Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai rose to national political limelight during the Obasanjo administration. Although he had a brief stint in the military regime of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar as an economic adviser, it was the Obasanjo administration that brought him into national reckoning. He was considered one of the shining lights of the administration alongside other high-performing technocrats like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Dora Akunyuli, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and Charles Soludo, that ex-President Obasanjo assembled.
During his first term in office, Obasanjo appointed el-Rufai as the director of the Bureau of Public Enterprises and secretary of the National Council of Privatisation. In his second term, the ex-President moved el-Rufai to the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as the minister. El-Rufai’s tenure as FCT Minister was as eventful as it was controversial.
As the FCT Minister, el-Rufai set about restoring the city to its former glory by insisting on strict compliance to the original Abuja master plan. He went about that task with uncommon zeal and single-minded focus in a very uncompromising and no-nonsense manner.
He demolished buildings belonging to even the rich and the mighty as long as the location of such buildings contravened the original master plan. It was that zeal, courage, willpower, and strength of character to follow through with the Abuja reconstruction project, despite having to step on very powerful toes, that endeared him to many Nigerians.
He joined partisan politics in 2011 under the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change, which later merged with the Action Congress of Nigeria and other parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC). He contested the governorship of Kaduna State in 2015 and won. He equally won his re-election bid in 2019. It is no longer a secret that Gov. el-Rufai harbors the dream of becoming Nigeria’s President, if not in 2023, then sometime later.
But even before he became governor of Kaduna, his utterances which were far from being statesmanlike, but rather provocative, had begun to alienate him from the people who once loved and respected him.By the time he became governor, he took things even a notch higher with his divisive utterances and conduct in office.
When the Southern Kaduna crisis broke out in 2016 under his watch, he took a rather bizarre approach to resolve the problem. He sent emissaries to trace the leaders of the killer Fulani responsible for the massacre to some countries on the West African coast and negotiate a compensation package with them to stop the killing. He paid them off.
As if that approach was not bad enough, he rationalized away the crisis as retaliation by Fulani for their kinsmen who the Southern Kaduna indigenes had killed during the post-2011 election violence in the state.The crisis has not abated since then; rather it has escalated to frightening dimensions in scope and severity.
El-Rufai’s revisionist approach to tackling the Southern Kaduna crisis has revolved around a concerted effort to change and control the narrative around the crisis. This has led to his insistence that the conflict is caused by rival militia groups but wrongly reported in the media with an ethnoreligious slant.
At different times, he has blamed the media for putting an ethnic and religious coloration to the conflict. He has also blamed the leaders and youths of the communities for instigating the attacks. But never for once has he blamed the attackers for their murderous nightly raids on the communities. He would always have a reason to explain away why the attackers invaded the communities.
It was therefore not a surprise when some lawyers insisted that the governor was not fit to speak at the forthcoming NBA Annual National Conference and mounted sustained pressure to get the leadership of the NBA to take him off the list of speakers at the conference.The lawyers had based their protests against the inclusion of the governor on his poor human rights, his disrespect for the rule of law as manifested in his disobedience of court orders, his poor handling of the Southern Kaduna crisis, and the conduct of his son, Bashir el-Rufai.
However, what could pass for the most instructive angle to the lawyer’s protest, which went viral online, was the attitude of other Nigerians to it. Nigerians queued on the side of the lawyers to amplify the protest. The Nigerian Twitter community, TwitterNG, went on overdrive in support of calls to have the governor removed from the list of speakers for the conference.
If there is one thing that the NBA’s withdrawal of el-Rufai’s invitation has shown, it is the fact that the governor not covered himself in glory in the exercise of his responsibilities as governor and consequently has made himself one of the most despised politicians in the country.
However, by all standards, el-Rufai is the main architect of his misfortune. In his reaction to the withdrawal of his invitation to the NBA conference, he said his voice will never be silence and he will continue to make his contributions to critical national issues. He indeed deserves the right to comment on burning national issues, but it is equally very true that if he continues the way he is going, he might as well perish his dream of ever becoming Nigeria’s President.