“In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics, many times” - Winston Churchill
The All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 orchestrated the unimaginable, the resounding defeat of an incumbent government, the first of such feat in Africa, where the defeat of a party in power is a taboo. But the APC victory had come at a great cost, to the party and some individuals, since that electoral equivalent of a civilian coup. Literally, the APC and the likes of Nasir El-Rufai, the architect of the merger of the legacy parties and of the historic defeat of Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent president, who murdered sleep by his abysmal performance and refusal to keep his promise to spend only one term, in addition to the uncompleted tenure of late Umaru Musa Yar’adua.
It’s not by accident that the highest number of vicious critics of El-Rufai in the media, especially in the new media, are from South-east, with the South-south and South-west following closely. El-Rufai’s crime is working vigorously for the defeat of Jonathan, the adopted political son of the highly politically unorganised South-east, which had seen in Jonathan a strategic path to the illusive presidency. The South-east and the South-south have not forgiven El-Rufai for his role in Jonathan’s defeat, which wouldn’t have been accomplished, if he hadn’t convinced Muhammadu Buhari to come out of retirement. And just as the attacks from the South-south, South-east are basically because of his role in the defeat of Jonathan so are the persistent attacks from some quarters of the South-west have to do with permutations for the 2023 presidential elections. Some South-westerners believe that El-Rufai will run in 2023, in spite of his publicly stated support for power shift to the South. El-Rufai has never hidden his opposition to the ambition of Bola Tinubu, the ultimate godfather, who nurses a legitimate ambition to succeed Buhari, he has however continued to throw his weight behind power shift.
The other source of El-Rufai’s “problems”, blown out of proportion by his powerful opponents, is from his time as Director - General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Both places are now shadows of themselves, as the present occupants, either because they lack El-Rufai’s commitment or seeing the attacks against him, have chosen to be “routine”, so as not to step on powerful toes, that will fight them like they are fighting El-Rufai. To date, many of these powerful forces continue to hold El-Rufai solely responsible for their “failure” to acquire choice companies, which the Olusegun Obasanjo government was compelled by gross mismanagement to privatize.
If El-Rufai stopped a handful of portfolio businessmen, clearly lacking in financial and management capacity from buying some of these privatized enterprises,he was to step on more powerful forces - the Ahmadu Alis, the then powerful national chairman of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Pius Anyims, a one time senate president, both of whom had in the typical Nigerian “bigmanism” violated the master plan of Abuja and had their buildings demolished. But Ali and Anyim represent a minute number of those who lost their properties to the restoration of the Abuja master plan that have vowed never to allow him any peace, the price for doing what is right.
For the uninformed, the impression which these powerful forces have strived to create about El- Rufai, which is vigorously being pushed by a section of the media loyal to them, range from the outrageous to the outlandish. For many evangelical Christians, El-Rufai is a religious bigot, the anti-Christ personified, a religious fanatic, which those who know him can attest he is not. The choice of Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, a Muslim, as his deputy following the decision of Arc. Bala Bantex to embark on a rescue mission of the Southern Kaduna, which had confounded many by electing Danjuma La’ah, who at best should have been a councilor as its senator, rather than erase that impression, has sustained it. In Hadiza, El-Rufai saw competence, a team player, and a role model for the girl-child in a region where rather than being educated, would be married off.
The propaganda by the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), an unofficial wing of the PDP, and its narrative of the crisis as land grab and genocide, resonated with most average southerners, especially the Igbo, who have apparently in the meantime “suspended” their problems with the northern minorities, who constituted the bulk of the military that defeated them during the civil war.
But many of El-Rufai’s genuine actions continue to put lie to the many blatant falsehoods planted in the media by forces scared of his capacity. For instance, it was only on the death of SP Ibrahim Danladi his late Aide-de-Camp (ADC) and Chief Security Officer, from 2003 to 2018, that people knew he was a Christian from Kebbi state. There are many other Christians holding key positions in his administration, including the deputy chief of staff, Peter, who has been his aide for more than 30 years.
The big lie by SOKAPU about the nature of the crisis in Southern Kaduna was only punctured by the peace deal by the various communities of the Atyab Chiefdom of Zangon Kataff local government area. That deal justified and vindicated the position of El-Rufai that “beyond boots on the ground and a phalanx of security agents, the ultimate guarantee of peaceful coexistence is the willingness of individuals and our communities to live in peace”. The Atyab peace deal addressed in a fundamental manner the vexatious issue of settlers/indigenes dichotomy and the constitutional rights of any Nigerian to reside wherever he/she so desires. To date, SOKAPU has not forgiven the Atyabs for debunking its claims of genocide and land grab.
