The Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Mr. Isaiah Balat, has dismissed claims by the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the 2011 election, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), that southern Kaduna had gained nothing for supporting the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999.
Balat made this known in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos, the Plateau State capital Sunday.
"That claim is simply laughable because the area has witnessed lots of infrastructural growth as well as the appointment and election of its people into key positions.
"In fact, our people have never had it so good; the dividends are glaring no matter which indices you use. The resolve to support PDP is even stronger now than ever,’’ he said.
Buhari had at meeting of the unregistered All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kagoro, near Kafanchan, dismissed the PDP as "a colony of deceivers’’, and advised the people to join the APC.
He said the PDP had not reciprocated that massive affection, and that southern Kaduna people were still “wallowing in misery’’, with many still “poverty-stricken’’.
Former FCT minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Kaduna military governor, Brig. Lawal Isa (retired) and former Chief of Naval Staff, Ibrahim Iko, also criticised the PDP, and advised the people to join the APC.
Balat, a former Minister of State for Works and Housing, in a reaction, said the criticisms by Buhari and others were “figment of their imaginations’’.
"Our people know the state of their roads from Kaduna-Gimi, Saminaka-Kafanchan, Kagoro-Jos, and many others before 1999.
"They also know how large rivers separated communities, especially Bondong and Chawai, because there are no bridges. They can compare then and now.
"Aside the infrastructure, it is in the PDP governments that we have had our people rising to the pinnacle of their chosen fields.
"Our sons and daughters have risen to become Chiefs of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Naval Staff. The incumbent Group Managing Director of the NNPC is also our son.
"We have also produced vice chancellors of universities and headed key ministries like finance, works and housing, power and aviation as ministers.
"And don’t forget that we also produced an elected governor.
"The PDP-led federal government has also provided the multi-billion dollar Gurara Dam that has ensured thousands of hectares of land for irrigation aside electricity and drinking water for the immediate environment and the FCT.
"The average Southern Kaduna person has never asked for unmerited favour.
"What we want is fairness and PDP has created a platform for our people to compete as equal stakeholders in the Nigerian project,’’ he said.
He described the allegations that PDP had taken the area for granted as false and untenable, pointing out that every community had gained from the PDP government in one way or the other.
Balat said Buhari was the “least qualified’’ to allege any neglect of the area.
"It is not for nothing that we have kept faith with the PDP, the party that has also kept faith with us.
"Southern Kaduna is solidly PDP and shall remain so. Just as New York is a safe haven for Democrats in the United States, so is Southern Kaduna for PDP.’’
The special adviser challenged APC leaders to say what they had in stock for the electorate, “judging from their past antecedents’’.
Also reacting,a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Simon Arabo, re-emphasised that the PDP had "visible evidences of development’’, especially in infrastructure and an improved electricity supply with the new power sub-stations in Kafanchan.
"Aside from the projects, we now have chiefdoms and equal opportunities for schools, jobs and elevations to top positions.
"There could be room for improvements, but is totally wrong to say that the PDP has not been any useful to the people,’’ Arabo said. Arabo accused Buhari of "totally ignoring Southern Kaduna’’ in the distribution of projects when he was the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
"Buhari did not include Southern Kaduna in his agenda when he executed many projects as chairman of the PTF. We were never in his mind,’’ he said.
On some Southern Kaduna politicians in the APC, Arabo observed that they were PDP chieftains who were angry because "they are no more in power’’.
"Clearly, the gladiators in the APC from Southern Kaduna have no moral right to vilify the PDP because one was a senator and House of Representatives member on the party’s platform.
"Some are also local government chairmen, commissioners and special advisers, while some are state or federal officials of the party.
"I respect their constitutional right of association, but I must say that they are not in APC to serve, but to realise their personal ambitions.
"I have met some of them and have told them that power is a revolving door that can admit and push out anyone at anytime.
"No one has the right to be in the corridors of power permanently.’’
According to him, allegations that the PDP is taking people for granted are just an attempt to hoodwink the people by appealing to their emotions and sentiments.
"I think it is just a desperate attempt to wrestle Southern Kaduna from the PDP and that is just like an attempt to fish where there is no water.
"If the APC wants votes, it should look elsewhere. That party can never be a threat to PDP in Southern Kaduna,’’ he said.
Also reacting, Mr. Ibrahim Mukaddas, a former PDP Secretary and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Inter-party Affairs, said that there were only two major roads before PDP came into power in 1999.
"But currently, we have roads and bridges linking all local governments and settlements. We also have a new road linking Southern Kaduna and Plateau via Manchok.
"Again, before 1999, all tertiary institutions were in Zaria and Kaduna.
"But now we have the Kafanchan Campus of the state university that is hosting all the science courses, while one of us is the Vice-Chancellor,’’ Makadddas said.