2023 elections: The vindication of El-Rufai

Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai

“Have patience awhile; slanders are not long-lives. Truth is the child of time, erelong she shall appear to vindicate thee”. – Immanuel Kant, German philosopher.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state, in an earthshaking interview with the Vanguard newspaper on February 24, 2020, had unequivocally thrown his considerable weight behind a southern presidency, after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari. His words: ”It would be unjustified for the North to seek to retain the presidency after President Muhammadu Buhari might have completed his eight years”. When El-Rufai made this farsighted statement, it seemed like he was crying wolf, where there was none.

Predictably, but regrettably the Vanguard interview didn’t win El-Rufai any friend. Thankfully, El-Rufai, expected no garland, not because he went against the unreasonable and unconscionable position of some northerners, who before the commencement of Buhari’s second term, had launched the campaign for the retention of the presidency in the region, because it was a matter of conviction.

The major plank of their argument, is that the death of late President Umaru Yar’Adua shortchanged the north, in the turn by turn rotation of power, that lays little or no premium on performance.

Goodluck Jonathan, Yar’Adua’s vice, had gone on to complete the tenure of Umaru Yar’Adua and got re-elected in his own right for another four year term, before his resounding defeat in 2015, in the hands of Buhari.

For daring to weigh in favour of a southern president, some of his colleagues are believed to have been behind several anti El-Rufai campaign, the reward for daring to torpedo their plot. In reaction, they also embarked on a subterranean move to draft former President Jonathan into the 2023 presidential race, because it offered them another short cut to power.

Meanwhile, in the South, the narrative driven by some lazy analysts was that El-Rufai was strategically positioning to benefit, in the event the south is unable to present an acceptable candidate.

Clearly, El-Rufai was compelled to speak up for these main reasons; the state of the country, the long term impact on the integrity of the North, if it reneges on power shift to the South. The other being, El-Rufai’s sense of justice, which abhors injustice.

El-Rufai might have also been scandalised, on how quickly some northerners seem to have forgotten the challenges the region faced from the Ibrahim Babangida annulment of the 1983 presidential election, believed to have been won by late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, which truly speaking, it’s yet to fully recover from.

The North bore the brunt of the annulment,for the action of Babangida against Abiola, his friend.

But in the event they had forgotten, El-Rufai out of a sense of duty deemed it necessary to remind them of the proud heritage of the North, which is that its word is its bond: ”I want to say that those of us from Northern Nigeria honour agreements. We do not violate unwritten political agreements and I will be the last person to lead in violating that agreement”.

Without doubt, the North has solid voting power, but it has always needed allies to win elections at the center. A fact that seems lost on some political neophytes, interested only in acquiring power gor its flamboyance. Once Aminu Tambuwal was elected governor of Sokoto state in 2015, he kick-started his presidential campaign. In what is a ringing indictment of Tambuwal Sokoto state is one of the two states that couldn’t present its final year students for the ongoing West African Examination Council (WAEC) examination. The other being Zamfara state, which has remained a bread basket case.

Despite Buhari’s popularity and solid 12 million voters, he consistently failed in his previous presidential bids until El-Rufai forced Buhari and Bola Tinubu to merge their parties into the formidable All Progressives Congress (APC), that eventually defeated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by Goodluck Jonathan, a man they successfully tagged as clueless.

In 1979, the South-south states of Rivers, Cross River had helped President Shehu Shagari to power. In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo, despite being rejected by the South-west, won the election with support from the other sections of the country.

In politics, I Owe You (I. O. U) is a normal political debt(s) from previous support, and it seriously counts. It’s a wash my back, I wash your back life, and people hardly forget breaches.

If the APC makes the strategic blunder of presenting a northern presidential candidate, the party will most certainly disintegrate overnight. The North just can’t afford to squander its tremendous goodwill on the altar of a pot of porridge, considering the political consequences. The Yoruba are unlike the Ibos, who lack the capacity to make the PDP pay a heavy price for treating it with utter contempt, despite its solid support for the party since 1999. Until 2015, the South-west had never aligned politically with the North. If the North retains the presidency, hardline Yoruba leaders will feel justified in their anti-North stance.

It would have been a miracle if these political neophytes, the key drivers of the Jonathan project – Buni, Abubakar Malami, Bagudu and Badaru- understood the fundamental issues involved in their unholy quest for power. For instance, how can the APC (what is left of it, since the South-west would have moved to another party) market Goodluck Jonathan, that it convinced Nigerians, was a drunk and clueless? Worse still, is that Jonathan cannot deliver the South-south to APC. Jonathan, in fact, had lost whatever was left of his reputation, since he became identified with the APC.

The times are equally perilous. Nigeria, without doubt, is at a precipice and the shenanigan of some politicians hasn’t helped the deeply unstable country.

El-Rufai is opposed to zoning because of the drawbacks, but to the extent that it reasonably ensures an orderly transition and fairness, he has consistently thrown his full weight behind it. During the visit of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of the legion of presidential hopefuls, he once again demonstrated his commitment to power shift.

Those who believed El-Rufai is a power monger, and has for ever been plotting to become the president (which by the way, he is eminently qualified for), must have been greatly disappointed that he didn’t buy the presidential form. He has further confounded his traducers by what appears to be political realignment with Tinubu, who is not his enemy.

El-Rufai has been a victim of a campaign of calumny, outright lies, and slander, but has refused to be defined by his traducers. His convictions have continued to drive his politics, extremely patient and open to dialogue, at the end of the day, the least of his worry is being right in the eyes of others, who most times are not ready to stand up for any principle.

History, like they say, will always vindicate the just. Indeed, El-Rufai has already been vindicated on several other issues, like the religious preaching bill, the APC crisis, etc. When he embarked on “Operation APC national convention must hold”, he was called unprintable names. Undeterred, he single handedly rescued the party from the hands of the charlatans holding it hostage. Never mind that his traducers only grudgingly acknowledge his role. It’s to El-Rufai’s credit that he refused to be distracted, until the convention was delivered.

Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai can never be accused of keeping quiet when the country needed him to speak up. By standing firm, he has greatly contributed to the stability of a bitterly polarised country.

Ado writes from Kaduna, Kaduna state.

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