Ahead of the February 25, presidential and National Assembly elections, residents of Kaduna North LGA await a tug of war between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Kaduna North Federal Constituency.
Many of the candidates seeking to clinch any of the 16 seats for the House of Representatives in the state are mobilising for the elections, but pundits say, all eyes will likely be on the struggle to clinch the seat for Kaduna North; a seat that hinges on a single local government area, in the heart of Kaduna city.
As one of the top five local government areas with the highest population, the last local government council election in 2021 saw the APC clinch the chairmanship position for Kaduna North LGA while PDP clinched eight out of the 12 councillorship seats, leaving only four for APC.
However, the battle for Kaduna North Federal Constituency in 2023 will largely be about the individual candidates, not necessarily their parties. The tug of war will be between the incumbent member occupying the seat, Samaila Suleiman, who resigned his membership of the APC in March and joined the PDP. He will be going against Bello El-Rufai, the APC candidate and eldest son of current governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.
Suleiman’s second 3rd term bid
Rep. Samaila Suleiman is the present House of Representatives member for Kaduna North Federal Constituency. At 41, he is arguably one of the most influential grassroots mobilisers in the state capital.
Suleiman, who was born into one of Kaduna’s oldest political families, is the son of Alhaji Abdu Suleiman, said to be a political godfather in the state.
In 2008, Suleiman’s popularity, combined with the then political charm of President Muhammadu Buhari, made him the only politician to win the local government council election for Kaduna North under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
From there, he moved to the House of Representatives in 2015 under the APC. He returned to the seat in 2019, but soon enough, things began to fall apart between him and Governor El-Rufai as rumour spread that APC was planning to replace him with Bello El-Rufai, the governor’s eldest son.
Before the decision was taken, Rep. Samaila Suleiman, who had read the sign on the wall, quickly decamped from the APC in March 2022, and joined the PDP.
His popularity came to bear when he defeated other older members of the party, such as Shehu ABG and Adam Namadi, the son of a former vice president, Namadi Sambo, at the primaries to clinch the ticket.
Suleiman’s supporters say his generosity and people-oriented policies are what endear him to the masses, and believe his opponents did not stand a chance against him.
“He was a headache to the PDP while he was in APC and won the 2015 and 2019 elections,” said Hon. Rilwanu Abdullahi, the campaign DG of the Samaila Suleiman campaign council.
“This is because there is no ward in the entire LGA that he has not executed projects. He also started poverty alleviation programmes for the people, distributing all kinds of foodstuffs to people in batches,” he said.
Even though he is from an old political class, his supporters say Suleiman has no political godfather and his campaign is backed by the masses who form a majority of his supporters.
“His grassroots mobilisation machinery is very resounding; people want programmes that touch their hearts and programmes that have direct access to the poor man in the village. Samaila knows that and it is what he gives to the people,” Abdullahi said.
Opponents, however, said the lawmaker could face numerous challenges from within the PDP, as there are those who feel pained that he had been rewarded with the party ticket even when he did not labour for the PDP as much as they did.
“The likes of Shehu ABG and the supporters of the former vice president, Namadi Sambo, may not be happy that he decamped to the PDP and in less than a month, defeated the former VP’s son and others such as Shehu ABG who have laboured for the PDP,” said a member of the PDP who asked not to be identified.
Suleiman’s campaign council however say such matters will be resolved. “We are trying to bring them on-board and let them know that we are all one and that Samaila Suleiman is a leader who will work with everyone. His political clout and the genuineness of his programmes have made him outstanding among the people,” said Rilwanu Abdullahi.
The council insisted that their candidate would defeat his major opponent, Bello El-Rufai, before 3pm on Election Day.
“The mobilisation drive of Samaila’s political machinery is enticing to the public. The negative policies of the present APC administration will adversely affect Bello El-Rufai’s chances,” he said.
El-Rufai’s son testing the political waters
Bello El-Rufai is the 34-year-old eldest son of Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai. This is his first attempt at seeking an elective position, even though he has spent almost four years within the corridors of the National Assembly, as a senior legislative aide and Chief of Staff to the current Senator representing Kaduna Central, who is also the APC governorship candidate in the state, Uba Sani.
Supporters of the young El-Rufai say his role as a senior legislative aide and his academic qualifications in Political Science, International Relations, Public Relations and Corporate Communications are enough to earn him the seat.
“Bello is a great asset to the people of Kaduna State and he is highly intelligent. We have no doubt that he will empower the youths,” says Alhaji Ashiru Sani Hussaini, the vice chairman of APC for Kaduna North and director general, Media for the Bello El-Rufai campaign council.
Even though Hussaini says the young El-Rufai is backed by youths, Daily Trust gathered that as a candidate of the APC, Bello El-Rufai has the advantage of major stakeholders within the party, including the party’s governorship candidate, Uba Sani, and most importantly, his father, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.
This explains why he is often seen on the Uba Sani campaign train, which pundits say could be used as an anchor to sell his candidacy.
While PDP supporters claim that his father’s political influence will do him more harm than good, Bello El-Rufai will also rely on the support of his friends, who have been strategically placed in key positions that will likely work in his favour.
Thanks to his father’s foresight, one of Bello’s friends is Hafiz Bayero, the administrator of Kaduna Capital territory, who ostensibly coordinates the administrative activities of three local government areas, including Kaduna North.
The young El-Rufai will also be relying on the support of another friend, Mukhtar Baloni, who is the chairman of Kaduna North.
His supporters say Bello El-Rufai’s strength lies in his intelligence, his ability to understand and respond to problems quickly as well as his empathy.
“Bello has empathy for the people; he is accessible and has good human relations.
“We are not campaigning for Bello because he is the governor’s son, we forced him to seek elective office because our people have not benefitted from quality representation,” Hussaini said.