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Technocrats with broadcast powers?

Abraham Ogbodo is the editor of The Guardian newspapers. He was a guest of the Channels Television last week. Expectedly the show focused on the manifold mysteries of president Muhammadu Buhari’s health or lack of it. Besides the ‘scoop’ of The Guardian correspondent who went out in search for the elusively sick president in London, Ogbodo fielded other questions.

Like it often happens, it is in the asides that inviting revelations are made. And this Channels session did not disappoint. In the course of answering questions, Ogbodo recalled the last time he met Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State. He asked him a question. Why did he, El-Rufai, not team up with Babatunde Fashola to contest the presidency. Fashola is the current and only super-minister in Buhari’s cabinet. His brief covers Works amongst others.

For Ogbodo the two would have made a winsome combination. Ogbodo’s optimistic conjecture we suppose is in light of the near universal disappointment on the president’s performances. El-Rufai was one of the brainboxes that concocted the Buhari, a senior citizen’s candidacy. El-Rufai was also a part of the marketers that hawked a senior citizen for a job that calls for vibrancy if not youthfulness. Of course Ogbodo was right. Aging itself is diseased. Youth is life.

Anyway El-Rufai according to Ogbodo explained that candidate Buhari was the only one who could win the election, who could beat the sitting president, Goodluck Jonathan. And that was why Buhari was fronted. For Ogbodo and correctly so, this was evidence that national APC was only interested in power, its acquisition as a totem, not as a tool for national development or integration. Perhaps APC wanted power as children their toys; something to play with and lastly destroy same or even themselves.

While we salute Ogbodo for his correct diagnosis, we go further to suggest the following. The problem is not really Buhari or his grandfatherly age. The problem is intrinsically APC, the primordial APC. And that is assuming APC has changed or is about to. The original APC’s value propositions should never have flied. They were at best mere theatricals, and at their worst full of shambolic and vain imaginings. And more, the primordial APC was constructed as an exclusionist, nepotistic, and regional army of occupation. Their basic game was for a few to corner the whole. That is from day one, APC was divisive. Perhaps a new APC may emerge by letting in more peoples as “equal founders and equal joiners’’ and sharing all powers, including all senior security postings to reflect Nigeria’s diversity.

Well it is not impossible that Ogbodo was so pissed off with the putative messiah, Buhari, that he allowed himself to embrace any other option as necessarily better. But that would have amounted to the same mistake the many too many made in choosing Buhari over Jonathan. It is understandable. But it would have been a choice that leads to unmitigated errors. 

The details 

After two long years of El-Rufai and Fashola running shop under APC, their report cards are littered with red ink, poor performance assessments, especially of unpardonable sectionalisms. In more concrete terms the details of their performances even in purely technical and non-equity issues, rubbish their pretences to being universal geniuses.

Let us start with Fashola. For all his gubernatorial performances, Fashola was actually a kept man, politically. He was never his own guy. It may be said that Bola Tinubu, his predecessor, ‘hired’ him to do the biddings of party warlords. And to be fair to the facts, Fashola performed creditably. But the matter remains that he was a mere ‘second in command’, a foreman, politically. That is, he was an implementer, not a policy conceptualizer or architect. For those in doubt this was proven when Fashola fronted a proxy for the Lagos APC governorship party primaries. The guy, Olasupo Shasore, SAN, got about 5 tattered votes. One may thus conclude that Fashola’s inability to command or lend to his godson any meaningful electoral base or values was verdict enough that Fashola was an ‘employee governor’, not an ‘elected or superior mandate’ governor. Anyway like Machiavelli when he fell from power, Shasore has taken up the more elevated vocation of being a historian, authoring books. We welcome him to the club, wishing him well.

Of course things moved on. And Fashola was made a super-minister and apparently given unfettered powers to match. Suddenly it all turned up a classic case of the infamous Peter principle, of a man promoted beyond his destiny. Today despite Fashola’s earlier boastful wager that it won’t take 6 months to fix electricity, it is generally clear that Fashola is not the ‘baba kekere’ we are waiting for. At least not in terms of consumer electricity. And if a man can’t deliver light, what else can he deliver? Darkness?

