In defence of Nasir el-Rufai

Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State is never afraid to walk alone. He is no slave to anybody’s laws. You know where he stands on any issue. In an effort to bring hope to a people divided by ethno-religion and economic differences, he has been described as ‘Fulani irredentist’ accused of ethnic cleansing and blamed by Buhari’s Aso Rock crowd who could not stand his guts of fuelling the Muslims/Christian crisis that predate him.

But Nasir can be ruthlessly aggressive in the pursuit of his objective. At the period President Buhari’s ‘loyal gatekeepers’, were claiming out of mischief that those sacking and confiscating villages in the Middle Belt region were ‘ghosts’, El-Rufai identified them as aggrieved Fulani immigrant herdsmen. He took pains to trace them to their various countries where, despite opposition by Nigerians, they were offered ransom to end attack on his people.

At a period anti-Nigeria elements in the Presidency were fraudulently promoting a public funded RUGA policy to protect those Sheik Gumi, Governors Aminu Masari and Bello Matawalle claimed were immigrant Fulani herdsmen, El-Rufai opted for ranching and was shopping for N140billion to settle Kaduna pastoral farmers.

When the president’s men settled for El-Rufai’s long abandoned policy of appeasement and imposed their hallucination as state policy – Rehabilitating and re-integrating repentant bandits and terrorists, El-Rufai insisted bandits who have graduated from making N100,000 from rustled cow to making millions by kidnaping one person must be bombed out of existence and allowed to go and repent before Allah in the great beyond.

El-Rufai holds no hostages. For him, the president men are to be held responsible for near absence of governance. If he needed further proof that Nigeria is on auto-pilot, last week’s avoidable violent attack on Abuja-Kaduna bound train resulting in about a dozen deaths and about 140 yet to be accounted for victims, was all that was needed.

And El-Rufai is not sparing the presidency. In an attack the newly adopted APC chairman, Adamu likened to ‘taking a knife to rip open one’s stomach’, El-Rufai exposed the nakedness of some of Buhari’s clowning ministers. One in the face a national tragedy was asking Nigerian to donate N2billion for the rehabilitation of damaged rail lines over which he ought to have resigned. Another who subjected Nigerians to a harrowing experience at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic over registration for NIN we were told would end the insurgency’s ability to coordinate attack is, as we speak, still on his seat even as the exercise seemed to have been designed to help the insurgents.

El-Rufai righteous indignation about government failure to heed warnings that would have prevented the attack is understandable. We have now gathered from newspaper reports that the Kaduna State government in a letter dated November 2, 2021 advised that “trains operate during the daytime only and that all arrivals after dark, to Kaduna or Abuja, should be avoided completely.”

This was followed by a second letter dated January 27, signed by Kaduna’s Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan which states “Current developments indicate that the concerns over threats to train services…continue to exist.”

Twenty five days before the attack, an intelligence report dated March 3, titled “Plans to Simultaneously Attack Rigasa Train Station…warned of an impending attack”. Yet, no one took pre-emptive action.

Beyond the train attack, El-Rufai also said that government and security groups know the attackers, their locations and their telephone numbers through which they monitor their conversations’. He anguished: “Why the security has not gone to kill them? Where are our soldiers?” and gave the above as reasons for going to see the president. And perhaps frustrated by the failure of the president’s earlier assurances after each meeting, El-Rufai gave an insight into what transpired between him and the president:

“And also I have said that if these actions are not taken, it becomes a must for us as governors to take measures to protect our citizens, even if it means we will import mercenaries from outside the country to do it. If our soldiers fail, I swear to God, we will do that. This issue has reached an alarming state.”

Unfortunately, instead of understanding where frustrated El-Rufai was coming from, his idea has been roundly dismissed by those who have only watched from the side-lines the daily harvest of deaths in Kaduna State.

First were some Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) who called our attention to the unconstitutionality of the governor’s idea. But it is not difficult to see their intervention as either hypocritical or arising from El-Rufai’s hate. The senior lawyers cannot pretend that President Buhari, who routinely disobeyed court orders, ordered midnight raid of Supreme Court judges’ houses and National Assembly by hooded DSS men, not to talk of murder of drug pushers through retroactive law as a military head of state, has ever been a respecter of rule of law. And they know better: In a democracy, an elected sovereign is allowed to breach the constitution in the overall interest of the nation.

Some retired Generals were also too quick to remind us that the president is the Commander in Chief. Repeating what was supposed to be obvious is often seen as proof of scepticism. And this is possible since the president outside the first few months of his presidency when Boko haram insurgents was brought to their knees, he has for the greater part of his presidency not lived up that title, the reason Wole Soyinka the Nobel laureate rechristened him something like “the Mourner in Chief”.

The heart-ache of some others was that it will lead to low morale of our soldiers. Again except that we live in denial, we all know the source of low morale in the military is the government. For instance, besides claims of inadequate equipment due to alleged corruption, with the upsurge in the number of daring attacks by insurgents on airport, railway, military institutions and ungoverned forests where bandits are said to be collecting taxes, it will be difficult to disabuse the minds of military officers opposed to government rehabilitation and re-integration policy of repentant militants.

President Buhari who believes he can run Nigeria without asking Nigerian what they want traded off hope through his rejection of suggestions by Nigerian stakeholders as to the way out of our crisis of nation building. This includes his rejection of the demand by the 36 states of the federation for state police to replace the current ineffective centralised policing, an aberration in any federation.

There was also the consensus by the 36 governors to substitute open grazing with ranching in order to end confrontation between farmers and herders often exploited by immigrant herdsmen and bandits. The president’s only known public reaction has been “I cannot contradict my minister of justice, who is reactivating pre-independence grazing routes across the nation.’

Nigerians and President Buhari’s APC overwhelmingly settled for restructuring of the country to take care of those agitating for self-actualization and guarantee enough resources for the reconfigured states to protect their borders from unwanted immigrants. The president rejected the idea.

If I have to choose between Buhari’s actions that foreclose hope and El-Rufai’s idea that promises hope for his besieged people, no matter how defective, I will settle for the latter.

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