By Raymond Eyo
On January 30, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) took a swipe at the former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Nasir El-Rufai, for retweeting what they considered a “reckless” tweet on Jesus Christ.
Addressing pressmen on the issue, CAN warned El-Rufai through its General Secretary, Rev. Musa Asake, saying “We must not allow him to turn Nigeria into a cauldron of fire by his reckless, bigoted and twisted commentaries about our Lord or our faith and we must view him for exactly what he is; a failed, desperate, hate-filled and drowning politician, who is now stoking embers of religious division to create a political base for himself amongst his people.”
On Sunday, February 3, at a press briefing, Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly, a prominent Christian leader in his own right, faulted CAN’s claim that El-Rufai is a religious bigot. “It is rather unfortunate that CAN that should bring understanding to simple matters like this (the furore caused by the Jesus tweet) have chosen to confirm its description by the Catholic Church as an arm of the government in power,” he said.
It is a shame that, on February 4, CAN released yet another press statement faulting some other El-Rufai retweet which read: “To those who see clearly, whose minds are not clouded by sheer religiosity, there is nothing insulting about the (Jesus) tweet”. It is utterly disgraceful and contemptible that CAN said “El-Rufai is set on a war path with the millions of Christians in Nigeria…”
Various writers have chided CAN for its heavily flawed and unnecessarily political responses and other recent goofs.
Indeed, CAN’s reaction was a really sappy one. With almost every new comment, CAN’s present leaders have continued to sully themselves. The same CAN that can’t speak up against growing corruption and other sundry evils in the country rushes a poorly-conceived reaction to a non-issue. It’s a pity that those who ought to be vanguards of the light are themselves steeped in darkness!
CAN got it all so wrong to label El-Rufai “a failed, desperate, hate-filled and drowning politician.” That is what I want to prove with this piece.
Contrary to how CAN sought to portray him, El-Rufai is not a divisive figure. Rather, there just appears to be quite some division among Nigerians, especially between those who are benefitting from, and abetting, the status-quo and those who are against it.
El-Rufai has been very consistent with advocating for positive change in Nigeria. His abrasive outspokenness shouldn’t be construed as bad. As Meir Dagan, a former Israeli intelligence director once said, “The heart and soul of democracy is the public debate.”
Contrary to CAN’s reasoning, politics and political relevance are not necessarily determined by being in office. Yes, the power of incumbency cannot be gainsaid, especially if such is used to do the right things. But, Political Science theorises, and correctly so, that politics is overall about influence!
With regard to current political discourse in Nigeria, especially in the context of the increasing usage of the very potent tool of social media, no other Nigerian politician wields as much influence as El-Rufai! To demonstrate El-Rufai’s huge popularity on social media, you just need to look at the numbers and numbers are a cardinal component of politics and political influence.
At the last count, on Facebook, El-Rufai’s page boasts of 165,418 likes and his Twitter account has 136,168 followers. No ‘failed,’ ‘drowning’ politician will ever attract such numbers (and counting). In fact, popular newspaper columnist and former CNN African Journalist of the year, Tolu Ogunlesi, recently tweeted to acknowledge that El-Rufai and Lagos Governor, Babatunde Fashola are the most popular Nigerian politicians on Twitter. He then added that: “Lemme not lie: If I see an El-Rufai and Fashola presidential ticket in 2015, I will abandon all and work for them.”
Secondly, Nasir El-Rufai was named in the August/September 2012 issue of a prominent African magazine, The Africa Report, on its list of the 50 most influential Africans. The magazine’s accompanying brief profile of El-Rufai reads: “Outspoken and radical, as a minister for the FCT from 2003 to 2007, El-Rufai is enjoying a second act as an opposition politician… El-Rufai could play a critical role in resolving the deepening regional crises.”
In addition, still with regard to El-Rufai’s growing influence as a politician, it is important to note that he chairs his party’s reform committee. Whereas the PDP has no qualms naming an ex-convict, Bode George, into a panel to reform its Board of Trustees, El-Rufai’s credentials, especially as FCT minister, attested to by many discerning persons, qualifies him as a reformist of note. The fact that his party, the CPC, is bracing up to do a promising merger with the country’s leading opposition party, the ACN, makes it all the more safe to say that El-Rufai’s political influence has a more and pragmatic chance of growing, rather than diminishing, as CAN suggests.
