Prof John Gambo Laah
“The words we use have power. The power to clarify and inspire as well as the power to confuse and annoy” Eblin Group
One can swear by any name that Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the former governor of Kaduna State did not expect that his speech to a selected group of Muslim clerics would get to the general public. The speech was meant to whip up religious sentiments and prove to the target group that El-Rufai had accomplished the major goal that El-Rufai set for himself. Since the video was made by a participant or by someone in attendance and not by unmanned satellite or drone, making the video go viral is a clear indication that some of the participants (probably majority) were not impressed with his sermon at the eleventh hour. The body language of the current governor, Senator Uba Sani who sat next to El-Rufai, showed that he was not equally impressed. Mallam El-Rufai must be feeling betrayed. The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.
It did not seem as if El-Rufai was reporting the accomplishment of an assignment that he was given by the group. Under the clouds of harsh criticisms, some people are even questioning the performance of the former governor after eight years in office and whether he left Kaduna State a better place to live in than he met it. Unfortunately, the video message remains the fragile legacy of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai’s eight years as governor of Kaduna State.
In his religious oratorical style, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai laid bare the principle in which he ruled Kaduna State for eight years like a Colossus. The principle of “Us” versus “Them”. A forensic analysis of the video and the message therein, suggests that if El-Rufai were an Association, proscribing him would have been appropriate. Many of the people who supported Nasir El-Rufai all the way (especially Christians) are now saying, Et tu El-Rufai? Was El-Rufai bound to be truthful to them?
It now seems that our greatest enemy in our quest for a just and egalitarian society is insincerity. Telling people one thing and meaning or doing a different thing. We have for selfish reasons magnified the degree of our differences and blown out of proportion our disagreements.
It is often said that truth cannot be hidden nor buried and those who covered truth will expose themselves. In a span of about two weeks, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has spoken and Senator Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa has spoken also. Unlike Senator Bulkachuwa that has tried in vain to retract his confession by arguing that the Senate President did not allow him to ‘land’, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, has nothing to retract. Fortunately for Senator Bulkachuwa, in his event, the Senate President cautioned him twice and literally prevented him from mentioning the names of his colleagues that he influenced their cases or helped through his wife (the former President, Court of Appeal). Unfortunately for Mallam El-Rufai, in his own event, he was probably the convener and the guest speaker at the same time. No one could caution him or were they happy for him to confess more?
In a five minutes 43 seconds viral video, it was El-Rufai playing the character of El-Rufai. The message in the video implies that instead of putting the people first, Mallam El-Rufai puts religion first. Nothing was unreal about the video and nothing was surprising about it either. One of the greatest Kaiso musicians in Latin America, the Great Pretender, in one of his music acknowledged that they don’t make his type any more. There is only one Mallam Nasir El-Rufai in Nigeria any other one is a counterfeit. El-Rufai stated that the decision to have a Muslim-Muslim ticket in Kaduna was based on a careful calculation. That is very true. Was the release of the video based on a careful calculation also or was it released with malicious intent? He also said that the decision to support Asiwaju, was because “they” (Northern Governors) wanted to end politics of tribalism and religion in Nigeria. Yet, in the same video he stated the null hypothesis and rejected it almost immediately without any statistical analysis.
According to him, “What we wanted to prove to people, and thank God in the last four years we have vindicated ourselves and proved that a government that has a Muslim as governor, a Muslim as deputy governor, a Muslim as SSG, a Muslim as Chief of Staff, a Muslim as finance commissioner, will not cheat Christians in Kaduna State.” That did not sound like someone who wanted to end politics of religion. How can having Muslims in all conceivable positions not amount to cheating? Cheating is also defined as “acting unfairly in order to gain an advantage”. I could not hear the response of the men of God when he asked if there was any district that his regime did not; renovate schools, construct hospitals, construct roads and help farmers irrespective of who they voted for in 2019.
El-Rufai succeeded in turning nouns into verbs and vice versa, in an attempt to enhance the religious value chain in Kaduna State and indeed in Nigeria. At the height of the Muslim-Muslim ticket, El-Rufai had alleged that he had many Christian friends and even stated that Pastor Tunde Bakare actually ‘baptised’ him into the CPC and not Muhammadu Buhari as many people thought. Nasir El-Rufai is one of the most discussed and the most referenced former governors in Nigeria. Typing his name on the Google search engine brought out 2,800,000 results in 0.35 seconds compared to the flamboyant former governor of Rivers State, Nyeson Wike with 1,750,000 results. As an erudite professor and a renowned scholar by my assessment, my 4,330 results in the same search engine, means that the former governor of Kaduna State surpassed me 647 times. We cannot say for sure that Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has bitten more than he can chew. This is not the first time Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has jumped a well with his back. Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you (Aldous Huxley). El-Rufai knows very well that El-Rufai is always under observation at any point in time, so he can act or be real depending on how he reads situations.
