El-Rufai: Memoir of a Political Scam Artist


TAPS Cover

Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is a saint. El-Rufai’s intellectual and managerial wisdom is unmatched by any living thing that has ever been in power in Nigeria. Those are the things we discover in his memoir, The Accidental Public Servant. TAPS is not only a celebration of an individual’s narcissism but a revelation of the destructive elitism on whose back this polarised nation suffers. But because TAPS documents the political tragedies we have witnessed since the coming of this present democracy in which the author was a privileged actor, we must repaint our triumphal arch to welcome this confession of an insider.

I won’t advise any hypertensive person to open the book, if not for the author’s inability to contain his large ego in this overtly expressive tome but for his exposé of the financial scams and abuse of power by the political elite who, despite declared differences and public opposition, are actual friends and family in the closet. El-Rufai reveals, somewhat unwittingly, that Nigeria is just a chessboard on which the masses are manipulated and taken for granted.

In TAPS, there is President Obasanjo who wants to overstay, the lawmakers who abandon their duties and scramble for complicity, General Babangida who is just an expired buffoon, Nuhu Ribadu an unreliable confidant who is also an unprincipled anti-corruption crusader and Atiku Abubakar who is a smooth criminal—everybody wears the garb of a devil in this book. One, though, hears a man too angry, as an opposition party member, to be decorous.

El-Rufai has guts, and he is really arrogant about his illusory intellect and academic exploits. He makes everyone around him, including his boss Obasanjo, seem dumb as he keeps screaming about his A-grades at Barewa College where the late President Yar’Adua whom he portrays as unserious student and chain-smoker managed to leave with good grades which seemed to have shocked El-Rufai. It doesn’t matter that El-Rufai didn’t even meet Yar’Adua at the school.

Similarly, the literary prowess which he plays down in his major case of condescension in the book—with a claim that he was better with figures, as though he had propounded a mathematical theory—was later overblown in his boast that he wrote a speech “single-handedly” for the then military Head of State General Abdulsalam Abubakar. He never lets you forget he graduated with a first class honours degree; perhaps that is because he is the only one who has ever done so? Nor does El-Rufai fail to remind you that he is a penniless Ghandi who, after his notoriety as FCT Minister, couldn’t afford a stay in Dubai. He could only afford having his children at elite schools in Maryland and London.

TAPS is built on a diseased mindset. It romanticises the author’s intellectual wisdom as the flight that conveyed him to our cloudy political sky. But there was no accident in El-Rufai’s public service career; the author is just too dumb to recognise nepotism for what it is. What he optimistically calls an accident was in fact an invitation from his elder brother’s friend to serve as a member of the advisory council in General Abdulsalam’s transition government. Let us examine El-Rufai’s own words:

“I subsequently learnt from a mutual friend that (General Abdulsalam) Abubakar had remembered me because I had met him a couple of times in the course of my quantity surveying career and MAY HAVE (emphasis mine) debated the role of the military in politics and governance. My GUESS (emphasis mine) is the Head of State THOUGHT (emphasis mine) he needed contrarian views to enrich his policy decisions… (p. 53)”

 You don’t need a language tutor to see through the lame excuses and reasons given in the excerpt above, especially the self-indicting words in upper case: There was an unnamed mutual friend who revealed what had escaped the author’s memory; and in the use of “may”, El-Rufai, who remembers page-long dialogues, is clearly being economical with the truth.

Note that El-Rufai bases his reason on a conjecture by the use of “guess”, pondering the so-called accident that earned him a slot in that team. So you may be eager to know how he guessed a man’s thought. General Abdulsalam didn’t say it. In Nigeria, we know that political opportunism is facilitated by ethnic, religious and regional cronyism. Yes, you only need to be member of a certain group to make it to that cycle!

And as a member of that team, El-Rufai justifies his own brand of “cronyism” on recommending for ministerial appointment a man whose eligibility was built around what El-Rufai too calls “rumour mill”. The nominee, a suspended Deputy Governor at CBN, Alhaji Ismaila Usman, whom El-Rufai claims he had met just once, was rumoured to have refused to be an accomplice in a financial scam ordered by the late General Sani Abacha. This selection criterion, which is exactly the practice that brought El-Rufai too on board General Abdulsalam’s transition government, is an undeniable nepotism.

I always campaign for right to expression and even recently have written to defend El-Rufai from his political antagonists on the alleged blasphemy accusation and other matters. I had maintained that his past in public service must not be allowed to be used to deny him a right to political activism.

