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There is every reason to believe that all is not well with our nascent democracy and by extension our party politics. The quarrels over 2019 election among the various politicians and stakeholders across the country are enough pointers that we are heading to a rough-rough fight. From Kano to Kaduna and Imo and perhaps some other states, things are falling apart for the ruling party.
From what one can see, there is danger ahead except things are done the right way and promptly too. Kaduna State has always been in the news for good or bad reasons since APC came to the scene in May 2015. It was in this state that over 20,000 teachers were sacked in one fell swoop for allegedly performing poorly in a test. That is not even the issue now.
Kaduna State’s main headache now is the muzzling of the opposition even within the same party. You can call it intra-party squabbles or whatever you like as William Shakespeare advised in one of his plays. The impunity came to height this week (Tuesday, February 20) with the demolition of the headquarters of a faction of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna by the order of Governor Nasir El-Rufai administration.
It was reported that the incident took place at an unholy hour of 5 am under the keen supervision of the governor and heavily armed security operatives. Kaduna’s ugly episode is a sure sign that the road to 2019 election will be too rough and bumpy. According to media reports, the office located at 11B Sambo Road, GRA Kaduna, belonged to Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi representing Kaduna North in the National Assembly.
Before the demolition exercise, the faction had given El-Rufai a six-month suspension over alleged anti-party activities. In the demolished building was the secretariat of the factional Kaduna Restoration Group, led by its chairman, Danladi Wada. In most of the 36 states of the federation, the party in power is in deep crisis. What is unfolding in Owerri, Imo State over succession war is a clear case in point.
We noticed such crisis in Rivers State of recent. Those in Delta have theirs. I can go on and on to illustrate the deepening crisis in the ruling party. I have my doubt that the Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led team will perform wonders in reconciling the aggrieved members of the torn party. Where will the team start? The problems are enormous. The demolition has attracted outrage across the country. The action can be interpreted as persecution or impunity carried too far.
But the El-Rufai camp has insisted on the rightness of its action. El-Rufai’s Special Adviser on Political Matters, Uba Sani, has explained that the office in question was demolished because Hunkuyi owed ground rent due on the duplex.
Even while the dust raised by this demolition is yet to settle down, Hunkuyi on Wednesday alleged that El-Rufai is threatening to demolish another of his house located at Inuwa Wada, Ungwan Rimi, Kaduna for failure to pay N31.4 million ground rent for the property within 30 days.
Those who know the law have argued that failure to pay land charges or ground rent is not enough excuse to demolish a building. They have also argued that there are procedures to follow before a governor can revoke and demolish a person’s house under the Land Use Act. There are other civilized ways of recovering rents from landlords that didn’t pay.
Demolition as far as I know is never one of them. The premises can be sealed off after giving the owner of the building enough time to pay. The owner of the building can be charged to court and given a fair hearing. But there is no evidence to show that the Kaduna State government has exhausted all avenues for rent collection before embarking on violent demolition of the property.
There is also no evidence to show that the victim of this highhandedness has been afforded the right to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by the Kaduna State government. The ongoing bizzarre drama in Kaduna State does not augur well for our democracy. The leaders of the APC must call El-Rufai to order and stop him from further demolition of people’s houses in the guise of politics.
Going by his past records as a minister, it appears El-Rufai has obsession for demolition of houses. Those who lived in Abuja during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo civilian administration can understand my drift. The politics of Kaduna State under El-Rufai cannot be said to be one of the best in the country. It has been everything but good and excellent. It has polarized the state the more.
The governor must change his style for goodness sake and know that we are in a civilian regime and not a military government. In a multi-party democracy, the right to dissent is guaranteed. Nobody should be victimized based on his opinion or disagreement with the status quo. Disagreement is part of politics. It is sad that El-Rufai’s unbridled demolition is taking place in a country that has a national housing deficit of over 17 million units. One demolished building adds or even compounds our housing problem. Our governors must come up with creative ways of solving problems and not being destructive.
We should start defining the kind of democracy we want in this country and the characters that we should entrust with power. We have had enough with pretenders and impostors and people that should not see the corridors of power. If our democracy has become militarized, then something must be done urgently to rectify it.
Militarization of our politics will obviously lead to crisis of epic proportion. The ongoing impunity in the land under a change government is to say the least undesirable. We borrowed the present presidential system from the US but the way we practice it is quite different from the way Americans practice theirs, although Donald Trump is turning things upside down.
We borrowed some aspects of the system without internalizing how it works for them. In fact, we borrowed the name and left its real ingredients that make it work. A democratic system that turns out dictators even at state level must be interrogated. We have had enough of these state emperors. We cannot continue to pretend that our model of democracy is still good.
Transparency International’s latest report on Corruption Perception Index 2017 released Wednesday, revealed that even under the change regime, corruption is still going on. It says that corruption in the last one year has worsened from what it used to be. The organization has confirmed what we know. From snake guzzling millions of naira now to monkeys that eat millions of crisp naira notes in N1000 denominations.
We are never tired of using animal metaphors to cover our misdeeds. El-Rufai must be restrained from the muzzling of the opposition in Kaduna State and his threat to demolish more buildings in the guise of failure to pay land charges or rents.