Mallam Nasir el-Rufai is an unrepentant religious bigot; a militant Islamic supremacist, who believes Islam is superior to Christianity, and wants Islam to dominate the leadership of Nigeria. He doesn’t just hold these views, he actively pursues them. As governor of Kaduna state for eight years, until May this year, el-Rufai ran an Islamic government, with a Muslim-controlled administration, despite the state having a large Christian population.
Now, out of office, he prides himself on installing a successor on a Muslim-Muslim ticket, and entrenching Muslim dominance in the governance of Kaduna state. More significantly, el-Rufai boasts of foisting his Kaduna state Muslim-Muslim leadership model on Nigeria, and warns Nigerians to brace themselves for a prolonged Muslim leadership of this country.
I cringed at el-Rufai’s recent comments on how Islam was used to secure “victory” for Bola Tinubu in this year’s presidential election, and his call for entrenched Muslim presidency in Nigeria. Why would anyone behave with such utter recklessness and stoke inter-religious tensions in a country so ethnically and religiously polarised, and so unstable and fragile?
However much some hate to hear it, the truth is that Nigeria began as an artificial construct and remains today, 109 years after the British cobbled it together in 1914, a state without nationhood. It is, essentially, still a mere geographical space, where ethnicity, religion and other primordial sentiments define most of the people.
Clearly, therefore, any responsible leader interested in nation-building should, in words and deeds, seek to bind this country together and not deepen its ethnic, religious and other schisms.
Apparently, however, el-Rufai is not such a leader: he wants a Nigeria whose leadership is controlled by Muslims, a Nigeria where Islam is privileged over Christianity in national leadership and governance. He wants, more or less, an Islamic Republic of Nigeria! If you think that’s hyperbolic, hear it from his mouth!
In a recent viral video, el-Rufai told Muslim clerics in Kaduna that religion was used to give Tinubu “victory” in February’s presidential election. He said Tinubu knew he “had no option” but to pick a Muslim running mate, otherwise “he would lose the election.” Then, he gloated: “What we are able to achieve in Kaduna, has now been achieved in Nigeria.” He went on to ridicule the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, saying it had “kept quiet” and “remained mute” since Tinubu’s “victory”.
The presidential poll, el-Rufai said, showed that Christians lacked electoral value and strength in Nigeria. “There’s no liar that can say he will do politics of Christianity and win the election,” he said, adding: “So, if we keep bringing Muslim-Muslim tickets, everything will go smoothly for us Muslims.” Put simply, a Muslim-Muslim ticket would trump a Christian-Muslim ticket in any presidential election in Nigeria.
First, it’s worth pointing out that even the highly disputed INEC results of the presidential election do not justify el-Rufai’s triumphalism. It’s not clear to me how securing 8.79 million out of 24 million votes, as Tinubu did, can amount to acceptance and legitimisation of the Muslim-Muslim ticket when the overwhelming majority of voters, 14.6 million, rejected that ticket. How can someone with 36.6 per cent of the total votes claim a strong mandate for a Muslim-Muslim ticket when a whopping 63.39 per cent of the voters rejected that ticket? Surely, el-Rufai must concede that, even with the INEC-declared results, Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket did not receive the majority, let alone overwhelming, support of Nigerians, and thus lacks true legitimacy.
But that aside, the truth is that, with el-Rufai, we are dealing with a dangerous and perverse influence on Nigeria’s politics and polity. I once wrote that el-Rufai is a very smart technocrat and administrator.
Of course, he is! But so, in some ways, were Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. And so are many autocrats and demagogues around the world today. Truth is, the world is full of evil geniuses!
With el-Rufai, we are dealing with a dangerous and perverse influence on Nigeria’s politics and polity
I mean, when a smart person warned foreign election observers not to interfere in Nigeria’s presidential election or “you will go home in body bags”, as el-Rufai did in 2019, you must wonder about that kind of smartness. When, in a country split nearly 50-50 between Christians and Muslims, a smart person called for a Muslim-Muslim presidency, saying “if we do it again and again, everything will be normal”, you must wonder if that “smart” person is, indeed, “normal” himself. Sadly, that’s how one must view el-Rufai; smart but dangerous, a toxic influence on Nigerian politics!
But this is not just about el-Rufai. What about Mallam Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, SCSN, calls him? He told Nigerians that he picked Mallam Kashim Shettima as his running mate, not because he was a fellow Muslim but because he was a genius, whose abilities could not be matched by any Christian member of his party, APC, in the North! Of course, Tinubu was dissembling, his denial was deceptive. El-Rufai has finally put the lie to that denial. Truth is, the Muslim-Muslim ticket was about using religion to secure power. For Tinubu’s Northern backers, like el-Rufai, it was about ensuring Islamic dominance in the leadership of Nigeria!
Ironically, the same Tinubu who said, albeit deceptively, that his Muslim-Muslim ticket was based on competence, not religion, then, once in power, used religion to push for Godswill Akpabio’s election as Senate President. Tinubu’s vice president, Shettima, put it starkly: “The worst and most incompetent Southern Christian is better than the most puritanical Northern Muslim for the presidency of the Senate.” That comment enraged Shettima’s fellow Northern Muslims, forcing him to apologise and reaffirm his Islamic pedigree. “My family lineage has faithfully followed the path of Islam for more than 1,400 years,” he said.
Of course, the point Shettima and Tinubu were making regarding the Senate President position was that it had little to do with competence, but all to do with religion. In truth, given that Nigeria’s legislature is typically a rubber stamp, the quality of a Senate president is irrelevant. Yet, the fact that Tinubu and Shettima used religion so opportunistically to grab power, both in the presidential election and in the election of the Senate president, reveals the dishonesty at the heart of their politics and, potentially, also at the heart of their government.
But we must return to el-Rufai. He said that having secured a Muslim-Muslim presidency in Nigeria, replicating his Kaduna model at the centre, he and his fellow APC Northern Muslims “have finished our work”. He then projected that Nigeria would have a prolonged Muslim presidency. He may well be right. For, with Tinubu as president, if the Supreme Court validates his election, Nigeria may have a Muslim president for 24 years continuously.
Think about it this way. If Tinubu does eight years in office, he will, inevitably, be succeeded by a Northern Muslim, who may also do eight years. Thus, by 2039, Nigeria would have had a Muslim president for 24 consecutive years since 2015!
Sadly, some Nigerians are currently overexcited about Tinubu’s exercise of presidential powers, which if anything, merely confirms how powerful Nigeria’s president is. But the premature adulation will fizzle out and the implications of Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim presidency, and the potential for Muslim presidency for 24 consecutive years, will be unavoidable. Surely, in a climate where there’s widespread persecution of Christians and hostility towards the Christian faith, as documented by Release International, a global NGO, it’s inevitable that an Islamisation agenda will severely test Nigeria’s fragile unity and stability.
El-Rufai says his “work is finished” with the emergence of a Muslim-Muslim presidency. Well, he will live with the consequences of his quest for Islamic domination of Nigeria!