Nasir El- Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, is guilty by association. First is his close association with Muhammadu Buhari, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is not particularly popular in a section of the country. Another is El-Rufai’s membership of the hated All Progressives Congress (APC). The most painful “crime” for his traducers, was El-Rufai’s prominent role in the unprecedented defeat of an incumbent president, which was not shy about mobilising Christian and southern bastions of support for its continuity. Worse for them, was El- Rufai’s effrontery to tongue-lash Goodluck Jonathan, over his very poor handling of the Boko Haram security challenges.
For the traducers of El-Rufai’, it doesn’t really matter that Citizen Nasir El-Rufai’s pointed critique of President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of security was validly made. And that the critique cannot be turned against Governor El-Rufai who is not the president and does not have the powers of that office and the leverage he expected Jonathan to deploy. Only a biased mind would fail to acknowledge that as governor, El-Rufai has done everything that a state governor without a military and police can do. The reality is that El-Rufai is just the glorified “chief security officer” of Kaduna state. Nor do his traducers realize that trying to judge El-Rufai, as if he were the president, and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, is like comparing oranges and apples.
Nigerians are living witnesses to the public humiliation of Sanwo-Olu, the governor of Lagos state, by the police officer. What Sanwo-Olu went through, is the lot of the governors, the so-called chief security officers. Rotimi Ameachi, as Rivers state governor, had a police commissioner that was uncontrollable and openly disrespectful.
Given this background, it’s not surprising that no other governor in Nigeria is viciously called out like Nasir El-Rufai is usually savaged, whenever there are security breaches in their states. Though many of the governors are beneficiaries of the Buhari tsunami, because they said absolutely nothing in public about their darling Jonathan, the traducers of El-Rufai have excused inaction, and they can even host terrorists in the government house. If El-Rufai, had dared to host a terrorist, like Aminu Masari of Katsina state did, he would have been a dead man. Not even the governors of Niger, Katsina, and Zamfara states, whose security situation can’t by any means be compared to that of Kaduna state, attract any condemnation.
Since Monday when the Abuja-Kaduna train was unfortunately attacked to date, the video of El- Rufai criticising former president Goodluck Jonathan, has been trending. And it is being used against him in a manner that suggests retaliation. But are those posting the video denying the fact that Goodluck Jonathan woefully failed in his responsibilities as the president? No! Because privately some of them have owned up that it’s payback time for El- Rufai’s strident criticism of Jonathan and his association with President Buhari.
But whether El-Rufai’s traducers like it or not, there is no governor that has given the security challenges the attention that El-Rufai has nor put forward concrete proposals of how the terrorists can be defeated. The only snag is that Nasir El-Rufai is not the president, who the constitution has solely bestowed the coercive power of the state in, so he can only continue to lobby Abuja to do the needful.
El-Rufai remains the only governor that established a special purpose ministry of internal security in 2019 at the beginning of his second term, to coordinate the various agencies, in reaction to the increasing security challenges. No other impacted state has reacted to the problem as El-Rufai did.
From 2007 to 2021, El-Rufai vigorously led the campaign to designate the bandits as terrorists to enable the military legitimately go after them without fear of international criminal court indictments. Ever far-sighted, El- Rufai, in the last few years, has been pushing for the massive recruitment of 774,000 youths (1,000 per local government area) into the security forces, to enable them to crush the terrorists. Clearly, the less than 200,000 strong armed forces, are overwhelmed and overstretched by the various crises confronting the country. The recruitment will, apart from increasing the boots on the ground, reduce unemployment amongst the youthful population.
The one reason why the terrorists are winning and will continue to win is because of the limited numbers of boots on the ground, coupled with the fact that they are not well equipped and lacking in the technology that can make their limited numbers count, and not because El-Rufai criticised Goodluck Jonathan.
In the words of Mallam Nasir El- Rufai: “None of the military services, nor other security agencies has been suitably expanded in numbers and equipment for over a decade since the insurgency in the north-east pushed things to a new low. This country does not have enough soldiers, uniformed police and secret police to project state power across its vast swathes, particularly the forests”. This is the real issue that his traducers should have spent their precious time addressing, rather than being fixated on his attack on Jonathan, which beyond demonising changes absolutely nothing.
He has equally been canvassing for the establishment of state police, which the national assembly just threw out for no justifiable reason other than perceived fear of misuse, which safety controls would have taken care of.
The other proposal by El-Rufai is for the military to carpet-bomb the forests which are providing refuge for the terrorists. Yes, the forests will be destroyed, but they can be replanted like Nigeria reconstructed the destroyed infrastructure during the civil war. He said: “I have always believed that we should carpet-bomb the forests. We can replant the trees after. Let’s carpet-bomb the forests and bomb all of them. There will be collateral damage, but it’s better to wipe them out and get people back to our communities so that agriculture and rural economies can pick up”.
Again from experience, he has been canvassing for the setting up a theatre command for better coordination of operations in the north-west zone and Niger state.
To crush the terrorists, El- Rufai has also been canvassing for better funding for the armed forces and the security agencies. He should know because he buys, fuels and maintains the operational vehicles of the Nigerian Police and the Civil Defence Corps, without his intervention, they would have long been grounded. Kaduna state also pays N1,000,000 to the immediate family of any law enforcement officer killed in active duty.
His traducers are not interested in understanding why previous military operations in Kaduna state and other north-west states awfully failed, only his demonisation matters. Were they, they would have known that it is because the armed forces lacked the requisite manpower, to launch military operations simultaneously in all the troubled states. The military to date hasn’t refuted this fact, which the Chadian military hierarchy has equally derided the Nigerian military over. There is no doubt only massive recruitment will give them that capability.
El- Rufai’s critics need to understand that his suggestions on winning the war against terrorism are a holistic package and that every item in the package is well thought out. We must stop deluding ourselves, that half-measures will restore normalcy. Nigeria is technically at war. And only a strategically coordinated all-out offensive against the terrorists will give us the results we desire.
El-Rufai’s situation reminds one of the fate of Cinna in Julius Caesar, by Williams Shakespeare. The poet Cinna, had, unfortunately, run into the mob seeking out the conspirators. Being a poet, he attempted to engage them wittily, which only further angered the already enraged mob. Even though Cinna wasn’t their intended target, he was nevertheless killed, for “his bad verse”, despite his protests that he wasn’t Cornelius Cinna, the conspirator they were looking for.
El-Rufai is a victim of an organised mob and mobs like we know lack the capacity to reason because they are usually angry and worked up. The only problem is that their anger is usually misdirected, as in this case, against El-Rufai. The scene in that epic work; the mob mentality, violence, and outright intimidation of anyone with opposing viewpoints, is not any different from the situation in Nigeria today.
The majority of those hounding Nasir El-Rufai over the security challenges confronting Kaduna state, and other states of the north-west and Niger state in the north-central zone, are unfortunately not interested in a solution. Playing politics with the security situation, with the deeply traumatic events, shows how divided we are.
Like a prophet, he has shouted himself hoarse to a nation that is not willing to listen to constructive proposals on the way forward. El- Rufai has creditably discharged his responsibilities to his country by putting forward a package of proposals for Nigeria to implement, the choice is ours. El-Rufai’s traducers can continue to hound him while massively misjudging the security challenges.
To his traducers, who look forward to El-Rufai insulting Buhari so they can absolve him of his “numerous” sins, they should perish that thought. It will never happen.