Controversial governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, recently delved into a dangerous terrain, when he took on Nigeria’s founding fathers.
According to El-Rufai who is currently fighting battles from every front, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe, did not do enough to unite the country when they held sway as regional leaders.
In El-Rufai’s thinking, these leaders, who in their domains, are honoured and revered, did not work hard enough to build a nation. In a video posted on his official Facebook page, the embattled Kaduna Governor, claimed that the trio simply maintained what they found on ground and benefited politically
“I know it is politically incorrect to say Ahmadu Bello, Azikiwe and Awolowo did something wrong, but they did. They did not work hard enough to build a nation. They maintained what they found, and benefitted from it politically,” he said.
Political pundits have however asked: Is El-Rufai not just as guilty? Has he surpassed the landmarks of Nigeria’s founding fathers even as it concerns uniting his small enclave, Kaduna? Under his watch, is Kaduna State, which is sharply divided between Muslim north and Christian south better united? These are posers, the diminutive governor must seek to address.
There are quite some arguments, that El-Rufai’s reign has been dotted by some dark spots, especially those bordering on divisiveness. While the provision of basic amenities may be admitted as tokenism, it is in the area of holding the tender fabrics of Kaduna society together that el-Rufai suffers great leadership deficit, many argue.
In El-Rufai’s Kaduna, freedom of expression has increasingly become a scarce commodity, with journalists and citizens operating in a climate of fear. Since he assumed office, El-Rufai has detained at least two journalists, while others have been allegedly molested or harassed.
Ironically, El-Rufai rode on the wings of the media to emerge as Governor of Kaduna State. As an opposition figure, he got wide publicity in the months leading to his emergence as governor of the North West state.
In the area of national integration, El-Rufai is largely perceived as no match for Nigeria’s founding fathers under whose watch some of the country’s greatest institutions of learning were built. El-Rufai cannot deny the overriding influence institutions like Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ibadan and University of Nigeria have had on Nigeria’s political and cultural landscape.
News filtering from Kaduna suggest a good dose of ethnic intolerance has been planted in the society, leading to wild ethnic and religious conflicts. Fulani herdsmen have allegedly killed and maimed hundreds of Southern Kaduna residents with fickle responses coming from the state.
Since the carnage began, there is hardly a record of any conviction of culprits. While he has been accused of looking the other way when herders ply their nefarious trade, El-Rufai has been linked to comments capable of causing a national crisis.
During the reign of former President Goodluck Jonathan, El-Rufai was quoted to have said that any “Fulani man killed is a debt that must be repaid someday.” Till date, he has not refuted the quote attributed to him. His admittance that the state has been clandestinely ferreting money to some unknown herdsmen outside Nigeria, as compensation for alleged destroyed livestock, has been labeled as unpatriotic, and the reason herdsmen attack has persisted in the region.
El-Rufai will also be remembered for his perceived anti-people policies. His exploits in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), when he held sway as Minister, appear to have been extended to Kaduna State, where hundreds of properties have been demolished, without any alternatives provided to the affected residents. His style contrasts sharply with the policy of inclusiveness which the country’s founding fathers made a cardinal objective.
There are opinions that rather than help deepen the democratic culture that saw the likes of Nnamdi Azikwe, and Ahmadu Bello gain political influence across regions and territories, El-Rufai’s tendencies seem to tear down acceptable democratic norms and values. From being one of the fiercest critics of anti-democratic tendencies, he was recently accused of hijacking the process of ward congresses of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna State.
He has openly been accused by Senator Shehu Sani of sponsoring and instituting political violence, a veiled reference to the chaos that attended the APC congresses in the state.
It is, perhaps, in the area of subterfuge that El-Rufai has received stringent knocks. His penchant for high-wire politics and political intrigues are the reasons he has come under heavy fire and accused of plotting to succeed President Buhari who has been away in the United Kingdom (UK). His most virulent critics see him as overtly over ambitious, too willing and ready to instigate crisis for selfish pursuits.
In 2011, for instance, El-Rufai vehemently supported calls for restructuring of the Nigerian federation. He stated then that only restructuring would get the country out of its current mess. He has since made a shocking U-turn on the issue and branded those calling for restructuring as political losers who are seeking cheap popularity.
Analysts contend that at no time as this has Nigeria needed to be united more, given the calls for separation from virtually every part of the country. The calls for restructuring, which the likes of El’Rufai now seek to suppress have no doubt emanated from feelings of marginalization, and underdevelopment dogging most parts of the country.
His utterances which did not come to many as a surprise, has however irked some leaders who are taking their pound of flesh. One of them is former Senator Datti Baba Ahmed.
“In the shortest of summaries, Nigeria’s founding leaders – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, among so many of their lasting legacies, negotiated the independence of Nigeria, vigorously promoted education and development of human capital in their respective regions, the likes of which have not been rivaled today.
“They maintained security, upheld law and order, laid foundations for post-colonial economic development, promoted peace, harmony and mutual respect among ethnic and religious divides. The list goes on, as no one can do justice to them by attempting to discuss their successes at this incident,” Ahmed was quoted as saying.
He added, “El-Rufai is a risk to himself, his people, party, and government. The 2014/15 largesse and his election contributions to APC can never justify the damage this man is causing…As he plots 2019 presidency, and schemes to deputize Osinbajo by force, his state is left to burn and her resources for his personal use.”
El-Rufai has, no doubt, stoked the embers. While it bellows, it must be admitted that it takes more than guts and courage to act the way he did. His comments are seen as a challenge to Nigeria’s new stock of largely greedy leaders to build a more progressive, all inclusive and sustainable society.
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