It’s only natural that who succeeds Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai,in 2023, is naturally a subject of intense media and political speculation, because he has resolved several lingering challenges that adversely affected governance in Kaduna state, that anyone taking over from him has his/her job cut out. Secondly, because his political opponents- external and internal- are determined to politically subjugate him, first to teach him “some lessons” and secondly to reverse the tremendous strides recorded under his watch, in the mistaken believe that they will be hurting el-Rufai and not the good people of Kaduna state.
The recent defeat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the bye-election for the Sabon-Gari constituency seat, previously occupied by Abdullahi Shagali, the former speaker, which the Kaduna state house of assembly declared vacant, as a result of “internal house dynamics”, has suddenly led the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into delusions and hallucinations,that it can roundly defeat the APC in the 2023 elections.
For the likes of Atiku Abubakar ,the former Vice-President, and Bola Tinubu, two political “opposites” of el-Rufai, the possibility of defeating el-Rufai, an alternate reality sold to them by expired politicians, is tantalising and convincing of some further investment.
For the APC, the defeat was a wake up call from its slumber, a strident message to its critical stakeholders on the need to remain “eternally vigilant and united”, that failure will spell doom for everyone. It’s immediate reaction is ordering the speaker, Yusuf Zalani, who clearly didn’t see the full implication of his ill advised action, to recall every member that has been placed on suspension. It has also intensified preparations for upcoming local government elections in order to “quieten”, the “noisy” PDP.
This is not the first time el-Rufai will be facing a determined opposition. Between 2015 and 2019, the allied forces of Bola Tinubu, Bukola Saraki and Adams Oshiomhole had at various times sponsored Senators Shehu Sani, Sulaiman Hunkuyi and Isa Ashuri to defeat him, as part of the 2023 presidential elections strategy of making el-Rufai irrelevant in the permutations, considering the several possibilities. Though roundly defeated in previous encounters, they clearly haven’t given up on their misadventure.
Though el-Rufai might most likely not be a candidate for any position in the 2023 general election, he most certainly will be a factor in the emergence of the presidential candidate of the APC, and of the governorship candidate for Kaduna state, given his huge popularity, an intimidating network, impressive mobilisation skills, a clout that is further bolstered by the 3.5 million active Kaduna state voters, compared to the paltry voting numbers figures of Lagos state.
In 2019 elections, el-Rufai a true democrat, refused to impose any candidate on the party, unlike what obtained in many other states, a principle that is not likely to change, in 2023. The only exception was Senator Sulaiman Abdul Kwari, a consensus candidate of all the stakeholders, that had the duty of defeating Suleman Hunkuyi, a political renegade.
Without doubt, el-Rufai has proven himself an audacious political chess master, effortlessly retiring the “so called political professors” who had derided his political skills and had written him off. He is very much aware of the plots and suicidal scheming of those positioning to take over from him.
Though a legitimate constitutional right, his position is that his personal ambition shouldn’t adversely affect service delivery to the citizens of the kaduna state, which has remained his worry.
On 31st December, 2020, el-Rufai, in reaction to the shenanigans of professional politicians angling to take over, issued strident warnings like rattlesnakes do, to ward off intruders, that distractions from the goals of the administration won’t be tolerated.
El-Rufai, an acknowledged wordsmith, continuously followed up with a series of poignant quotes and proverbs on his verified Twitter and Facebook accounts, to convey his innermost thoughts on the “unhealthy” political developments in the state, a kind of warn and desist, which some of the actors refused to pay attention to.
0n the 31st December,2020, El-Rufai wrote: “KADUNA UPDATE: As we come to the end of the year 2020, we give thanks to Almighty Allah for sparing our lives, & pray for long life in good health, happiness & prosperity for everyone in Kaduna State & Nigeria. Happy New Year 2021 in advance to everyone. Focus!! 2021 is the critical year to deliver on our “Putting People First” commitments. We will deal decisively & clinically with anyone, within or outside the public service, whose ambition, ego, mischief or bigotry stands in the way of achieving this. -@elrufai.”
El-Rufai, contrary to his characterisation by opponents, a man of amazing infinite patience, continued his warnings with proverbs from all over the world, to deliver strident warnings to the aspirants.
“It is the calm and silent water that drowns a man”. For informed analysts, this was a direct message to the aspirants not to misconstrue his loud silence to mean ignorance of their actions and a subtle hint that his silence is deadly. The fallout from the conduct of the local government elections primaries, has shown exactly what he meant. The poor handling was an opportunity to unleash bottled up anger and to remind everyone that he is still the governor. He acted when people felt safe.
El- Rufai has further reenforced his engagement with the aspirants, with another telling Yoruba proverb, that “If you damage the character of another you damage your own”, a direct warning to those that have taken delight in damaging others.
Another proverb borrowed from Ashanti – “by the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed” – is not only a clear message to the gladiators that he is keenly aware of their subterranean moves, but a clear message to exercise patience, admonition that’s been largely ignored, either because they believe they are smarter, or because they don’t read.
And in what can be termed his philosophical refuge, el-Rufai borrowed from an anonymous quote to convey the ultimate message that “often in life, the best course of action in a difficult situation, is to just do nothing. Once the heart is clean, no evil can affect a person or prevail in the situation”. So while they plot, he has adopted a sidon look attitude, which those who know el-Rufai intimately well, say is devastating.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is certainly not in any position to challenge the APC in the 2023 elections, because it’s deeply divided, has no sellable candidate and more fundamentally because Nasir el-Rufai in 6 years has raised questions about the performance of the party, which was in power for 16 years and has nothing to show.
Hugely popular, any candidate backed by el-Rufai will easily win the coveted seat. And in 2023, only the APC will defeat the APC.