The politics of Buhari’s 4-day visit to Kaduna state, By Danjuma Musa

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While Governor Nasir El-Rufai, of Kaduna state was expectedly committed to showcasing his accomplishments – the myriad of urban renewal projects, across the three senatorial districts of the state, the brand new schools, the infectious disease hospital – to the world during President Muhammadu Buhari’s four days state visit, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kaduna State Chapter, on the other hand, desperately deployed all the dirty tricks it could muster to embarrass the El-Rufai administration, as part of the 2023 elections campaign. The massive disinformation campaign, was intended to distract from the solid achievements of the El-Rufai administration, which has rubbished its 16 years in office. 

The determination of the PDP to ensure that El-Rufai didn’t politically benefit from the visit is understandable. Another defeat of the PDP in 2023, by APC, will be its burial. Unfortunately, there are no indications that it can avoid the impending defeat. 

Despite the sustained propaganda by the PDP machinery, that the president (though they actually meant El-Rufai) was stoned and booed at Zaria, the visit was no doubt a huge success. First, was that contrary to the prayers of the opposition, the visit wasn’t aborted. When the president’s Gambian trip was announced, some opposition elements of the PDP celebrated the possibility of the state visit being cancelled. To their disappointment and shock, the president flew straight to Kaduna from Gambia, where he had gone to attend the inauguration of the Gambian president for a second term. 

Again, to the embarrassment of the opposition, the president ended up spending four and not the initial two days that was planned. Kaduna, after all, is the president’s second home and he had come to visit his son, in whom he is definitely well pleased. To date, the president hasn’t spent more than a day, during his visit to other states. 

All is fair in war and the end justifies the means, aptly captures the PDP strategy for the 2023 elections. The PDP wants to recapture power at all cost, to wrestle the state from team El-Rufai, which in 2015 and 2019 elections handed it a crushing defeat, and from all indications, seems set to hand it another defeat in 2023.

It’s not in the character of the PDP to campaign on issues and that’s not about to change, as evidenced by its resort to campaign of calumny. This explains why, very key for the opposition PDP, is the portrayal of their nemesis, El-Rufai, as unpopular, and unworthy of the continued support of the president, who is still hugely popular in the North. 

Unfortunately, because the PDP lacks imagination, probably the effect of the two resounding defeats in the hands of El-Rufai, and in the recent local government elections, it claimed that the president was stoned and booed at Zaria, his strong political support base, rather than El-Rufai, the real target of the campaign of misinformation. And rather than claim that the incident took place at Kafanchan, the ancestral home of the opposition PDP, in the Southern Kaduna senatorial district, which would have been easily believed, the claim that it happened in Zaria, significantly, helped the APC to debunk the falsehoods. 

The videos that the PDP attempted passing off happened in Borno state sometimes in 2018. 

Infrastructure is critical. A state with run down facilities, that lacks potable water, good roads, etc. is certainly the last choice for investors. But infrastructural projects are not ends in themselves, rather, their importance to the economy and society derives from the services they offer; the opportunity to improve productivity and reduce cost of doing business/living. So, the real output of infrastructure is service. 

But in spite of the importance of infrastructure, it will be insulting and denigrating to reduce El-Rufai to a roads governor, even though in Nigeria, a governor is only adjudged successful based on the execution of road projects, even if the roads have no direct bearing to the needs of the people, but never based on reforms, which is more critical and an area that El-Rufai has equally done fantastically well. 

Key to the success recorded by El-Rufai, is the reform of the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Services (KADIRS), which led to astronomical increase in Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). This feat was achieved by attacking leakages, making cash collection a crime and  the KADIRS as the sole collecting and accounting authority. The result, an astronomical collection of over N3 billion monthly from N800 million in 2015. 

Other reforms that the president unfortunately couldn’t “commission”, which have however tremendously contributed to the success of the El-Rufai administration, include the Kaduna State Public Service Revitalization and Renewal Programme, through the injection of a new generation of skilled and motivated young people to succeed an aging work force, the review of archaic laws, procedures, to meet the challenges of a modern service. 

Another critical reform is the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), a five-year Public Sector Accountability and Governance programme that has improved on how Kaduna dtate government makes laws, implements, tracks and accounts for policies, plans and budgets used in delivering public goods, so as to promote growth and reduce poverty and ensure service delivery to the citizenry. 

Like stated earlier, the Kaduna state government urban renewal projects, unlike what other states are doing, are beyond roads, it’s is a comprehensive package that addresses the crippling infrastructure deficit in the state, to make it attractive for investors. It has several components like roads, mass transit, housing and improved land use, street lights, parks and recreational services, modern markets, closed circuit television, neighbourhood centres and waste management. 

That President Buhari was overwhelmed by the sheer audacity and breath of the projects, is an understatement. Just as the visit further reconfirmed the special relationship between President Buhari and El-Rufai, his adopted political son. 

As we move towards 2023, the resounding political defeats El-Rufai has inflicted on PDP, and the likelihood of another, would most certainly motivate it to increase its negative media mobilisation, like telling Nigerians that El-Rufai had tapped to work for him as foreigners. Its negative campaigns, the continued lack of respect for the people, in its obvious desperation, to recapture political power by every means, remains the greatest undoing of the PDP. 

Nasir El-Rufai’s remarkable political survival skills, of overcoming his political opponents, favourably compares to that of Bill Clinton, the former United States president. Like Clinton, was an irritant to the Republicans, so has El-Rufai been to the opposition PDP. He keeps surviving because service to the people is at the center of his politics. 

The momentum is with El-Rufai, because he has given a credible account of himself, as attested to by the president and the people. Reasons the PDP continues to count “on mother luck”, to take over Kaduna state. However, its greatest challenge is the lack of a credible candidate that can challenge even the worse of the APC.

Musa writes from Kaduna.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily