The monumental decision by Arc. Yusuf Bala Bantex, the deputy governor of Kaduna State to contest the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District seat in the 2019 general elections has been likened by some more charitable analysts to forgoing certainty – deputy governor, for uncertainty – Senatorial seat, due to erroneous conclusion(s) that the All Progressives Congress (APC), no matter the quality of the candidate it presents for the seat, such a candidate would never be elected, and that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would continue to hold sway no matter how horrible the candidate it presents is. The reasoning being that the Southern Kaduna people have “adopted” the PDP as its official party, just as Christianity is the dominant religion of the area, as against the APC that has been tagged or portrayed as a Muslim party.
No party should or can be tagged a Muslim or Christian party,it is an argument that doesn’t hold water,because both parties will for the presidential elections present Muslim candidates and kaduna state, both governorship candidates are going to be Muslims. It is still puzzling why the PDP despite Southern Kaduna being its strong hold,hasn’t conceded the governorship ticket to the area.
The assertion that Southern Kaduna remains an exclusive playing field of the PDP, are not not totally correct the facts do not support that conclusions. For instance Bantex- in 2003 was elected on the platform of the now defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to the House of Representatives. His victory made him the only one that has successfully breached the PDP strong hold of the area since 1999. The reason being that he dared to be different,from the crowd. Between 1999 to date virtually every southern Kaduna elite was a member of the PDP. And in the recent elections of 2015 and the Local Government Elections, the APC captured some seats at the federal and local government levels.
But no matter the outcome of the Bantex challenge, it will go down in history as a significant event, that will continue to reverberate for years to come for its audacity and the fact that Bantex has thrown open conversations that we should be having in Nigeria, not only about our recruitment process,but the purpose of public service. In Nigeria since 1999 the trend has been for governors after their second term to retire to the senate and for senators to aspire to become governors- the overriding motive being the power to superintend over state resources in the able manner they deem fit and the lure of siren. Service delivery is not part of the reason they aspire to public office, so if they ever construct a 10km road it is celebrated because it is an accident. Bantex, by choosing to run for senate, rather than positioning to succeed Nasir El-Rufai, who definitely would have backed him, is certainly redefining politics as a noble profession. Under Nasir El-Rufai, Kagoma town produced two out of the 14 commissioners, due to capacity.
Bantex deserves commendation for toeing a path, that most power hungry politicians won’t toe, for refusing the defeatist approach to politics. He jolly could have stayed on as deputy and retire into a life of luxury. In Nigeria though a senator is ranked higher than a governor,but because public service boils down to crude resource control, most senators would rather be governors than be senators. It definitely doesn’t make sense for a Senator to “down grade” from his lofty heights of making laws for the good of the entire country, to become a governor. A governor is the head of a single state, of the state’s executive branch, while a senator is the state’s representative in the Senate. It is a norm propelled by the award of contract and dispensation of favours,than service delivery.
Was Bantex edged out? And to what end? The cordial working relationship and the camaraderie between both men doesn’t suggest so. The big question is; what are the chances of Bantex? Can he spring a surprise? Anyone writing him off does so at his own peril, despite the grip of the PDP on the area. For instance the primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party will be a strong factor in the outcome of the elections. The incumbent senator Danjuma Leah, is facing very serious challenge from the likes of Jagaba Adams, a member of the House of Representatives who like many others believe that Laah hasn’t provided leadership. But could Laah, have given what he doesn’t have? Laah, won the primaries based on a gang up against Nenadi Usman, a much more solid candidate whose only sin was that she is married to a Muslim. So the area has a real first hand experience of what it means to cut its nose to spite its face. Can it afford a second missionary journey,with a poor representation? What’s going for Laah, is the tons of money at his disposal, from the fraudulent over payments that members of the National Assembly have daily access to, as disclosed by his friend and colleague Shehu Sani.
The indications are that the PDP will have a crisis ridden primaries because Laah,has sufficiently angered the elites, who are pissed off with his poor representation, while the APC will go into the general election more united. Though Laah is definitely not the best Southern Kaduna can throw up,but politics being a cash and carry affair,and an emotional issue, might prevail at the primaries, and if he does he will definitely have a formidable candidate in Bantex to contend with. The results of the Local Government Elections of May 2018, indicates that the APC has made strong inroads into southern Kaduna, in spite of the crisis that stopped the conduct of the elections in some Local Government Councils. The picture isn’t what it was in 2015 and failure to factor this will be fatal error of judgement on the part the PDP.
Bantex is obviously not ditching the ticket because Chukwuemeka Ezefie, one time governor of Anambra State derogatorily described deputy governors as useless spare tyres, hardly needed unless there is a puncture. Or because he believes that El-Rufai would be defeated. Such political calculations are blurred by the thinking of what some people would like to see happen. Bantex, is the envy of his colleagues- because he is a spare tyre, that is as used as the main tyre governor Nasir El-Rufai, if not more. Whenever Nasir El-Rufai travelled out of town, Bantex or the Speaker of the House of Assembly are known to have acted with the full power of a governor, and there has been no decision that they took as acting governor that was reversed by Nasir El-Rufai, a mark of complete trust and confidence in Bantex, as a treasured member of the Nasir El-Rufai team, with the necessary capacity to effectively run the state. The chemistry and mutual respect between both men definitely goes beyond both men 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 together.
Will Bantex have an easy sail? The answer is no, because like other deputy governors before him, he has his fans and “haters” in 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 1990s, like the other sections of the country that have been subjected to incessant attack by bandits. Though the attack predates the El-Rufai administration, but as the attack, worsened,so did the narrative change 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 from the Zone, 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 be impeached like Eze Maduemere of Imo State who has just been impeached for daring to challenge his principal or further marginalized?Attahiru Bafarawa, then Sokoto State Governor 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. The people have every right to expect dividends of democracy whether they vote for the party in power or not but they must also empower such an office holder.If Bantex is constantly derided, like Shekari and Yakowa were, how can they be taken serious? Bantex efforts to attract projects worth more than N60 billion to southern Kaduna was frustrated on the alter of politics.
The next few months promises to be interesting. Will Bantex, who had convincingly won elections to the House of Representatives under the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) representing Kaura federal constituency repeat the feat which made him the only ACN legislator in the North West geo-political zone of Nigeria. Or will PDP maintain its control on the area which made Laah, the only PDP Senator in the North West? So what has changed?