By Salihu Moh. Lukman
Media reports indicate that Sen. Suleiman Uthman Hunkuyi, Senator representing Kaduna North Senatorial Zone, has declared opposition to Governor Nasir el-Rufai in the 2019 elections. To achieve that Sen. Hunkuyi claimed to have floated ‘APC Aspirants Forum’ which is supposedly a platform to unite all aspirants who were not among those being sponsored by the governor in the 2019 elections. With the announcement of the Forum also followed proclamation of Hunkuyi’s leadership.
Interestingly, Sen. Hunkuyi justified the formation of the “Forum” because, according to him “people wanted to move away from impunity, injustice and stealing of government funds”. He further alleged that what is happening now is worse as people were being denied their rights to participate in the electoral process through imposition of candidates.” Nothing could be more interesting.
As a party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged in 2014 with very good prospects to evolve a new framework of political organization that is organically connected with the people based on which leadership emergence could be transparent and democratic. Somehow because it came with very high electoral potentials at a time when the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had exhausted all the little public goodwill, partly on account of “impunity”, which Sen. Hukuyi liberally refers to, in some of our states, including Kaduna, the party had to contend with mass influx of politicians whose political understanding of workings of political parties limits its functions to simply being an election platform.
In Kaduna State, outside the foundation membership of the legacy parties, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a section of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), we had two categories of politicians who trouped into the party in 2014, which could be regarded as part of the New-PDP that broke away and joined APC. There was the category of PDP members who understood that it would not be possible to defeat former Governor Ramalan Yero in any PDP primary, no matter how much money they had. This category estimated that they had enough resources to outvote any other aspirant in the young APC. As a result, they mobilized across all Local Governments in the state and decamped from PDP to APC with Hon. Isa Ashiru as their gubernatorial arrowhead.
The second category is the Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi group, who I think on account of Mallam Nasir’s personal relationship with them were persuaded to come to APC and based on that perhaps also find it convenient to persuade and support Mallam Nasir to emerge as the party’s gubernatorial candidate. Clearly, the support of the Sen. Hunkuyi group was based on some short-term calculations, which include key appointments into the government and the projection that once Mallam Nasir finish his term of perhaps 4 years, Sen. Hunkuyi can succeed him.
With such calculations, Sen. Hunkuyi led the orchestrated putrefaction of the emerging APC structures in the state from Ward to State level. How they achieved that was by getting Mallam Nasir to endorse their agenda of fielding all the candidates for elections from Wards to State levels as part of the strategy to exercise control of party structures with the aim of guarantee the emergence of their candidates for 2015 elections. Unfortunately, most of those fielded for party leadership during the 2014 Ward Congresses were largely unpopular, which witnessed in many instances the defeat of the Sen. Hunkuyi’s candidates. Consequently, the party was plunged into deep internal crisis. The crisis became further entrenched because of attempts to use money to get results of Ward Congresses changed.
For months, in the first half of 2014, the crisis of Ward Congresses in Kaduna state lingers until the National Leadership delegated former Governor Kwankwaso to handle the matter based on which some settlement were worked out, which paved the way for Local Government and State Congresses in June 2014. Even then, leadership crisis in Kubau and Kaduna South Local Government proved stubborn and defied any reconciliatory attempt, perhaps till today.
It is simply convenient for Sen. Hunkuyi to emerge today and claimed to be leading the struggle to defeat Mallam Nasir in the 2019 elections. If anything, whatever is Mallam Nasir’s political crime today was incubated by Sen. Hunkuyi’s politics of attrition, which is injurious to the yearnings and aspirations of the people. If anything, I will hope that whatever is the reality pitching Sen. Hunkuyi against Mallam Nasir, may it serve as the needed opportunity for Mallam Nasir to open himself and his government to landmark processes of reconciliation with all genuine party members who were rightly or wrongly alienated on accounts of political differences.
In propagating this course of action, perhaps as party members whose belief in the party is not driven by the desperation to hold positions, we need to courageously remind ourselves about instances of betrayals and dashed hopes on accounts of Sen. Hunkuyi’s ambivalent politics since 2003. He contested for 2003 election against Sen. Makarfi and no doubt won that election. While in tribunal, negotiated settlement that included appointment as Commissioner of Finance and as a result withdrew the matter from the tribunal.
In 2007, he aspired to contest for Governor under PDP and came 3rd at the PDP primaries after Arc. Namadi Sambo and Sen. Isiah Balat of blessed memory. What follows was the interesting emergence of Sen. Hunkuyi as Arc. Namadi’s campaign Director General. Again, in 2011, he aspired against late Governor Yakowa in PDP, which must have led to some settlements directly or indirectly. The only election that Sen. Hunkuyi didn’t aspire for Governorship since 2003 was 2015. Even then, he made sure that he emerged as a Senator possibly based on a strategic calculation of succeeding Mallam Nasir.
