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Nasir el-Rufai is one of the supergovernors. The reasons are many but few may suffice. He is the governor of Kaduna State. Kaduna is easily one of Nigeria’s most important and volatile states. It used to be the political capital of the North and also exhibits volatility as perhaps no other Nigerian state, judged over time. Like Nigeria, Kaduna is cut into two ‘uneasy’ Northern-Moslem and Southern-Christian blocs.
In addition, el-Rufai has a reputation as an especially gifted and cerebral man. In fact, records show that the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, easily one of Nigeria’s “best and brightest’’ openly attested that, in matters of brilliance, el-Rufai is his deity. And as a master political intriguer, it is not clear if el-Rufai has any superiors.
Lately, Kaduna has been on the boil. The bloody clashes between Shiite Moslems and other groups, including the Nigerian Army, are yet to become an exhausted volcano. As if that was not enough, el-Rufai has entered a knockout phase with his arch-enemy, Shehu Sani, a Kaduna senator. Never mind their high offices, matters are getting thuggish, bloodier.
Unlike el-Rufai, Sani has no reputation as a particularly brilliant fellow or strategist. But nobody should be deceived. First, reputation is not all there is to capacity. Sani, to the extent we can read him, we have never met him and are not wanting to by the way, is singularly a very brilliant mind. Perhaps, he is self-effacing or even shy. But his mind, as much as we decoded it on and in newspapers, is as sharp as an assassin’s dagger. And Sani, an Obasanjo-style “poor reputation, rich capacity fighter,” has triumphed over innumerable odds, including, it appears military dictators. It would just be naïve to take him as a “rookie senator.” Sani has no reputation for his capacities and that, I think, is what makes him, like Obasanjo, the more formidable a foe.
In summary, it may be said that two heavyweights are pitted in a mortal battle that is bound to be as interesting as it is disastrous. Their clash may be a modern rendition of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Ladoke Akintola classic. True to type, Sani and el-Rufai, on one hand, and Awolowo and Akintola, on the other, are burdened by messiah or genius instincts. It is this messiah sub-consciousness that drives these men to universalise their private obsessions and petty quarrels. So it is in character that historians take the Akintola and Awolowo political showdown as the first cannon shots that became the civil war. The takeaway here is that, when formidable characters go to war as el-Rufai and Sani are about to do, it is not really about them anymore. In the end, as Mother A’Endu quipped, It’s the clash of the thunder and lightning that sets the forests on fire. Both men are individually too imperious to go down without causing forest fires or state-quakes.
But the greater point is that their fight is inevitable. It is all rooted in the forces inherent in the political architecture of Nigeria, and not in the characters of the men at play. Perhaps, not known to many, the architecture or power configuration is, literally, national destiny. It is how power [or any assignable metrics or weights] is configured and distributed that fixes the nature of the stability of systems, whether it is a state, a story or a motor car. To give an example, racing cars are designed to be such. It is not just about horse power. It is even more about drag, aero-, hydro- or, better, medium-dynamics, that is, the distribution of shapes and weights. So, to race well, a Bugatti Sports, say, must be so designed. That is, for a country to be stable and developable, it must also be [electorally and power] so designed.
Unfortunately, the military kids who hijacked the Nigerian state via coups and counter-coups considered themselves something of philosopher kings, the great architects of modernity. Unfortunately, again, these coup-maker boys struck as nationalists but played, one and all, as sectionalists. To compound things, these gunslingers equated the ability to wear epaulets and do coups as a proof of their “world historical genius.” And since it is only geniuses that may found successful and stable systems, including countries, these coup-makers deluded themselves by passing off possession of guns for possession of genius. So, in populist ignorance, they considered themselves fit and proper persons to redesign Nigeria with their guns, body odour and all.
