When tables turn, as they always will, yesterday’s pronouncements become today’s burden. This is the reality that Nasir El-Rufai, the Kaduna State governor, is living with as he comes to terms with the reality of his thoughts. El-Rufai is a smart guy who accidentally bumped into Nigeria’s leadership cycle. He rose to fame as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. Many credit him with some level of stubbornness necessarily needed to fix Abuja and restore its sanity. His charismatic approach to the restoration of the Abuja master plan made him the darling of some. However, many hated him, too, because of the losses he forced on them. Those were losses incurred due to indiscipline and disregard for order. But it has come to be that he is one realistic administrator that takes a stand when it matters.
In Kaduna, where he is governor, he has come to terms with the reality of a new wave of crime that is now dragging him before many Nigerians, especially the youthful group that voted his party into power in 2015. As a smart politician, one playing on the opposing side, El-Rufai’s job was to oppose the ruling administration. Like all those on the opposition side, his was to find the best arguments to use against the government of the day and to win new hearts. That is what opposition politics is about. The primary function of an opposition party is to oppose the ruling party by finding faults in all that the ruling party does. It is not the duty of an opposition party to tell the ruling party that it is doing well. El-Rufai understood that and took advantage of it.
Like everyone on that side of the turf in 2014, El-Rufai found the Chibok abduction incident a veritable tool to hit the ruling government. He did not miss the opportunity. He used it very well to his own advantage. Many people believe that his pontifications about government’s lethargy in handling the abductions added credibility to his quest to become governor of Kaduna State. Many Nigerians who listened to his postulations believed that, perhaps, he would have handled the situation differently. Well, that was assumed. His arguments then are now at variance with his position on how to handle criminals who abduct humans for ransom. Today, he argues in favour of total annihilation of such characters. For this, he has recently come under serious criticism by some Nigerians.
But, that is no issue for me. The real issue here, for me, is the refusal to understand and accept the fact that whatever position someone takes on an issue is determined by situations and circumstances surrounding a particular event at a particular point in history. It means that, if a man holds a view in support of capital punishment today because of certain realities around him, he could, in the future, argue against capital punishment because of new information or developments around him. This does not make his earlier position right or wrong, good or bad neither does it make the individual a characterless being. No, it rather shows some form of realism. It presents one as being realistic with the dynamism of the times.
So, as the world is dynamic and changes with the times, so do individual opinions and thoughts change. It also means that no individual holds the same view all through his life. Views change. It is as simple as that.
Looking at contemporary Nigeria, Governor Bello Masari of Katsina State once went into negotiations with criminals, also known as bandits. He had pacts with them and even publicly argued that the best way to stem the tide of banditry in his state was to bring the characters to the table and have dinner with them. He followed his convictions. Today, Masari is openly regretting going to bed with those guys. His counterpart in Zamfara State also did the same thing. He negotiated with the bandits and even publicly argued that strategic engagement of the bandits would make them drop their weapons. After spending huge sums of money on that enterprise, Governor Bello Matawalle will, literally speaking, pour palm oil on anyone that suggests further negotiations with bandits to him.
As a NADECO chieftain, Bola Tinubu was quoted to have said he does not believe in one Nigeria. Today, he advocates strongly for a united country. Almost everyone who has held a strong view in support of an issue at a time has had to change them, given new realities. The fact here is that humans change positions based on new realities. As the Igbo say, what an elder sees sitting down, the young will not see standing.
But again, that is one reality of leadership. Stoic disposition to situations is not a quality of leadership. Leaders change their positions, depending on new information available to them. They are expected to be firm with their convictions. Firmness is not the same as fixation. Remaining fixated on a particular position is simply a statement on the inability of the mind to think out of the box or even flow with new realities. So many people believe that the problem of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency stems from fixation on a particular module of solutions to national problems. Such fixation has ensured that other possibilities are not even tested.
In the current milieu, leaders see new realities and new developments, which challenge their previous positions, and they adapt. These new realities and developments force them to change their thought patterns and make themselves available to explore better options to solve problems. Here, fixation means death of the mind.
I believe that is why El-Rufai, like many of his peers, having seen the evils of banditry, kidnapping for ransom, mindless and reckless waste of human lives and the problem they create for society, now believe that a biological solution is the best approach to solving the problem of crime created by deviants who hold the country hostage with their guns. He has been consistent in advocating a biological solution. Biological solution supposes that the bandit and other such elements, the known but unknown gunman, is a predator who has unleashed himself on society on the strength of the light weapon he bears.
To overcome the predator and his predatory game, common sense dictates that superpredators are purpose-trained and unleashed against him in an elimination chase. The superpredator would operate with heavier weapons that would overpower whatever the predator brings into the elimination chase. This way, the predator is certain to go extinct within a time. This is the lesson society must learn from the animal kingdom. In that kingdom, to sustain a lineage, procreate and expand, a super predator will always prey on predators that prey on its offspring.
That, to my mind, is the simple interpretation of El-Rufai’s consistent call for the total annihilation of bandits and their ilk. In making that call, the Kaduna governor does not attempt to see and interpret crime from the religious or ethnic lens. That is a reality that being in power brings to bear on a leader. It is a totally different ball game when the same reality is seen from the lens of an opposition politician that is seriously seeking ways and means to be elected into office. As it is, there is no Nigerian politician currently advocating for the balkanization of the country, even behind doors, who will make the same advocacy if he is elected into office as President or governor, and I want to be told I am wrong on this. This is one reality that must sink clearly into the subconscious of the Nigerian.
The most important focus is to hold leaders responsible for what they did with power and the resources available to them while in office.