BY SIMON REEF MUSA
Five aspirants have declared their interest to contest for the Kaduna South senatorial position on three political platforms: All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP)
Deputy Governor Bala Bantex and Senator Caleb Zagi, who represented Kaduna South from 2007 to 2011, are set to slug it out for the APC ticket. For the PDP ticket, it is a straight fight between current Senator Danjuma La’ah and a third termer at the House of Representatives, Hon Jagaba Adams Jagaba. The youngest of the aspirants, Rijo Shekari, is presently the unchallenged aspirant of the SDP.
In line with my earlier promise to share visions and programmes of these aspirants, I made efforts to reach out to all the spirants to outline their visions and programmes.
Out of these five aspirants, three of them on the PDP and SDP platforms volunteered to share their visions and programmes with me. Several phone calls and text messages to the APC aspirants to share their visions proved fruitless, with Zagi promising but never did.
BALA BANTEX: Apart from his statement announcing his decision to throw his hat in the ring, nothing much has been heard and seen of him. His posters, adorned with the pictures of President Muhammadu Buhari Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, have been seen in some corners of some towns. Declaring his ambition for the senatorial seat, he sums up what is propelling him and what he intends to achieve: “I am convinced that it is time for our people to firmly reject the poorest senatorial representation Zone 3 has had since 1999. I regret that some of the elected representation from my zone has not matched this broad-mindedness and constructive approach, in the interest of our people in Zone 3.
“I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that it is worth leaving the Office of Deputy Governor to put these issues on the ballot, as well as encourage more mature and sober political discourse in the area.”
The questions voters will seek to answer to determine his fate are: Has he done anything to encourage this broad-mindedness he speaks about in Zone 3? Considering the poor representation for Kaduna South as he alleges, does he possess the track record to change the tide? Going by his antecedents and the rating of his party in Kaduna South Zone, the path to victory could turn out a tedious walk in the jungle of uncertainties.
CALEB ZAGI: He served as Senator for Kaduna South from 2007 to 2011. Apart from providing welfare to some members of his constituency, his membership of both the House of Reps and Senate is fraught with tales of regrets. His compilation of a list of people who benefitted from him almost caused a storm. I recalled a conversation I had with the late Isaiah Balat who lamented that getting to consult him over issue of Zone 3 was a problem.
On what plans he has for Kaduna South zone, he promised to speak to me but never did. Sources close to APC headquarters debunked allegations that he has stepped down for Bantex. The APC in Kaduna state, according to a source, said Both Bantex and Zagi are set to slug it out for the ticket, but it is obvious that the Deputy Governor is favoured to pick the ticket.
DANJUMA LA’AH: Against the backdrop of historical and contemporary realities that comebacks are never part of the political trajectory of Kaduna South Zone, La’ah is enmeshed in ensuring he comes back to continue what he describes as his “effective representation” in the upper chamber of the National Assembly. Apart from debunking allegations of poor representation, he says he is focused on education, agriculture and security. Dubbed as a silent achiever by his supporters, he maintains that he does not believe in screaming to high heavens on his achievements.
On allegation of restricting projects to only his town, Tum, in Kaura Local Government Area, the Senator says he has never restricted projects to only the area he hails from. He justifies the location of the Police Secondary to his home town on availability of land. He explains that when the project was to be sited, there were threats of the projects been relocated outside Kaduna South Zone. So, he had to move fast and get land in his home town. The establishment of the NOUN Study Centre, the Senator further explains, is hinged on easy accessibility and “secured environment.” Describing the incessant security challenge as a factor in determining the NOUN Study Centre, La’ah says he has never considered the decision to establish those projects as a deliberate ploy to relegate other areas in Kaduna South Zone.
What has he done to end security challenges in Southern Kaduna, the current senator said he has been involved in visiting attacked communities and providing them with relief materials. He has also been taking advantage of his position as Senator to call on relevant security agencies to tackle the incessant herdsmen’s killings in SK.
If he is re-elected, what is his agenda? He identifies the consolidation of education, agriculture and security as the cornerstone of his second term agenda. He believes that with this, he is set to secure a fruitful future for his constituency.
JAGABA ADAMS JAGABA: He is the longest serving lawmaker in the National Assembly, considering the fact that he is in his third term in the National Assembly. He boasts of an experience that no one has. His aspiration is said to have the support of other federal lawmakers in Kaduna South Zone.
For those conversant with his track record, Jagaba has provided jobs for graduates across many local government areas in Kaduna South Zone. To buttress the support he enjoys from the grassroots, he defected to the APC in 2015 after been denied a ticket by the PDP and still won his re-election. Jagaba says he has all it takes to provide effective representation for Zone 3 after garnering nearly 12 years of legislative experience in the lower chamber. He reveals that his network of connection across the states could come handy in collaborative efforts with relevant groups and agencies in developing the area. He sees the need for genuine development that is hinged on effective legislative mandate. He is quick to remind this writer that his efforts, in collaboration with other members in the House of Representatives, have led to various motions and efforts to upgrade the Kafanchan General Hospital into a Federal Medical Centre. He believes that his ascension to the position of a Senator in 2019 could eventually lead to the realisation of that dream.
He sees his vision for Kaduna South Zone within the dream of realising the potentials of every man and woman and reaching out to relevant organizations and government agencies for collaboration. Apart from bringing international collaboration to realise the huge potentials of the agric sector in the area, he plans on promoting education and empowering SK youth through skills acquisition, among others.
Taking into cognisance his track record in touching lives through effective implementation of constituency projects, Jagaba believes no one is best suited to lead and offer effective representation to Kaduna South Zone in 2019. If Zone 3 continues with its curve of not bringing back its senators for a second term, then, Jagaba looks good to repeat the feat of Zagi in 2007.
RIJO SHEKARI: He is the unchallenged aspirant on the SDP platform that is already on the ballot. He comes with energy common to youths and those with the zeal to pull down old altars of politics dominated by firm and older systems. He is full of ideas that can pull down what he described as “politics of arrogance” by present SK politicians.
Formerly an aspirant of the PDP, he quickly saw the need to defect to a new platform to mobilise for a new system of politics that emphasizes competence and ability to carry the electorate along. He believes that when politicians buy their ways into political office, they would never carry the people along.
When he speaks, he leaves the listener dazzled by the passion of his dream. He talks of development achieved through collaborative efforts. He dreams of a period when politicians will be measured by the credibility of their vision and not by their willingness to bribe their ways to elected offices. He sees a future where the people will own the government and not the government owning the people. He envisions a time where border control will stave off further attacks on communities.
Rijo believes that he holds the key to a new dawn where consultation with the electorate will define the new rules of engagement. He sees agriculture as means of empowering the people, with specific vision of ensuring security for all. As a senator, he will collaborate with government agencies to provide adequate security.
How can he achieve the dream of enthroning his brand of new politics without experience? The young aspirant, who is already the SDP candidate, is quick to remind this writer that he has a network of connection in the financial world of business across various continents. He notes that his decision to contest was not done on the morning he woke up from the right side of the bed, but it was a decision that took him so many years. He says he has identified his supporters and has come up with strategies to beat the old horses in their game of politics. Apart from ensuring development of Kaduna, South Zone, he sees transitional justice as key to rescuing the area from long years of impoverishment and neglect.
If ideas and wishes were horses, Rijo Shekari will ride. But will he pulls through the maze of political intrigues and defeat the old horses in their game? Only times shall tell.
Despite the fact that the PDP holds the aces in the politics of Kaduna South zone, campaigns after the primaries may assume a fresh swing. The 2019 Kaduna South Zone Senatorial may turn out one of the most intriguing of all polls.