By Emmanuel Ado
“It is wrong always,everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence” William James Thankfully Emmanuel Aziken in his “The contradictions in Mallam Nasir El-Rufai” refused in some instances to toe the sickening line of many other cynics and half baked analysts, who in their characteristic manner attempted to create unwarranted doubts as to the sincerity of Governor Nasir El-Rufai, that the presidency should “naturally” shift to the South after eight (8) years of President Muhammadu Buhari, in spite of the constitution of the All Progressives Congress(APC) being “silent” about power rotation between the six(6) political zones. Aziken deserves a special commendation for acknowledging that El-Rufai’s position bears the hallmark of the essential Nasir El-Rufai “doggedness to principles”, devoid of opportunism and for which El-Rufai has continued to pay heavy price,including exile.
But as is typical of most public commentators, Aziken for very clearly obvious reasons didn’t escape the temptation of embarking on a voyage and in the process reaching very speculative conclusions, which could have been avoided had he simply adhered to the maxim that facts are sacred, and whenever in doubt leave out. For instance, Aziken has serious doubts whether El-Rufai who in his words “was embedded in the inner circle of the Obasanjo presidency” played any role directly or indirectly as it pertains the decision to probe the Afri Projects Consortium the Consultants of the defunct Petroleum Fund Management (PTF), but rather than restrain himself, he went on a fishing expedition “whether he (El-Rufai) was or was not a facilitator in the decision”, just to demonize El-Rufai. Aziken, having agreed that there were gray areas in the operations of the PTF that warranted an investigation, his worry shouldn’t have been on how the government obtained the facts that compelled it to institute the probe,but to achieve his dubious agenda, Aziken had to drag El-Rufai’s name into the issue- giving a dog a bad name,in other to justify hanging it.
That El-Rufai turned Abuja around at great personal cost is no longer news,just as it’s no longer news that Abuja has further dilapidated,due to the failure of his successors to do the needful, largely due to the lack of political will and the mortal fear of the likes of Aziken, who would always provide lawbreakers with cover. It should have been obvious to Aziken,who is widely traveled that there is absolutely no way Abuja can be a beautiful and functional city without cost , but that in this instance the so called victims brought the costs on themselves by recklessly building on swage and green areas. The “victims” ought to have known that someday there would be huge consequences for their actions, but aware that crusading journalists like Aziken would always be there to defend them for political or primordial reasons, they were not only emboldened,but believed they could get away with impunity and that the media will shout to the high heavens about great injustice done them,when in reality they the so called “victims” have caused society grave harm by their irresponsible actions. Hear Aziken:”However, it was at a great human cost as many agonised because of the demolitions.”
There is no doubt that Nasir El-Rufai , has powerful political enemies most of whom by the way he made in the line of duty, as either the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises(BPE), or as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory where to the acclaim of many he restored the master plan of Abuja and introduced many landmark policies like the Abuja Geographical Information System (AGIS).
How can El- Rufai demolish the houses of the high and mighty and that of the poor without making enemies for life or courting their anger? This is the context in which Aziken’s “The contradictions in Mallam Nasir El-Rufai” should be seen.
The one sided narrative is understandable considering that his known political enemies include the likes of Atiku Abubakar, the former Vice President who has a strong presence in the media , Bukola Saraki the former President of the Senate and the likes of former Senators Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi who were essentially hired to harass El-Rufai.
There’s no doubt that Aziken has some “issues” with El-Rufai’s political relationship with Muhammadu Buhari, which explains why he has failed to comprehend why an intelligent and cerebral man like El-Rufai can be a fan or better still a political associate of Buhari. I concede to Aziken that the relationship between both men – Buhari and El-Rufai- was initially not chummy, but it’s to the credit of both men that over time it has evolved into one of mutual respect. Yes El- Rufai had an opinion of Buhari like we all do, but it changed over time especially when he became a member of the Congress for Progressive Change(CPC) and they constantly engaged.
