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Barnabas Bala: Deputy Governor that isn’t a ‘spare tyre’, By Emmanuel Ado

By News Express on 14/05/2018

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•Kaduna State Deputy Governor Barnabas Bala
•Kaduna State Deputy Governor Barnabas Bala

As deputy to Namadi Sambo, then governor of Kaduna State, late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa suffered untold humiliation in the hands of principal and his bunch of marauding gang. Sambo later became vice-president in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Yakowa had no safe refuge, as the home-front - Southern Kaduna - was even more hostile than the seat of power. Insulting Yakowa was a routine pastime of most people from the Southern Senatorial District. If Yakowa received a single dose of insult, Amina, his amiable wife, received double dose of the humiliation he was subjected to daily. For Amina Namadi, life was a nightmare, and she was never left in doubt as to who was in charge. Only God knew how the couple survived the horrors of the Sambo era. Her only period of respite was with Asmau Makarfi, wife of Ahmed Makarfi, who treated her with utmost courtesy.

Things got worse for the Yakowas when Sambo precipitated a quarrel with Makarfi, whose staunch support against stiff opposition had made him governor. Namadi, the proverbial cat with nine lives, joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) weeks to the primaries, and won. From the outset, Yakowa was treated as a leper, an out-cast, ultimate ‘outsider’ in government. He was hardly consulted, even though he was very experienced. Being a friend of Makarfi further worsened his already precarious situation, as he was caught in the cross-fire between Sambo his boss, and Makarfi, his friend and former boss. That was Yakowa’s lot. He languished in silence and bore with philosophical equanimity the several indignities meted out to them. They were strictly on their own.

John Adams, one time vice president of the United States, described the office as “the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived.” Adams's frustration stemmed from the constitutional ambiguity surrounding the office of the vice president. Constitutionally, the vice-president is only relevant in the event of a tie in the Senate. The other assignments, according to Nelson Rockefeller, another frustrated vice, is attending funerals of Third World leaders and commiserating with victims of disasters. The office of the vice-president, like that of a deputy-governor in Nigeria, is treated with utter contempt, though with few exceptions. Under President Umaru Yar 'Ardua’s regime, the major assignment of his vice, Goodluck Jonathan, was reading the newspapers. Though marginalised and sidelined in running the country, any Nigerian vice-president is definitely better than the vice-president of the United States, as he constitutionally chairs the National Economic Council, the National Boundary Commission and several other agencies, including the privatisation council.

Dr Chukwuemeka Ezefie, one time governor of Anambra State, derogatorily described deputy-governors as “useless spare tyres that are hardly needed, unless there is a puncture.” And in some many instances, when there are, most governors prefer to use inferior and low quality tyres (chiefs of staff, like Kogi State where the chief of staff is actually the de facto governor), than the constitutionally recommended size (the deputy-governor who, most often, is sidelined). This explains why since the advent of the Fourth Republic, only the deputy-governors of Zamfara and Kano states have succeeded their principals as governors. Bola Ahmed Tinubu “the democrat”, in his eight years as governor of Lagos State, experimented with three deputy-governors. His main “spare tyre” was Babatunde Raji Fashola, his chief of staff, who eventually succeeded him. Never mind that Fashola gave a “good account” of himself, the fact remains that deputy governors are endangered species.

But the deputy governor of Kaduna State, Bantex, as he is popularly known, must be the envy of his colleagues. He is a spare tyre that is as used as the main tyre, the governor, if not more. Whenever Nasir el-Rufai travels out of town, Bantex acts with the full power of a governor. And there has been no decision that he took as Acting Governor that has been reversed by el-Rufai; a mark of complete trust and confidence in him, as a treasured member of the governor’s team, with the necessary capacity to effectively run the state. The Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency is directly his responsibility, and he heads several strategic committees. The chemistry and mutual respect between both men definitely goes beyond them being professional colleagues in the building industry: while el-Rufai is a quantity surveyor Bantex is an architect. They share same world-view, just as both enjoy dancing.

Despite being a key player in el Rufai’s administration, someone who going by the disposition of Governor el- Rufai, that can be governor of the state, Bantex - like other deputy governors before him - is passionately ‘hated’ by some people from the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District. The major allegation against Bantex, as against Shekari, Yakowa and Bajoga, is that he hasn't “defended the interest” of Southern Kaduna “enough”, especially as regards the security challenges that area has faced from the late 1990’s. The Southern Kaduna Senatorial District has, like the other sections of the country, been subjected to incessant attack by bandits. Though the attack predates el-Rufai’s administration, but as the attack has worsened, so has the narrative changed from banditry to claims of planned genocide!

What exactly is the problem between the people of the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District and political office-holders, most especially deputy-governors from the zone? Is the problem that of failed expectations or unrealistically high expectations? Do they understand the “powerlessness” of a deputy governor? That a deputy governor is only as effective as his principal is willing to allow him to, as in the case of Bantex? That an antagonistic deputy would most probably be impeached, or further marginalised? Attahiru Bafarawa, former Sokoto State governor instigated the impeachment of Aliyu Wamakko, his deputy, simply because he was perceived as a threat. That's how precarious the position of a deputy is.

