Yakowa: When Death Changes Power Game

23 Dec 2012

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Amina being consoled by son and a family friendAmina being consoled by son and a family friend

John Shiklam writes on the likely political scenario in Kaduna after the death of Governor Patrick Yakowa, the first Christian to emerge governor of the state…

Ater decades of agitations for power shift to the Southern part of Kaduna State, a chance eventually came in May 2010 and reaffirmed at the poll in 2011, but barely two years later, the Southern Kaduna zone was flushed out of power following the death Mr. Patrick Yakowa, the first Christian and Southern Kaduna man to become the governor of the state.

Blow to Southern Kaduna
Yakowa’s death is a big blow to the political future of the Southern Kaduna people. His death has more or less returned the Southern part of the state to Square One. What then is the political future of the Southern Kaduna people? Since the creation of Kaduna State 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 Hausa/Fulani while the Southern part is peopled by the Christian ethnic nationalities of about 50 different ethnic groups.

Although power sharing is based on the three senatorial zones in the state- the Northern senatorial zone, Central senatorial zone and the Southern senatorial zone. However, because the Central zone is also dominated by the Hausa Fulani, the Northern and Central senatorial zones are seen as one and the same. Therefore, the political map of the state is seen more from North-South or Muslim-Christian divide than from the prism of the senatorial zones. Indeed, Kaduna being the former capital of the defunct Northern region where the late Premier of the region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto held sway, has always been seen as an exclusive preserve of Muslims to govern.

But the Southern Kaduna people are also believed to be the architect of their political predicament as well. This is how. Their diverse ethnic differences had always worked against them because of the failure of the political elite from the area to unite and give the people a sense of unity and political direction. The Northern part of the state had always exploited this weakness to its political advantage.

Yakowa’s emergence as the first Southern Kaduna man to be governor raised the hope and aspiration of the people of the area who, for long, sought justice, fair play and even development of the state from the Muslim Hausa-Fulani elite of the Northern part of the state that have dominated the political scene in the state for decades. It is not likely that Yakowa lived up to their expectations within the past two years that he governed the state. With his sudden death, an air of uncertainty has enveloped the political future and survival of the Southern part of the state as his death has significantly altered the political configuration of the state. Observers are of the opinion that it may take some 20 years for the Southern part of the state to produce the governor again except through another divine intervention.

They noted for instance, that Yakowa was expected to continue in office for a second term in 2015, just like the Northern senatorial zone, which produced former governor Ahmed Makarfi who governed the state for eight years. By this arrangement, the Central senatorial zone was expected to take its turn in 2019 for eight years after the late Yakowa must have completed his second term, then the Northern senatorial zone takes another turn again.

But the death of Yakowa has altered this arrangement. The new governor Alhaji Mukhtar Ramalan Yero is an Hausa/Fulani from Zaria city in the Northern part of the state and it is very unlikely that he will step down in 2015 after completing the two years that is remaining of Yakowa’s tenure.

The permutation is that Yero may want to stay on for eight years after which power will come to the Central senatorial zone for its eight-year slot before the Southern part of the state is considered at all again.

Cries of marginalisation and discrimination by the Southern Kaduna people may likely resurface again as time goes on unless the new governor treats them fairly. Besides, the way Kaduna is structured is meant to give the Northern part a political advantage over the Southern part of the state. Of the 23 local governments in the state, 10 are from the South while 13 are in the North. There are also 16 federal constituencies in the state with six in the Southern part while the North has 10. Also in the 34 state constituencies, the Southern part has 11 (inclusive of Kajuru and Chikun) while the Northern part has 23.
There are also more electoral wards in the Northern part than in the South.

But perhaps one of the greatest undoing of the Sothern Kaduna people, which has continued to work against their political interest, and which the Northern part has continued to exploit to its full advantage is the diverse ethnic configuration of the area.

There are about 50 different ethnic nationalities in Southern Kaduna. This has made it virtually impossible for the political elite in the area to come together and point the way forward for the various ethnic groups for the political advantage.

It is a known fact that, like the Igbo of the South-east, the Southern Kaduna people have always contested elections against each other at the end of which they all emerge losers. In addition to this, is the fact that all the major political leaders who could have been a rallying point for the people of the area have all died, with only Senator Isa’ah Balat standing.

They included the former national legal adviser and founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) late Col. Yohanna Madaki (rtd), the late Stephen Shekari who was deputy to Makarfi, late Garba Ali Madaki who was minister of state for works, late Col. Elias Nyan (rtd) and now Yakowa.
These losses are said to be a great setback to the political future of the Southern part of the state.