In consequence, present-day Nigeria is so configured that she has become what the Chinese call a one-city empire. And by its inherent logic, it is not workable. In a one-city empire-state, the imperial capital posts viceroys to the provinces, which are purposely left underdeveloped. That is to say the provinces lack basic autonomy even to elect who rules them. So these viceroy-governors come as missionaries, reporting to Abuja and are not responsible to their states. To give our Nigerian example, we quote: “So, Mr. Akeredolu, who has not been living and practicing law in Ondo State, does not…” The Yoruba Nation and History Lessons – Part 2, by Martins Oloja. The Guardian 03-12-16. [Akeredolu is a famous Ikeja, GRA-based lawyer, reputedly].
So as is obvious, Akeredolu doesn’t live in or know Ondo, which he is about to govern. Of course what happened in Ondo was the outcome of offshore contests between Abuja and Lagos. That is, Ondo people had no real hand in choosing who would be their governor, at the crucial levels of party primaries. They were presented with fait accompli by “far removed” Federal Government and godfathers.
Let us now recall that Sani once complained that he beat el-Rufai in the governorship primary. He further, believably too, accused el-Rufai of being an [electoral] stranger to Kaduna. His point was that el-Rufai has in the last 10 or so years been living and trading as a politician in Abuja and abroad [as an exile]. However, Sani claimed, believable again, that he was prevailed by powerful Abuja party lords and influencers to step down for el-Rufai. And el-Rufai turned up governor. That is, Kaduna people had no choice in who became their governor. It was largely fixed by empire-state party mafia, not nation-state builders.
So, el-Eufai’s and Akeredolu’s coming to power as governors were cases of the peoples’ will being subverted by offshore emperors and party apparatchiks. Apparently, Sani was consoled with an automatic senatorial seat. Now, it is not impossible Sani, a Kaduna electoral [indigenous] citizen is suffering buyer’s remorse. It is also not ruled out that el-Rufai, in a classic power move, has need to quash future opposition to the forces of empire-state that he represents. In a sense, therefore, Sani and el-Rufai are proxy combatants of forces they may not be aware are at work and play. Absentmindedly, they are contesting: should Nigeria be a nation-state or an empire-state, with all the implications thrown in? That is the real crisis. The others, of smelly egos, etc., are opportunistic.
More ominously, it is not a Kaduna and Ondo only political pathology. With the possible exceptions of Kano and Lagos, virtually all other Nigerian states are run, or represented at senate and federal and even mayoral levels by ‘returnee’ or ‘offshore’ indigenes, not electoral, that is, home-based [indigene] citizens. In real terms, the states don’t just go to Abuja [and sometimes Lagos] for monthly allocations, they also do so to collect approvals of who is to be governor, senator… or even mayors. The point in this is that this absurdity would not have been possible in our regional style democracy. The architecture of power and the consequences thereof simply would not have allowed the regions to outsource regional sub-sovereignties to Abuja. The takeaway: Today in Nigeria it is increasingly no longer feasible to live in the states/provinces and be electable to rule the states/provinces. Our straw poll reveals that about 70% of all governors and senators are actually Lagos and Abuja-based electoral citizens who “negotiated” the rights to represent their ancestral states as plutocrats or alleged technocrats.
In other words, Nigeria is not a representative democracy. Nigeria is a fusion of between oligarchy and plutocracy, masked as republicanism. This is a great part of why Nigeria is unstable and undevelopable.
Let us take a contra-look at what happened to the United States. After the American civil war, and also, interestingly, the world wars, the Americans abrogated all their “win-the-war legislations.” They returned to and consolidated on their old stable and workable system, freely chosen. And their finely crafted federation has run not just without issues, but has empowered them a superpower. But through coups and counter-coups, all kinds of characters set about redesigning Nigeria in their weaponised ignorance. And now we are a monstrosity. That is the cause of the el-Rufai-Sani war, as well as IPOB, Avengers, Boko Haram. In a word, if systems can’t be made stable, they are, consequentially, undevelopable. To save Nigeria you must destroy this temple and redesign her. For more details, see the book Economists as Assassins the Nigerian Connection, by your correspondent.