And to confirm the provincial mind-set of the APC of which Fashola is a flame bearer, his distribution of federal allocations on roads re/construction is a scandal of divisive in-equitability. By the arithmetic of the allocation, it might be said that to Fashola, neither the South-East nor the South-South are component parts of Nigeria.

Now to El-Rufai. El-Rufai is another Fashola-like rainmaker by reputation. He was so successful, even if controversial, at his erstwhile postings, that it was speculated he was a genius. Even Emir of Kano, who then was a mere citizen, added his voice in erecting the El Rufai halo. For the emir, El Rufai was an Aristotle, the master of those who know. Of course that was not the words of the emir but it is all in the spirit in which he spoke. That is while Fashola was taken as brilliant – having made SAN at a relatively young age – El-Rufai is formidably so. And he is thought to be something of a polymath, having reputedly cherry-picked several degrees.

And not too long after El-Rufai turned up a governor, of Kaduna State. Also like Fashola it was rumoured that it was party lords who ‘fixed’ a winning ticket for him. At least this is what serving Senator Shehu Sani confesses. Sani’s thesis is that he was ‘stumped’ to give up the party primaries which he won or was about to win to make room for the viceroy from Abuja, El Rufai. Like Fashola it was party lords, absentee party lords in this case working from Abuja, who ‘securitized’ the governorship ticket for El-Rufai. And he won.

Almost immediately El-Rufai mounted the saddle, Kaduna State became a theatre of wars and alarums, of community strives and multiple deaths, of religious mayhem and divisiveness, as never before. And to be fair, they may not all be his making. But truth be told, El-Rufai was exasperating matters, literally throwing petrol unto harmattan fires. And it did not take time for him to showcase his partisanship. In this regard special mention must be made of his triumphant claim that the Fulani, he is one himself, never forgives even at the cost of missing paradise, or something in that style. Also there is his capitulation unto paying millions to [foreigner and vengeful] Fulani herdsmen to stop killing non-Fulani Nigerians in Kaduna State. And there are other such divisive and incendiary words and acts. And these are matters of public records.

Wrapping up?

Well this proves one fact. It is that El-Rufai and Fashola only achieved successes when they were commanded, not when they were in command; when they had narrowcast, not broadcast schedules. Actually the fact of this is not extraordinary. Examples abound. Similar issues have been recorded in history. Easily the German-Jewish historian Emil Ludwig turns up. Of General Marc Anthony in ancient Roman empire, Ludwig wrote:

‘’But when she [Cleopatra] asked him [Caesar] whether Anthony too could become king, he [Caesar] replied with an emphatic negative. As a second in command, under a stronger leader, Anthony was incomparable; but for supreme command he had neither the patience nor the coolness.’’

The point is that the El-Rufia-Fashola presidential team may have brought us greater disasters than we are fleeing from now. As partisans, that is technocratic servants, they like Anthony are incomparable. But the two lack the skills, the Caesarisms, to build and play the team, the all-Nigerian team. They are too divisive. Perhaps it is a fault of their being ‘geniuses’. Geniuses, whether real or staged, are often deluded of their own impeccability. So for them if they are divisive against the commonwealth, it must be the best the commonwealth can have and must be happy with.

Again, geniuses whether real or fancied, are endowed with gifts. But one of those is not the ability to listen, save to their own voices. That is for practical purposes geniuses are born deaf… to the outside world. It thus may be safely said that an El-Rufai-Fashola double-technocratic ticket is sheer romanticism of utmost danger. In practice it might have turned up a Nigerian Hiroshima, politically speaking.

This of course brings us to the general enthusiasm of wanting to recruit or graft technocrats into elective offices. It is generally a rare phenomenon if it ever worked. And the logic of this is inherent in the fact that politics is its own specialism, just like technocracy. In fact, politics is also a technocratic game. And brilliance in other fields may not guarantee a same level operational proficiency in politics.

That fact is that winning elections and procuring a stable order are also technical issues. That it looks deceitfully general and unspecialized like prose-poems, should not deceive, certainly not the very elect. And there are not too many examples if any in history of a technocrat who turned up a great politician. To have one is to come as close as is humanly possible, to the other-worldly vision of philosopher-kings hallucinated by Plato. # Ego-Alowes is the author of the classic Minorities as Competitive Overlords.

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