A lot of factors will determine choices when voters in Kaduna State throng out on Saturday, March 9, to elect a governor who will pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years.
Although the Independent National Electoral Commission cleared 36 candidates for the election, the race is expected to be between two parties: the All Progressives Congress fielding the incumbent governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) represented by Isa Ashiru.
For Mr Ashiru, the battle to clinching the party’s ticket was a tough one.
The former member of the House of Representatives defeated heavyweights in the party to emerge candidate in the primary.
He defeated the lawmaker representing Kaduna North Senatorial District, Suleiman Hunkuyi, and a former Director General, National Emergency Management Agency, Mohammed Sidi.
For Mr El-Rufai however, the journey to nomination was relatively smooth as he emerged without a contest.
His emergence was a product of affirmation by delegates of the party from the 23 local government areas of the state.
Kaduna APC chairman, Emmanuel Jekada, said Governor El-Rufai did not have a challenger “because he performed well and also brought development to the state.”
Their emergence irrespective, the two will go head-to-head at the polls on Saturday.
Some factors will determine the pattern of decision making by the 3,932,492 registered voters in the state.
Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, elections in Kaduna have been skewed along geographical and religious lines.
The bulk of votes in the Christian-dominated south have consistently been for PDP while that of the north, populated by Muslims, are usually reserved for APC in case of 2015 and CPC before then.
With this calculation, Mr Ashiru is expected to win in local governments such as Zango-Kataf, Kagarko, Kajuru, Jema’a, Chikun, Sanga and Kachia. The PDP candidate in the presidential election won in all of these local governments.
On the other hand, the bloc of votes for Mr El-Rufai will come from Igabi, Zaria, Kaduna North, Giwa, Birnin-Gwari, Kubau, Soba, Sabon-Gari, Kudan, Ikara and Makarfi.
This is not to say that Mr El-Rufai will not have votes in the south or vice versa. The two regions are dotted with small communities of Christians and Muslims.
While this may not be entirely reliable, the fact that Mr El-Rufai is still on the seat will reflect in the Saturday polls. In every corner of the state capital and other towns, the posters of Mr El-Rufai exist.
The governor will rely heavily on some projects his government has spearheaded such as road construction, renovation, school renovation and others.
“That is why we are asking the people of Kaduna State to give us another mandate. We have worked tirelessly to make the state a better place. We need the support of the people to continue in this direction,” Mr El-Rufai said at one of his campaigns.
The PDP, on the other hand, can only campaign based on promises.
The break in the APC camp in Kaduna, paving way for a strong PDP alliance will determine voting patterns.
Before their defections, big names such as Mr Hunkuyi, Danjuma La’ah and Shehu Sani campaigned and worked for APC but that will not be so this time around.
Also working for the emergence of Mr Ashiru are Ahmed Makarfi; former Vice President Namadi Sambo; former governor Ramalam Yero; Buba Galadima; and a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Andrew Yakubu.
In the APC camp, the governor will rely on new alliances he has formed which resulted in new officeholders such as Uba Sani.
The PDP is expected to benefit more from alliances.
Choice of deputy
When asked why he chose Hadiza Balarabe, a fellow Muslim, as his running mate, Mr El-Rufai said the Government House “was not a place for worship but where people work”.
“Muslim-Muslim ticket is not a religious ticket but a competent and performance ticket,” the governor said.
The move has however generated criticisms against the governor.
At a town hall meeting with some Christian leaders in February, the governor said his target “is to end the religious, ethnic division and unite the people of the state. In my life, I have never worked with people based on religious and ethnic consideration. Don’t look at what people said but what I have done in the past.”
If the southerners are to vote based on religious line, then the PDP will be at the benefitting end.
The party chose as Mr Ashiru’s running mate a Christian, a personality who has served the state at different levels. Sunday Marshal Katung, a member of the House of Representatives has also served the state as a commissioner on two occasions.
In January 2018, Governor El-Rufai sacked 22,000 teachers with a justification that the affected persons were dismissed from their jobs because they were unqualified.
To fill the void, the state government employed another set of teachers but had to sack 4,562 believed to have found their way into the final list illegally.
In June 2017, the state government sacked 4776 district and village heads as well as their staff as it began the implementation of the recommendations of the committee it set up to review the number of such personnel in the state.
It said it would now recognise only the 77 districts and 1,429 villages. The government also said the essence of the sack is to shore up the finances of local government councils in the state.
Despite nullification of the appointment of the district heads by a Kaduna State High Court in November 2018, the governor is yet to restore the former heads.
These and some other policies have been criticised as anti-people within the lower class while the elites applaud it as a sound move towards educational standardisation and cost-cutting. The two forces will play out on Saturday.
Recent violent attacks
From Birnin Gwari to Kajuru, Kachia and parts of the state capital, recent kidnappings and violent attacks experienced in parts of the state will determine who the electorate will vote for.
A gruesome attack occurred in October 2018 when kidnappers killed the Paramount Chief of Adara, Agom Galadima, after keeping him for days.
The situation has created more suspicion among the diverse people in the state and this will definitely shape the election.
This may sound ridiculous but it certainly will reflect in the voting pattern on Saturday.
Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, popularly known as Shiites have several times, insisted they will not vote for either President Muhammadu Buhari or Governor El-Rufai in 2019.
The decision is hinged upon the federal government’s insistence on not releasing their leader and the ban placed on the group by the Kaduna State Government.
Ironically, this resolution did not play out significantly in the result of polls collated from Zaria, the stronghold of the group in the presidential election.
In Zaria Local Government Area, President Buhari polled 111, 082 votes against 23,882 of the PDP.
However, Mr Buhari’s votes reduced by about 200,000 votes in Kaduna compared to what he scored in 2015 in the same state.