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The bulldozers are coming


On Tuesday, February 20, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has shown us how to deal with the political opposition.

It is the mark of genius for someone to devise a simple solution to a complex and intractable problem. On Tuesday, February 20, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State has shown us how to deal with the political opposition.

A rebel faction of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, led by Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi had set up a parallel party office in Kaduna State and announced gleefully that it had suspended the governor, along with some of his leading supporters, from the party.

The governor’s alleged offence was “anti-party activities.” They did not elaborate. In apparent response, the state demolition squad roared into the rebel’s office before sunrise and brought it down. Simple!

Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan would be wondering why this simple solution never occurred to him when the storm was gathering in 2015. A few bulldozers would have done justice to the headquarters of the APC and the empire would have been saved. Instead, Jonathan relied on the ingenuity of Colonel Sambo Dasuki and members of his War Council.

The result is that Jonathan is in comfortable retirement, Dasuki is embattled, Muhammadu Buhari is in Aso Rock Presidential Villa and el-Rufai is driving a bulldozer in Kaduna.

And indeed el-Rufai is a bulldozer. He may look fragile but his heart is sturdy. He is as subtle as a tank and has an excellent appetite for trouble. He came to national spotlight when President Olusegun Obasanjo made him the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. He was unbending in his implementation of the mandate given to him by the President.

He once ordered the demolition of a building owned Dr Ahmadu Alli, the chairman of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. El-Rufai was a loyal party man, an unbending rod of chastisement to those who were perceived to have violated the Abuja Master plan. He was loyal to President Obasanjo, he is loyal to President Buhari and he is always loyal to himself.

I love the calm explanation of the state government over this demolition matter. According to newspapers report, Ibrahim Husseini, the director-general of the Kaduna State Geographical Information Service, said the house “was removed” and not just demolished.

In a terse statement, Husseini informed his employers, the kind people of Kaduna State, that “this morning, a building on 11B Sambo Close was removed for flagrant violation of land use law and non-payment of ground rent since 2010.” He added with blatant serenity: “This illegal violation of the land use law had begun to distress neighbours, who are being forced to endure an influx of thugs and blockage of the road.” Hummh!

When your governor falls in love with you, your neighbour better beware or he may have his house demolish. Shehu Sanni, one of the heroes of the anti-military struggle that gave birth to the current Republic and now a sitting senator representing Kaduna Central, is also one of the leaders of the rebel faction. Speaking in Abuja on Tuesday, Sanni asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call his “beloved son” to order.

“In the last two and half years, we have been faced with tyranny in our state,” said Sanni. “It is of concern that after about 20 years after military rule, a man with such a rabid ambition and arrogance of power can appropriate to himself power to act outside the law. How can a democratically elected governor demolish a house without notice simply for the fact that we have set up an office different from the one he personalized for himself as a so-called party man.”

It is when you examine the mindset of powerful men and women like el-Rufai you understand the enormity of the national assignment recently given to Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Asiwaju of Lagos and national leader of the ruling APC. He has been asked to travel to Oke Langbodo, the mythical summit in Daniel Fagunwa Igbo Olodumare, and retrieve the elusive soul of his party. But how do you retrieve a delicate object from the debris after the bulldozer had finished its work?

We expect soon that the Tinubu train would land in Kaduna. His job is already cut out for him. Bring the olive branch to the governor who is ever ready for battle. Placate the opposition who are waiting to see the end of his reign.

Try to see whether these two factions of the same party would remember that the PDP, chastised by the calamitous defeat of 2015, remains a formidable and enduring opponent. How this play out will have a direct bearing on next year’s governorship and presidential elections.

But this is more than a litmus test for Tinubu. It is an indication of the fractious nature of the APC and its leadership. Almost in every state, there are factions and factors that remain irreconcilable. Yet elections are coming and electoral battles would be fought, won and lost. If the bulldozers have not being rolled into battle in some states, it may be because there are no bulldozers yet. But the bulldozers are coming and that is no good news for Tinubu and the President.

This may not be anything to unduly worry about. In the last dispensation, especially under President Olusegun Obasanjo, the then ruling PDP was rife with fictionalization and rebellion.

So much was the problem that the National Assembly, dominated by the PDP, was always threatening to impeach the President until Obasanjo succeeded in sending many of their principal figures away into political oblivion.

Such was the state of affairs that the President and the Vice-President were in a tug-of-war for most of the Obasanjo years. The redeeming grace of that period was that the President had the stamina for battle and he finally imposed his personality on the fractious PDP.

But in this APC dispensation, the President does not seem to have an inclination to impose order and compel obedience if not loyalty and love. Though his party is in nominal majority in the National Assembly, it is not clear that he has a grip of the place.

It is also a disturbing trend that he is oblivious of certain expectations from Nigerians who believe the President should lead the battle against social pests masquerading as so-called Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers and the likes. The President is a powerful man, but he comes across as weak, indecisive and sometimes even out of touch.

What is needed may not be to make peace across the state, but find a new connect between the Nigerian people and the President who was swept into power with overwhelming enthusiasm. For a start, old promises made to the people in 2015 should be unearthed to keep faith with the electorate. One of this was the idea of a new Constitution which is also called restructuring of the Federation.

Tinubu’s home base of the West had been clamouring for this for many years. When a party with substantial input from the Yoruba heartland got to power in Abuja, one would have expected that the idea of restructuring would find immediate traction. No yet so far and this is quite disappointing.

We have heard complaints from some chieftains of the APC and even the Presidency about the unclear nature of what the people meant by restructuring. Those people need to go back to the Constitution agreed upon by the Founding Fathers of Nigeria and discover the truth.

The Constitution is called the Independent Constitution of 1960. If they study it they would know why many Nigerians supported the idea of making the proposed new regions, North-West, North-East, North Central, South-West, South-East and South-South, the new Federating units of Nigeria. A country of six federating units is a more manageable one than one with 36 states. How do you manage a country with 36 state police?

Our country needs new impetus for development and nothing could be better than a new constitutional structure that takes inspirations from what the Founding Fathers agreed upon at the very beginning of our journey as an independent sovereign state.

The APC, to last longer in power, must free itself from petty squabbles and embark on great enterprises that would improve the fortunes of our Commonwealth. Let keep the bulldozers at bay.

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