Stepping into Yero’s Boots

Mukhtar Yero, looking for deputy
Mukhtar Yero, looking for deputy

Four candidates emerge as front runners in the race for the post deputy governor Kaduna State

|  By Olu Ojewale  |  Dec. 31, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

GOVERNOR Mukhtar Yero, the new governor of Kaduna State, has a list of four prospective candidates to choose his deputy from. Until his elevation, Yero himself was the deputy to the late Governor Ibrahim Yakowa, who died in a military helicopter crash alongside General Owoye Azazi, former national security adviser to the president, and four others, on Saturday, December 15, at Okoroba community in Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa State.

According to sources close to the State House, Kaduna State should expect one of these personalities to be named as deputy governor. They are Amina Yakowa, widow of the late governor; Yohanna Alamgarim, principal private secretary to Yakowa; Senator Isaiah Balat, an aide of Vice President Namadi Sambo and Joseph Hayab, a pastor who is also a special adviser to the late governor on Christian matters.

The two front runners for the post are Balat and Hayab. First of the equals is Balat, a former Senator and now an aide to Vice-President Namadi Sambo. Balat had contested the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, against Sambo in 2007, but was prevailed upon by the then governor, Ahmed Makarfi, to give Sambo a chance. Since that contest, Balat has been a personal adviser to Sambo. It is believed that Sambo must have suggested the name of his friend to Yero.

But picking Balat as his deputy may be an albatross for the current governor, who was once an accountant in Sambo’s company, Nalado Construction Company, Kaduna. It is believed that the Vice President introduced him into politics and even influenced his appointment into the cabinet of the then Governor Markarfi.

Although Yero may not want to go against his mentor, the fear being expressed in some quarters is that Balat is too ambitious  to be a deputy to such a young and inexperienced person like Yero, and that he might be a threat to the governor’s ambition to get elected in 2015. Another school of thought believes that since the current governor is a Muslim, it would be insensitive of Balat, a Christian, to want to contest against him in 2015. But if Balat can, for now, rest his ambition, it is believed that he will be a great deputy to Yero.

Another strong contender is Hayab, a pastor at Rahama English Baptist Church, Kaduna. Hayab became a strong political figure when he was the secretary, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in 2002. Impressed by his candour and fearlessness, Yakowa took interest in him and made him a special adviser on religious matters.

Hayab has a strong support among Christian brethren in Kaduna State, but his political outlook may work against him. During the last election, the pastor was said to have been used by the PDP to lead a vitriolic campaign against Muslim opponents in the state. Analysts say though he could mobilise the support of Christians in the state to cooperate with the new administration, his intolerance of the opposition may work against him.

A lesser known personality is Alamgarim, who served the late governor as a private secretary. He was a trusted ally of Yakowa, but his political strength is not well defined. The odds are not really in his favour except for his loyalty and hard work.

Amina Yakowa is largely regarded as the choice of the state traditional rulers, who want to compensate the family for the good works of her late husband. But a lot of people in the state say she has no political weight to merit the post. Some of them believe that as a former first lady, it would be an insult to subject her to take orders from her husband’s former deputy. One of them argued: “How can a woman who used to delegate duties to Yero’s wife, now be forced to take orders from Yero. This is sheer humiliation. Those behind it hate the people of Southern Kaduna. They don’t love us.”

Yakowa Patrick, left a vacuum
Yakowa Patrick, left a vacuum

Yakowa died in the crash alongside retired General Owoye Azazi, former national security adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Commander Murtala Daba and Lieutenant Adeyemi Sowole, both Navy pilots, as well as two aides of Yakowa and Azazi.

On Tuesday, December 18, the Senate resolved to investigate the crash and why there seems to be frequent air crashes involving military aircraft in the country. In adopting a motion sponsored by Senator Chris Anyanwu, Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, the Senate mandated its joint committees on navy, air force and aviation to probe the frequent air mishaps with a view to finding a permanent solution.

Also, the upper legislative chamber condemned the seeming inability of the government to unravel the causes of air crashes involving military and civilian aircraft.

Anyanwu, while moving her motion, said the Augusta 109 helicopter belonging to the navy crashed in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, resulting in the death of the six victims, including the governor and a former security chief.

She recalled that in 2007 and 2011, there had been two crashes involving the same helicopter type belonging to the navy, adding that between March and October 2011, the air force recorded three air crashes at different locations in the country.

The senator said that on March 21, 2011, an air force F7-N1 fighter jet that was on routine training crashed in Kano, killing the flight instructor. ‘The F7 fighter jet, which was reported to have come from Makurdi, for a two-week training course was delivered to the air force by the manufacturers in China only (May 11, 2011) a few days before the accident.

The plane crashed into a secondary school in Gboko Local Government Area of Banue State. Apart from those fatal crashes, she said, an air force L-39 trainer jet flying from Calabar in Cross River State to Uyo in Akwa-Ibom State, crashed five months after the Gboko incident, while on September 17, 2006, another 18-seater Dornier 228 air force transport plane carrying senior military officers and three crew members, crashed in Vandeikya, leaving only three survivors.

According to her, the resurgence of air accidents in the country is suggestive of a deep seated systemic problem that must be unearthed and resolved to avert further unnecessary loss of lives, and heavy financial losses to the nation. The federal government has also ordered a probe into the air crash. But there is sceptisim already in the land that the probe may not achieve much considering the attitude of the government to similar probes in the past.

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