This is not an easy time to rule Kaduna State. No time has ever been. But as the general elections loom closer, the situation is proving to be ever more dicey. One, you need to win the confidence of the people by executing developmental projects, to prove that you know why you are in office in the first place. Two, you must be cautious in walking the state’s notorious tight rope of ethnic and religious balancing, careful not to upset the elastic peace and tranquillity among the various tribes and the religious faithful. Three, you need to work hard towards winning your own election and not lean too hard on the luck of getting it on a platter of gold. In short, you must prove yourself. And if you are Mr. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, it can be frustrating.
As president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari once compared Nigeria to a silk gown, the babbar riga type worn by northerners. While wearing a silk gown, according to Shagari, you are required to constantly hitch up the right side onto your shoulder and do the same with the left hand side. The problem, however, is that after successfully hitching up one side, the gown would slip from the other side, invariably making it difficult for you to keep still and enjoy your outfit.
Now, Kaduna appears to be a more complex silk gown. A violent history of sectional politics has made the state a totally different kettle of fish. Until in recent years, ethnic and religious riots in the state had led to the massacre of thousands of people. Consequently, there is a persistent notion that governing Kaduna is like sitting on a gunpowder keg that can explode any minute. A former governor of the state once told me that his greatest challenge in the state was not how to deliver the good things of life to the people but keeping the peace and security; he would wake up suddenly in the middle of the night and sit for hours, praying that the day would come and go without an ethnic fight breaking out somewhere in his domain.
For 62-year-old Yakowa, the nightmare is no less forbidding. Until what Father Mathew Hassan Kukah referred to as “the miracle” of last May 5 happened, it was almost unthinkable that somebody from Fadan Kagoma village in the southern part of the state would ever become governor of the state under a democratic dispensation. The unwritten rule was that southern Kaduna people should be contented with the second slot at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House while a “Hausa” man from the north serves as governor. That rule, which found comfort in the ethnic politics that perpetuates domination of the minorities in our nation, presupposed that the majority northerners, who are predominantly Muslim, would always win the gubernatorial elections.
It took the miracle of May to change that. Now someone from among the minorities is ruling the state, thanks to the nomination of the state governor, Mohammed Namadi Sambo, as vice-president by President Goodluck Jonathan. Even so, there was a mild dissent by some sectional champs against Yakowa’s God-ordained ascendancy. Not that he was not qualified for the post. The narrow-minded question was not whether he was qualified by education or by working experience but by his ethnic and religious background. The proponents of this view chose to ignore the fact that Yakowa is a dyed-in-the-wool former civil servant who had attained the highest rungs in the civil service. A 1972 graduate of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, he had retired from the federal service as a permanent secretary and, years later, served as minister of Solid Minerals Development. He was appointed secretary to the government of Kaduna State in September, 2003. He had been deputy governor since July, 2005. On the political field, he served in many capacities. Yakowa has seen it all.
Ordinarily, he should only worry about completing Namadi’s tenure in 2011. But from day one, he found himself fending off ethnic and religious missiles, frantically declaring that his government is for everyone – Muslim, Christian, whatever. Sadly, this matter has become almost the main issue today. Yakowa harped on it on the day he was inaugurated as governor, and last Saturday when his fellow southern Kadunans organised a grand reception for him in Kafanchan. It is clear that Yakowa wants neither Kaduna citizens in the North to think that they have “lost power” nor those in the South to think that power is now theirs. The fragile peace in the state requires that the chief executive keeps making this enlightened reminder. He also needs it for his own election. To make real history, he needs to win election on his own merit. To achieve this, he must not only be just and impartial in his administration but he must also be seen to be so. He must win everybody’s trust in order to record a feat akin to that of Barack Obama.