But TAPS is an explosion of that egalitarian utilitarianism on mine and the outrage of that belief is a welcome development from me, in my barricade amongst the citizens of common sense. Our resolve now as citizens is to study and challenge what elitism does to this country. The arguments in support of El-Rufai’s elite-aggrandising policies while he was FCT Minister fail anytime we have a gander of the effects they had on the common people of Abuja, especially the “subaltern” residents who were never compensated, whose lives were destroyed by that insensitivity to our socioeconomic structure.

There are only three saints in El-Rufai’s book: His late daughter Yasmin, elder brother Bashir and the countless people he introduces as “mentors”. But any attentive reader would understand that El-Rufai who couldn’t resign in a government known for reigns of corruptions, despite his unsuccessful attempts to justify his stay, is apparently suffering from Out-of-Office syndrome. His portrayals of Yar’Adua, especially when he engaged the services of foreign lobbyists to make Yar’Adua appear like a military leader, betrays the honesty of his activism.

The El-Rufai who afforded such media stunts wasn’t broke as declared in this memoir. That politics is too cheap for Nigerians. The trick in this new turn of El-Rufailitics is to wallop his fellow members of the elite class just to earn the sympathy and trust of the “Suffering Class” and, more importantly, the Twitter-based youths many of whom only think that Nigeria is just the size of their blogs. One thing El-Rufai fails to acknowledge is: Though a crocodile may stay with a community of alligators, it can never become one. May God save us from us!

Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspaper (page 2; 22/02/2013)

@gimbakakanda (on Twitter)

A Letter to my Unborn Son

unborn_child Dear Son,

This is the first of the epistles I promised myself I would write. I wish to preempt what anxieties you may soon have and, perhaps, anger too. But this letter was torn out of me by the same force that forestalls your arrival. The events now unfolding in the country seem to have eclipsed the turbulent relationships I have had with women, women I’d hoped would nurture you into a being, into that priceless gem that I shall never forsake.

I will start with them, the women. I will start with the one I named Baby. She’s named after you because she did things like you soon will: Fragile, quick to tears, she was a babbler, too. No, she didn’t totter; she was obsessed with putting on airs, and the gait of a cat. We parted ways. I know that you wouldn’t be impressed by her as mother.

Actually, I didn’t leave her because I could not put up with her, but because another woman, one I considered more suitable to nurture you, appeared. She was a foreigner, an American and she was black, in a shade referred to as ‘ebony.’ You will one day know what tourists do; you will gather tales, whenever you do arrive. My friends said she befriended me just to have me as her guide in Nigeria. Yes, the country was unsafe, and an alien needs a dependable guide in a hostile place. When she left, she had our nascent love. She wheeled it across the floor of the departure lounge in that faded, green travel bag. That was the end.

I mourned our love as I would a dead beloved. But, being a wanderer, I soon chanced upon this religious lady who tried to turn me into a bigot. She was so fond of Islam that she thought those who practised other religions were headed for certain doom. She harangued me, ‘a sinner’, as though she was the mouthpiece of the Creator. She said that addiction to western clothing and lifestyles were a curse, that the people of the book had joined hands with the accursed Satan to destroy me. I asked her about Science, she said that the West got it from the Qur’an. I asked her about Western Education, she said she had had no option but to acquire it. I asked about technology, she said it wasn’t western. She nagged me, oh, she nagged me, every day, until I let slip that I knew of Christians who were fond of God than her, just as there are Muslims more spiritually attached to theology than Christians. She said I blasphemed. She quitted.

After a few more experimental relationships, I met a Christian girl whom I rechristened ‘Reverend Sister.’ She was fond of mocking my beliefs, so vocal was she that she offered that ‘apostasy’ was the only possibility of her being your mother. Any religion whose original, unadulterated practice didn’t hurt others should never be ridiculed—those were my words to her. She publicly lived in praise of the lord, but her life, in her closet, was the opposite. I wondered what she understood by ‘true religion.’

I met this other lady, another American, whom I mistook for an agnostic. Two years into our relationship, she felt I was too conventional to be her spouse and so set her friend to educate me about her belief, Totemism.

‘Totemism is a powerful cult. A sect. An ideology. We believe that the spirits of specific beasts in this world are here to guide us, and that with true joy and true understanding comes the merging of our souls with our personal guides. It’s the reason why I never call my friend by her birth name—to me, she’s Lupita, the little wolf. Not Martha, that stupid, empty shell. We’re amiable but loners. Ferocious, sensitive, and we practice avoidance. We hold none dear, not for long anyway, and that’s how, I believe, she lives, as well.’

