El-rufai’s Loyalists In Kaduna Cabinet In Dilemma

Following the reactions that trailed the comment made by Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State regarding the inherited debt from the last administration of Nasir El-Rufai, there are indications that the fate of some of the political officeholders who served in El-Rufai’s administration and are now serving under Governor Sani’s cabinet is facing uncertainty.

Within the ruling party, a crack has already been created, particularly among the loyalists of the two leaders, leading to the suspension of the party’s State Women Leader, Maryam Suleiman Mai Rusau, following open criticism of the governor and support for the former governor.

Sources told Daily Trust that the debt speech by the governor was the final stroke in the well-guarded rift between hitherto political friends, with many saying the governor was quite dissatisfied with the financial situation of the state since taking over. “They have just been trying to manage the tension. The crack has been there for the past three to four months,” one of the sources said.

Daily Trust observed that most of the former political appointees of El-Rufai in the present government have not expressed their views regarding the comments on the debt issue, with analysts describing their current situation as being “caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

Efforts to speak with them have also been unsuccessful, with a source revealing that they have resolved not to make public comments on the development.

Some of the appointees that served under Nasir El-Rufai’s administration and are now in Uba Sani’s cabinet include the Deputy Governor Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, who was also deputy governor in the last term of El-Rufai; and the current Commissioner of Health, Umma K. Ahmed, who served as Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs under El’rufai’s government.

Others are Dr. Shehu Usman Muhammad, a former Commissioner of Education in the past government and now a Counsellor on Political Matters to Governor Sani. Similarly, Samuel Aruwan, the immediate past Commissioner of Internal Security, is the new Administrator of Kaduna Capital Territory Administration and overseeing Commissioner for the Ministry of Internal Security.

Dr. Abdullahi Aminu Shagali, former Speaker of Kaduna House of Assembly during El-Rufai’s tenure and the immediate past Political Adviser in the El-Rufai government, is now Commissioner of Housing and Urban Development.

Malam Murtala Mohammad Dabo, who joined the El Rufai administration in 2015 and held various positions such as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Office, Chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, and is now the Commissioner of the Ministry of Agriculture under Uba Sani’s administration, Mohammad Sada Jalal, a former commissioner under El-Rufai’s administration, was also appointed Director-General of the Kaduna Geographic Information Service (KADGIS), among others.

It is believed that the current political tension generated after the debt comment by the state governor and the suspension of the party’s women leader has put the question mark on El-Rufai’s loyalists in the current administration. Apart from the party women leader who openly spoke her mind on the issue by defending the former governor, others have remained silent, at least publicly, for fear of the unknown, pundits said.

A serving adviser to Governor Sani, who pleaded anonymity while speaking on the situation, said all appointees of the former governor in the current cabinet have a big task ahead of them, which is to prove their loyalty to the governor.

“The issue is about proving their loyalty; they just have to prove their loyalty, just like the son of the former governor (Bello) did openly by declaring his support for Governor Uba Sani,” he said.

Ex-gov’s political ‘foes’ embraced by Gov Sani

According to observers in the state, part of the reasons cited for the strained relationship between the past administration and Governor Sani’s was the embrace of some politicians perceived to be at odds with El-Rufai’s camp, especially those from the northern and southern parts of the state.

Examples of such politicians are Dr. Dan Fulani, a known critic of El-Rufai’s administration from southern Kaduna, who is now among the appointed senior advisers to Governor Sani. A former House of Representatives Member for Kaduna North, Sama’ila Suleiman, also parted ways with El-Rufai, which led to his replacement with El-Rufai’s son during the 2023 elections. Suleiman has since been appointed as an adviser to the governor.

Others like Sadiq Mamman Lagos, the present commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, and even people from the opposition party like former Executive Director of Kaduna Media Corporation (KSMC), Yakubu Lere, and the former governor of the state, Ramalan Yero, who also decamped from his former party, the PDP, to join the ruling party, have also been seen as parts of Governor Sani’s consolidation moves.

Mohammed Ibrahim Zaria, a former Assistant Legal Adviser of the APC in the state, expressed concerns about the timing of Governor Sani’s comments, suggesting that something must have triggered him to speak out after nearly ten months.

Asked if the recent comment by Governor Sani will further affect their relationship with El-Rufai, he said, “Let me tell you the basic truth: their relationship has gone sour since last year, August 2023. It was not out then, but it was brewing; maybe it has now reached the peak to let the cat out of the bag,” he said.

According to him, it was believed that Governor Uba was changing things he met on the ground, which was believed to be contrary to why El-Rufai supported him to become the governor.

Another adviser to Governor Sani, who doesn’t want to be named, attributed the genesis of the problem to the alarming debt profile inherited by the present administration. He noted that attacks from individuals associated with the former governor’s camp, including his son and the state women’s leader, may have further strained their relationship.

He also emphasized their readiness to defend Governor Sani’s administration and highlighted the suspension of the state women’s leader for her disparaging remarks against the governor as an example of what would befall those who stood against the governor.

But a former cabinet member of El-Rufai, who prefers anonymity, described the former governor and Governor Sani as close friends.

The source expressed disappointment at Governor Sani’s decision to air their grievances publicly instead of seeking clarification privately.

“So, I expected that even if there is anything he (Uba) didn’t understand about the state, he can reach out to the former governor for explanation instead of going public on the matter,” the former commissioner said.

On the faith of the appointees in the government, he said, “I’m sure some of them will start thinking about the next move to take, either to leave or remain.”

‘Loyalty should be 100 percent to the current governor’

Meanwhile, a political analyst in the state, Abubakar Ahmed, said the loyalty of any public servant should be with the present government of the day.

“So those appointed by the present governor must show the governor that their loyalty is with him 100 percent, but for those who feel they cannot be loyal to the government because their loyalty remains with the last administration under El’Rufai, the honourable thing to do is just to throw in the towel and move on,” he said.

Abubakar further added that the appointees have nothing to fear because even their former boss, El’Rufai, should understand that appointees of the governor should be 100 percent loyal to the administration; therefore, they shouldn’t expect anything less with the appointees of this government.

Another political analyst, Haruna Ibrahim Nasarawa, who acknowledged the historical political relationship between the two leaders, said the deputy governor in particular will find herself in a difficult situation.

“These people will find themselves in a difficult situation because they have to show the governor where their loyalties lie, or else they will not enjoy their stay in the administration,” he said.

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