 Is the ‘home’ problem that Bantex faces that of party platform?

The problem can't be that of the political party, as in the case of Bantex, (since 1999, only Bantex has become deputy on another party platform (APC) different from the PDP), because the likes of late Stephen Shekeri, Yakowa and Bajoga, elected on the PDP platform, didn't escape the vicious accusations of being sale-outs and useless.

In the specific case of Bantex, who hasn't always been ‘politically correct’ it will be misleading to conclude that his cardinal sin is his membership of the APC, in an area where the PDP has held sway and is the dominant and acceptable political religion. Maybe, it is the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari, who is hated and perceived as a fundamentalist, is a member of the party. Bantex, had convincingly won elections to the House of Representatives under the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), representing Kaura Federal Constituency: a feat which made him the only ACN legislator in the North-west geo-political zone of Nigeria. So what has changed?

Is Bantex guilty as charged for changing the narrative - and not singing the song of the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District – ‘Nasir el- Rufai hates us’ and ‘we must hate him’ in return. Rather than sing the song, Bantex vehemently refutes the charge. Is this why Bantex is hated? For certain, Bantex knows what is expected of him as a true son of the zone, and constitutionally. On the contrary, he has managed the two caps skillfully - considering that his constituency is the whole state - he can’t and shouldn’t be seen to be an irredentist. Based on solid arguments, Bantex has influenced the location of several projects in the zone: the Vicampro Potatoes Farm, Manchok Solar Power Project, etc. Agreed, the PDP appointed more than six ministers, three service chiefs, and the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from the zone, the party never built any industry to address the huge unemployment situation confronting the zone. A factor that is responsible for the grinding and pervasive poverty. So, in real terms, Bantex has adopted the right strategy: economic and political development of the zone.

Bantex maintains that his unalloyed loyalty to el-Rufai is due to the governor's high sense of justice and fairness. “Here is a man who has a wholesome sense of justice and fairness. In accordance with our oath of office, this gentleman - in the demand for fairness as enshrined in that oath of office - has been placing programmes, projects across the state without preference to any section,” said Bantex. He cited the various projects which the governor never dissuaded investors from citing in Southern Kaduna, as a sign of the governor’s sense of justice and fairness.

Going by the reaction that trailed the rumour that el- Rufai and Bantex exchanged hot slaps, it is obvious the kind of relationship that some people would like to see between both men; including those who have canvassed resignation over the killings and destruction in the zone. In 2015, at the height of the rumour spread that he “slapped” the governor, his currency among some Southern Kaduna people greatly improved, an indication of the kind of deputy or governor they would like to see. But that will be suicidal. As someone with a state-wide mandate, should he also resign over the Birin Gwari carnage? But what end would resignation serve, beyond ‘talk’?

Yakowa, who later became governor was treated with same contempt, because he wasn’t ‘cast’ in that rabid toga. Yakowa understood that Kaduna State, being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society - that what was needed was justice and equity, which Southern Kaduna had always clamoured for - he refused to change the goal post, because by act of fate he became governor. Not even the hatred and insults occasioned by his refusal to retaliate the years of marginalisation made him change his position. Yakowa definitely left a legacy of service, equity and justice. When at Zonkwa he was molested for “not doing enough” to address the killings and for being a “lackey of the Zaria oligarchy”, he shrugged it off in his usual calmness.

Bantex is certainly not a pushover. He played vital role in the merger of the defunct CPC, ACN and ANPP into APC in Kaduna State. He successfully ran for the chairmanship of the party in Kaduna State, before el-Rufai picked him as running mate for the 2015 elections. Presently, there aren't too many politicians from Southern Kaduna with his reach and contact, with the likes of Isaiah Balat, Yohanna Madaki, Garba Ali Madaki, etc., out of the scene. Other brilliant politicians have decided to play in the local league, rather than the state premier league. In the present, they will profit; but in future, it might politically hunt them.

The political reality is in favour of the north. For any southerner to emerge as the governor of the state, he must be someone that the north can trust with power. It is incumbent on southern politicians to build bridges of understanding. Olu Fale was roundly rejected in 1999, because he came across as a tribal war-lord, who would not hesitate to send northerners out of Nigeria. True or false, that perception of him stuck. Politics is about IOU's: you can only cash it, if you have invested. People should invest.

Some things are never valued until they are lost. Maybe, the Nasir el-Rufai and Bantex partnership will be better appreciated in future when another Namadi Sambo will be at the helms and the deputy governor would be a real “spare tyre”. Maybe then ....maybe!

•Emmanuel Ado is a Kaduna-based journalist. He can be reached via

Source News Express

Posted 14/05/2018 9:26:50 PM


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