Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State

By Sam Omatseye

THIS is not the time to hold grudges against Malam Nasir El-Rufai. It is not the time to say he, like Napoleon, suffers a small man’s syndrome, or that he pulled down the homes of rivals. It is not the time to say his mind has not grown above his height, and that he does not deserve to speak about who is a Nigerian.

So, some avatars of liberty will say the Nigerian Bar Association railed against the three Johns of thinkers: Locke, Mill, Rousseau. They invited him to their conference only to disinvite him. The man salivated over an empty table. They probably did that because the man has a sour tongue, a fratricidal impulse, pitches tribe against tribe and, in the vexed issue of southern Kaduna, El-Rufai has taken sides, and has anointed violence against peace.

If anything, the man on the democratic throne in Kaduna is a Nigerian. He is Nigerian enough to confess that he is Fulani, and he is honest enough to say that he wants to go after the Christian leaders in southern Kaduna who have lashed him over his sectarian furies.

We can also forgive him for poor memory. Maybe he forgot that when the region raged a few years ago, he confessed he paid Fulani hordes to silence them. He paid with the nation’s taxpayer’s money. He confessed they were the goons of evil, the machete-happy brutes whose eyes blared with human blood. Like harmattan fires, they brushed through the homesteads and farms of their quarries. They barbequed fathers, roasted mothers, turned farms into a dark, frescoed mural of bonfires. They haunted huts, glamorised houses in smoulders, prostrated schools, littered a litany of streets with disembodied limbs. In echoes of the 1960’s pogrom, they grinned so others may scream; maniacal glee over gleams of blood.

Sam Omatseye

The governor has many matters on his mind, so he could not remember. Hence he says he will unveil the leaders who begged to swap gift for peace in southern Kaduna. His morality may not be balanced because his power of revenge dwarfs his power of recall. He read law, and maybe his history is famished. Something foul happened to his mnemonic faculty. When he was minister, he said he knew the marauders. Now, he says he is gathering material on rampaging Christians. How time flies from memory. He has lost the power of the past. He is obliterating his own past. Maybe he did not want to forget. Fate tampered with his cerebellum.

If the Christian leaders want money, does that cancel the carnage going on? Is he not saying Christian leaders set their own people on fire? He has no evidence. He said it for the headline. He craves public spotlight. Hence he is bitter that the NBA disinvited him. No need to fume with the man. El-Rufai is at war with El-Rufai.

He loves attention, and does he not deserve it? Nothing wrong with vanity. After all, one of the world’s great actors, Al Pacino, says, “vanity is my favorite sin.” Except that El-Rufai can never admit it is a sin.

He won governorship election twice. The people must love him. He is so democratic that he loves one set of people against another. One plus one equals one, apology to Dostoyevsky’s novel of ideas, Man from the Underground. For him, it means Fulani plus Fulani equals Kaduna State. Or Fulani plus Muslim equals Kaduna State. So, for him, Kaduna is one, and it is Fulani. One is majority. Of what use are the over 30 nationalities in southern Kaduna? They may be many but less than one and Kaduna is just one. Maybe 30 are like the Biblical tower of babel, and his tribe bestows peace to his ears than the cacophony of variety.

Recently he said the presidency should go south. He who damned the south of Kaduna and dispensed with the Christians for reelection? He said he wanted a Muslim/Fulani as deputy and implied the Christians could go to hell. The fires of hell are alive in southern Kaduna.

His ticket went to heaven and won. So the same man wants presidency to go south, and anyone is taking him seriously? He is a closet comedian. If he cannot accept Non-Fulani on his ticket at home, why would he want it in Nigeria? So, when the NBA says they don’t want him to define who a Nigerian is, we deprived him a good platform to amuse us.

Theorists of liberty often clash with the concept of decency. It’s like Paul’s assertion, “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may bound?” Shall we allow El-Rufai to defile decency, so free speech may abound? The NBA says, Nigeria forbid. The thing is, he is immune to Lai Mohammed’s hate speech law.

But El-Rufai wanted NBA as a way to push for balance, to confess Nigeria, but act Fulani. The classic hypocrite. The hegemonist as inclusionist. The people of southern Kaduna want to be at peace. They may not always be innocent when the settlers lay claim to their own soils. But they should not be displaced because a governor separates memory from peace. He should not be a rabble-rouser as leader when the rabble has lost its temper. Men like him give peaceful Fulani-Muslims a bad name.

El-Rufai backs a southern president in order to be vice president. If the ticket wins, he may not wait three months to toss hot coal under the president’s seat and whip up headlines.

His concept of society is caste. He does not want equality. He touts it until he flouts it. He wanted a Christian beside him in the first term and Muslim afterwards. He remembered he gave money to appease the plunderers before he forgot.

He is like what Historian Isabel Wilkerson is saying in her new book, Caste: the origins of our discontent. It looks at how racism in America is like a caste system. That is how El-Rufai is looking at the folks in southern Kaduna. He is saying to the over 30 tribes to “keep to your caste,” in the words of Emile Bronte in Jane Eyre. That is his concept of who is a Nigerian.

He should know we run a republican constitution, and he may sit on the governor’s throne today. But as Victor Hugo quips in his novel, Les Miserables, “A chair is not a caste.”

Credit: The Nation