El-Rufai and the cows in human skin
In May, Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai, was asked to clarify the statement he made nine years ago about the Fulani and their propensity to carry out maniacal violence against others. Rather than show that he had reflected on his injudicious remark and was ready to disclaim it, he doubled down. According to him, “The Fulani (man) never forgets…when he is innocently targeted and killed and the authorities do nothing. He will never forget and he will come back for revenge.” El-Rufai might be someone whose humanity needs tweaking, but he is not ignorant. If he says the Fulani are given to violence, you can be sure that he did not merely misspeak. He is wilfully justifying lawlessness.
El-Rufai is a well-read man who must know that the very philosophical foundation of democracy is divergent parties-with their distinct interests and proclivities-agreeing to sheathe their primal instincts so they could live together under an agreed set of rules. It means we decide not to kill each other, and that when you hurt my side, there is a moral authority -the law- we can defer to for redress. If the law has shortcomings and incapable of doing right by the hurt party, we also have a moral responsibility to change it. There is, of course, the valid issue of asking the aggrieved party to also bear the burden of advocacy just so they can get deserved justice, but we can also agree that taking on the task of activism indexes a demonstration of commitment to civilisation and to the nation to which we regularly swear allegiance. That is why, even with all the rage people exhibited during the #EndSARS protests, their love for Nigeria still shone through in several touching ways.
By saying the Fulani would resort to bloodletting rather than advocate justice, what el-Rufai is essentially saying is that the Fulani do not believe in the Nigerian project to fight for its improvement. When he insists the Fulani are the kind of people guaranteed to take the law into their own hands, he is also saying is that they do not have faith in the Nigerian democratic order to challenge it to live up to its ideals of justice. It means that, unlike the civil rights activists who have advocated social justice and changed the course of their nation’s history, they do not believe in the potential of democracy to correct its own wrongs. El-Rufai is, unfortunately, averring that the Fulani are not capable of living in a modern society.
Let me quickly point out that El-Rufai’s characterisation of the Fulani is not the definitive way anyone should ever view them. This is one man-and I emphasise-just one man projecting his pathology on his kinsmen. Please note that el-Rufai is not alone in viewing himself and his cohorts in animalistic terms. He has a companion in presidential aide Femi Adesina who wrote another one of his obsequious articles last month. In the piece, Adesina admitted that they-he and his fellow Buharists-love the President because he is a bully. According to him, “The man we fell in love with is of iron and steel, one ready and willing to knock sense into contumacious heads, whipping everyone into line. And being kind to us in the process.” For a grown man to be looking for another grown man to “knock” sense into his “contumacious” head and “whip him into line,” as if he is an illiterate goat, says a lot about Adesina’s character. That is the kind of confession society uses to separate well-adjusted people from those still fighting daddy issues.
Interestingly, even with their jungle mentality, the differences in their predator-prey identity still rings clear. While one deems oneself as the party to do violence on others for whatever reason they like, the other considers themselves-and their fellow Buharists-as the party on which gratuitous violence can be visited. I should also add that while these men, in their cynical bid to justify violence, consider themselves as a monstrosity-creatures outside the order of human civilisation-we cannot stop them from identifying as whatever they choose. If Adesina, for instance, says he likes to be whipped before he can behave, we can only wish him well. His perverse masochistic fantasy only becomes a problem when he insists that the rest of us must adopt the same mentality. No, we will not. We are not cows that need to be knocked to acquire sense. We are rational beings, and we shall continue to insist on our right to be treated with the courtesy all humans deserve.
Now, I am bringing up these because of el-Rufai’s recent interview with the BBC Pidgin where he stated his joy at the arrest of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. He went on to rail about separatists “challenging the authority of the Nigerian state” and even warned others to be careful. He trotted out the same excuse the apologists have been bandying about as the difference between separatists like Kanu and the bandits: that one has a centralised leadership and others do not. Here is the interesting caveat: this same el-Rufai admitted during a television interview that he had been paying off mass murderers committing atrocities in Kaduna. So, if those perpetrating the evils in Kaduna can be paid in cash, is it not disingenuous of him to say they do not have an identifiable leadership? If they are no visible personalities, to whom has he been funnelling Kaduna’s money?
By the time el-Rufai finished moaning about Kanu’s antics and why the regime was justified in their zeal to pursue him, you could see that he is a quintessential dissembler. He speaks about the supremacy of the nation’s law, but he also believes he and his companions are naturally wired to operate outside it. He sees the integrity of the Nigerian state as an indivisible entity as sacrosanct but somehow cannot connect how that ideal is threatened by the atrocities of the avenging Fulani that he insistently justifies. He thinks that the Fulani have a right to attack others when they are threatened, but the followers of Kanu doing the same thing for similar reasons deserve a beating. He is offended by Kanu for describing Nigeria as a zoo, but he has no problem vindicating the Fulani herdsmen’s butchering of their fellow humans like animals. The difference between the ways el-Rufai sees separatists like Kanu and the bandits committing all kinds of havoc has nothing to do with the degree of visibility of their leading personalities. It is a matter of ethnic supremacy, simple.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State that el-Rufai leads is currently descending into a dystopia. The people whose acts of violence he serially justifies are living up to the image of them that he paints. From the frequent ethnic massacres to the genocidal killings of the Shiites, Kaduna has been one place where blood and tears flow ceaselessly. Just this Monday, another 140 students were kidnapped from a boarding school, Bethel Baptist, in the state that he supposedly leads. You need to see the images of the parents of the poor victims. You watch these families holding vigil for their children and you are enraged on behalf of these folks who get consistently pushed to the receiving end of failed leadership like the one el-Rufai personifies. This latest kidnapping incident is coming after the Afaka kidnapping in March, the Greenfield University kidnapping in April, and the series of smaller-scale abductions that have been taking place ever since.
Since el-Rufai took over leadership in Kaduna in 2015, the state has not known peace. His psychopathic leadership has diminished the people, but he can hardly be bothered. He still goes up and down to speaking events to pontificate on ideals that do not convince even him. Amidst all the frequent bloodshed in Nigeria, he still has no qualms extenuating violence enacted by misguided ethnic irredentists. Violence is only a threat to the nation when committed by people from across the River Niger, not by cows in human skin.