NASIR EL-RUFAI is certainly an enigma of dramatic proportion. He is a man of several dimensions. I once grabbed a copy of his book in search of his personality but couldn’t make it all through it, not because it was not readable (I still have it in my library) but because it was all about aggrandisement.
I was not alone; excerpts from it by the media and all who know him much more, including former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, eloquently bear testimony of his self glorification. The title of the book itself was some amusing braggadocio that he was not cut out for public service because he is a non-conformist who would do what he considered right without the clogs of bureaucracy. The Bureau of Public Enterprises and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory provided the platform on which he did the personal evaluation of his performance.
As the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory he ostensibly embarked on the process of re-enacting the masterplan of the nation’s new capital. Most Nigerians were really neither here nor there about the motive behind it. He was initially praised by those who felt there must be someone who should return us to order and decency, while others, already bewitched by the Nigerian mind-set of nothing goes for nothing, merely ignored him, assured that the hullabaloo had a hidden agenda.
At the end of his ministerial theatrics, the exercise all turned out to be mere massive demolition of property which some people believed were targeted against those already dominating Abuja space as if it were their Lagos. The noise of aesthetic splendour which was the advertised motive paled into insignificance.
A well trained and educated personality from the Northern elite Barewa College through Georgetown University and Harvard, Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai has all it takes in terms of education and exposure to make the difference in public service. Yet he is one Nigerian elite most unable to wean himself from his ethnic sentiments which completely becloud him and remain the bane of his performance.
Originally from Daudawa, a Fulani enclave of the present Katsina State, Nasir got stuck with the notion of Fulani supremacy and inexorably the champion of their cause. When terrorism by Fulani herdsmen genre was just rearing its horrendous heads, Rufai, in 2012, not only adopted a permissive approach of the lawlessness, he emboldened the boys by warning that whoever killed a Fulani had just taken an IOU for which it would pay in the fullness of time no matter how long it took.
As if that was the imprimatur of their popular elite they badly needed, the boys went on rampage decapitating, raping and ultimately killing several people, particularly the indigenous communities which were evidently marked for extermination.
Most of the victims were cowed by the notion that the Fulani would always come back for vengeance that submitted to the prevailing situation. Some who couldn’t take the nonsense from the herdsmen, fought back, particularly the people and communities of the Middle Belt, in order to take their destiny in their own hands.
Obviously, Nasir was unhappy with what happened to his mercenaries. His election in 2015 as governor of Kaduna State provided the opportunity to pacify the herdsmen declared as the fourth most deadly terrorist gang in the world. Soon after his inauguration as governor, one of Rufai’s urgent and most pressing assignments was to trace these mercenaries to their various countries of origin, paying them huge amounts of money, so much he would not publicly announce it.
It must be emphasised that El-Rufai who just recently insisted that he or his government would not be part of any arrangement of paying ransom to kidnappers was the first to make payment for appeasement of terrorists an official act of government.
Justifying his actions while speaking to journalists as reported in the media on December 3, 2016, within six months of his inauguration, the governor of Kaduna State said extensively: “For Southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (retd) to find out what was going on there.
What was established was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post-election violence. Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The moment the rains start around March, April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries.
“Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across Southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them. Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal. Fulanis are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with the cattle. So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back to revenge.
So a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria. 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.
As recently as two weeks ago, the team went to Niger Republic to attend one Fulani gathering that they hold every year with a message from me. 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”.
No one is against government assuaging the loss of citizens in circumstances where they are victims of either government actions like compulsory acquisition of land or some emergencies caused by natural disasters. But when it is an issue of communal conflict, political actors need to be even handed if nepotistic meanings would not be read to such demonstrated gestures. For instance, we were never told what government did to the Nigerian citizens whose communities were invaded by these foreign mercenaries.
The point being made ultimately is that the threat by Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State last week that he and his fellow governors would invite foreign mercenaries to stem the tide of insecurity in the face of the manifest incapacity of the Federal Government to save lives and property, is a vituperation of a frustrated elite. In other words, the sour grapes that El-Rufai and others who think like him planted have fully grown and his bite thereof is setting their teeth beyond the edge.
So much have been speculated that the terrorist-herdsmen rampaging and ravaging our territory were invited from several parts of West Africa to make Nigeria ungovernable should former President Goodluck Jonathan win the 2015 general elections. Does anyone still wonder how a governor would just be leaving a meeting with the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces only to make such a mutinous comment, evidently disparaging the Nigerian military once reputed to be the major peace-enforcer of the entire West African sub-region.
There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian military and security forces which remain among the best trained in the world and which had held their heads high in international operations. The Buhari administration simply has castrated our tigers to make it possible for barking dogs to make mince meat of our people.
Not even in countries where full international war is on-going is life so cheap as we have under this administration. The terrorists are, of course, neither invisible nor invincible. The Federal Government knows the whereabouts of these enemies of our people who are obviously enjoying some form of immunity.
If the President is in doubt of the capacity of the Nigerian people to rid this country of terrorism, let him accede to restructuring so that the constituent states of the Nigerian federation may have their own Police for internal security within their areas of jurisdiction. The Buhari government has obviously run out of ideas in all spheres of political and public administration.
The solution to insecurity is not such empty threat by a toothless Chief Security Officer. The solution is in restructuring with each state or region having its own Police with constitutional provisions allowing them to bear arms commensurate with, if not higher than, the fire power of the enemies. Only such reality of balance of terror in every cranny of the country which is possible with adherence to true federalism would deter these mercenaries and send them to their country of origin. Nigeria, we hail thee.
Ebiseni is Secretary General, Afenifere.