Alhaji Mukhtar Yero
Following his rise to power in the wake of the death of his principal, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, John Shiklam, writes that the new Kaduna State Governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Yero, has many challenges facing him, especially in the onerous task of holding a volatile state together as well as meeting the expectations of people of a state fractured along ethno-religious line
For the new Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Mukhtar Yero, his deputy, Ambassador Nuhu Bajoga and the people of the state, the time has come to face the reality and challenges arising from the death of Yero's predecessor, Mr. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa. As it seems, the governor has begun to overcome the shock of his boss’ death and contend with the reality of governance and the attendant enormous challenges.
Governing Kaduna, observers often say, is not an easy task; and it takes a leader with vision, wisdom as well as a sense of justice, fairness and equity to succeed in such a difficult terrain. A major challenge that leaders in Kaduna State often face is the ethnic and religious divide that has continued to polarise the Christians and Muslims in the state, and often resulting in violent clashes.
After over a decade of agitations for power shift to the Southern part of the state, a window of opportunity came when a former Governor, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, was appointed vice-president by President Goodluck Jonathan, in the wake of his elevation when his principal, President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua died in office.
Sambo's appointment also heralded the emergence of Yakowa, who was his deputy, as the first Christian to govern the state since its creation.
But today, the Southern Kaduna people see Yakowa’s death as a blow to their political future. From calculations by analysts, it may take Southern Kaduna about 20 years to be in charge again.
A State and its Peculiarity
Since the creation of Kaduna in 1967, religion and ethnicity have always been the defining factors in the politics of the state. The northern part of the state is predominantly peopled by Hausa-Fulani who are Muslims. On the other hand, the southern part is inhabited by about 50 different ethnic groups, majority of whom are Christians.
Although, the power sharing equation is based on the three senatorial zones in the state- the North, Central and South senatorial zones, because the Central zone is also dominated by the Hausa-Fulani, the Northern and Central senatorial zones are seen as one and as such, the political map of the state is divided along the North-South religious divide rather than based on the senatorial zones' division.
According to Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, the policy whereby non-Muslims were excluded from becoming the governor of Kaduna is responsible for the religious friction in the state.
Kukah, in a sermon at the burial of Yakowa, noted that from the creation of Kaduna State, “the Northern ruling class by policy seemed to have erected an invisible sign that reads: No Christians Need Apply to enter what would later be called Kashim Ibrahim House (Government House, Kaduna) or represent the state at the highest level.
He added that in spite of the fact that all states were opened to Christian military officers; it was only Kaduna and perhaps Sokoto States that were never governed by non-Muslims.
“This policy of exclusion against non-Muslims turned Kaduna State into a political Mecca and laid the foundation for the unnecessary and sad religious tensions that have continued to dog the state. This is why, a routine change like a deputy governor taking over from a governor would generate such ripples across the country. It also has created the climate for the anxiety, fear and suspicion that destroyed the foundations of Christians-Muslims relations,” he said.
Yakowa’s Olive Branch
When Yakowa became governor, a section of the Muslims in the state were opposed to his leadership being a Christian. But that notwithstanding, he was able to allay their fears in words and in actions.
At his inauguration on May 29, 2011 after emerging winner of the 2011 governorship election, the late governor declared that he would be a governor for all the people of the state, irrespective of their differences in class, ethnicity, religion or social circumstance.
“My victory at the polls has opened a new chapter of accommodation, hope, inclusiveness and possibility for all people of the state. In a sense, therefore, we are gathered here today to celebrate the strength of our diversity as a gift of God and not an accident of history.
“Going forward from here, we must change our attitude towards each other. We must recognise that violence is the precursor for war and that peace is better than war, as life is better than death. Our watchword must be peace.
“For this peace to have meaning, it must cease to be a mere slogan. Peace must be the cornerstone of our principles and the creed of the faith we profess individually, whatever that faith may be. Our actions must be consistent with the peace we preach.... I will be governor for all the people of the state, irrespective of differences in class, ethnicity, religion or social circumstance,” Yakowa said at inauguration.
