Saint Nasir el-Rufai

by Oluwole Olabanji

Four years after Mallam el-Rufai left his position as the Minister of the FCT, none of the subsequent Ministers have been able to hold a candle to his achievements in that office. While many people may justifiably quarrel with some of his methods and actions, there is near complete unanimity about the high quality of leadership he gave the city. In the eyes of many, he is an icon; unfortunately recent events are threatening to remove me from that group.

Since being ‘hounded’ into exile at the beginning of the Yaradua presidency, Mallam el-Rufai has stood on opposing sides of several opinions in such quick succession that one begins to wonder where he really stands. The image he cuts is of a cowboy tossed hither and thither by a wild horse as he tries desperately to ride the topsy-turvy waves of Nigerian politics. He leaves me with the acute sense that he has yet to convince himself of his ideological stand but merely takes a contingency approach to responding to issues even as he seeks to secure for himself a pivotal place in the political system.

That is why for example he can dash off to Washington to proclaim the just concluded elections massively rigged when he was completely complicit in the scandalous fiascos called elections that we had in 2003 and 2007. I’d like to be charitable and surmise that he is seeing things differently now but for msny Nigerians, it’s simply sour grapes.

Perhaps we can concede that 2003, 2007 are sufficiently far away to allow that Mallam el-Rufai is indeed seeing things differently now. But what shall we say of the fact that he eruditely told Nigerians why Gen. Buhari remains unelectable and should indeed not be elected as recently as last year. What changed significantly in the General, and when, to justify Mallam el-Rufai’s volte face?

Oh! He of course could have had an aha moment when he realized as he so often tells us how incompetent Mr Jonathan’s administration is. But wouldn’t that reveal how terrible a judge of character Mallam el-Rufai is, seeing as he had at the beginning of Yaradua/Jonathan’s administration self-congratulatorily regaled us with the inner workings of how they picked the team. If he was such a bad judge of character then, who is to say that his self righteous new mantra of “sai Buhari” is any less a bad call?

Really, it is Mallam’s increasingly acute air of self righteousness that concerns me; this every-one-else-but-me-is-wrong tinge to his many vituperations. History, his principal’s in particular has shown us that that attitude breeds a certain kind of particularly offensive impunity that plays out in things like promulgating retroactive laws. Many will draw a worrying parallel and argue that such impunity characterized Mallam’s period as minister in the FCT. Effective as it might be in achieving results, it must be said that when a man descends from the moral high ground to pursue an end, however good, his achievement of it leaves a certain sour taste in the mouth of everyone except and unfortunately, himself.

I would be naïve to argue that PDP would have made no attempt to criminally influence the outcome of the presidential election. I might suggest that they probably even succeeded and I hope the courts will show this to be so, if it is indeed so. However, I am appalled by the complete refusal of people like Mallam to even acknowledge talk less of condemn the widespread, criminal efforts to rig the elections by CPC. I am referring here to well-reported cases of underage voting in CPC strongholds and the more insidious acts of forcing of Corps Members at gun and machete point to thumb print ballots for CPC subsequent to which several of the female members were sexually molested by the CPC goons. Granted that the other man may indeed have a log in his eyes, but how will it reduce Mallam if he at least admits that there is a tiny speck in his own eyes? In my eyes, a man increases in stature (no pun intended) when he can admit his own faults.

Perhaps even more worrying is the attempts by Mallam to play the blame game with the issue of violence visited on Nigerians arguably by CPC supporters in the north. Following several calls on him and his principal to speak out against the violence, he offered some lame philosophical talking points while reminding us that “Mr Goodluck ‘Incompetent’ Jonathan” is responsible for security. The most charitable thing I can muster in response is that, he is simply being mischievous – and that, surprisingly disingenuously.

Does he mean to insult us by saying that he is unaware that traditional rulers all over the country have always played the role of calming their people in times of crisis? Do they always retort that the president should come and persuade every club wielding deviant to re-channel his anger? Does the election result – however faulty not demonstrate to him that General Buhari has the ears of at least 12 million people? Did Daily Trust’s sensational partitioning of Nigeria into Buhari’s north and Goodluck’s south not indicate to him that most of those supporters are in the north? Does he in all honesty think there is something wrong with asking Buhari to calm his supporters who were clearly acting in his name?

I stop short of saying they were acting in his behalf merely for technical expediency. The sad reality is that, the CPC campaign took on a certain unstated do-or-die posture. It is one thing to not call for violence; it is another to maintain a positive or even indifferent disposition to it. If General Buhari had conducted his campaign with the level of statesmanship that one would ordinarily wish we could take for granted, he should have spoken up for instance when Mr President was repeatedly stoned by his supporters as he campaigned from one city to the other.  I have also reliably gathered that the General made quite inciting statements on his campaign trail but for the sake of not having independently verified same, I will refrain from publishing the very disturbing statement credited to him.

Suffice to say however, that statements like the one made by Mallam el-Rufai on Twitter on 12th April is certainly inappropriate given the charged political climate. I can authoritatively confirm that he used that clichéd quote by people who scarcely merit its use about those who make peaceful change impossible making violent change inevitable. If that statement is not loaded, Mallam should please tell me what is.

Without doubt and more than ever before, Nigeria needs leaders with vision if it is to survive the assaults on our corporate existence by such things as the unnecessary accentuation of our differences by people and institutions like Daily Trust. One had always hoped that someone like Mallam el-Rufai with is demonstrable vision would also gain the ideological insight and democratic ethos that will make him an important force for good in this nation. Although that hope is now beset by many doubts one holds it still.

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