I am not a fan of Nasiru El-Rufai, the diminutive helmsman of Kaduna state. But I have been following the activities of the self-styled Accidental Civil Servant especially since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999. The pocket-size grenade became well known or notorious when he was appointed as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the administration of Chief OlusegunObasanjo because of his aversion to illegal structures, to the extent that his surname, El-Rufai, became synonymous with demolition.
As a minister, he wielded the big stick wherever illegal structures existed or reared their ugly heads either in the Abuja City Centre or satellite towns. El-Rufai spared no one. In fact, the fear of El-Rufai was the beginning of wisdom. Even mighty men feared him because, unlike God, he showed no mercy. When it was drummed into his demolition head that his actions could cost him his life, he dismissed the warning with a wave of the hand. He weakened those who might be after his life by declaring that at his age, he feared no death because longevity was not known to his family lineage. And that he was even doing overtime at that time!
One high profile transporter (the owner of Owodunni Motors) who fled Jos to Abuja along with his fleet of buses in the wake of the 2001 upheaval in Jos fell victim of El-Rufai’s ‘Operation No Mercy’. One day, a demolition squad on the prowl located his mansion somewhere in the City Centre and marked it down for destruction.
A few months after the mansion was identified for elimination,an ugly-looking bulldozer emerged in front of the beautiful edificeaccompanied by Mopol men in what looked like an encounter between the beauty and the beast. It was learnt that the transporter had run from pillar to post to save his house and was hoping that everything would be okay until the fateful day. He was alerted by neighbours immediately the infernal machine arrived at the scene.
The drama looked like a nightmare which would soon go away until the bulldozer let out an earth-shaking roar and buried its fearful teeth in the high-rising fence. If his friends had not restrained him, the transporter would have thrown himself between the destroyer and his mansion.
High blood pressure is a cross most transporters must carry. As the bulldozer thundered and thundered, the transporter’sheart gathered speed. He started perspiring and feeling dizzy. His neighbours promptly ferried him to the hospital. To shorten a long story, the demolition became the death of him, dying of cardiac arrest.
Recently, the controversial El-Rufai stirred the hornet’s nest when he gave teeth to the law banning noise pollution from worship centresamong other dos and dontsacross the state. About two or so years ago, the Kaduna state Government sent a Bill on Religious Preaching to the state House of Assembly. The bill’s provisions sought to curb religious extremism and hate speech. However, the legislation was perceived by the targets as an attempt to abridge religious freedoms, and it generated widespread outrage. Although the provisions of the bill cut across all religious divides especially those that trade in noise-making like the new generation churches, Christian clerics and their followers rushed to label El-Rufai as the anti-Christ the world has been waiting for at this end time. How would anyone label El-Rufai(of all people) as an anti-Christ? Is it because he is a short man?
In the actual fact, the state government had sent the executive bill to the House “For A Law To Substitute The Kaduna State Religious Preaching Law, 1984”. The legislation requires a preacher in Kaduna state to obtain preaching permit. It bans residents from playing evangelical tapes and CDs in public places and allows loudspeakers to be used only inside churches and mosques within the stipulated decibel but not beyond 8.00pm.According to the law, violators risk a fine of N200,000.
This law was not a new law. It had existed since 1984, with amendments in 1987 and 1996. The military governments which created the law were responding to outbreaks of religious violence such as Maitatsine in 1983 and the Kafanchanupheaval of 1987.
During the regime of Barr. RajiFashola as governor of Lagos state, his special adviser on religious matters, Rev. Sam Ogedengbe, had a huge problem of tackling noise pollution in the state. Among the most troublesome sources of noise pollution are worship centres. Woe betide you if you live close to a (Pentecostal) church or a mosque. Asidefrom the early morning calls for prayers spewing from loudspeakers mounted on top of mosque buildings, beginning from 4.30, earth-shaking noise imploding from virtually all new generation churches can set your teeth on edge all night long… from Sunday throughout the week to the next Sunday. Then, there are the itinerant evangelists who hit the streets as early as 4 a.m., armed to the mouth with speaking trumpets. And because the people’s sleep has been rudely interrupted, the messages are usually received with hisses. The level of noise emanating from worship centres in Lagos is currently pegged at 55 decibel.
And so, when Barr. BabatundeRajiFashola completed his second term in 2015 and was being considered for a ministerial appointment, I wished hewould be made the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, so that he could replicate the policy on noise pollution here. But that did not happen. Instead, the ex-action governor was sent to confront what has now become a hydra-headed monster named Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
Four years down the road, it has been proven that Fashola does not possess the attributes of the legendary ‘Sango’to confront the most fearful of the trio, power, let alone subdue it so that there can be uninterrupted electricity supply as we were made to believe at the onset of this administration!
One perennial issue I have always had with Nigerian worship centres is their noisy pastime. Beginning from Alheri along Zaria Road in Jos up to JentaAdamu, renamed New Jerusalem after the 2001 religious mayhem, I always lost my sleep and peace to the cacophonies emitted from either a nearby church(es) or mosque(s). When I relocated to Abuja about a decade ago, I soon found out that the estate where I reside in Kubwa had been commandeered by a mosque and a church. There are many more neighbourhood churches that holdvigils virtually every night with a mission to cause the fall and death of real and imaginary enemies. Sciamachy has become the favourite pastime of many Nigerian Pentecostals!
Curiously, nature has ordained human beings to be noisy. Imagine a world where everyone is dumb. In fact, the world has no place for the dumb which is the main reason why a child that refuses to utter any form of noise on delivery is spanked all over the place and turned upside down until he/she lets out a noise or even a whimper. Any sound would just be okay. And as we grow older, the level of noise-making increases correspondingly. Is it not an irony these days that we complain about noise here, noise there and noise everywhere when you and I were expected to scream our lungs out on taking a dive into this (noisy) world?
Noise-making destinations are such places like worship centres, relaxation spots, crusade grounds, stadia, motor parks, markets, party venues (for wedding, naming and burial ceremonies), music shops andzaoza room! Even the highways are not spared.The cacophonies from the motorists blaring their horns in heavy traffic (some do so to exchange pleasantries) can also driveone insane at times.
It is no longer debatable that there are more churches and mosques in Nigeria than beer halls. Such places like plazas, hotels where sins abound, schools, warehouses, stadiums, etc., are used as churches, yet iniquity abounds.
El-Rufai should not back down. Rather, other governors should emulate him. This is because sleep experts have warned that those who are constantly cheated of their needed snooze are liable to go bananas.
Have a noiseless weekend.