Last Tuesday, bulldozers demolished the secretariat of the Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi-led faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna, opening a new chapter in the intra party squabbles that started about a year ago as this report by ABDULRAHEEM AOUDU, EZREL TABIOWO and MUSA UMAR BOLOGI indicate
Before now, number 11 Sambo road was a modest, cream-coloured, one storey building that was tucked away in the quiet vicinity of Kaduna State House of Assembly, an upscale neighborhood. However, on February 16, the house became the centre of political activities.
On that day, a faction of the All Progressives Congress(APC), led by Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, held a press briefing at the building, where it queried Governor Nasir El Rufai and suspended Alhaji Uba Sani, the Political Adviser as well as a host of others. In addition, the building housed the Danladi Wada factional secretariat of Kaduna APC.
Significantly, five days later, the structure was pulled down by Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency(KASUPDA). Last Tuesday, the crisis that has been rocking the party reached a shattering climax with the demolition of the party’s factional office. Specifically, resolving the age-long feud, from now to next election, will tax Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s conflict resolution skills and the combatants’ patience.
Hunkuyi’s opening shot
Penultimate Thursday, the Wada faction of APC addressed a press conference, where they issued a query to Governor El Rufai over what it described as his anti-party and anti-human activities in the state. At the conference, Danladi Wada also slammed an 18 months suspension on El Rufai’s Political Adviser, Mallam Uba Sani and the state Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Audu Kwaru, as well as the Acting State Secretary of the party, Alhaji Yahaya Baba-Pate.
In addition, Wada claimed that he is the authentic chairman duly recognised by the national headquarters of the APC in Abuja. Significantly, Wada belonged to the Kaduna Restoration Group which has been having a running battle with what they termed ‘’APC Government House’’.
In the letter of suspension, the faction advised El-Rufai to answer the charges against him within 48 hours and failure to do so would attract further sanctions. The National Chairman of APC, Chairman of North-West Zone of the party, INEC Headquarters, as well as the Kaduna state office of INEC, including Kaduna State Police Command and State Security Service were all copied the letter. Similarly, the factional chairman also announced the relocation of the party secretariat to 11B Sambo Road.
According to him, the relocation was approved by the majority members of the State Executive Committee because the former office was infested with thugs.
El Rufai reacts, party spokesman disowns faction
Reacting to the query, the governor said that he would not be swayed by the drowning antics of some political traders in the state. El-Rufai, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, also warned that “rascally actions being undertaken by these traders in the hope of getting a lifeline from reconciliation moves would not be rewarded.”
According to him, ‘’the APC Government of Kaduna State has boldly lived up to its manifesto, commitments and principles to the people. In this work, it continues to enjoy the firm support of the APC State Executive which is united, and committed to the hard work of bringing sustainable change.’’
The statement further stated that ‘’ government appreciates the support it has received from the party in executing policies that stand up for the right of the ordinary people to equal opportunity. That support was vividly demonstrated as the government took drastic action to ensure that only qualified teachers teach the children of the poor.’’
Governor Nasir el-Rufai is proud of his record in achieving unprecedented levels of capital spending in the state, direct job creation, doubling school enrolment and doubling internally generated revenue, the statement added. The governor further said that he has no doubt that the people of Kaduna state have seen who is committed to building schools, roads and hospitals, and bringing investors and will make the right choice in their own interest.
According to El Rufai, ‘’the government had been made aware of the boastful and pompous claims of Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, that he will change the leadership of Kaduna State in 2019 by installing himself as governor.’’ The governor also claimed that Hunkuyi ‘’is seeking a lifeline, in the vain belief that ratcheting up rascally actions will bring him attention and relief from the mooted national reconciliation efforts.
Senator Hunkuyi has further illegally created a faction, headquartered in his house, as a bargaining chip.’’
Similarly, the acting Publicity Secretary of the state chapter, Alhaji Salisu Tanko Wusono described the Wada faction as disgruntled elements. In a statement he personally signed, Wusono said that APC has conducted an interim review of this dastardly act of opening a factional office and issuing queries and suspensions. The statement warned ‘’members of the general public to be wary of the activities of these imposters whose activities and plans are to destroy the goodwill of the party in the state so as to jeopardize the existing peaceful atmosphere in the state.’’ Wusono assured APC members, supporters and admirers that there is no cause for alarm ‘’as necessary disciplinary actions will be taken against the culprits in due course just as security agencies across the state have been notified of this treacherous development.’’
Hunkuyi’s faction suspends El Rufai
Last Monday, the Senator Hunkuyi faction of Kaduna APC, three day after querying him, suspended Governor El Rufai from the party for six months. In a statement issued to news men, the Chairman of the Hunkuyi faction, Danladi Wada, said that the governor was suspended owing to his refusal to defend himself against the allegations levelled against him.