It’s important to stress that El-Rufai won Buhari’s confidence,which literally made luring Buhari out of political retirement an easy task and that it takes a patriot with penetrating insight to align with political like minds to put together an alliance that would defeat an incumbent. Unknown to the arm chair political analysts like Aziken, is the fact that in 2015 Buhari had his strategic use which the PDP obsessed media couldn’t properly read and which is responsible for Aziken’s continued bewilderment.
In 2015 the political objectives of the newly formed APC were both short and long term,but by far the most important was chasing away the rampaging PDP- without which the party wouldn’t be able to implement its “change” agenda and this was to a very large extent accomplished with the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan. But first, the opposition parties had to forge an alliance to give the PDP a run for its money and central to this was Buhari’s clout,especially his 12 million voters which in spite of him lacking an organization he consistently polled in the 2003;2007 and 2011 elections. The APC was spot on that the mortal fear of Buhari was enough to force Goodluck Jonathan to concede defeat. Both objectives were achieved- the parties merged and a sitting government defeated,a feat that until it was accomplished many thought impossible.
Overall El-Rufai rather than being crucified ,deserves commendation for having discharged the patriotic duty that he owed Nigeria and himself by working with like minds to usher in the Buhari government and for speaking up both in his private conversations with the president and by his several memos to the president about the direction,more precisely the lack of direction of his administration.
In one of the widely circulated memo, he had at great personal risk advised the president to fire his then Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) David Lawal and the Chief of Staff Abba Kyari- the identifiable clogs in the wheel of progress. As usual for speaking out El-Rufai is paying some price,with Abba Kyari denying Kaduna State its share of federal appointments…..indeed it’s mind boggling that Aziken,one of the supposedly authoritative political reporters didn’t pick up all these facts.
Aziken’s laborious effort at connecting APC as Afri Projects Consortium and the All Progressives Congress the political party, like others wonderfully failed,apparently because they are far fetched. Aziken, also typically refused to disclose the frailties that are inherent in the APC, that the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) the preferred party of the Azikens’ doesn’t have. Aziken’s manifest anger with El-Rufai for daring to belong to the same party with Buhari,amounts to a breach of his fundamental right to association. Hear him:” That Mallam espouses himself a Buharist in the face of the seeming incapacity of his political leader to resolve the internal dissensions in his government is shocking”.
For the benefit of Azikens’ of this world, the point needs to be restated that intelligence like Stephen Hawking argued is “the ability to adapt to change” and if El- Rufai is intelligent like we all agree he is, wouldn’t the likes of Aziken have questioned his intelligence had he failed to make the hard political calculations that he made? It would be interesting to read Aziken’s write ups on the serious infighting that characterized the Goodluck Jonathan administration,for him to be taken seriously as an unbiased critic. It’s a notorious fact that the Jonathan administration was a Fuji House of Commotion, with the then Petroleum minister Diezani Madueke remitting money to the federation account when it suited her fancy,which hasn’t happened under this administration.
The fundamental problem that has tremendously affected Aziken’s write up is his refusal to see Buhari and El-Rufai as two distinct individuals and that he cannot hold El-Rufai responsible for whatever he perceives as Buharis’ shortcoming.
So much has been written about the Kaduna State Government policy of paying off “bandits” to stop their attacks especially on Southern Kaduna communities which El- Rufai inherited from the Yero administration. It’s worth reproducing exactly what El-Rufai said about the decision to continue on the policy,which the late Patrick Yakowa was forced to introduce at the height of the crisis. “So a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria. We got a hint that the late Governor Patrick Yakowa got this information and he sent someone to go round some of these Fulani communities, but of course after he died, the whole thing stopped. That is what we inherited. But the Agwai committee established that. “We took certain steps.
We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroon, Niger republic and so on to tell them that there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing. “In most of the communities, once that appeal was made to them, they said they have forgiven. There are one or two that asked for monetary compensation. They said they have forgiven the death of human beings, but want compensation for cattle. We said no problem, and we paid some”.
The El-Rufai policy was not politically expedient,rather it was a genuine effort to stop the incessant killings of his citizens that he had sworn on oath to protect,even though the Constitution dresses him in borrowed robes- a Chief Security Officer that lacks the power to deploy even one recruit. Aziken, as a former political editor ought to know that while it’s the official policy of some countries like the United States of America not to pay ransom or negotiate with terrorists, that circumstances beyond their control have forced them to negotiate, to pay ransome and exchange prisoners.
