By John Shiklam in Kaduna
Kaduna state governor Mallam Nasir el-Rufai on tuesday defended his choice of a Muslim as his running mate for the 2019 election, saying that the Government House is not a place of worship but a place of work.
He also said he consulted President Muhammadu Buhari before he eventually made his choice.
His choice of Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, a Muslim, from Sanga local government area in the Southern part of the state, had attracted mixed reactions, with some people accusing him of being insensitive to the diversity in Kaduna state.
But speaking when a delegation from Sanga local government, led by their traditional ruler, the Etum Numana, Brig. Gen. Aliyu Yamma (rtd), paid him a thank you visit for choosing their daughter as his running mate, el-Rufai said, those criticising him for his choice are people who never voted for him.
According to him, Hadiza beat 31 other candidates during the selection process to emerge.
He said about a year ago, the the Deputy Governor, Mr. Barnabas Bala Bantex, told him that he was going to contest for senate, adding that this put him in dilemma to get a replacement for Bantex.
“So, we started piling list of people for consideration and I had up to 32 names, including names of some people seated with me here today.
“Then we started selection and dropping of names based on merit. From 32 names to 17 to 12 and then 5 names – three males and two females.
“At that point, and as usual of us, when we are taking serious decisions we consult President Muhammadu Buhari, because he is the only person I know that has worked in the army, he has been governor, minister and President.
“So, when I told him, he said anyone older than you should be dropped, then one name was dropped, remaining two men and two women, then he said, since you are interested in a woman pick the best woman. That was how I picked Hadiza because she was the best” the governor explained.
Speaking further, he said: “from the beginning, I had told my team that, I will never choose or deny anyone appointment because of religion or ethnicity.
“But some people started all manner of things, ‘Muslim-Muslim ticket’ and so on.
“But Government House is not a place of worship, we come here to work for the people.
“The people that have criticised me most on this are people who never voted me in the first place.
“So, are they not supposed to be celebrating, if, in their own opinion, I have made a wrong choice? Then, why are they mourning?” the governor wondered.
Extolling the qualities of his running mate, el-Rufai commended her for the achievements in repositioning the Primary Healthcare Development Agency as Executive Secretary.
Speaking earlier on behalf of the community, the traditional ruler, Etu Numana, Brig Gen. Aliyu Yamma (rtd), said successive administrations in the state had forgotten the people of the area as far as participation in governance was concerned.
He said the selection of their daughter had given them hope and sense of belonging in the governance of the state.
“The governor couldn’t have made a better choice than the selection of Hadiza. We now feel a sense of belonging in Kaduna government. We are just like black Americans in Kaduna State”.
Yamma also appealed to the governor to ensure the establishment of an Army Battalion in Sabo Gida village in the locality to curtail the security challenges there.