Consequently, the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party met and resolved to suspend him for six months. “Sequel to the 48 hours ultimatum issued to the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai by the Kaduna State Working Committee of the APC to give explanations and defence on the allegations labelled against him, the SWC under Chairmanship of S.I. Danladi Wada on February 17, 2018, convened, resolved and do considered and ratified the findings and recommendations of the Disciplinary and Fact Finding Committee put before it in accordance with Article 21 (B) (iii) of the APC Constitution, to the effect that having the Governor failed to respond. Accordingly, he stands suspended for a period of six months from the party with immediate effect.
El-Rufai’s suspension laughable – APC
Swiftly, Alhaji Yahaya Pate, the acting secretary who was suspended by Wada’s faction, held a press conference, where he conveyed the resolutions of the State Executive Committee(SEC) meeting which held the previous Friday.
According to him, the party has described the Senator Hunkuyi led faction as illegitimate and that El Rufai’s suspension is laughable and should be disregarded. He further said that Danladi Wada, the ‘so called’ factional chairman, is an imposter and that such person lacks power to suspend any member of the party. According to him, “the authentic chairman of the party is Alhaji Shuaibu Idris. He is the chairman recognised by the national leadership of the party. Just last week, he received an invitation letter from the national secretariat, signed by the National Chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun, inviting him for National Executive Committee meeting next week.’’ Pate pointed out that most the APC factional members have been expelled from the party, including their chairman Wada. He further said that Hunkuyi is under a six month suspension, because the state chapter cannot expel him. According to him, only the national leadership can expel Hunkuyi because he is a political office holder.
Factional secretariat in rubbles
Last Tuesday, the issue went beyond suspensions as around 5 am, bulldozers demolished the factional secretariat the Wada-led APC, located at 11 Sambo road. The building, according to reports, belongs to Senator Hunkuyi and the arrow-head of Kaduna Restoration Group.
The senator alleged that El Rufai personally supervised the demolition exercise, using some stern looking soldiers to stave off possible opposition from the neighbourhood. According eyewitnesses, the duplex was badly damaged while the perimeter fence was pulled down but the vehicles within the premises were unaffected. Stern-looking security men were around the rubble as people passed by to satisfy their curiosity.
Government justifies action
Justifying the action, the state government said the building was pulled down by KASUPDA for flagrant violations of land use and non-payment of ground rent since 2010. In a statement issued by Malam Ibrahim Husseini, the Director General of Kaduna Geographic Information System (KADGIS), government said that KASUPDA ‘’is currently undertaking operations across Kaduna metropolis in partnership with sister agencies. KASUPDA is clearing illegal structures, tackling street hawking and restoring order across Kaduna.’’ According to the statement, the illegal violation of land use, by relocating a party office in the area, ‘’had begun to distress neighbours who were being forced to endure an influx of thugs and blockage of the road.’’
Consequently, KADGIS issued a revocation notice of statutory right of occupancy No. KD. 16712, that covers 11B Sambo Close in the Ungwan Rimi area. ‘’The appropriate notice of revocation was delivered at 28 Inuwa Wada Road, the registered address of the company that held the title to the property,’’ Malam Ibrahim revealed. According to him, ‘’the land has now been allocated to KASUPDA for the purpose of developing and maintaining a public park that will provide a green area and a serene place for recreation in that residential neighbourhood.’’
The statement further reminded all title owners to be fastidious in complying with the terms of their allocation. ‘’The purpose of allocation of land cannot be wilfully altered; neither can title holders lawfully neglect to pay their ground rents’’, KADGIS warned.
It’s petty, unprecedented -Hunkuyi
Immediately, Hunkuyi took to his twitter handle to counter the official explanation for the demolition. According to the lawmaker, the demolition was carried out by Governor El-Rufai as part of the ongoing crisis bordering on party control in the state.
He said that “in the early hours of today, the @GovKaduna Mallam @elrufai personally drove a bulldozer accompanied by armoured tanks to destroy my house at 11B Sambo Road. This is a new low and fighting dirty with such low level of pettiness is indeed unprecedented in Kaduna state.’’
Hunkuyi recalled that a ‘’few months back, @GovKaduna Mallam @elrufai marked another property of mine in Hunkuyi town for demolition, but residents of the area prevented the officials from demolishing it. ‘’
Last Tuesday, he allegedly came well prepared with military men to destroy Hunkuyi’s house in Kaduna, the senator alleged. The law maker pointed out that ‘’this is also the same way, Mallam @elrufai destroyed the house of the APC Dep National Chairman Northwest, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir months back, which tells you that the governor is reckless, petty & can’t stand political pressure, without resorting to being a ruthless dictator.”
Hunkuyi: Nemesis will catch up with El Rufai
Not done, Senator Hunkuyi also briefed journalists in Abuja the same Tuesday, where he said that the governor’s actions will be haunted him in no distant time. However, Hunkuyi said that he had forgiven El Rufai but his action would no doubt attract consequences. According to him, the demolition is one of the oppressive devices of the state government to silent him as a strong opposition voice.
