It is always regrettable to observe, over and over again, the shameful phenomenon revealing that Nigeria is perhaps the only country where those who typify societal and systemic ills are the very same ones who are so ubiquitous, that they are seen here and there, shouting in cacophonous decibels in condemning the very ills and insidious oddities they embody.
Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has always been in the news, at least for the past 20 years of Nigeria’s political history. When he was not reported as designing ultimately unworkable policies as the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, he was in the news for audacious overreach and abuse of powers as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, often times taking the law into his hands in the name of re-positioning the FCT.
He has also constantly been in the news for what has now become his modus operandi: riding on the back of higher-ups in the political hierarchy with ingratiating faux humility, only to subsequently turn on the same patrons with savage capriciousness when political expediencies and his selfish ambitions so dictated.
In the last few years, all Nigerians have watched and read with appalling aghast as the diminutive Governor of Kaduna State exacerbated the ethnic tensions in that state and emasculated the political and social structures that have long helped to keep the peace in the historic state.
But in recent weeks, he has been in the news, not in respect of his now infamous mis-governance of Kaduna state or his documented historic crass opportunism, but in respect of his laughable and desperate attempts to dress others in the toga which he desperately wants to shed: the toga of a capricious political opportunist, an unconscionable public servant and an over ambitious rabble rouser masquerading as a political disrupt-or.
Indeed, the trajectory of Mallam El-Rufai’s political odyssey is littered and cluttered with celebrated and shameless instances of personal betrayals and caustic castigation of former leaders, associates and patrons. From his treatment of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to former President Obasanjo, and from former President Yar’Adua to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, we see in Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, a morally flawed man inflicting the painful consequences of his malicious, mischievous, selfish and ill-informed actions and decisions on all and sundry.
Always parochial, lacking statesmanship and only feebly able to disguise his violent tendencies, Mallam El-Rufai wrote in a yet undeleted tweet on July 15, 2012 as follows: “We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes.”
That statement partially lifted the veil on the Governor’s inability to rise above the fray as a leader of a multi-ethnic, multi religious society. And if anyone was in doubt on this, Mallam El-Rufai’s record of governance in Kaduna State has clearly shown him as an uncouth, uncaring and selfish demagogue who cares for only his own interests.
No thanks to Mallam El-Rufai, the peace in Kaduna State is akin to the peace of the graveyard. He has ridden roughshod over legitimate opposition, he has silenced constructive critics, he has decimated the ranks of the astute and promising politicians in the APC, he has set ethnic groups one against another, he has elevated disdain for the southern Kaduna Christians to official state policy and, not surprisingly, his term in office has witnessed such violence, unrest and bloodshed that the governor has become a laughing stock on social media over his infantile attempts to deny, not the occurrence of violent and bloody clashes and unrest, but the reported number of causalities therefrom, as if that made things any more bearable.
As Governor of Kaduna State, he has escalated the tensions in Southern Kaduna, imposing ill-conceived and improperly managed curfews that allowed for wanton assault and destruction of lives and property; he has colluded with security agencies to arrest and detain civil society leaders articulating the grievances of the communities; it took judicial intervention for him to re-open the institutions of higher learning in Southern Kaduna; he brazenly dismantled the security architecture of the local governments in the state by sacking hundreds of district heads and village chiefs; his so-called education reform led to the termination of the careers of thousands of teachers under questionable circumstances; he used degrading and colorful language to describe peaceful female protesters; he abused state powers to justify his vengeful destruction of the private properties of political opponents, and stoked the wild fires of religious strife when he backed a bill that attempted to curtail the freedom of worship.
What is more, the sense and actuality of insecurity that pervades the state is alarming. There are several reports that the Abuja-Kaduna road is now practically owned and operated by robbers and kidnappers so much so that only the heavily guarded convoy of the governor can safely ply the road.
This is why, given his shambolic record in office and history of abusing powers, Mallam El-Rufai’s audacity to cast the affairs of the only state in Nigeria that has witnessed sustained and programmed development in the last twenty years as being under the grip of a godfather is laughable and symptomatic of the major ill that afflict us as a nation: granting respectability to political players with a clear history of deception, opportunism and maladministration.
The governor’s deception, malice and mischief were on full display last week when, in joint choreograph with another notorious political opportunist, Dr. Muiz Banire, SAN, Governor El-Rufai told the idle tale of how he defeated three or four godfathers in Kaduna State and urged Lagosians to do the same. First, there is no truth whatsoever in any of the propositions in the governor’s reported statement. He won in 2015 because he falsely cast himself as a unifying influence and breath of fresh air in Kaduna State and he won re-election in 2019 riding on the popularity of President Buhari in the north.
And, as to whether there is a godfather holding Lagos State hostage, the question is: who is this godfather? There have been many influential and widely respected figures in Lagos and South West politics. From Chief Obafemi Awolowo to Alhaji Lateef Jakande and now Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, but none of them would be labelled a godfather in the pejorative sense in which Mallam El-Rufai employed that name tag.
Although he has recently denied that he was referring to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in his comments, the staged comments alongside Dr. Muiz Banire, who is throwing tantrums over his non-selection by the party as gubernatorial candidate despite having had the rare priviledge of serving as a commissioner for 12 years, gave away the game: both actors – duplicitous, capricious, selfish, conniving and harbouring vaulting ambitious – were aiming at the most influential politician and leader in the recent history of Lagos, the South West and Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
But indeed, only the most mischievous and maliciously motivated political actor would cast the Asiwaju as a godfather in the pejorative sense. The Asiwaju builds bridges while the likes of Mallam El-Rufai burns them. The Asiwaju lifts up men of competence, while the likes of Mallam El-Rufai are threatened by them.
The Asiwaju conceives and institutes long-term development programmes, the likes of Mallam El-Rufai revels in ad-hoc and knee-jerk policy interventions. Repeatedly, the Asiwaju relegates his personal ambitions for the greater good, the likes of Mallam El-Rufai and his co-traveler, Dr. Banire, would bring down the roof if they could not have their way.
The Asiwaju boldly confronts the forces of parochial and regressive politics, going into battle with them, time and time again, while the likes of Mallam El-Rufai take issues over personalities and individual political ambitions. The Asiwaju seeks to elevate the quality of governance and the political discourse, while the likes of Mallam El-Rufai finds some warped delight in pedestrian political fights.
Indeed, the report of what Governor El-Rufai said last week raised eye brows, not because he spoke an uncomfortable truth, but because he manipulated the truth, turned it on its head, mislabeled it and dared to cast himself as a respectable voice of noble courage rather than the opportunistic tin godfather of Kaduna State politics seeking national relevance. The people of Kaduna State are reeling under the depressing and oppressive weight of the governor’s maladministration and toxic malice towards people outside of his ilk, but the Governor is foraying outside of his troubled and neglected domain, seeking to fight a man who, as always, is fighting for the people of Nigeria and the advancement of our common wealth.
This man, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, indeed epitomizes the sum of all the maladies that afflict our nation: insidious stewards of the public trust who, instead of seeking the welfare and advancement of their people and instead of building bridges in our multi-ethnic, multi-religious political dynamics, engage in the unproductive politics of personal destruction and self-advancement, while leaving festering discontent, consequential neglected duties and squandered opportunities in their trail.