic and religious society,that what was needed was justice and equity,which southern Kaduna had always clamoured for, he refused to change the goal post because by act of fate he became governor. Not even the hatred and insults that his refusal to retaliate the years of marginalization, made him change his position. Yakowa definitely left a legacy of service,equity and justice. When at Zonkwa he was molested for “not doing enough” to address the killings and for being a ” lackey of the Zaria oligarchy”, he shrugged it off in his usual calmness.
Bantex is certainly not a pushover. He played vital role in the merger of the defunct CPC, ACN and ANPP into APC in Kaduna State. He successfully ran for the Chairman ship of the party in Kaduna State,before El-Rufai picked him as running mate for the 2015 elections. Presently there aren’t too many politicians from southern kaduna with his reach and contacts,with the likes of Isaiah Balat, Yohanna Madaki, Garba Ali Madaki, etc out of the scene. Other brilliant politicians have decided to play in the Local league, than the State Premier League, in the present they will profit, but in future it might politically hunt them.
The political reality is in favor of the North. For any southerner to emerge as the governor of the state, he must be someone that the north can trust with power. It is incumbent on southern politicians to build bridges of understanding. Olu Fale was roundly rejected in 1999, because he came across as a tribal war lord, who would not hesitate to send northerners out of Nigeria.True or false that perception of him stuck. Politics is about I owe you’s – you can only cash it, if you have invested. People should invest.
Somethings are never valued until they are lost. Maybe the Nasir El- Rufai and Bantex partnership will be better appreciated in future when another Namadi Sambo will be at the helms and the deputy governor would be a real “spare tyre”. May be then ….may be.

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