Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna is a man of no mean feat. He arguably qualifies to be simply referred to as Nigeria’s most powerful and most influential Northern governor whose clout and influence reverberates far beyond the shores of Northern Nigeria, from where he hails from.
El-Rufai is reputed to be one of the very few men in Nigeria who has the ears of President Muhammadu Buhari and other powerful Northern elements, whose firm grip on commerce, military, religion, culture, then politics is a absolutely undeniable. Apart from being charismatic in nature, fate had also gifted him the privilege of being Nigeria’s former Minister of FCT in Abuja, and now the current Governor of Kaduna State, the epic center of Northern political capital, a city which also doubles as former headquarter of Northern Region, from where he currently pull the strings and call the shots as a second term governor.
If there’s one man from the North who’s constantly linked with 2023 race in Nigeria, that man is Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, but the odds, the seemingly negative perception on how he allegedly aids and a bets the actors of Southern Kaduna killing field, and tyrannical antecedents may appear to have dealt a fatal blow to his aspirations and career. This piece, perhaps seeks to unmask the good, the fantastic and not-so-good antecedents, and most importantly, his likely chances of survival and closely guard game plans as 2023 beckons.
More often than not, his political enemies had always dismissed him, but all to their own peril. He has a small body, yet possessing a large brain big enough to ruffle feathers of the high and mighty, tall and big, both in high and low places.
Intelligent. Fearless. Strong-willed. Vocal. Politically Savvy. Cosmopolitan. Lovable. Passionate. These words are most likely to be repeated by any Nigerian writer when asked to describe Mallam Nasir, as he’s fondly called. In addition to this description is one word that fits so well to the many feathers on his cap, which is controversy. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is no stranger to controversies. Sometimes, in his usual mannerism, he unapologetically stokes flames of controversies with his seemingly uncanny, dangerous and careless outbursts in public fora, sparking prolonged outrage, often drawing the ire of many.
He’s a man that believes in his conviction, whatever anybody does, after he makes his point, doesn’t bother him. When he sacked 20,000 teachers, heaven didn’t fall, when he render many homeless during his days as FCT Minister, in Abuja, heaven didn’t fall. He is a careless man but seen by both his admirers and foes as very dangerous, he is never deterred by anything, whenever he makes up his mind to do something, good or bad. People believes leaving power in the hands of El-Rufai, he can bring a wind of change, either good or bad.
One thing is very clear, judging by the feelers, body languages, and loud whispers; the countless invincible hands, writing on our different wall across all political spaces, summarily suggests the fact remains: the race for 2023 presidential race may have begun too earlier than we could have expected. As several foot soldiers of different potential 2023 gladiators bear their pangs on one another as they fire from all sides of their canons, leaving a anxious observers to anticipate how interesting, intriguing and entertaining 2023 general elections drama would be.
Incidentally, El-Rufai also has a propensity for being a talkative, who often digs himself into needless troubles, with also a natural inclination for being referred to as a religious fanatic and troublesome politician.
El-Rufai is a crazy fighter. During Obasanjo’s visit to the Governor, in December 2019, the former President reportedly reflected on the Kaduna state governor’s spat with the Senate when he was Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister and his refusal to apologise to the red chamber when he fell out with them during his confirmation hearing.
While the cold war between El-Rufai and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu continues to fester within APC, and even extending to their allies, Mallam pulled a fast one most recently while he ruffle the feathers of some of his perceived stumbling block, as he took the battle right to their door steps in Lagos, the political capital of Tinubu where he had held away as Governor for over twenty years, in what appears to be a warning shot, perhaps what would foretell the many intriguing drama ahead. El-Rufai had told a gathering in Lagos, last year, at a function where he suggested tips on uprooting the menace of godfatherism from Lagos polity, referring to Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He went further by explaining to any would-be challenger on how to take advantage of the close to four million inactive voters in the center of excellence voters registration in INEC register, as a potent tool to target in tipping the balance against the one million electorate, who had always decided the winners in Lagos previous electoral contest.