That not even the hawkish Ronald Reagan had a choice when it became absolutely necessary to negotiate with Iran for the release of seven (7) American hostages held hostage by Hezbollah. And that in spite of the outcry over Reagan’s actions, Barack Obama was equally forced to enter into negotiations with the Taliban and was in one instance forced to release 5 Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo. The examples of states including the British, that had reasons to abandon the policy abound. Like the Americans, the British during it’s war with the Irish maintained a secret back channel door with the Irish Republican Army. So it’s mischief that blinds the likes of Aziken from seeing that sometimes exigencies determine reaction or policies,that nothing is cast in stone.
Again according to Aziken “Earlier this week, el-Rufai showed another contradiction when he apologized for the bandit attack in communities in Igabi”, but as usual he never bothered to expatiate in what way the apology to the communities that were attacked by bandits be termed contradictory.
But Aziken’s mischief is clear and his intention throughout the write up of precipitating a crisis between Buhari and El- Rufai – both men who definitely have different world views- obvious. It’s a known fact that El- Rufai speaks his mind, which is why he has consistently pushed that the bandits be declared terrorists,which would allow security forces deal with them accordingly. Aziken ought to know that as the governor of Kaduna State,El-Rufai’s constitutional duties are defined and that only the federal government can speak authoritatively on the Boko Haram crisis. So for any information about the state of the operations, Aziken should refer to the federal government.
Considering Aziken’s lousy use of the term “contradiction”, and the fact that everything El-Rufai does is in his opinion contradictory, it might not be out of place to nickname Aziken “Mr. Contradictions”,considering his knack for discovering them. Aziken like most average southerner is guilty of generalizations due to lack of deep understanding of the North and the state of the relationship between the North and the minorities. Understandably the average southerner due to religious affinity have bought hook,line and sinker into the minority cry of marginalization without looking at the role of the minorities themselves in the whole saga.
Hear Aziken:”Even more of a contradiction to Mallam’s promotion of intellectual elegance in governance is the seeming lack of religious tolerance in his government”. Aziken’s main grouse with El-Rufai is that in his second term “the governor, deputy governor, speaker, deputy speaker, majority leader, SSG, are all Muslims. Even more, the two ministers from the state are Muslims”, and concluded that “apparently, equity and accommodation have now been rejected”. Again Aziken as he did throughout, had no qualms putting blames on El- Rufai for issues that he played no role in, like the choice of ministers.
That Nigerians in 2020 will still be preoccupied with the faith of our leaders shows how badly we have retrogressed rather than progress as a people. It’s a shame that Nigerians who in 1993 wholeheartedly accepted the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe , clearly because they wanted quality service and trusted M.K.O.Abiola not only to, but to be just to all irrespective of their faith, would now be preoccupied with the faith of a president or commissioner. If I may ask, how has Buhari’s Islamic faith changed the material being of the average northerner?
Be that as it may be, what commentators like Aziken do not know is that the Southern Kaduna people shot themselves in the foot,not once,but several times over. Take for instance the gang up by the Southern Kaduna elites to ensure the defeat of Nuhu Shadalifya the Deputy Speaker, who had he won his election would definitely have been returned as the Deputy Speaker.
Or John Kwataru,who El-Rufai hired the best legal hands to ensure his victory in the election tribunal and supported to become Deputy Speaker,but was convinced by the leadership of PDP to jump ship and which he did without even negotiating a return ticket for himself. Most certainly they have reaped the dividends of their choices.
For the benefit of Azikens’ of this world, the choice of Hadiza Balarabe,a bonafide daughter of Southern Kaduna as the deputy governor had absolutely nothing to do with her faith,nor was it about the political survival of El-Rufai,but more about her proven capacity. Hadiza an accomplished and proud daughter of Southern Kaduna is a native and not a “settler” – a derogatory term that refers to people who though migrated and have lived for years in Southern Kaduna are still seen as “foreigners”- is as qualified as anyone to hold the office.