No one, even the sworn enemy of El-Rufai expected him to say what he said, even when his actions were very obvious. We are all playing back other tapes/videos even the ones that are not released and reading meanings into what he has said or not said in other forums. Some Nigerians are calling for his arrest others are saying so many printable and unprintable things against Mallam El-Rufai. Unfortunately, a bird does not change its feathers because the weather is bad. El-Rufai wants a perpetuation of Islamic leadership in Kaduna State because according to him, it does not condone deliberate mocking. Were Christians mocking El-Rufai at any point in time? We can now appreciate the fears that some people expressed about APC and now heavily confirmed by the video evidence. “I swear to God, this has been our plan from the first day we started APC in the state and God has been helping us with your prayers and commitment, we’re on the right path”. El-Rufai’s statement not under oath. Could this be one of the reasons why some of us were denied some deserving positions/appointments in Kaduna State after performing very well in the selection process?
At this juncture, one cannot rule out the temptation for some people that served dutifully under El-Rufai to feel cheated and insulted by the words that came out of his mouth. Although, El-Rufai’s speech has conquered our hopes and hope in our State, I don’t think that those who worked closely with him and who are affected negatively by his stand should feel bad as they were serving the state and not serving Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
El-Rufai’s frank talk, is not only derogatory, but in a society where the notion of crime against humanity is well codified, his speech has the same father with hate speech and may well fall under crime against humanity. According to the Rome Statute Establishing the International Criminal Courts, crime against humanity is considered in Article7(1)00(h) to include, “Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court”.
It is the soundbite of the mentality, as x-rayed by El-Rufai’s comments that created the “Obidient Movement” in the first place. But, instead of lamenting over the speech by Mallam El-Rufai, it is time to use the essential components of the speech to seek redress or even seek access to the state and national cakes for those who are feeling aggrieved. Mallam El-Rufai was right to have said that the victory of Bola Ahmed Tinubu had silenced the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Yes, the appointments the president has made so far and his body language are probably making CAN not to cry wolf where there is none.
It is now evident that there were two proponents of the Muslim-Muslim ticket: (i) those that saw it as a form of Islamic domination and (ii) the ones that saw it as the surest way of winning the presidency. Those who saw it as a way of winning the presidency have succeeded, but those who say it as enhancing Islamic domination may be disappointed, at least at the national level for now, because base on the philosophy that “the two shall be one”, a capable pastor is probably the chief confidant and Adviser-in-Chief of all decisions and policies. We have come a long way as a nation to appreciate the powers of the person in the other room.
I do not share the fears expressed by some people that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will Islamise Nigeria. How expedient was it for El-Rufai and his Team to choose Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the right person to pursue an Islamic agenda? By his antecedents, he is the least person that would want to work to Islamise Nigeria.
A man that has not Islamised his household can certainly not Islamise a country. But why would apostles of Islamic dominance see Tinubu with a wife that is a Pentecostal Pastor, as the right candidate to lead an Islamic agenda? Conceptually and theoretically, this is not ingenious to say the least. Is Mallam El-Rufai a fanatic? I don’t think so, because the widespread killings in Kaduna State affected the Muslims as well. Properties of Muslims were not spared from government demolition exercises sanctioned and supervised by him.
As we await the next person to speak out or confess, whether we forgive El-Rufai or not, he has already spoken and those who understand his language are unperturbed. Only those who understand the language of the frog know that its crocking sound is not music. I personally do not think that the president’s electoral victory was to Islamise Nigeria. We shall continue to choose the politics of hope rather than the politics of cynicism.
El-Rufai projected an optimistic image of someone who was destined to turn around the fortunes of Kaduna State when he appeared in 2015. He did not want to take the cautious path in governance by being politically correct, but went headlong into the affairs of the state. We were overwhelmed by the speed and ambition of his reforms.
Many people were beginning to ask, whether he was the one to come or we should expect another. And indeed, in the eight years of his ‘reign’ as governor, there were some accomplishments. Whether we agree with El-Rufai or not, history will see him as a consequential leader.
Senator Uba Sani should know that a governor is judged according to his works and performance and not according to the performance of his predecessor. Promises of inclusive government should not be mere rhetoric, but time to mend broken/collapsed fences. Many of us by our nomenclature, morphology, physiology and disposition, cannot claim any other state as ours other than Kaduna State.
We have abiding faith in our state and country and the fact that we shall be united again. We are now living with the growing confidence that Senator Uba Sani will face the unfinished business of making Kaduna State great again, and if anything, the El-Rufai sermon to the people, should form the foundation of inclusive governance as the responsibility to right the wrongs is never a favour but a duty.
27th June, 2023