The reactions from Tinubu fans that trailed this confrontation were swift, sporadic and combustible, sending shocking waives within APC.
Snaps on 2023
However, here’s a twist to the whole 2023 drama.
El-Rufai pulled a master stroke again recently where he openly declared to support any candidate from Southern part of the country as president, as this perhaps seems to lend credence to the many spirited efforts by many Nigerians who had, over the months and years argued for power shift from North to the South.
And this brings us the begging questions on: Would El-Rufai’s 2023 Presidential race go down the drain just like that? Does this declaration by El-Rufai has elements of believability in it, judging by the years mistrust in our polity? Are politicians bound by their words?
Or is El-Rufai possibly positioning himself to be a running mate with a Southerner? This is more likely as some had argued that he merely wish to be in a pole position for the vice presidency slot in 2023 and if he should succeed on that, of course, his mission must have been almost completed.
Judging by the foregoing, and the growing silence worries about secession and quest for regionalism, the ousting of Oshiomhole as APC national Chairman, the fragility of Nigerian state, we must also consider some of the prevailing circumstances in our polity, which may have informed the decision.
But clamouring for southern president in 2023, does that make El-Rufai becoming less ambitious? Does that make one to trust him? Only time will tell.
In fairness to El-Rufai, since he came out to identify with the Southern presidency in 2023, things have not be the same again in Northern part of Nigeria. Some Northern leaders agreed with him while some disagreed with his submission. The latter largely belong to the school of thought of Mamman Daura, who are insisting that the seat should be based on merit and general acceptance rather than unwritten agreements.
Though, many believed that he made this “personal opinion” as he wont people to believe when he realised it would be difficult for any Northerner to aspire and succeed in that venture, he quickly retraced his step and queue behind the campaigners of power shift.
Indeed, power shift has been an interesting topic, most glaring at the front burner since the beginning of the second term of President Muhammadu Buhari.
By 2023, all things being equal, the present administration of Buhari would have finished its term of 8 years in power. God willing, power is expected to change hand.
Giving the situation in the country, reasonable politicians believe that power should leave its present abode to another region, so it sounds odd when some elements from the North are still insisting that the power shift is most unlikely. Not until some influential and respected characters from the North began to speak aloud in favour of rotational presidency that this present day political magicians from the North reduced their noise, albeit not subdued.
Though not stated in the constitution, the power shift arrangement has helped to stabilise the nation’s democracy. Even an attempt to break from it in 205 had a serious consequence for Peoples Democratic Party in 2015. So it will not be out of place to say that this arrangement has played a vital role in stabilising Nigeria’s democracy.
The eight years of Buhari presidency, is different story to different Nigerians, and many northern element feels concern about Buhari presidency and many Nigerians can still feel the imbalances. So many reasonable politicians in the North feel concern about the future of Nigeria if the region produces the next president after Buhari. Generally, it is also becoming doubtful day by day that if Nigerian can risk another eight years of Northern presidency.
Hear the vintage El-Rufai, “The general political consensus in Nigeria is that the presidency should rotate between the North and the South. It is not written but everyone understands it.
“In some of the parties, like the PDP, it is even written down in their constitution but it was breached in 2015. I think that every politician of honour should understand and abide by that consensus except there is an extenuating circumstance compelling it to be set aside. What could this be?
“The Northern APC will have to sit down and endorse someone, most likely someone from the south, because after eight years of Buhari, I don’t think the presidency should remain in the north unless there is some extenuating circumstances. But all things being equal, we will honour our agreement and we keep our words.”
But clever as he is, Mr El-Rufai did not specify which of the southern geopolitical zones should take the presidency in 2023.
Westlifemag however understands that El-Rufai had his eyes on one of his “colleagues” in the South.
Anybody who thinks that El-Rufai does not have anyone in mind to succeed Buhari from the South is making a joke of himself. But who exactly is El-Rufai is hoping to be presented by his party from the South.
As a matter of fact, at present, only one name is gaining momentum in the whole of Southern region and the person seems not to be El-Rufai “Man”. Then who gonna be?