One of the features of General Ibrahim Babangida’s endless transition programme was the insertion of religion as a factor in political configurations. It was couched as balance, promoting the concept that if a Christian is at the top of a ticket, then he must have a Muslim deputy and vice versa.
Babangida went on to appoint Pamela Sadauki as Deputy Governor to Colonel Tanko Ayuba, then military governor of Kaduna State. This forced the politicians who were seeming the office of governor of Kaduna to ‘balance’. Dabo Lere, who won election as governor of Kaduna State in 1991, had a young James Bawa Magaji as deputy governor. That was the first time religion became an issue in the guber line-up.
Since then Kaduna State has had several Christian deputy governors: Stephen Shekari, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa. Nuhu Bajoga and Barnabas Yusuf Bala, the incumbent. When circumstances propelled Yakowa to the governorship, he named a Muslim. Ramalan Yero as deputy. In December 2014,Nasir El-Rufai named Barnabas Yusuf Bala as his running mate.
Has this configuration of Muslim and Christian stemmed violence, united the state and drawn people together towards a respect for individual rights and a sense of common purpose? Let us present the evidence so that the reader can judge.
James Bawa Magaji was Deputy Governor when the 1992 crises in Zangon-Kataf happened. That crisis was triggered by the “indigenous” Kataf attacking and murdering the Hausa/Fulani “settlers” of Zango town who have been there for centuries.The report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry noted the disrespect with which James Bawa Magaji was treated by the Katafs when he intervened to try to resolve the differences.
Stephen Shekari was Deputy Governor when the Sharia riots of 2000 took so many lives. Zamfara, which started the Sharia matter, stayed calm as Kaduna burnt.
Patrick Yakowa was Governor when the 2011 riots happened. He was still in office when brutal attacks and massacres were visited on several communities in southern Kaduna afterwards. Yakowa acted to stem the killings. But his successor did not follow up. So Nuhu Bajoga’s Christian identity did not save communities in Attakad and other places from murderous violence.
Barnabas Yusuf Bala (Bantex) has the misfortune of being labelled a traitor, but he has sometimes been embraced as a southern Kaduna Christian. The tale was woven that he beat up El-Rufai in defence of southern Kaduna interests. He was a tagged a traitor for not resigning or denouncing the government during the violent conflict that raged in parts of southern Kaduna in late 2016 and early 2017. When Bantex had to go for urgent medical attention abroad, the same people said falsely that El-Rufai did not allow him to attend the hospital of his choice.
It is clear that having a Christian as Deputy Governor has not advanced peace or stability in Kaduna State. Rather it has produced the perverse phenomenon of people using religion as a bargaining chip. It is freezing people in identity politics rather than moving the state towards one wbere it is the quality and character of a person that counts.
There are Christians in every part of Kaduna State, and there are Muslims everywhere too. Pamela Sadauki is Hausa-Fulani and Christian from the northern axis of the state. Hadiza Balarabe is a Muslim from the southern axis of the state. Why can’t she be Deputy Governor?