Turning Point
Yakowa became the governor of the state through what some people referred to as “divine intervention” following the elevation of the former governor of the state, Arc.  Namadi Sambo, by President Goodluck Jonathan as Vice-President, when President Umaru Musa Yar’adua passed on in May 2010. That became the turning point in the politics of Kaduna State. On his assumption of office, some Muslim elders in the state became suspicious of his intentions but he assured them that he meant well for all in the state, regardless of their ethnic and religious leanings.

His emergence as governor was initially greeted by protests from a section of the Muslims in the state who felt that a Christian must not be governor of the state. To allay the fears of those suspecting that he was coming with an agenda, the late governor declared during his inauguration on May 29, 2011 after emerging the winner of the 2011governorship election that he would be a governor for all the people of the state, irrespective of differences in their 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,” the late governor had declared during his inauguration.

Undermining Yakowa
Unfortunately, in spite of all the assurances some elements did everything possible to undermine his administration and frustrate him. The activities of the dreaded Boko Haram Islamic sect was perhaps one of the greatest challenges Yakowa faced in a state that is sharply divided along religious line. However, in the face of the frequent bombings of churches, which led to the death of many people as well as the frequent attacks by unknown gunmen in some parts of the state especially in the Southern part of the state aimed at causing confusion, the Southern Christians have had to restrain themselves because they saw the attacks as deliberate attempts to undermine and frustrate one of their own. But it would seem they couldn’t contain their anger in June when three churches in Zaria and Kaduna were bombed.

Yero and Sambo
Now that Yakowa is no more, it is expected that Yero will be sensitive to the current scenario on the ground by ensuring that all sections of the state are fairly and justly treated to win their confidence. He is seen mainly as a political son to Vice President Sambo and he will surely enjoy the full support of the Vice President and his followers most of who resurfaced from nowhere at the Government House during his swearing-in last Sunday.

Who Becomes Deputy Governor?
Talking about the battle for who takes over as deputy governor, THISDAY sources said the Southern Kaduna people would prefer a younger and politically experienced person for the position of deputy governor, as opposed to an old brigade. According to the source, “if you recall, the late Stephen Shekari who was deputy to former governor Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, was far older than Makarfi, Yakowa who was deputy to both Makarfi and former governor Namadi Sambo was by far older than both of them.

“This time round we need young, agile and experienced person for this position. Our senior politicians should give the youths a chance. Besides, the new governor is a young man and it will only be better to get somebody within his age group to be his deputy.
Among the old breed politicians whose names is being touted as likely deputy governor are the Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, Ambassador Nuhu Bajoga.  Bajoga who is in his late 50’s was formerly Nigeria’s Ambassador of Poland

Also being mentioned in connection with the job is former minister of state for power, Arc. Nuhu Wya who is said to be a schoolmate of Vice-President Sambo during their secondary school days and at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria where they both studied architecture. Sambo was said to have influenced his appointment as minister.

Also on the list of those being speculated for the position are former minister of state for aviation, Mr. Hassan Hyet. and former deputy governor of the state Mr. Bawa Magaji. One of those also being touted for the job from among the new breed and younger politicians should it be decided that Yero pick somebody within his age group are former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Jonathan Asake. Asake was Special Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters. He has also served in various capacities in the state and at the national level. Among the younger generation of politicians being mentioned is also Mr. Edward Marshall, former commissioner for water resources in the state during the military dispensation. He also served as Special Assistant to former minister of finance, Mrs. Nenadi Usman, during the Obasanjo regime. Another younger politician, Rev. Joseph Hayab, special adviser on Christian Matters to the late Yakowa, is being touted as a possible deputy to Yero. Hayab was at one time the secretary of the Kaduna state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

Contending Tendencies
But there are other contending issues that may come into play in the choice of deputy governor and this is the battle for political supremacy between Senator Makarfi’s followers in PDP and those of the Vice President. The late Yakowa was the unifying factor between the two camps as he works relentlessly to carry all sections of the party along in view of the fact that he served both Makarfi and Sambo as deputy governor. He was therefore cautious not to take side.

How the new governor will handle the issue of religious conflict that is prevalent in the state, especially the frequent bombing of churches by the dreaded Boko Haram Islamic sect will tell a lot about his capacity to win the confidence of the Christians in the state. For now, the Southern Kaduna people are left in the cold. Their only option is to go back to the drawing board and re-strategise for the political challenges ahead.

Tags: Politics, Nigeria, Featured, Power Game

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