 So, I felt sorry for myself, for you, whose arrival continued to be delayed, unnecessarily. That Muslim Lady of Piety, who seemed to have met the criterion of my kin, had left my world. But trust me, I tried to woo her back by hooking up with her best friend. The trick, a simple psychological manouvre, was meant to stir up some jealousy in her. I know it is foolish to fake love. The said friend welcomed my advances, and what happened is too tragic to relate to your tender heart, son. However, while it lasted that friend and I became a popular couple. And soon the pretence became the truth, so true to the strings of the heart that we contemplated having you. But, I wasn’t ready. I was afraid. I didn’t know what marriage was.

And this fear drove me in my ventures into relationships with the ladies that came after her. Ladies who had all grown beyond the age when young women seek sexual adventures, they were at the point where only ‘Mr. Right’ would do. I was not such a one. And when I at last decided to choose one to settle down with, all the good girls were taken. Some smarter men had the woman who would have been your mother.

When I couldn’t bear the torture any longer, I spat on any offer to become a compatible mate. I swerved southward. You will understand what this means whenever you come. The ‘northern’ girls are considered conservative, even though that is very untrue. The ladies in the north, unlike their fun-seeking counterparts at the South of the country, are hypocrites ever playing the religious adherent in order to live up to the expectations of the society, their parents. But, they are all deceivers. I know.

So, I ran to the ladies from the south. The decision was to live my youth with women who knew the music of the time. Life became a circuit of partying with the real women. But, that came with a cost. All I earned was invested in them. This continued, until a certain thespian appeared on the scene of my life, took away every bit of my pride and turned me to a programmed being at her beck and call. The last time I scrolled through her phone book, my name was ‘ATM.’ People said she cast a spell on me, and I was indeed less than wretched when I gathered my polythene bag, and returned to the conservative pretenders.

After a season of dysfunctional relationships, your mother showed up. We met at a mall in the process of one thing that truly excites her: shopping. She was not Baby, as she never wept whenever I stood up against her ruses to emasculate me. The only time she did flare up was when I had to run an errand for my boss on the day her 33-year-old sister had chosen for the feast of a silver age! I missed the birthday. It took interventions by our friends to have her retract her vows to part ways with me.

Now, son, the decision to have you is in the recycle bin. But, if by a stroke of destiny she refuses to return, I shall have to do the ‘try your luck’—that’s what dating is—with my Indian friend-turned-lover. She is pretty, prettier than those divas in sari seen in Bollywood movies. But, her parents are racists. They think black men are devils. Those weren’t their exact words, but judging by their daughter’s depression on the day she told them I had proposed to her, their remarks may have been darker than my skin. But, I love my skin! Your future will be forged in my contest with a handsome Rajput suitor chosen by her parents.

We agreed on elopement, but I realise that I don’t have the resources to build a comfortable home with a foreigner. And I don’t want to destroy anyone’s daughter. That’s why I devote these days to making money. I’m upbeat about a promised government contract. And if that comes, you will have to learn to live with the stigma ‘half-caste.’

Dear son, read this in whispers: if either of the two ladies, your potential mothers, turns me down, I would have no option but to resort to celibacy, perhaps lifelong celibacy! I know, son, you are scared. I know that this letter may get you upset, make you go berserk. I know… but, please, do not be angry. Join me in the search for your mother. I’m tired of searching alone!

Your Father

Gymber Cacandah
El-Minna, Powerville


Leave El-Rufai Alone!

Nasir ElRufaiMy political ideology is such that I didn’t endorse Mallam Nasir El-Rufai’s policies while he was FCT Minister. I have always proposed, for the ends of achieving real development for this complex nation, a certain brand of socialism where the welfare of the masses is a primary concern of the government. But where those masses become the pawns of a government’s reckless elitism, I jump out of the supporters’ train of such a band of victims. The only proven solution for the stability of a third world country remains investment in the education and emancipation of human capital and the non-hypocritical commitment to the welfare of the socio-structurally created paupers. These are the magic schemes our stolen and misused trillions ought to be “wasted” in—that’s the only way to destroy the evil creations of our decades-long misgovernance. El-Rufai, in the course of his tenure, displayed elite-aggrandising sensibilities and pursued policies detrimental to the common people of Abuja. Away from bureaucracy, ElRufai is my man—apology to rapper Ice Prince.

