On 22ndJanuary 2014, Malam Nasir El-Rufai gave a lecture in Abuja to youths, The Nigeria of our Dreams, where he addressed the question of nation-building. Parts of this lecture, like several other previous interventions in national discourse, are now being selectively dredged up,without context and presented as if they were freshly delivered.The locusts are out, nibbling away at the rules of discourse without any notion of intellectual honesty or the need to preserve the integrity of discourse.
That is the context in which to situate the vituperations of Datti Baba Ahmed, who latched on to a tiny slice of a full lecture to spew his bile on Malam Nasir El-Rufai. Datti, proprietor of Baze University, admitted that he based his entire diatribe on a Facebook posting. No need to exercise any mental faculties to seek the full speech; just a headlong rush to a skewed judgment. There is hardly a more potent illustration of the deepening corruption of discourse and the crisis in education than this. The proprietor of a university cannot be bothered to consider a little research!
This is so because Datti is a failed politician from Kaduna State, seeking opportunities for unearned relevance by attacking a person whose name is sure to get the attacker headlines and a few seconds of infamy. Datti is following the well-trodden path of others like him eager to hide their past and impending political demystification. Datti accused the APC of an undisclosed injustice, but he forgot to admit that he approached many people, including El-Rufai,in 2015 with his resume seeking to be nominated as the Minister of Education in President Buhari’s government.
Having failed to be nominated, he is embittered and frustrated. He has also pitched tent with one of the newly registered parties, and is preparing the ground to leave the ‘unjust’ APC.Members of the old CPC are yet to forget the circumstances leading to Datti’s surrender of one of the two senate seats the party won in Kaduna during the 2011 elections. This is the proper context for understanding Datti’s defamatory gobbledy gook couched as intellectual discourse.
What exactly did Nasir El-Rufai say in the 2014 lecture that Datti attempted to distort and earn some dishonorable media attention? Malam El-Rufai drew attention to the failure to create a mortgage system that could democratize access to housing after independence, and the persistence of regional divisions.
The video footage of the 44-minute lecture is available on YouTube;
The founding fathers of this country did their best for the regions they governed. Nasir El-Rufai has paid tribute at various fora to the attainments of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. In 2016, he delivered a speech at Ikenne to acknowledge Chief Awolowo’s contributions, especially in Education. His book, The Accidental Public Servant, is fulsome in his praise of the Sardauna.
To give these greats their due does not preclude the fact that the history and circumstances of their times weighed on how they approached the idea of Nigeria. They were understandably champions of their regions, in new times for them and their peoples. The destiny of their regions, and the peoples in them, were paramount concerns for these leaders. Tons of scholarship and the reminiscences of those who were there attest to this.
The Northern Region was ardently federalist, and wary of being marginalized in an emergent Nigeria by the regions that had more persons with Western education. Thus, it did not totally open the doors of its public service to non-northerners. In so doing, Sir Ahmadu Bello and the leaders of the north soughttocreate opportunity for many northerners, and pressed for advantage in national institutions. The Sardauna earned due reverence as the leader that brought confidence to the North in difficult times.
We do not do ourselves or the memories of the founding fathers any justice by attributing infallibility or perfection to them. They richly deserve our veneration for doing so much with so little. They were limited in their national approach, for reasons that the generations that have succeeded them ought to have overcome. The idea of Nigeria needs ardent champions. That is the challenge of our time. As the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II observed years ago before ascending the throne, the generation that gave us independence were Northerners, Easterners and Westerners. There is no need to remain frozen in those identities, when we can coalesce as Nigerians. This is the essence of Malam Nasir El-Rufai’s 2014 speech.
Datti makes a futile effort to belittle Malam El-Rufai, with an alternative narrative of his personal journey. Fortunately, Malam Nasir El -Rufai’s public service history, beginning with teaching pro-bono for 17 years at the ABU’sDepartment of Surveying to the BPE and his service as FCT minister is well-known. Despite the loud self-interest and the negativity of naysayers, hekick-started the privatization and public enterprise reform programme, then restored the FCT to the vision of its founders.That is the compliment Datti makes in a backhanded way.
The likes of Datti mistake candid discourse for insult. The shrillness of the narrow-minded will not stop those who have something meaningful to say from contributing to our national dialogue. As to Datti’s allegations of looting and promoting insecurity, he will have an opportunity to present his evidence in a court of law unless he publicly renounces his libel with apology within one week. Our laws provide for those who feel so defamed to seek redress. Mallam El-Rufai will do so, as he has always done when any person or medium attempts to soil his reputation. In court, Datti and his co-travelers would be compelled to make the specifics public rather than hide under unsupported generalization.
Regarding the frustrations of Datti for not having the courage to getinto the governorship primaries in 2014 or secure unearned preeminence in the APC, we pray Allah to give us all grace in all circumstances, and the humility to surrender to His will, accepting defeat and triumph with the equanimity of grateful mortals. Making everything about self-interest and ambition vainly excludes the Almighty whose ways no human calculations or models can determine. On his own part, Mallam El-Rufai submits to the omniscience of Almighty Allah, and awaits Datti and his new party for the political contestation in Kaduna State, if Allah spares our lives.
Aruwan is Senior Special Assistant-Media and Publicity to the Governor of Kaduna State.