Governor Nasir El-Rufaiâ€™s intolerance of political opponents, particularly in his ruling All Progressives Congress in Kaduna State, is assuming an alarming proportion, writes Olawale Olaleye
The demolition of Senator Suleiman Hunkuyiâ€™s properties by the government of Governor Nasir El-rufai last Tuesday has continued to dominate public discourse across the country. The Hunkuyi faction of the APC had on Thursday, February 15, queried El-Rufai and consequently suspended two of his aides for 18 months for alleged anti-party activities.
There have been swirling rumours that the senator might contest the 2019 governorship race in the state. His faction of the party, known as Kaduna Restoration Group had also announced the relocation of the party office from Ali Akilu Road to No.11B Sambo Road, Kaduna on the day it queried the governor.
Besides, there had been a running battle between the governor and those opposed to him over the control of the party, with each faction claiming to be the authentic.
El-Rufai was later suspended by Hunkuyiâ€™s faction for failing to respond to the query. His own faction too had swiftly responded the following day by also suspending Hunkuyi and 28 of his faction members for anti-party activities.
However on February 20, the secretariat of the faction was demolished by the Kaduna Urban Planning and Development Agency (KASUPDA) around 4am. The agency in a statement said the building violates land use laws and that ground rents had not been paid on the property since 2010 and as such, took it off.
The demolition was widely condemned although the state government made frantic efforts to defend its action. This is not the first time El-Rufai is exhibiting such political intolerance of the opposition, a situation that is fast becoming his habitual disposition, sadly in a democratic set up. To reiterate here that one of the basic foundations of democracy is conflict and resolution is perhaps, taking the governor through elementary political science class. But the governor, it seems, is innately averse to opposing political views.
Hunkuyi should have learned some lessons from Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, the Vice Chairman of the APC in the North West, who ran into trouble with the governor, when he attempted to wade into the bitter rivalry between El-rufai and Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna central senatorial district.
Abdulkadir was believed to have incurred the wrath of El-Rufai when he quashed the 11 months suspension placed on Sani in January 2016 by the faction loyal to the governor and had asked officials of the party to abide by the directive quashing the suspension.
This did not go down well with El-Rufai, who, on April 2017, allegedly ordered the demolition of the Kaduna residence of Abdulkadir, located at No.11, Yakubu Avenue, Kaduna. The demolition, as usual was undertaken by KASUPDA even when Abdulkadir was said to have gone to court to stop the demolition.
KASUPDA had justified the demolition of the four-bedroom duplex by saying Abdulkadir violated planning laws in addition to the controversy surrounding how he got the land.
In October 2015, at a Town Hall meeting in Kaduna, the governor told those who were not happy with his alleged lopsided appointments to go to Kufena Hill (in Zaria) and jump (and probably die) if they are not happy with the appointments.
While responding to a question on his appointments at the 4th Town Hall meeting, which held at the International Trade Fair Conference Hall, Kaduna, El-Rufai declared that he could not give appointments to persons who did not vote for him during the governorship election.
â€œAll of us in Kaduna State Government have sworn with the Quran and Christians with the Holy Bible â€“ to do justice and we will do justice,â€ he said in Hausa during the meeting, adding that â€œWe better stand and tell ourselves the truth. Everyone knows the truth. No matter the noise, the truth is one. And as I stand here, no matter who you are, I will face you and tell you the truth. If you donâ€™t want to hear the truth, you can climb Kufena Hills and fall.
â€œIt was what you voted that you got, because we are aware that there are people who did not vote for us, in fact, they worked against us. But now they claim to be APC members and loyal to the party. We know such people. And so, there is no way they would expect anything from us,â€ the governor said during the Town Hall meeting.
El-rufai had been criticised for appointing his close friends, family members and non-indigenes into top positions in the state. The governor had consistently defended the appointments. Party members accused him of sidelining them after they worked hard to bring him to power.
Also, at a Kaduna APC stakeholders meeting on September 16, 2017, El-rufai told his political opponents that should they insist on fighting him, they would die like the late President Umar Musa Yarâ€™Adua did.
â€œI had fought with two presidents â€“ Umaru Yarâ€™Adua ended in his grave, while President Goodluck Jonathan ended in Otuekeâ€, he said in Hausa language during the stakeholders meeting, which held at the Murtala Square, Kaduna.
When the Kaduna State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), embarked on strike last month over the sacking of over 20,000 of their members, who failed competency test, El-rufai, again, threatened to sack any teacher, who participate in the industrial action.
â€œAny teacher that is absent from work will be treated with the consequences that pertain to absconding from duty under the public service rules. There can be no doubt that KDSG will take firm and decisive disciplinary action against personnel, who absent themselves from duty, including dismissal from service. This is an illegal action, and will not achieve its aim of derailing the education reforms being implemented by the governmentâ€ El-rufai threatened in a statement by his spokesman, Samuel Aruwan.
In an attempt to stop the National leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) from holding its mass protest against the sacking of over 30,000 workers including teachers, El-rufai made frantic attempts to scuttle the protest saying all forms of protests and processions in Kaduna were illegal. He was also alleged to have mobilised hundreds of security personnel to stop the mass protest, which eventually held peacefully on January 11.
According to the National President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, â€œAbout 8000 forces including the military, police and civil defense were deployed to intimidate and use maximum force against workers. Our leader in ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) movement, Dipo Fashina, who is leading the intellectual angle of our discourse, on his entry into Kaduna was manhandled.â€
Just before the imbroglio with Hunkuyi, a group tagged â€œConcerned Indigenes of Kaduna Central Senatorial Districtâ€ had announced its decision to initiate the recall of Senator Sani from the senate.
At a news conference in Kaduna, the spokesman of the group, Aliyu Saidu, said Sani had been criticising President Muhammadu Buhari and El-rufai.
The group was believed to have been sponsored to attack Sani.
Observers are of the view that the governorâ€™s resort to land use laws as a means of getting at those opposed to him is undemocratic and would not engender peace in the state if he continues like that. Thus, it is becoming glaring that El-rufai is allowing political intolerance to get the better part of him.
His numerous unapologetic and hurtful public utterances are in no small measure harmful to the spirit of civil engagement in any democracy the world over.
In a statement condemning the demolition of Hunkuyiâ€™s house, the President of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF) Shettima Yerima said, â€œNigeria and indeed the entire democratic world should hold El-rufai responsible for any untoward incident resultant from his growing impatience and intolerance to opposition.â€
According to him, â€œsuch uncivilised actions would definitely add to the numerous other burdens El-rufai would have to carry to the 2019 polls. This time around, El-rufai must be made to pay compensation for the destruction from his own account. It will not be acceptable for public funds to be used in settling his wanton destruction.â€