Last week, the war ongoing among politicians in Kaduna State went a notch higher when officials of the state government demolished a house belonging to Suleiman Hunkuyi, a serving senator also elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As usual, the news broke first on social media and I thought it was a joke. Not because our politicians are better in terms of reasoning and actions, but because I thought, wrongly now, that the Kaduna governor, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai cannot sink so low as to regress to a style so common in the first republic. Readers who were alive then and students of Nigeria’s political history would remember very well how the governments in power dealt with opposition elements when they could not break their spirits.
As those who follow this column well know, the quantity surveyor turned politician has always held a fascination for me. He seems to enjoy the company of writers, academics and raconteurs well, what with appearances at book festivals and inviting leading academics to give lectures during his inauguration. But all that appeared to be attempts at putting a satisfying gloss on a typical Nigerian politician who broods no dissent with a very high level of intolerance for those opposed to his style of governance and politics.
Under Mr. El-Rufai’s watch, followers of Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakzaky, a Shi’a Muslim and leader of Nigeria Islamic Movement were mowed down with their bodies dumped in mass graves under the cover of night as Kaduna State officials testified publicly. Till date, soldiers paid with Nigeria’s money who killed citizens they were meant to protect are still walking free without atoning for their sins. Zakzaky himself does not seem to be faring better and it took rumours of his death for DSS officials to parade him and assure the world that he is still alive. If it is true that President Muhammadu Buhari truly called El-Rufai ‘bulldozer driver’Mai tukabulldozer when he met him and some governors last week, one can safely assume then that he has the blessings of our president in his actions. Serial disobedience of court orders is a garland that the Buhari government wears so well but supporters who claim that the president is unaware of his lieutenants’ actions might be wrong after all.
Probably seeing that he will lose out in the battle for supremacy and the Kaduna APC’s soul, he decided to use the state machinery to teach his opponents a lesson. Pronto, bulldozers arrived and the building at 11B Sambo Close serving as headquarters of a faction of APC in Kaduna State was demolished. Hunkunyi, whose house was demolished, alleged in a tweet that the governor “personally drove a bulldozer accompanied by armoured tanks to destroy my house at 11B Sambo Close. This is a new low and fighting dirty with such low level of pettiness is indeed unprecedented in Kaduna State.” The state’s Urban Planning and Development Agency, however, claimed that the demolition was in line with its mandate. In a statement, it claimed that the “building was removed for flagrant violations of land use and non payment of ground rent since 2010.” It claimed also to have served a notice of revocation before the demolition.
One of the states with robust planning laws with all manner of charges is Lagos State that are rigorously enforced contributing to impressive internally generated revenue. It is doubtful if Lagos State officials have demolished any building for non-payment of land use charge as it is called or “ground rent”. Is demolition the next thing?
Interestingly, the agency said the space occupied by the demolished building would be converted to a public park and what better use than that in these days of climate change and global warming. Let’s have more green areas in Kaduna after demolishing an opponent’s building. Nearly a year ago, another building belonging to the APC North West vice chairman, Inuwa Abdulkadir, who, unsurprisingly, has gone to court to challenge the demolition.
With attendance at Harvard under his belt where he was at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, El-Rufai surely must have had his fair share of political science lessons and so he must understand theory called “personalization of state power” wherein public officials can be power drunk to equate themselves to the state. He must also remember Louis XIV who at his peak declared L’etatc’estmoi – I am the state- and the way such absolutism brought him into conflict with damaging repercussions.
There is a sense in which opponents believe that the governor enjoys the tacit support of President Buhari and that he could not have done all he had without having the president’s ear. His record as FCT minister and the way he handled the teachers’ crisis are enough pointers also on how he sees himself as a public official. But a quick reminder, this too shall pass away and we shall one day refer to him as former governor.No doubt, Bola Tinubu’s reconciliation committee work ought to begin in Kaduna with the hope that it would retain enough energy to continue with other troubled spots within APC, a party seemingly at war with itself perpetually.