Political activism is the most dangerous venture to ever contemplate, especially in a country where intellectuals sell their honour to cover up government’s failures in the most incoherent jargons and shameless stunts. El-Rufai, following his tenure, has become something of a usual victim of these pro-government wolves. His post-office activism, for want of a more fitting word, is defined by constant, yet often than not very correct and commonsense, analyses of our state and federal government fiscal and other excesses. He has by means of these made himself, after General Muhammadu Buhari, the most watched person in the sights of President Goodluck Jonathan’s spokesmen, aides and paid agents.

Ours is a country where a critic of government is expected to have no past in politics or public service, where we pretend we cannot recognise the truth on account of the dress of the messenger who bears it. Yet, logically, when a man criticises the government, our question each and every time should be: “How true is this criticism?” But when the State, or even any opponent, “attacks” only a critic’s unrelated past action in order to play down his present message, this sort of charade only goes to confer plausibility on what such a critic has said. This was the drama we witnessed last week, over World Bank Vice President Oby Ezekwesili’s exposé of our federal government’s financial scams over the last decade. The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, in response, asked Mrs Ezekwesili to shut up as she too was not a saint, citing her records as Minister of Education. Such a response as Maku’s, to that charge by Mrs Ezekwesili, at that time cannot be considered to be anything other than a case of virulent sophistry. Virulent, for Mr. Maku has often spoken without recourse to thinking in the past. This inability to think out a coherrent response lends at least some credibility to Mrs Ezekwesili’s assertions in my books.

Following this Makuchistic charade, an aggrieved friend, the Nigerian blogger Bukola Ogunyemi, who goes by the handle @Zebbook on Twitter responded thus: “If Jesus criticizes Jonathan’s gov’t, Maku/Abati/Okupe will say he slept with Mary Magdalene.” What does Bukola mean? He means that the three musketeers of the presidency, Labaran Maku, Reuben Abati and Doyin Okupe would challenge the reputation of the holiest of men, following the track of Maku’s nonsensical attack of Oby Ezekwesili’s record, if Jesus Christ ever dares criticise the government. Simple. Bukola only saw Jesus as a symbol of piety worthy of reference and reverence in this tweet. Equally simple. It’s similar to saying, “Gimba wouldn’t believe in the prophethood of Muhammad if he appears today”. This doesn’t apply that I disagree with the teachings of Muhammad. It only suggests that I am a disagreeable person. But these things, a statement and its interpretation, refused to stay simple. Bukola’s tweet acquired a slant soon as Mallam Nasir El-Rufai retweeted it. Soon enough, word reached his state-paid-for-vigilance antagonists who made indecent haste in stoking religious outrage concerning the tweet, a haste in which they forgot the meaning of the term “retweet” and got amnesia of the social media idea that a “retweet/share is not endorsement”. Soon enough, authorship of the tweet was fastened on El-Rufai. Still El-Rufai apologised, Bukola too apologised. But what broke my heart were the death threats received by the latter.

I don’t discuss Christianity. I have never commented on Jet-owing pastors, tithing, CAN’s endless dramas and anything Christian that doesn’t affect me, because I find worse examples of misrepresentation of religion among fellow Muslims as well. What I don’t get is why certain bigots would threaten to kill Bukola over a deliberately misunderstood reference. Did our collective intelligence decline overnight? Bukola’s reference only became “blasphemous” when a Muslim politician retweeted it and agents of the State, intent on burying the underlying issue of governmental accountability, sought to hoodwink the masses—these evil people know that, having denied us basic welfare, the frenzy of religion is the opiate of the masses. This issue of the tweet is yet another example of divide-and-rule tactics at its most cynical manifestation. No, I do not think that tweet would have become so swiftly blasphemous without our politics of religious alignment.

Critics of Nasir El-Rufai argue that Jesus is beyond joke. But Bukola’s tweet isn’t really a joke. It is a parody of Mr. President’s men and their utter bankruptcy of imagination and hypocrisy, potraying them as stooges so unable to engage criticism that they would unthinkingly do the unimaginable, cast aspersions on Christ himself. That tweet cannot be taken in any way to cast aspersions on the image of Christ and anyone’s retweeting it cannot change this. The tweet merely highlighted the evident danger posed by people like Maku/Abati/Okupe who will say just about anything to keep their jobs.

In other news, Mr President’s men haven’t offered us credible explanations on the scams exposed by Madam Ezekwesili, Mr President’s men have stopped talking about the indicted fuel subsidy thieves, and the man who stole our N27 Billion police pension fund has just been set free by a judge that doesn’t deserve to be there. Those are the people who deserve the death threats sent to Bukola. May God save us from us!

Gimba Kakanda