Sen. Katung: Walking a new bridge @63



When Senator Sunday Marshall Katung, during the election of the new Senate Presidency for the 10th National Assembly, aligned himself with the choice of a northern candidate, Senator Aziz Yari, some people accused him of not truly representing the interest of his zone. Taking into consideration the eight years of political estrangement and bloodshed unleashed on Kaduna State, particularly Southern Kaduna, during the reign of former Governor Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, the Senator’s choice, for the politically undiscerning, was inscrutable.

During the ministerial confirmation of the former Kaduna State helmsman, the Senator was expected to lead the charge against the confirmation of el-Rufai. SMK, as he is popularly called, refused and threw his lot with his other two colleagues and gave el-Rufai a clean slate for passage. They cited his superlative performance profile in the last eight years as Kaduna State governor. Sadly, for el-Rufai, and joyfully, for many of us, the former governor’s ministerial dream got aborted in the cul-de-sac of security trappings.

The two incidents above are reflective of the new thinking and re-alignment of forces deployed by the Senator in changing a narrative that has exposed the weakness of Southern Kaduna in political negotiations. Politics as a game of intrigues fraught with conspiracy theories cannot be reduced into ritual devotions to some principles that have withered with the passage of time. To survive in politics, just as in the game of life, one must be conversant with the sails that lead to success. Like many before him, Katung may not be overwhelmingly loved in a zone that is literally and extremely educated, but the Senator is committed to avoiding the ignorant and egoistic past to embrace options for success in line with present realities. The lawmaker in the red chamber from Kaduna Zone 3 has refused to deploy hostility against political opponents, preferring to understand every event in a bid to embrace the bigger picture that has been neglected by his predecessors.

Since the commencement of this unbroken democracy nearly 24 years ago, the Zangon Kataf-born lawmaker has been unprecedented in charting a new vision on bridge-building and seeking cooperation with forces within. Unlike others before him, the Senator, both in academic qualifications and political acumen, has remained unrivalled. Compared with his predecessors, SMK’s contributions on the floor of the red chamber since the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly are unequalled and his capacity as Senator has put Kaduna Zone 3 into frontline reckoning. Katung’s visibility in the Senate remains one of his greatest strongholds in changing our narratives and facilitating a mindset change syndrome in the promotion of inclusiveness.

More than any time before now, Katung’s campaign slug, ahead of the 2023 elections, was GET INVOLVED. He has not abandoned his core values of carrying all groups in the Kaduna South Zone 3 along in the new political vista he is presently creating across political, ethnic and religious divides. The Senator is erasing footprints left by his predecessors that were primarily engaged in the pursuit of exclusive privileges for themselves and their cronies. More than any occupant of Kaduna South Senate seat, SMK has created advocates for an all-inclusive participation under a democracy that in the past saw many politicians appointed and elected into public offices, but little dividends of democracy to show.

The lawmaker’s concern for the zone he represents and the many infractions committed against his people working in the public service and security forces have seen him placing petitions, almost on a monthly basis, on the floor of the Senate for the attention and action of the upper legislative chamber. The Senator has been at the forefront of seeking attention of the Federal Government for assistance for distraught ginger farmers over fungal attacks that led to the loss of about N12 billion in 2023. Happily, the Federal Government has announced the sum of N1.6 billion to assist distraught ginger farmers for inputs, among others.

To demonstrate that the terrible wind of oppression against the people of Southern Kaduna is over, the emergence of Senator Uba Sani as governor has led to a new vista of hope for inclusiveness. The announcement of N1.6 billion ginger farmers is a signal that both the APC at state and federal level is committed to carrying the region along.

In one of our encounters with him in his office late last year at the National Assembly, the Senator said he had prayed fervently before the 2023 polls that if his election to the Senate won’t change the fortunes of the zone, then, God should deny him of his ambition. Such a prayer can only come from someone who is not a professional politician. What is wrong with our politics in Southern Kaduna is that we have too many jobless people in the levers of power without any means of livelihood. To them, politics is a job and not service. That is why they have no qualms denying their people as long as they are guaranteed survival in the corridors of power. The quality of SMK, as stated earlier, attests to his readiness and preparation, and that is why within a short space of 10 months, he has not left anyone in doubt on what he is committed to. Where he is coming from speaks volumes of where he is going.

