• Governor defends his Muslim-Muslim ticket
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
A socio-political group, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), yesterday raised alarm over what it described as a “dangerous religious manipulation” and negative identity politics deployed by Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai.
The situation, the group said, was fuelling internicine crisis in the state.
This is coming as el-Rufai on Monday 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.
In a communique issued after a two-day meeting in Nassarawa State, the Forum called on President Mohammadu Buhari to set up a commission of inquiry into the causes of unending killings in Kaduna State and the alleged show of partiality by El-Rufai.
The forum also called on the military to hand over the investigation into the death of General Idris Alkali (rtd) to the police, accusing it of applying torture techniques and harassment in the course of investigation.
“The Middle Belt Forum reiterates its demand on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately set up a commission of enquiry into the cause of the unending killings in Kaduna State over time, and the alleged show of partiality by the state government in tackling the internecine crises, particularly as majority of the people believe that El-Rufai’s dangerous religious and other identity manipulation; his earlier open confession to paying a group of foreign Fulani marauders responsible for the killings in Southern Kaduna and his unabashed taking of side has made it impossible for the people of Kaduna state to have faith in his impartiality and fairness in addressing the conflict. “The Federal Government should take full control of the situation in the state in order to avert further breakdown of law and order.
“NEC noted with grief the unfortunate demise of two traditional rulers in Nasarawa state in the last two weeks, namely, the traditional rulers of Awe and Nasarawa Toto and send condolences to the people of Nasarawa State.
“NEC recalled the vocal opposition of the late Agom Adara, His Royal Highness, Dr. Maiwada Raphael Galadima, to the objectionable, discriminatory and retrogressive policies of the administration of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna; and was appalled by the abduction and subsequent gruesome murder of the monarch after a meeting with El-Rufai,” the communique read.
The forum further decried the sustained onslaught on the peoples of the Middle Belt by Fulani militiamen.
“From Benue to Adamawa to Nasarawa to Plateau to Borno to Taraba to Southern Kaduna, among others, it has been a tale of unmitigated woes as murder, rape, arson, abduction and other criminal attacks have become the new norm in the Middle Belt without the government doing anything to protect the people, but has rather arrested, tortured, maimed or even killed the victims claiming that they are perpetrators
“NEC observed with serious concern the deliberate and systemic denial of the ticket of the major political parties in Nigeria namely, PDP, APC and SDP, to Middle Belt aspirants.
“The peoples of the Middle Belt have both the duty and right to determine their political destiny. In this regard the Middle Belt shall, in consultation with relevant stakeholders to identify with one of presidential candidates at the 2019 general elections to ensure that the interests and aspirations of the Middle Belt is properly addressed within the Nigerian Federation.
“The over 22 million registered voters in the Middle Belt Region are hereby enjoined to await further directives from our leaders”, the communique signed by its National President, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, read.
Meanwhile, el-Rufai on Monday 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 had to consult President 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 Area, 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 manes to 17 to 12 and then five names -three males and two females.
“At that point, and as usual of us, when we are taking serious decisions; we consulted 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 .