He soon won the confidence of many Muslims by demonstrating that he was a just person. Of the over N40 billion road projects he initiated across the state, the northern part of the state got the lion share.
During his time, the Boko Haram sect did everything to undermine his administration through their frequent attacks on the state, especially on churches in a state that is sharply divided along religious line. He managed the tendencies without further exacerbating the situation on ground. He used his influence in the Christian community to prevent reprisals in the face the provocative attacks by the Islamist sect.
As Yero Steps in
Like Yakowa, Yero’s ascension to power is being received with mix feelings, especially from the Southern Kaduna people where the late governor came from. For a people who just had a feel of power since the creation of the state, the death of Yakowa has killed their dream of a longer stay in power. This is why analysts believe Yero has to do everything possible to allay their fears and suspicion.
Yakowa was able to do some balancing of interests and got support of the people. However, Yero has to build the pillar of his administration which must be based on justice, equity and fair play. Yakowa did something similar and got things working for his administration. If Yero’s promise to go by this is upheld, then he would get things going for him.
But observers say he must avoid the treachery of sycophants and rumour mongers, who might set him against the tide. Observers are also worried that his emergence will give rise to the sprouting of interest groups that would be clamouring for one thing or the other and from different parts of the state. He must, however, be able to discern if he must continue to be on the side of the people or humouring those with less than noble intentions for the state.
For instance, the selection of Bajoga as deputy governor was contentious. Yero, observers say, must handle the matter with wisdom as some people will always feather their nest as against that of collective interest. Thus, Bajoga’s appointment must be properly managed.
Also, he must ensure a balance of power in appointments from state to the federal levels. Observers believe he must assume control and censor reckless statements, either by himself or his supporters. This is why the composition of his cabinet must also reflect the right people for him to get support of the people.
Of critical importance is the balancing of interests within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That is an issue he must take into cognizance, considering the politics of the power blocs within the party.
Between now and 2015 is a litmus test for the governor and the PDP. A cursory look at the performance of the party in the state portrays the kind of picture that would define the times to come. This is one area that Yakowa was said to have played so well that he had things going for him.
As Yakowa’s deputy, Yero cannot afford to fail in this regard as he is expected to have learnt a thing or two from him that will help him weld the centrifugal tendencies in the state together.
Striking a Balance
Having come to limelight courtesy of Sambo, the governor must learn to assert himself and be a man of his own to succeed. Yero was with Yakowa and should have the faintest idea about the challenges posed by insecurity in the state. His approach to governance, observers say, must give consideration to the views of people they appoint into government.
Indeed, observers have noted that Yero’s major challenges will be how to manage the diversity in the state known for religious volatility much as he would handle the interests of the political gladiators in the ruling PDP in the state.
There are three political tendencies within the PDP and they are the Sambo group, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi and former governor Suleiman Hunkuyi camp as well as the Northern and Southern Kaduna political interests.
Yero who belongs to the Sambo camp owes his rise to political limelight to the VP who appointed him commissioner for finance when he (Sambo) was governor. The Sambo group has a large followership. Interestingly too, the new deputy governor belongs to the Sambo group.
The Makarfi group also has a large followership in the party. Makarfi, a two-term governor of the state, is one of the most popular politicians in the state with grassroots appeal. As governor, he was believed to have done well for the eight years he held sway. His achievements in Kaduna have become a standard for rating other governors even though no one has spent eight years in office. Majority of the people remember his reign with nostalgia.
The Suleiman Hunkuyi group is also not alone in terms of following. A grassroots politician with great ability to mobilise, he has contested governorship election many times without success.
What the People Expect
Apart from containing the three major tendencies in the state, the people expect Yero to carry along all sections of the state and ensure even development across board.
Kaduna State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Alhaji Mohammed Soba, said Yero must first of all ensure unity among the people if he must succeed.