Born on 1st April, 1961 in Madakiya, Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, young Sunday was enrolled for early primary education in Madakiya. He would thereafter head to Kufena College, Wusasa Zaria (1975-1980). After completing his secondary school education, he got admitted into the College of Arts and Science (CAS), Zaria (1981-1982). He was at the University of Lagos (1982-1986) where he read Law, and was at the Nigerian Law School, Victoria Island, Lagos, where he obtained his BL (Barrister at Law) in 1987.

He would in 2000 return to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for a post-graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) and then Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in 2005. He later enhanced his academic qualification with yet another Masters in International Law and Diplomacy in 2014. As a lawmaker, his legal background has prepared him for what he is doing in the Senate. When he completed the one-year compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, he got employed at the Directorate of Air Provost of the Nigerian Air Force HQ, Lagos (1987-1988). He also served as the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser with the Nigeria Reinsurance Corporation.

Before being elected as Senator in 2023, the legal mind was appointed Commissioner for Finance in 2010 by Governor Patrick Yakowa. After the 2011 election, he was re-appointed to serve as Commissioner for Water Resources but was later redeployed to the Ministry of Finance in a cabinet reshuffle by Governor Ramalan Yero. He contested the House of Representatives seat and won to represent Jaba/Zango Federal Constituency in 2015. Katung won his primary for a second period at the House of Representatives but relinquished to become the running mate to the PDP gubernatorial aspirant in Kaduna State in the 2019 election, Hon. Isa Ashiru. Ahead of the 2023 polls, in a fierce primary contest among the big political elephants of the zone in the PDP, SMK coasted home to victory to emerge as Senator.

As he turns 63 today, he has given his best in broadening and boosting opportunities for his people. However, the lawmaker knows there is more he must give to the people. Beyond palliatives, he has identified skills acquisition programmes as crucial in securing the future. SMK has been involved in granting scholarships to indigent students and providing job placements for the unemployed. More than anything, he has come to realise that pulling his constituency out of the pit of economic doldrums and political falling-out can only be possible through internal and external collaborations through bridge building and taking advantage of what best the zone can produce for comparative advantage.

Less than one year after his election, SMK has realised the need to focus more on our youths that have been turned into metaphors for hopelessness and despair. If our youths are our future, then, no stone must be left unturned to open a new horizon for them to realise their dreams. There must be a gradual process of empowering the youth. That SMK has been engaged in collaborating with international groups for training and opportunities, both at local and international frontiers, is a welcome development. Democratic leadership is premised on constant interactions with electorates in order to feel their pulse. Adequate attention should be focused on re-evaluation and review of issues critical to development and roles of people in understanding the dialectics and dynamics of democracy.

One indisputable attribute of SMK is his disposition to assist others achieve their goals. Unlike many politicians who are primarily driven by material acquisition and see others as mortal threats, SMK @63 remains a quintessential politician and a legal professional in love with the progress of the overall. He does not mask his greed on the platform of Southern Kaduna struggle, but has walked and continues to walk his talk in advancing his form of politics of bridge-building for overall development.

Equipped with relevant academic qualifications and performance of his professional profile, SMK does not need politics, but politics needs him to advance the cause of his people trapped in the pit of economic bondage and self-inflicted robes of alienation. The present Senator for Kaduna South remains a potent force in changing narratives and promoting a coalition of rainbow politics where people are encouraged to belong to different parties devoid of animosity.

Finally, SMK has continued to see politics as anchored on interest-based and not enmity. As a lawmaker elected on the platform of PDP, he has seen the need to not only collaborate with both Governor Uba Sani and the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led administration to get what he belongs to his people, he has avoided the pedestrian mentality of seeing politics along party lines and personality. In the new dawn marking the 63rd birthday of SMK, here is wishing him and his beautiful wife, Lady Abigail, who is the 130th Lord Mayor of Leeds, their children and millions of SMK’s supporters a blessed and happy birthday celebration! May the Almighty God grant Senator Katung abundant good health for greater services to humanity.