The crisis within the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna State turned messier, yesterday, as Governor Nasir El-Rufai ordered the demolition of a factional headquarters of the party.
The building at 11B, Sambo Road, G.R.A., Kaduna, belonged to Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna North) and housed the secretariat of the factional Kaduna Restoration Group, led by Chairman Danladi Wada. The faction, last week, had handed El-Rufai a six-month suspension over alleged anti-party activities.
The demolition carried out around 5:00 a.m. was allegedly supervised by the governor and backed by armed security operatives.
Reactions from Hunkuyi's purported official Twitter page read: "In the early hours of today, the @GovKaduna Mallam @elrufai personally drove a bulldozer accompanied by armoured tanks to destroy my house at 11B Sambo Road. This is a new low, and fighting dirty with such low level of pettiness is indeed unprecedented in Kaduna State.
"It is on record that few months back, @GovKaduna Mallam @elrufai marked another property of mine in Hunkuyi town for demolition but residents of the area prevented the officials from demolishing it. Today, he came well prepared with military men to destroy my house at Sambo Road.
"This is also the same way, Mallam @elrufai destroyed the house of the APC Dep National Chairman Northwest, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir months back, which tells you that the governor is reckless, petty & can't stand political pressure, without resorting to being a ruthless dictator."
But addressing reporters later, Hunkuyi said he had pardoned El-Rufai:
"As my own brother, I wish to let you know, I have no case. I have forgiven him as a person, for doing what he did. I have no issues with him for doing what he did. He is my brother. For bringing down one of my houses, even if it is not my last house. I see no reason why I should lose any sleep.
"In my own opinion, let it be an incident to grow democracy in my state. Let this be a rallying point for those who have been shortchanged in any way in my state, as regards the leadership of El-Rufai. It is not too much a price to pay for democracy to thrive in my state."
El-Rufai is also believed to have ordered bulldozers to a building at the Mogadishu area belonging to the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caretaker committee chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
Asked to comment, Makarfi said: "I have nothing to say for now over the unfortunate development. I would have spoken on the issue if I had wanted. Let him (El-Rufai) do whatever he likes."
Wada said: "The reason advanced by the government in the statement issued by the Director-General of the Kaduna Geographical Information Service (KADGIS) that the demolition was necessary as a result of default by the owner of the property, Senator Hunkuyi, in paying ground rent for a period of eight years is untenable before the law, and is, hereby, condemned in strong terms."
At a press conference, yesterday, Wada, who was represented by APC Director of Administration, Yahaya Shinko, "commend the Kaduna State Commissioner of Police for refusing to compromise by allowing his officers and men to be used as political tools at the hands of the governor to silence the opposition in the state."
He called on the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Buratai, to "relieve the GOC 1 Division for meddling in partisan politics by allowing his men to give cover to the governor with trucks numbering over 20, fully loaded with military personnel who carried out the shameless act, thereby bringing the military to disrepute."
He called on members of the party to be law-abiding and remain calm, saying steps have been taken to seek redress in court.
But Colonel Muhammad Dole, the spokesman for 1 Division, refuted reports that military personnel had been involved in the demolition.
"This is not true. No Nigerian Army soldier was involved in the exercise. The allegation and the attempt to drag the Nigerian Army into the issue of demolition is yet another baseless and unsubstantiated claim to malign the hardworking, loyal and professional officers and soldiers of 1 Division Nigerian Army and discredit them," he said.
"The troops of 1 Division have not been involved in any illegal activity of either harassment of politicians or demolition of their property in Kaduna and its environs. Therefore, this claim remains the height of mischief. It is misleading and is viewed as another calculated attempt to distract our troops from performing their professional duties. The public should, therefore, disregard such a false allegation."
KADGIS Director Ibrahim Husseini also denied the demolition had any political motive.
He said: "This morning, a building on 11B Sambo Close was removed for flagrant violations of land use and non-payment of ground rent since 2010. This illegal violation of use had begun to distress neighbours who were being forced to endure an influx of thugs and blockage of the road.
"The land has now been allocated to the Kaduna State Urban and Property Development Agency (KASUPDA) for the purpose of developing and maintaining a public park that will provide a green area and a serene place for recreation in that residential neighbourhood.
"KADGIS wishes to remind all title owners to be fastidious in complying with the terms of their allocation. The purpose of allocation of land cannot be willfully altered; neither can titleholders lawfully neglect to pay their ground rents."
The Senate, meanwhile, has condemned the demolition.
The chamber asked El-Rufai to either provide a replacement for the secretariat or compensate Hunkuyi.
It made the resolution following a point of order raised at its plenary, yesterday, by Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central), who described the governor as "an affliction on the people of Kaduna State."
Also, at the official launch of a fact-checking platform in Abuja, yesterday, Sani said further: "Demolishing houses, intimidating opponents and using political thugs to chase political opponents will not work. He (El-Rufai) is a man with double identity. Outwardly, you see a technocrat and a professional and one who wants to portray himself as a performer. But inwardly, he has a negative identity; one that is thuggish, despicable, desperate and vindictive."
APC chieftain in the state, Dr. Tom Maiyashi, insisted the suspension of El-Rufai from the party stands, despite the demolition of the factional headquarters.
He told reporters that the governor's action smacked of political immaturity and was an indication El-Rufai was beginning to buckle under the weight of political pressure.
"This is madness. It is embarrassing. This has shown that the governor has failed the people of Kaduna State. Despite all this madness, his suspension stands. I am disappointed with what I have seen today. This is my saddest day as a politician. Since my career as a civil servant and as a politician, I have never seen this kind of political witch-hunt," he said.
Last year, the Kaduna State government also demolished the house of APC National Vice Chairman (North West), Alhaji Inuwa Abdukadri, who was believed to have faulted the suspension of Sani by El-Rufai loyalists.