“My expectations from Governor Yero are that he must ensure unity among the people of Kaduna State. I don’t expect him to be unjust against any section of the state. He must carry everybody along regardless of religious and ethnic differences. I want him to be firm in terms of the administration of Kaduna State.
“He should not allow sycophants and the so-called godfathers to mislead him in running the affairs of Kaduna State. The Yero that I know is always firm and fair in his judgment. But as a politician, you can never rule out influence from other quarters coming into play.
“So, he has to be firm about the steps he will take because at the end of the day, the judgment is against him, not against the so-called godfathers. He must not discriminate against anybody or any section of the state on the basis of religion or tribe and must ensure justice, equity and fair play in governing Kaduna State.
“We know that it was Vice-President Namadi Sambo who brought him to limelight, but he must know that he is answerable to the people of Kaduna State and not to anybody. He must listen to people. I will also call on the vice-president to resist the temptation of influencing the governor to do certain things that may not be in the interest of the generality of the people of Kaduna State.
“Whatever advice the vice-president will give the governor let it be in the interest of the overall state and not to remote control him. He should try as much as possible to address the security challenges by ensuring that the resources channelled for security are used for the purpose. It is not the amount spent on security that matters, it is the input that matters,” Soba said in a telephone interview with THISDAY.
On his part, Chairman of the Southern Kaduna Elders’ Forum and former military governor of Rivers State, Gen Zamani Lekwot (rtd), who described Yero as a promising young man, said he was positive that the governor would not disappoint the people.
He, however, stressed the need for Yero to maintain peace and stability in the state so that the people can support him to succeed.
“We paid him a condolence visit over the death of his boss. He is a promising young man, an accountant by profession who worked with the late governor. The person he has taken as his deputy is also a qualified accountant. So, accountant plus accountant in my view will promote probity and accountability. From the little he said, he struck me as a young man who knows his onions. We the elders went there to assure him of our support.
“We told him we will mobilise our people to support him in completing the programmes he started with the late governor. In our position as elders, peace and stability is what we need to support the leaders to take us to the Promised Land. I don’t know him as a person; I have never met him, but as the philosopher said, first impression lasts longer. There is no doubt that he sounded like a promising young man who is well focused,” Lekwot said.
Also, speaking on the expectations from Yero, President, Arewa Defence League, Alhaji Murtala Abubakar, noted that Kaduna is a complex state to govern and requires somebody with wisdom and a sense of justice and fair play to get the support of all sections of the state.
He said for the governor to succeed, he must strike a balance among the diverse ethnic, religious and political interests in the state as well as carry all sections of the state along. “We know that he owes his rise to limelight to Vice-President Namadi Sambo, he must avoid being a stooge to the vice-president otherwise he may not get the support of the contending political interests in the state.
“From where we are coming and given his speech at the valedictory to the late Yakowa, it appears that he is nursing some grudges against some people. It appears that he was not carried along as deputy governor so that really puts him in a difficult situation and from every indication, there may be the tendency to revenge. But if he must succeed, he should forgive and forget and forge ahead.
“We are also aware that when Namadi Sambo was the governor and he was the commissioner for finance, he also treated Yakowa who was deputy to Sambo with disrespect. He should see his position as governor of Kaduna State as a divine will of God and should ensure that he works for the interest of the totality of the people of the state,” he said.
Submitting on the expectations of the people, spokesman for the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states and FCT, Mr. Sunday Oibe, maintained that he expected the Yero to build on the foundation laid by his predecessor.
“He should be careful about these selfish political hangers on who called themselves religious leaders so that they will not mislead him. Of course, there is nothing wrong with government partnering religious leaders, but he should be wary of selfish religious leaders in the corridor of power.
“We expect that he will take the issue of security very seriously because that is paramount to the development of the state. He is now the governor of all-Christians, Muslims and unbelievers- he must therefore shun all forms of religious and ethnic discrimination and carry every section of the state along.
“We expect him to be fair and just to all and treat everyone on the basis of justice and equity. He should ensure even development of the state,” he said.