el-Rufai, Body Bags And The Rest Of Us!

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Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai of Kaduna state is not your usual person in power who restricts himself to tackling the challenges of leadership and improving on the welfare of the majority; he is a text book leader who sees power as a platform for carrying out an experiment on theories learnt in schools.

In testing the efficacy of theories propounded by scholars, mostly in foreign lands, the governor strayed beyond the corridors of powers to court controversy. Not many still happily remember his days as Minister under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Unlike when other politicians allowed piety to govern their style, this quantity surveyor from Zaria is an absolute worshipper of rules. For him, man was made for the rules and not rules for the man. In demonstrating the relevance of rules, thousands of homes in Abuja shanties came under the teeth of bulldozers. By the time he was done, the Abuja master plan was saved by little inches.

During his days as an opposition politician, shortly after he survived what his admirers perceived as subterranean political prosecution by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua that culminated into his triumphant return from self-exile in 2010, the ‘bulldozer’ made headlines that kept officials of former President Goodluck Jonathan on their toes. Described as a brilliant and straight-shooting smart hothead, the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is not without his flaws that border on his propensity to tread where angels fear to tread. With el-Rufai, you are never in doubt where he is headed for. Unlike many politicians in the country, he is not afraid to walk his talk, no matter how tough. Footprints of his governance in nearly four years of his administration has not changed the traits of the man who describes his foray into public service as “accidental”.

Said to be cerebral and technology savvy for a state that is characterised with various forces fighting for attention, the governor has opened up wounds of ethnic and religious consciousness and attenuated bond of unity among Kaduna citizens.

This week on the Nigerian Television programme, TuesdayLive, the former minister was in his usual elements when, to the consternation of viewers, declared that foreigners who intervene in the forthcoming polls should be ready to return to their countries in body bags. In his words: “Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags.”

With this threat of death pointed against foreign electoral observers, the trajectory to peaceful conduct of the forthcoming polls is fraught with bobby traps. The reaction against this monumental gaffe by the governor was immediate, with a cross-section of Nigerians lampooning el-Rufai for being a leaky mouth and constituting himself into a nuisance.

Why the governor should be ratcheting passion for a possible foreign intervention when no foreign country has threatened military action on Nigeria over the polls is still a puzzle. The involvement of two governors from Niger Republic in the trail of the APC presidential campaign in Kano had attracted critical reviews from critics. However, chieftains of the ruling party, including Malam Nuhu Ribadu responded that there was nothing wrong if citizens of Niger Republic, Chad and other West African countries join in the APC campaign.

By the disposition of the ruling party to accommodate Chadians, Nigeriens and others its campaigns, it suggests there are underground moves by the APC to introduce violence and create an avenue for bloodshed in order to perpetuate rigging. How can intervention by foreign nationals, in this case electoral monitoring, be assumed an act of aggression? Does intervention mean the same as interferences?

Realising that el-Rufai had committed a wild blunder capable of igniting global outrage, a statement issued by the governor’s media minders only created more problem for him. The statement signed by an aide, Samuel Aruwan, failed to ameliorate the negative impact of the governor’s gaffe on returning foreign observers in body bags. How the governor could accuse his critics of suffering from a basic lack of understanding of the English language remains an insult of unimaginable proportion.

As a former English Language teacher, meaning of words are derived from contexts than their actual meanings. That is why denotative and connotative meanings of words are crucial in semantic analysis of expressions. When politicians are caught in their despicable acts of turning truth on its head, they resort to unreasonable defence of their solecism unashamedly.

During his campaign for the World Bank $350 million loan that was terminated at the National Assembly, he uttered unprintable words against three senators of the state, as well as called on Kaduna citizens to shave the beards of Senator Suleiman Othman Hunkuyi, apart from calling on his supporters to shave the afro hairstyle of Sen Shehu Sani as a reward for his refusal to support the loan request.

There is no doubt that tension and frightening unpredictability are sending fears down the spines of many citizens, with some resorting to taking their immediate families to their villages and towns for safety. Such a threat by el-Rufai is capable of creating a combustible atmosphere that may provide fertile grounds for national upheavals and create room for the present clouds of uncertainties to dissolve into hailstone of bloodshed.

Unlike Nigerian politicians who will prefer to keep mute and work behind the scene to achieve their ambition, the governor is unperturbed to come against a moving train once he believes in the rightness of his cause. In his speech, he does not take into cognisance the political exigencies or the appropriateness of his statements; he simply shoots straight and damns the consequences. Since assuming reins of power in Kaduna in May 2015, he has embarked on measures that only those less concerned with human milk of kindness can do. He has sacked no fewer than 25,000 teachers he dubbed as illiterates, he has derobed no fewer than 4,000 village and district heads of their royal crowns. Not less than 2,000 public sector workers have been retired, but their hope of getting their gratuities is waning by the passing of each day.

Deplorable conditions of public schools are in the worst conditions, with not less than N10 billion deployed to feeding of school kids who sit on the floor, with no teaching aids.

Not a few thought that el-Rufai would become the beacon of the APC government when he assumed the reins of power in May 2015. Sadly, he has become an all-encompassing frustration of what the APC symbolises for Nigerian electorate. Those who seek to defend the governor of his many verbal blunders are not being fair both to him and the system.

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