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El-Rufai: How Southern Kaduna elders made me change my mind on Christian running mate

Former governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has narrated how elders in the Southern part of the state allegedly made him change his mind against…

Former governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has narrated how elders in the Southern part of the state allegedly made him change his mind against picking a Christian running mate.

According to Premium Times, El-Rufai spoke during a book launch and retirement event in honour of the founder of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), Ishaq Akintola.

The ex-governor, who served for two terms from 2015 to 2023, also explained why he decided to pick a Muslim from the zone as his running mate.

He said in the first tenure, he picked his long-term friend, Barbanas Bala, a southern Kaduna Christian, but was almost frustrated out of office in the first two years.

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He said some unnamed southern Kaduna elders were angry with him for not accepting a list of prospective deputy governor candidates from people he called “self-appointed, so-called Southern Kaduna Christian elders”.

He also said Bala was hated for coming from a minority ethnic group, Moroa, and not the Atyap, Bajju, Jaba or Kagoro.

“Nothing prepared either Bantex or I for the viciousness with which he was treated by the constituency he was meant to be represented by his presence on the governorship ticket. He offered thrice to resign from office within our first two years in office. Bantex therefore barely made it to the end of our first term, psychologically battered by the hostility and hobbled by a resurgence of ill-health… Bantex lost his bid to represent the Kaduna South Senatorial District in the 2019 election. We lost him a year or so later,” he was quoted as saying.

According to him, what happened to Bala made him change his mind in selecting a running mate in 2019.

He said he decided to settle for a Muslim Southern Kaduna woman, Hadiza Balarabe, but the hostilities did not cease.

He said: “Her choice met with the usual hostility from the same persons that had so battered and demoralised Bantex, my first deputy. But it demonstrated that not everyone who mouths diversity and inclusion is actually interested in those values. The first woman to be elected as deputy governor from the far north of Nigeria was not seen as a pathfinder, a breakthrough for gender and a reaffirmation of the possibility of democracy to elect persons from minority and excluded groups. Only one marker of identity seemed to matter in such quarters. But the fact that Bantex had that marker – religion – had saved neither him nor I from opprobrium.”

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