It is possible that in all these, Sen. Hunkuyi is simply trying to invoke the old strategy of negotiating for the usual political opportunity to hold either elective or appointive positions. Having prostituted with virtually every government in Kaduna State since 1999 with underhand method, anyone who takes Sen. Hunkuyi serious does so at his/her own risk.
This being the case, does it mean that Sen. Hunkuyi and his crowd of anti Mallam Nasir followers have no reasons to canvass for the defeat of Mallam Nasir? May be, yes, they do have very strong reasons. Be that as it may, on what platform do they plan to prosecute their anti-Mallam Nasir struggle? Is it in APC or PDP? All indications raise doubt about the possibility of APC or PDP being their chosen platform. That confusion is reflected in their membership. However, if APC or PDP are not the platforms, could the possible platform be either Labour Party or Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) where two other notable APC gubernatorial aspirants are being alleged of funding the Kaduna State chapters of the parties? Notwithstanding the choice of platform, the big question is, if Mallam Nasir now according to the new Sen. Hunkuyi group represents “impunity, injustice and stealing of government funds”, how are they different? It is simply a joke for Sen. Hunkuyi to make the claim he is making.
The sad thing is that since our victory in 2015, our politics in Kaduna has been reduced to politics of mediocrity, unfortunately led by people who should ordinarily be distinguished with reference to their responsibilities as provided by Nigeria’s 1999. I don’t want to join issues with many of them but I will insist that if the desperation for holding appointive or elective position is the basis of the struggle against Mallam Nasir, it shouldn’t be a condition for reconciliation as is being reported to be the demand of the Sen. Hunkuyi group. The truth is that the process of reconciliation should affirm the rights of all party members, inclusive of Mallam Nasir and Sen. Hunkuyi and his followers (if they chose to remain in APC).
If the truth be told, there are many of us in APC who found ourselves hanging on account of the stagnant disposition of Mallam Nasir to open himself up and engage all party members, including providing the needed leadership to facilitate the building of party organization. The hard truth, which all party members need to recognize, is that we lost the legitimacy to make any claim to Mallam Nasir’s emergence as the Governor of Kaduna having allowed transactions, however we choose to define it, to dictate the process. The same way party members were undermined and as a result unable to hold party leaders accountable who became delegates during party primaries, the party leaders themselves have swallow the same painful pill. It is a simple logic.
I am hoping that the realities facing us will direct Mallam Nasir’s attention in a route that enable us to reconcile ourselves and face the business of nation building without the usual necessary electoral distractions. My view is that no matter what our anger will make us to believe, the last two and half years under APC in Kaduna State has in substantial ways redirect the business of governance to the task of development and not simply dispensing favours. In the process hard decisions have to be taken. I will encourage Mallam Nasir to continue on that trajectory and as loyal party members explore areas of providing the needed support. In all these, the cheap excuses are that Mallam Nasir doesn’t listen to advice. True as it may be, advices are what they are, advices and not directive.
Certainly, a lot needs to be done and we need to be dogged both as citizens and as a party. We must firmly at every opportunity restate our resolve to build a party that is democratic and distinctly transparent. This was the conviction that produced the APC. Therefore, APC represent that idea that is omnipresent. The fact of its shortcomings today does not make it hopeless. We need to revive our 2012/2013 bright spirit of looking into the future with confidence and re-invent our organizing capabilities, which was what made the merger that gave birth to APC a success in the first place. In doing that we need to unmistakably place political opportunists in their rightful place and ensure that their old political musical chairs bearing stubborn lyrics with those deceptive popular claims are not allowed to be played in our Kaduna political theatre. And when political singers are attempting to paly such songs and using so-called phrases of “impunity”, “injustice” and “stealing”, we need to remind ourselves about the specific dance steps of those attempting to sing those old songs of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.
The sad thing is the fact that it does appear that there are people in Mallam Nasir’s government that are already singing these old political musical chairs and as a result clearly not disposed to allowing internal party reconciliation especially if it will not guarantee their emergence as candidates for elections. Already, some of them have begun to prepare themselves for 2019 elections including replacing Sen. Hunkuyi and others who disagree with Mallam Nasir. It is my hope that the party and Mallam Nasir will be able to call them to order and the process of reconciliation that will open in the party will truly guarantee justice to all members and we can resume the process of party building, recruit fresh new members and hopefully elect completely new leaders to usher us into the 2019 election period. With that our candidates for 2019 can’t emerge from the circle of opportunists!
Salihu Moh. Lukman writes from Abuja, Nigeria. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org
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