Part of the historic communique reads “we appreciate the fact that all Nigerians have the constitutional or fundamental right to move and reside anywhere in Nigeria, including Atyap Chiefdom, without any fear, molestation or harassment from anybody or any source whatsoever”. It “condemned the killings and destruction that have occurred and resolved to forgive each other, help security agencies with information to arrest and prosecute criminal elements”. So far, so good, as the reconciliation effort is yielding the desired result. For instance, the various communities are no longer resorting to retaliatory attacks, one of the reasons crisis always escalated, nor mount roadblocks to attack innocent commuters whenever crisis erupts.
In the last few days, to videos of El-Rufai’s 2014 interview on the abduction of the Chibbok girls were “unearthed” with the motive of portraying him as unprincipled and ostensibly to force him into abandoning his vehement opposition on negotiations and payment of ransom to secure the release of the remaining kidnapped students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization and of the Greenfield University by bandits. Of course, the interest of those behind it is not any pubic good or an indication of their regard for the lives of these innocent students, who unfortunately have become pawns in the unending demonization of El-Rufai.
For the hosanna crowd, it’s important they understand that Chibbok, Afaka and Greenfield incidents are totally different, not only in time, but in the ideology driving them. First, it must be stressed that the Kaduna state government was not in denial about the unfortunate incidents, while in the Chibbok case, it took the Jonathan administration more than three weeks to acknowledge that it even happened. Part of the reason the opposition took on the added responsibility of having to force it into admitting that the kidnap happened and in taking action, which wasn’t an easy task. The other major difference was that while in 2014 abduction was more of a political weapon by the Boko Haram sect, to achieve its very narrow objectives, those behind the kidnap of the Afaka, Greenfield students and other innocent citizens are criminals, part of a multi billion naira industry that has grown in leaps and bounds, which definitely calls for a different strategy. So while in 2014, negotiations were okay, in 2021 the strategy is the complete extermination of the bandits, the reason El-Rufai since 2017 consistently called on the federal government to designate them terrorists, which will enable the security forces go after them.
Clearly, if the interest of the apologists is not the continued demonization of El-Rufai, they ought to have seen the futility of negotiations and the payment of ransom, going by the sad experience of Katsina and Zamfara state governments. Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina state, which has worse security challenges than Kaduna state, was at a point the chief advocate of negotiations and payment of ransom. In 2017 and 2019, Masari signed peace deals with bandits and an amnesty in return for a ceasefire, which costed him over N300 million, in arms repurchase. In fact, two notorious bandits - Sale Turwa and Sani Maidaji - were hosted at the government house, as part of the policy of appeasement. The two options severely burnt Masari’s fingers and he was forced to change his stand based on the stark reality.
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state has not fared any better than Masari. So far, the state has paid over N900 million in ransom, but the return on its investment on appeasement is the over 2,619 persons killed, 1,190 kidnapped and the over 100,000 internally displaced persons. Matawelle has since like Masari moved away from the policy of appeasement to full scale battle.
So why must El-Rufai travel a road that clearly leads to nowhere. Is it to satisfy the cult like mob, which the ultimate test of a genuine hater of El-Rufai is in the depth of abuses and insults targeted at him? It should be obvious to the hossana crowd that El-Rufai is not capricious, someone who changes his mind without any good reason, or inexorable, someone who is hardheaded, who can’t be convinced to change his mind, no matter what. El-Rufai, they ought to know, is constantly comparing notes with his colleagues in addition to the security report available to him, which informs his reaction. And when in doubt he had met with stakeholders, who equally provided him with further options. El-Rufai can’t be accused of lacking in initiatives in addressing the security challenges, considering his untiring efforts in getting the governors of the North-west and Niger state to act, or can be accused of lacking in principles. He didn’t establish the ministry of Internal Security and Home Affairs for the fun of it, rather he did because he saw that the challenges weren’t going to go away.
By 2023 El-Rufai’s time in office will, like at the BPE and FCT, be one of great admiration for his focus, far-sightedness, the willingness to do the right thing, to administer painful doses when necessary, to take unpopular decisions and to provide leadership, the reason he was elected by the Kaduna state people. Obviously, those who delight in describing him as controversial, prefer weaklings to a man of certitude in convictions.
Like Churchill said, “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is”.