Kaduna is in trouble. So is all of Nigeria, anyway. In the case of the capital of the old Northern Region, its problems are accentuated by its past, purposefully cast in pre-eminence.  Kaduna is steeped in myth. For long and till date, to some extent, the political stature of the city was designed to meet the myth of its existence, reinforcing all along, the image of a town that personifies power and influence.

Kaduna as a city has always been substantially cosmopolitan too. It wielded its power with relative equanimity. Where Kano, for instance, was rambunctious, Kaduna had a certain supple air in its influence. The deliberate stacking by the powers that be in Nigeria, over time, of an overwhelming load of military and security infrastructure in Kaduna, may not have been strategically smart, but it aligns substantially to the profile intended for Kaduna. And the city, to be fair to it, handled all that 

Nothing in Nigeria of the moment, is what it used to be. That includes Kaduna. The decline has been steady and pervasive, relating to men, values, structure, ideas, cities etc. The aura of invincibility that Kaduna once exudes has virtually given way to a most pathetic level of vulnerability, even as subtle, but effective wielding of influence by the political potentates domiciled in the state, gave way to a certain arrogant, spiteful and unaccommodating style in political brinksmanship, the result of which has been mayhem across most of Kaduna.

It is instructive that Kaduna, the base of Nigeria’s military – security complex, has become the epicentre of kidnapping and insecurity in Nigeria. By the time, daring bandits [so called] forayed into the Nigerian Defence Academy, the pre-eminent military training institution of the country some months back and launched an audacious attack, the point was made; Kaduna is not different from any other state, north or south. It is doubtful whether any other state has recorded the number of barbarous killings and death from blind invasion on communities as Kaduna has done in the last few years. Maybe Benue.

Kaduna should be heaving a sigh of relief at the moment. On March 7 2024, terrorists had struck at a Primary school at Chikun Local Government Area of the state and reportedly carted away (pardon the expression] 287 students. On March 25 2024, Uba Sani, Governor of Kaduna State, announced that, thanks to the efforts of the military, all the abducted students, actually 137 in number, had been rescued. The governor said the authentic figure of the kidnapped students was 137 and not 287, a number he dismissed as “a figment of people’s imagination”. For good measures, the Federal Government informed that no ransom was paid to secure the release of the students. Of course, they were talking to themselves.

Even as kaduna was supposed to be relieved and luxuriating in the success of the release of the kidnapped students, a different kind of controversy erupted in the state, igniting the air with fresh tension.

Speaking on Friday March 29, 2024, in a clarification of the problems his government has been facing, in trying to meet its obligations, Governor Sani bemoaned the suffocating debt burden he inherited from his predecessor. He put the debt at $587 million, N85 billion and 11 contractual liabilities. His predecessor is of course, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who led Kaduna for eight years, from 2015 t0 2023.

It is very unlikely that Governor Sani set out to pillory his predecessor, who, in the lexicon and ways of contemporary Nigerian politics, is his godfather. The governor must have been under some pressure to publicly explain the challenges he has been contending with since he assumed office on May 29 2023. Is there such a huge debt on the neck of the government? There does not seem to be any argument about the figure. The bone of contention seems to be, why the governor should say so publicly, considering that his predecessor is his supposed godfather, who paved the way for him to the Government House, Kaduna. Such is the burden godson governors are meant to bear.

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If, across the states, a number of newly elected governors are grunting and grumbling, but cannot openly complain, it is all part of the burden of succeeding a godfather who had devastated the state coffers and bequeathed the godson with a troubled purse. A good godson-governor is expected to keep a smiling face, never forgetting that he would not have been “His Excellency”, but for the benevolence of the godfather. Godfatherism, of course, comes with its own risks. You never know what a forthright or erratic godson-governor can do.

There is only one known outstanding case in the present dispensation, in the Eastern axis, where a departing governor assessed himself and the prospects before him and decided to outrightly sell the franchise [otherwise known as party ticket] to a capable prospective successor. The departing man sold the franchise, reportedly collected his money in full and rode with equanimity into the political sunset. For now. He has not looked back thereafter. He has no godson as it were, and by extension has neither expectations nor claims from the fellow who succeeded him. It was a case of outright sales and outright purchase.

Gov. Sani did not come under this arrangement above, which is why the corner of el Rufai is unhappy that he dared to speak up about the debt overhang on his government. Although el Rufai has not responded directly, his son, Bashir, known for his irreverence, promptly weighed in. He accused Sani and his government of incompetence. In the words of the young el Rufai, Sani’s comment on the debt profile of Kaduna state should be expected, “from a governor that is always sleeping in Abuja [and] a litany of incompetent aides that were only rewarded for foolish political reasons”. This, of course, is nothing more than what the late afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called “Yabis”. The substance of the matter remains uncontested by the younger el Rufai.

Is it wrong for Sani or any governor, for that matter, to factually present the financial profile of his state, especially, where the public believes a governor ought to do more or move faster? Of course, no. However, everything in Nigeria always boils down to politics and conspiratorial group interests. If Governor Sani has done wrong in this matter, his offense can be located in breaking the code of godfathers and godsons. He may grunt under the weight of debt or any other administrative load, but he should not do so publicly.

Salihu Lukman, former National Vice Chairman, North West of All Progressives Congress [APC], the party of Governor Sani and former Governor el Rufai, came forward, interestingly, with an amplification of the code of conduct in the godfather/godson arrangement. In a statement he titled “Kaduna State Political Theatrics”, through which he set out to make peace, Salihu informed, that “The reality was that everything Mallam Nasir el Rufai did during his eight- year tenure was endorsed and supported by Mallam Uba”

He continued, “The hard truth also is that Mallam Uba was one of his [el Rufai] strongest collaborators in Kaduna State.

“Certainly, the decision of Mallam Nasir to anoint Mallam Uba as his successor must have been informed by the consideration of their strong personal relationship……That shortly after taking over, the two friends are falling apart is most unfortunate…”

The APC chieftain’s comments are very much in the context of political talks. Uba Sani was a strong supporter of el Rufai.Fine. Nasir el Rufai could not have anointed him to succeed him if both of them did not have strong personal relationship. Yes. Having said this, where has Gov. Sani gone wrong in saying what the debt of Kaduna State is? Did he, malign his friend and predecessor, el Rufai in any way? And where is the interest of Kaduna in all this?

Mr. Lukman’s summary statement is interesting. He says, “the issue at hand were systemic and rooted in the governance style of the previous administration…We must summon the courage to admit our failure as a political party”. There are definitely, a lot more failings that APC have to admit. And atone for.