If you ever wondered why Nigeria is such an almighty mess, you need to look no further than the characters (or lack of) in the ruling elite. Nobody personifies Nigeria’s messed up state more than the nasty piece of work that moonlights as governor of Kaduna State – Nasir El-Rufai.
Many Nigerians are painfully aware of the deaths and destruction visited on the country by Fulani herdsmen, including people from southern Kaduna in El-Rufai’s own state. According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, over 800 people were massacred by the herdsmen in southern Kaduna villages in just a few weeks earlier this year. Many from that part of the state claim that the death toll is in the thousands and accused El-Rufai (who is Fulani) of being biased in favour of the herdsmen.
The governor has form as a Fulani supremacist. He tweeted in July 2012 before he became a governor:
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.
— Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (@elrufai) July 15, 2012
He would later admit on national TV that he was happy to pay Fulani herdsmen “not to kill our people” rather than arrest them.
This is a man who prefers to arrest those he accuses of making “hate speeches” than apprehend the people that actually massacred hundreds.
And in case you thought El-Rufai couldn’t plumb further depths of hypocrisy, the diminutive governor jumped on his high horse on national TV this week to dismiss politicians calling for “restructuring” the country as “opportunists” and “irresponsible”. This was exactly what the opportunistic El-Rufai did when in opposition he called for “restructuring” and the issue of “true federalism” to be addressed before Nigeria could move forward.
You really have to wonder about someone like El-Rufai. His capacity to hold a view today that is in stark contrast to what he said in the past is shocking, and he apparently doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest that his words would come back to haunt him. While in opposition in 2014, El-Rufai wrote on Facebook, after soldiers under then president Goodluck Jonathan killed 31 Shia Muslims in Zaria, that the “genocidal Jonathanian army kills once again”. As governor of Kaduna State, he has banned the Shi’ite Islamic Movement in Nigeria, after soldiers massacred thousands of Shias in Zaria in December 2015 and their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky has been detained since then. When he was running for governor El-Rufai courted Zakzaky, who reportedly played an influential role in El-Rufai’s All Progressives Congress (APC) sweeping up votes in the state during the 2015 (s)election. The candidate who bowed to Zakzaky in 2014 has now declared the Shia leader an “enemy of the state”.
El-Rufai’s attitude towards Zakzaky is reversed with President Muhammadu Buhari, who went from being ridiculed by El-Rufai to being presented as the answer to Nigeria’s problems. In April this year El-Rufai claimed he was a Buhari “disciple”. He is reportedly one of the president’s closest advisers. The same man said in 2010, referring to Buhari, who was about to run for the presidency in 2011: “Obama is 48 and Cameron is 43 for God’s sake. So, why are we recycling leaders that ruled this country very well or very badly 25 years ago? He didn’t stop there: “I was 25 years old when Buhari and Babangida were Heads of State and I am now 50 and they still want to be Head of State. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand that at all and I call on the young people of Nigeria to take their future into their hands and ensure that in the next election, they vote for a new generation of leaders.”
Buhari’s spokesman hit back at El-Rufai with: “Based on his alleged corrupt background and shoddy performance as FCT [Federal Capital Territory] Minister just a few years ago, [El-Rufai] lacks the moral authority to advise Nigerians on who stands the chance of providing them with good things of life, as their President in 2011″.
El-Rufai, through his spokesman fired back: “Mallam El-Rufai wishes to remind General Buhari that he has remained perpetually unelectable because his record as military head of state, and afterwards, is a warning that many Nigerians have wisely heeded. His insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity and his parochial focus are already well-known. In 1984, Buhari allowed 53 suitcases belonging to his ADC’s father to enter Nigeria unchecked at a time the country was exchanging old currency for new. Against all canons of legal decency, he used retroactive laws to execute three young men for drug-peddling after they were convicted by a military tribunal and not regular courts of law. Buhari was so high handed that he gave himself and his officials immunity even from truthful reporting. That obnoxious Decree 4, against which truth was no defence, was used to jail journalists and attempt to cow the media as a whole. That tyrannical legislation shows the essence of his intolerance. These are facts of recent history.
“The story of counter-trade and import licensing, the cornerstone of Buhari’s stone-age economic strategy and those whose interests it served, is a tale for another day.”
After presenting all those “facts of recent history” in 2010, El-Rufai helped foist Buhari’s “stone-age economic strategy” on Nigeria five years later and the country plunged into its first recession in over 20 years.
So why is El-Rufai so shamelessly and consistently inconsistent? Former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who was El-Rufai’s boss when the latter was Minister for the Federal Capital Territory wrote in his book “My Watch”: “I recognised his weaknesses; the worst being his inability to be loyal to anybody or any issue consistently for long, but only to Nasir El-Rufai.”
Like he accused those promoting “restructuring” (which he also did when in opposition), El-Rufai is an irresponsible and reckless opportunist, prepared to say or do anything to promote his “me, myself and I” agenda. He has little regard for his state or the country and his loyalty is to just himself.
A Senate committee in 2008 reported that El-Rufai was unfit for public office because of the billions of naira that couldn’t be accounted for in his ministry. It didn’t stop him from becoming the governor of Kaduna State in 2015. There are claims that he has his eyes on the presidency in 2019. Don’t expect his presidential bid to be derailed by his shameless hypocrisy. Nigeria is in a mess because people like him are in high office.