Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufa’i, yesterday said his choice of Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, a fellow Muslim, as his running mate in the 2019 governorship election in the state is not a religious ticket but a competence and performance ticket, saying that the Government House is neither Mosque nor Church but a place of work.

The Governor explained that neither religion nor ethnicity was a factor that he considered in the choice of Dr. Hadiza as his running mate, saying those reading religious meaning to it were enemies of Kaduna state, adding that he chose her because she is the right person for the job.

El-Rufai’s choice of Dr. Hadiza, a female Muslim from Sanga Local Government Area in the Southern part of the State, had elicited mixed reactions and sparked controversy in some quarters, with some accusing him of being insensitive to the diversity in Kaduna state, while others accused him pursuing a religious agenda.

But the governor, while receiving a delegation from Sanga Local Government at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House, Kaduna, led by their traditional ruler, the Etum Numana, Brig. Gen. Aliyu Yamma (rtd), who paid him a thank you visit for choosing their daughter as his running mate, said he based his choice on competence and performance, “Muslim-Muslim ticket is not a religious ticket but a competence and performance ticket,” the governor said, adding that those criticizing him for his choice are people who never voted for him.

According to him, Hadiza beat 31 other candidates during the selection process to emerge.

He said: “About a year ago, the Deputy Governor, Barnabas Bala, told me that he was going to contest the senatorial election, I was in a dilemma to get a replacement for him. So, we started piling list of people for consideration and I had up to 32 names, including names of some people seated with me here today.

“Then we started selection and dropping of names based on merit. From 32 names to 17 to 12 and then 5 names – three males and two females.”

However, el-Rufa’i said before he picked Balarabe, he consulted President Muhammadu Buhari.

He explained: “At that point, and as usual of us, when we are taking serious decisions we consult President Muhammadu Buhari, because he is the only person I know that has worked in the army, he has been governor, minister and President.

“So, when I told him, he said anyone older than you should be dropped, then one name was dropped, remaining two men and two women, then he said, since you are interested in a woman pick the best woman. That was how I picked Hadiza because she was the best.”

Speaking further, he said: “Meanwhile, from the beginning, I had told my team that, I will never choose or deny anyone appointment because of religion or ethnicity. But some people have started all manner of things, talking about ‘Muslim-Muslim ticket’ and so on. But government house is not a place of worship. It is neither a mosque nor a church. we come here to work for the people.”

The governor added that most of his Muslim-Muslim ticket critics are those who did not vote for him in 2015.

“The people that have criticized me most on this are people who never voted me in the first place. So, are they not supposed to be celebrating if in their own opinion I have made a wrong choice? Then, why are they mourning?” he queried.

Extolling the qualities of his chosen running mate, el-Rufa’i commended her for the achievements recorded in repositioning the State’s Primary Healthcare Development Agency as Executive Secretary.

Speaking on behalf of the community, the Etum Numana said over the years, successive governments had forgotten the people of the area as far as participation in government was concerned, saying “the Governor couldn’t have made a better choice than the selection of Hadiza,” adding: “We now feel a sense of belonging in Kaduna government. We are just like black Americans in Kaduna State”.

He also appealed to the Governor to ensure the establishment of an Army Battalion in Sabon Gida village area of the local government to curtail the security challenges there.