Suleiman Hunkuyi

Danladi Sani

The immediate past Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, submitted in an interview granted barely two weeks to the All Progressives Congress’s National Convention that states where congresses were not conducted in a free and fair manner by some powerful APC stakeholders and governors, will certainly pay the price of undemocratic activities.

He continued: “In democracy, people have different aspirations with the hope to achieve them on the platform of a particular political party. But once you are denied the opportunity to participate democratically, naturally, you must feel aggrieved and the temptation may be for you to seek your ambition on another platform. The immediate past congresses cannot stand the test of time from what I read in newspapers. What aggrieved members are saying is a sad development, because the governors decided in their offices to write the names of their secretaries and their family members. Adamawa State appears to be unique in this negative regard. So, you are not wrong to say these undemocratic activities may affect APC’s performances in some states.”

But more than three weeks after the convention, apart from Imo State, where the Presidency appears to be insisting that the congresses must hold afresh, apparently because it was the governor who lost out, the Presidency and the party are yet to consider the grievances of other aggrieved stakeholders of the party, especially where the governors had upper hand.

Incidentally, Kaduna State is one of the states where party stakeholders are aggrieved over the outcome of the congresses. Leading the pack of the aggrieved party members is Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, representing Kaduna North Senatorial district. Hunkuyi, it was learnt, incidentally provided the structure that enabled Mallam Nasir El-Rufai defeat the highly rated former member of the House of Representatives, Isa Ashiru, at the party’s governorship primary, and went ahead to deliver El-Rufai at the poll against the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the Director-General of the party’s campaign council in the state.

But shortly after the election was won and lost, El-Rufai allegedly began treating Hunkuyi as if he did not matter in the politics of the state. And for two years, he tolerated this. This perhaps explains why even when some aggrieved members of the party broke away early in 2015 to form APC Akida, Hunkuyi never showed his hand in the group. He was still optimistic that the situation was redeemable. Senator Shehu Sani representing Kaduna Central was very visible in that group.

However, the bubble burst in 2017 when the party asked that Delegates’ elections be conducted across the states of the federation. Kaduna State stakeholders had written to the national headquarters of the party to complain about the outcome of the Delegates’ election, insisting that rather than hold election as anticipated by the party, the governor of Kaduna State and his aides allegedly sat in the Government House to write the names of their preferred candidates, and sent same to the national headquarters as duly elected.

After submitting the letter of petition, Hunkuyi led the group to address a press conference in Kaduna, where he and other members of the group were attacked allegedly by thugs loyal to the state government, to protest the outcome of the Delegates’ election, held in the state on July 29, 2017. Hunkuyi told journalists that he was opposed to the governor because he (El-Rufai) was opposed to internal democracy, the same reason that forced both of them out of the PDP, in the first instance. The group described the election as a “charade.”

Although, the national secretariat of the party never acted on the petition, it acknowledged publicly through the then National Chairman, John Oyegun that it indeed had challenges with the conduct of the elections in Rivers and Kaduna States, respectively. Ironically, up till the time the John Oyegun-led exco left office in June this year, the party did not deem it fit to look into the petition. In spite of that, the group opposed to the governor’s style of governance remained in the party and were prepared to take part in the congresses in May this year until they were shut out again.

In the build up to the May congresses of the party, the Hunkuyi-led group followed every guidelines of the party, by purchasing the forms that would enable them contest the election into the 255 wards in the state. The group also had their bank tellers as stipulated by the party’s guidelines. The Hunkuyi group and supporters had filed out on the day of the election which took place on Saturday, May 5 to participate in the election having met the provisions of the party’s constitution to contest in the election.

But to their surprise, almost all the wards and the local government areas they visited to participate in the congress, party officials were not on ground to attend to them. Shortly after claiming to have participated in the ward congress at his Ungwan Sarki ward, Governor El-Rufai said party members and stakeholders across the 255 wards in the state have worked together to deliver a very satisfactory outcome.