Moreover, in its January 23, 2013 editorial entitled Police College and the shame of a nation, The Punch Newspaper significantly quoted Nasir El-Rufai’s analysis on the budget for the police sector in 2011, 2012 and 2013. I don’t remember any Nigerian politician who has devoted so much time to research and writing about almost all sectors of national life in a little over a year.
El-Rufai has written widely on security, finance, oil, electoral issues, agriculture, mining, infrastructure, health, justice, education, employment, corruption etc. The more he writes, as brilliantly and factually as he does, the more he contributes to influencing the information-hungry Nigerian youth and middle-class and therefore to shaping the national discourse. Surely, there’s no characteristic semblance of a drowning politician about El-Rufai, as CAN wants to make believe, in that.
Furthermore, as things stand, El-Rufai is one of the most requisite capacity-possessing Nigerian politicians, which gives him the potential and leverage to be very useful for Nigeria, going forward. According to Wikipedia, “Since leaving public service, El-Rufai completed an LL.B from the University of London, in August 2008 and a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University in June 2009. He also received the Kennedy School Certificate in Public Policy and Management after 11 months as an Edward A. Mason Fellow in Public Policy and Management from July 2008 to June 2009.”
To put the above in perspective, the Bible says in the book of Psalms that David led the Israelites with “…the skilfulness of his hands .” Skilfulness is a product of capacity. Moses also demonstrated the value of capacity. In Acts 7:22, it is said that Moses “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.”
El-Rufai’s academic credentials, highlighted above, make him a square peg in a square hole vis-à-vis public affairs. His passion for the same should therefore not be smeared by an opportunistic CAN leadership.
From their latest goofy reaction to El-Rufai, it is apparent that CAN has become too political, with an unfortunate leaning towards the government of the day. Indeed, Oluwaseun Fakuade, the founder of BEACONS Nigeria attested to this when he said: “I’m not shocked though, we know those behind it. CAN today = a tool of the govt.”
Talking politics, it is important for CAN to note that during his 4-year stint as FCT Minister alone (2003-2007), El-Rufai demonstrated more purposefulness, courage and the political will to act right than Goodluck Jonathan, a CAN protégé, has done in his entire political career (1999 to date).
Former President Obasanjo recently said no one can be a good leader if he/she can’t step on toes. Jonathan will rather seek to punish the masses than step on toes and take on vested interests corruptly usurping a pro-masses’ fuel subsidy regime. By contrast, El-Rufai was never lacking in courage during his years in government. For instance, as FCT minister, he demonstrated courage and strong leadership to demolish a property belonging to the PDP chairman, in his efforts to ensure strict compliance with the FCT master-plan.
Since CAN’s present leaders parade themselves as Bible-adherents, let me use Daniel 9:2 to better help their ignorance on El-Rufai. In that verse of Scripture, Daniel said: “I, Daniel, understood by books.” I’ll refer CAN’s president, Ayo Oritsejafor, its general secretary, Musa Asake, and other executive members to two books.
The first one, written by an international lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, and published in 2009, is entitled Reform Vs. Status-Quo: The campaign against Nasir El-Rufai and the degeneration of progress in Nigeria. The second one is written by El-Rufai himself and is due to be launched a few days hence. Rather than be consciously or unconsciously steeped in such gross ignorance about a man who remains ever relevant and influential in the efforts to birth a new Nigeria, CAN leaders and their affiliates, especially those involved in the needless and hypocritical denigration of El-Rufai, will do themselves plenty of good to read those books. After all, GOD himself has warned that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6).
On the whole, it must be said that a body, like CAN, that shamefully cannot clear the log from its eyes by respond with piety to a well-intended correction from within its ranks (see: Gabriel Omonhinmin’s This CAN family must not be broken), has lost the moral bearing to attempt to address any perceived injustice to our nation’s quest for religious harmony and tolerance