el-Rufai: The Return Of Go-and-die Politico

Leopard never changes its colour. I guess Kaduna State electorate didn’t take that to heart during the last gubernatorial election. Or they didn’t care. They just wanted change. Change at all cost. So they brought in the dreaded former FCT Minister Nasir el-Rufai. A man infamous for demolishing Abuja houses. A man that doesn’t run away from controversies. Or trouble. He seems to even relish in them.

So few weeks after taken oath of office, el-Rufai threatened to demolish ‘illegal’ buildings in Kaduna. But he didn’t call them that. That was what he called Abuja demolitions. For Kaduna, they are land recovering. I was embarrassed to see his spokesperson, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, arguing that the governor was not demolishing buildings but recovering lands. I don’t understand. So long as the government ‘recovered’ its lands from ‘trespassers’, demolition would not be the right thing to call pulling down of buildings in the process.

Aruwan was a fine reporter who worked under me as a news editor in my previous secular engagement. He was so good that the publisher of the newspaper sent him a personal commendation, even though he reported from outstation. He was no doubt the most reliable hand in the newsroom. I was thus bemused to see him on a national TV trying make a difference of ‘staling’ and ‘corruption’. I want to think that the TV station doctored the live show.

But the latest controversy has eclipsed the demolition drama. It was a report of what el-Rufai said during a town hall meeting at the weekend. Where he reportedly said, “If you are not happy with appointments made, you can go and climb Kufena Mountain, fall and die. It was what you voted for that you got, because we are aware that there are people who did not vote for us, in fact, they worked against us. But now they claim to be APC members and loyal to the party. We know such people. And so there is no way they would expect anything from us.”

Before I concluded this piece, one of my reporters who aware of the topic I chose, approached me with the governor’s reaction to the reported quote. It was contained in a statement issued by Aruwan. The statement says, “We better stand and tell ourselves the truth. Everyone knows the truth. No matter the noise, the truth is constant. And as I stand here, no matter who you are, I will face you and tell you the truth. If you don’t want to hear the truth, you can climb Kufena Hills and jump.” Aruwan defended his master, once more, that the governor never used the word ‘die’. It was the machination of a section of the media. But, again, what difference does it make? Can you jump off from the mountain and not die? What chances of survival do you have?

El-Rufai, I have observed, doesn’t really give a damn about public opinion, when it confronts its personal belief. No doubt, he has the courage required to change a rotten system. He’s got the audacity to dare anyone trying to stand between him and what he feels is right. However, as imperfect humans, we are gravely limited in our capacity to ascertain what is really right. This is where the governor misses the mark.

Consumed in his personal course, el-Rufai will not only demolish a building, but will demolish a ‘soul’. Abuja residents who were victims of his demolition exercise can testify to that. I shrug when I hear people defend the governor’s actions as FCT Minister. Let’s assume every victim actually built illegally on government’s land. So what should a government, which cannot provide housing for its teeming subjects, do? Is it not reasonable that it would seek for ways to accommodate the buildings, perhaps making the owners regularise the project and paying appropriate levies? In other climes, government provides accommodation for those who cannot afford one. In Nigeria, we take the roof off the heads of those who have one.

Governor el-Rufai will do well to be more conscious of his public comments. Public office is not a field for unrefined candour; it’s a place for diplomacy and tact. El-Rufai is sure a material for national revolution. But he’s got some edges that need some more attention, as we all do. He will do well to put some heart to his active mind disposition.