However, the lawmaker vowed to remain undeterred in the face of persecution, Rather than cow him, the governor’s action will only strengthen him to stay with the electorates who are daily victims of the governor’s misrule. Hunkuyi further said that the demolition is not too much a price to pay for democracy to thrive in the state and that he had donated the facility to the state APC for political activities.
According to him, majority of the people of the state are against the governor’s decisions but El Rufai is known for jailing those who oppose him. Hunkuyi, in spite of everything, promised to defend the interest of his people, irrespective of whose ox is gored.
Senate condemns act
Senator Shehu Sani, Hunkuyi’s colleague and ally, raised the matter in the senate, rising on Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rule. He said in the governor’s thinking, the demolition would send a clear message to other persons outside of the state and other parts of the country, to remain silent and conform to the will and wishes of people in position of those presently in power.
According to him, “in the last two and half years, we have been faced with tyranny and open dictatorship in Kaduna state. My constituency office was attacked by violent thugs, and it has also been clear that armed military personnel and policemen have consistently been used by the governor to intimidate and harass people who don’t agree with him.’’
The senator wondered how a governor, who is a democratically elected, will demolish a house without notice, ‘’simply for the fact that we have set up an office different from the one he had personalized to himself as a so-called party man?’’ Senator Sani expressed concern that El Rufai invokes the president’s name to justify his actions.
“We will use this opportunity to call on the President to caution his beloved son, who has unleashed a reign of terror and have been held in the most despicable and irresponsible way. And it is a fact that if this crisis is not in any way nipped in the bud, it will, in every way, catapult and metamorphose into something very bigger,” he said.
In his remarks, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary, condemned the action, saying democracy has no place for tyranny and impunity. According to him, “if we decide to go on the part of democracy, we must accept some of the things that come with it, and one is the rule of law. If we have any kind of grievance, that grievance should be settled in the law court and not using force or the weight of our office.’’
Ekweremnadu further said that ‘’ this is one of the reasons why Nigerians opposed to issue of immunity, especially for chief executives.
Count us out -Army
On its part, the Nigerian Army has denied any involvement in the demolition of Hunkuyi’s property.
Spokesperson of 1 Division Nigeria Army, Col. Muhammad Dole, described the allegation as “untrue, baseless and unsubstantiated claim” aimed to malign officers and soldiers of the Division.’’ According to Dole, ‘’the allegation and the attempt to drag the Nigerian Army into the issue of demolition is yet another baseless and unsubstantiated claim to malign the hardworking, loyal and professional officers and soldiers of 1 Division Nigerian Army and discredit them.’’ He pointed out that the troops of 1 Division have not been involved in any illegal activity of either harassment of politicians or demolition of their properties in Kaduna and its environs.
“Therefore this claim remains the highest mischief and misleading and it is viewed as another calculated attempt to distract our troops from performing their professional duties. Therefore, the public should disregard such false allegation,’’ the spokesman said.
Another demolition looms
Another property belonging to Senator Suleiman Uthman Hunkuyi located at 18a Inuwa Wada Road, Ungwan Rimi, Kaduna has been slammed with N30 million fine for not paying ground rent for 24 years.
KADGIS sent the bill to the personal residence of the senator, informing him of the accumulated bill since 1995 and asked him to pay the 24 years ground rent and the penalty within 30 days. The ground rent per year stands at N61,160.9 and amounts to N1,467,861.6 for the 24 years he was said to be owing but the penalty fine imposed is N30 million which brings the total amount he is supposed to pay within 30 days to N31,467,861.6.
Hunkuyi, who confirmed the development on his twitter handle, said this might be another ploy to demolish his personal residence. The senator twitted that ‘’once again, @GovKaduna Malam @elrufai has sent a ridiculous bill to me for a purported ground rent of my personal house at Inuwa Wada to the tune of N30 million to be paid within 30 days, failure to do so might probably result to another demolition like he did on my other property.”
Last Thursday, the national secretariat of APC had set up a three-member committee to look into the crisis in its Kaduna State chapter, which culminated to the demolition of the party’s factional office.
A statement issued by Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, the National Publicity Secretary, said that the National Working Committee took the decision at an executive session on Wednesday. The committee which is headed by Engr Segun Oni, the party’s Deputy National Chairman (South), will look into the remote and immediate causes of the crisis in the state chapter and the circumstance that led to the demolition of the building, which belonged to Senator Hunkuyi. Other members of the committee are Chief George Moghalu, the National Auditor and National Woman Leader, Rahmatu Alliyu. According to the statement, ‘’the committee is to report back to the NWC within a week.’’
As things stand, Tinubu’s reconciliation committee will have its hands full in Kaduna state, where things have apparently fallen apart.