It’s a shame that the opposition to her is based strictly on her Islamic faith,which does her person grave injustice considering that her mother was a Christian, that she has relatives that are Christians and the fact that she is not a zealot. Hadiza, like El-Rufai believe that religion is a personal matter,that shouldn’t affect official conduct. And were Hadiza a bigot her Chief of State,media aide etc would all have been Muslims. We continue to hope that “our commonalities will prevail over differences”.
If only Aziken had taken pains to investigate, to talk to people as opposed to peddling beer parlor rumors ,he would have found out that the Muslim -Muslim ticket was an albatross that could have caused the defeat of El-Rufai, that the ticket wasn’t in any way an advantage. But El-Rufai convinced about the rightness of his decision, was more than willing to lose the elections- like he was ready to lose the elections over several other issues – like the teachers competency test, the demolition of buildings built on school lands, the public service revitalization and renewal programme, the reform of the traditional institutions which saw the number of Districts reduced from 390 to 77 and 5,882 Village units to 1,429. How come Aziken didn’t notice that there was not one decision, but several decisions that could have led to the defeat of El-Rufai and the Muslim-Muslim ticket was definitely one of them. So Aziken’s “In fact, he (El-Rufai) could have lost the election without the Muslim-Muslim ticket”, lacks any basis and like most of his conclusions highly speculative.
About the claim that even if he (El-Rufai) had picked the pope as his running mate that the largely Christian South would still have rejected him is a statement borne out of reality. Kagoma Kingdom,in Southern Kaduna is a metaphor of the relationship between El-Rufai and Southern Kaduna- a determined suitor and an unwilling bride. Kagoma like most other Southern Kaduna areas didn’t vote for El- Rufai in the 2015 general elections , despite El- Rufai lunching his campaign there.
Let’s assume that the people of Kagoma didn’t trust him and had believed the falsehoods peddled by the PDP and its SOKAPU partners that he is a devil incarnate, but why didn’t his actions between 2015-2019 cause a change? First, he appointed two commissioners -Amina Sijuwade and Paul Dogo from Kagoma, he also completed the Kagoma inner roads started by his friend late Governor Patrick Yakowa, which was abandoned by the clueless Ramallan Mukhtar Yero.
And like every political ward, the three primary healthcare centers located in Kagoma were rehabilitated,same with schools. But against all reason the people of Kagoma supported Yero,rather than El- Rufai who had shown them sufficient goodwill. They not only refused to vote the APC in the 2018 local government elections,but also roundly rejected El-Rufai in the 2019 general elections. What a pity Isa Ashiru is not coming!
When it suits Aziken he blows hot and when it’s convenient he blows cold. It’s the height of insult to insinuate that El-Rufai’s “present inclination may actually be his way of proving his loyalty to the leader, given that marginalization at the national level has become the norm”, not only is this far from the truth, but evidence of the fertile imagination of Nigerian journalists.
El- Rufai was and has remained fair in the distribution of appointments and projects,but sadly it never changed the attitude of some Southern Kaduna people towards him. And like El- Rufai has severely stated, the Kaduna State Government House is not a church or a mosque, that his conscience and the oath of office which he took are enough to ensure that he does justice to all manners of people. Most recently,the Chief of Jaba, paid El-Rufai a courtesy call to thank him for appointing 15 sons and daughters of Jaba into various offices,which he never expected considering El-Rufai only scored 6,000 votes in his domain – Jaba Local Government Area.
The attempts at labeling El- Rufai a bigot,have always failed and would continue to fail, because like they say actions speak louder than words. In El-Rufai’s world your religion is inconsequential, very critical is your competence,which is why it took him more than 5 years to know that his late Aide -de – Camp Ibrahim was a Christian.
If he didn’t know and he didn’t ask Ibrahim about faith, he certainly knew that of Peter his faithful deputy Chief of Staff,but that didn’t in any way affect his relationship with Peter, who has now been with him for over 30 years.
Sadly the point the Azikens’ of this world continue to miss is that the likes of Samuel Aruwan and the many other Christians working with him are working with him,not because they are Christians, but because of what they are bringing to the table. ….same with his appointees who happen to be Muslims – because for El- Rufai,it’s all about capacity and competence.