Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, even from his days as the FCT Minister and former head of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), has been known to be a force to reckon with nationally. Whether his fast-rising influence is for the public good or not is a different matter which will continue to be controversial in discourse.
His stellar record in public service has always been mired with one controversy after another, even years after exiting the post. Mallam El-Rufai oversaw the controversial sale of some national assets while in the BPE. He also embarked on demolishing many physical structures allegedly constructed illegally in Abuja while overturning a lot of certificate of occupancies in favour of his cronies as FCT Minister.
For any of the younger Nigerian politicians, and having enjoyed the attention of the media because of these controversies, he delved headlong into competitive politics as the governor of Kaduna state since 2015.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but the latest in El-Rufai’s attention-seeking and political acrobatics was tagging the vice-presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Peter Obi, a bigot for the way he managed the exit of some northerners from Onitsha a few years ago. Peter Obi equally responded in defence and dismissed El-Rufai’s claim as it only seeks to whip up ethnic tension when elections were imminent. He stated further that the exercise was not xenophobic in that it was a clearing up of the Onitsha bridge and that even the Sultan of Sokoto was carried along in the exercise.
In this case, one would wonder how a fair exercise about Onitsha, such as the ones he embarked on as FCT Minister, was brought up at a time like this. It shows the far-reaching influence Mallam El-Rufai tries to exert not only within his state but also in national politics.
Likewise, El-Rufai’s rather pensive rhetoric usually in favour of herdsmen has always been a subject of major controversy. Being Fulani himself, El-Rufai alongside President Muhammadu Buhari who has the governor’s support through thick and thin, the fortunes of the herdsmen have known no bounds. There have been several cases, over the past few years, of herdsmen invading farm plantations and destroying crops along their grazing routes. El-Rufai has been known to condone and indulge these brazen acts by herdsmen even within his state and this has even been a major stimulant of the recurring violent clashes and sacking of villages in non-Fulani Southern Kaduna towns and villages.
In fact, chain reactions of such indulgences of armed crisis reached a peak recently when a group of bandits attacked a southern Kaduna paramount ruler’s convoy, kidnapped him and later killed him after collecting a huge ransom for his release.
No doubt that El-Rufai’s love for the media and glaring bias for his ethnic group has largely energised the bold disregard for law and order by the Miyetti Allah herdsmen flagship body. Rumours about El-Rufai’s nationality, as he himself has rightfully claimed, stretching further beyond Nigeria and into Mali further questions to which country or ethnic groups his loyalty lies.
The continued illegal detention of Shehu Zakzaky, who is the head of the Shiite group and has been in incarceration for more than 3 years now despite court rulings to grant him bail, has the influential hand of El-Rufai in it. In his usual fashion, El-Rufai is never tolerant of criticism. So in the same wind that he has systemically shut up Zakzaky, he has almost succeeded in silencing the 3 senators from Kaduna who he feels might be a threat to his power and influence.
For sure, Mallam El-Rufai, as an experienced reformer, has kept running a number of helpful institutional reforms in his state. Nonetheless, his divisive antics and dark political games can only render useless as well as prevent a majority of the population he governs to enjoy the benefits of these reforms. How else can the people of the most violent state in the last 3 years enjoy the reforms which a divisive governor has instituted?
As nationwide elections into national and states positions of service approaches, it will be intriguing to see what the people of Kaduna State make of their reality and how they determine whether Mallam El-Rufai is worthy to be re-elected into the number one position in the state or not, come February 2019.