However, Hunkuyi fired back, saying that he and his group are not fighting El-Rufai or the state government, but that as far as APC is concerned, they don’t want to be labourers on their own farm. He insisted there was no election. His position was corroborated by Senator Sani.

Addressing a press conference a day after the ward congress, Hunkuyi explained: “We are co-travellers in the Kaduna State APC Journey, and not bystanders. Our members had by the provision of the Guidelines and the APC Constitution paid the required fees for the nomination forms into the APC accounts and collected tellers for the 9,453 positions to be contested in 255 Wards across the 23 local government areas involving 37 different positions in each of the Ward across the State.

“Our members, were profiled few hours to the APC stakeholders briefing at a public lecture by el-rufai in Kaduna Township Stadium before the APC National Chairman, when the governor, in an unprecedented hate speech called out my name and urged his sympathizers to ‘maim’ me and other APC co-travellers as well as members of his party and supporters who do not share the same political views with him

“The APC State Congress Committee in a very frustrating outing gave our members the nomination forms for only two local governments 23 local government areas around 03:55am and that was at the wee hours of the Congress date of 5th May, 2018. It must be noted that even those who collected the forms were already programmed for disqualification as the guidelines for the conduct of the congresses, stipulates that all aspirants must return the forms 24 hours before the date of the congresses.” Hunkuyi called for the nullification of the exercise, adding that “may God deliver APC from the hands of enemies of democracy and purveyors of tyranny who are out to destroy our beloved party.”

But when it became obvious that the party was unwilling to reverse what he described as the “rape” of democracy, Hunkuyi and his group decided to bid farewell to the APC, and like the former SGF predicted, they will be seeking to actualise their ambition on the platform of another party other than the APC.

With the exit of Hunkuyi and several others who made it possible for El-Rufai and APC to win Kaduna in 2015, it is perhaps obvious that the incumbent governor and his party would be walking a tight rope ahead of 2019. Already, several aspirants including Hunkuyi have shown interest in running for the governorship on the platform of the PDP. Others are: Isa Ashiru, Sani Sidi, Galadiman Ruwa, former governor, Ramalan Yero and Maina Zazzau among several others. Interestingly, all the aspirants are from Kaduna North senatorial district, where the incumbent comes from.

Of the lot, three are from the former vice president, Namadi Sambo’s camp. They are Yero, Sidi and Maina Zazzau. Sidi is also however seen as not just El-Rufai’s friend; buy a “boy” to El-Rufai’s Secretary to State Government (SSG), Balarabe Abbas. What is therefore the game? Pundits ask. Watchers of political events in the state however see the contest for the PDP’s ticket as a straight fight between Ashiru and Hunkuyi. Incidentally, both politicians are from the same council in the state.

In the history of the state, only the Southern Kaduna can deliver bloc votes. PDP must therefore think through carefully to see who between Hunkuyi and Ashiru can win the confidence of the Southern Kaduna people who appear to be the worst hit by the El-Rufai’s rule. To kick out El-Rufai therefore, political observers say, the PDP needs the Southern Kaduna bloc votes. The option before it therefore is to decide who between the two top contenders, Ashiru and Hunkuyi gets the ticket. The two of them are from the same council. Ashiru had contested the governorship ticket with El-Rufai in the APC. Hunkuyi single-handedly delivered the ticket to El-Rufai, ahead of Ashiru.

Again in 2011, Hunkuyi played a decisive role in the emergence of late Patrick Yakowa as governor at the time. Yakowa is from Southern Kaduna. Over the years, Hunkuyi has proven to be a political war horse, with capacity to change the game positively. And since he is coming from the RAPC, which was part of the group that signed a MoU with the PDP, he appears to stand tall above every other aspirant in the contest for the ticket, if the details of the MoU are anything to go by. Regardless, to win Kaduna, PDP must avoid any contest that would be acrimonious.

Sani, a political analyst, is based in Kaduna