Re-El-Rufai vs. EFCC: the facts speak for themselves
By Julius Emere
When I read the EFCC statement which declared former FCT minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai wanted and El-Rufai’s lawyer’s response, I immediately remembered a very brilliant piece written by one of our most informed commentators, Mr. Idang Alibi. Mr. Alibi’s piece which was entitled El-Rufai: How to Serve Nigeria and win Applause was published in his Thursday column in the Daily Trust of April 17, 2008. I want to share that lovely piece with readers who never had a chance to read it because it is stiil as relevant today as it was when it was published some months back. It will also help to shed light on the current war being waged by EFCC against el-Rufai. Have a wonderful reading!
Given the way great effort is being made to ridicule, humiliate and discredit the former FCT minister Nasir el-Rufai without regard to the wonderful job everybody said he did in four short years for this country, I have formulated here a code of how to serve Nigeria and get applause.
1. Resolve that public service in Nigeria, no matter how well you served, is a totally thankless job. Have it at the back of your mind that we Nigerians do not have a capacity for gratitude. We are a gross people who find gratitude an attitude of such great cultivation too much for us to acquire. With this knowledge about the character of our people, you will not mind so much when you get out of office and you are made to face every type of persecution and harassment. You may be tried by the media. Efforts may be made by a hostile government that succeeds yours to incite the people against you, like is happening to el-Rufai now. Everything foul may be done to demonise you. You will rather accept every rotten egg that is thrown at you with philosophical calmness.
2. Do not serve with zeal. Do not give of your best to the nation. No one will give you applause for your selflessness. Try to serve yourself and family as much as possible. We take noble efforts for granted. It is not in our character to remember the good any one has done. It is rather in our character to seek to prove that you are not better than anyone else. That all the noise about you is mere hype. That you are a bloody hypocrite and an overrated performer. El-Rufai is a good example.
3. Note that Nigerians love complaining about how bad the situation is. But they seem to prefer living with the ugly situation instead of taking the sometimes drastic and painful steps that would solve the problem. Join them in trading blames and doing nothing about the situation complained of. We do not like people like el-Rufai who have the intelligence, the courage and the sense of mission to get things done even if their measures would bring pain in the short run and great good in the long run.
FCT before the coming of el-Rufai was a filthy, noisy and very crowded environment and not great fun to live in. But El-Rufai’s efforts to sanitise the place was met with great resistance and condemned as a violation of the fundamental human right to live in squalor. Any one like el-Rufai who has the skills for adopting practical solutions to solve practical problems would be hated and called all sorts of names- disobeyer of court orders, lover of demolition, hater of the poor masses, a man of arbitrariness, heartless man, etc.
4. Remember that what people focus on in our country is the mistakes you may make while in office and not the results you may get. Try to be what the Americans call “the least objectionable character”. You may not have great ability or great public spiritedness but do everything to be the lesser bad guy so that you can be preferred to men and women of distinction who do not know how to play politics. Do everything in the rule book not to make mistakes, or more appropriately, not to offend people. Mistakes by a public officer like el-Rufai may mean his well-meaning efforts to check the greed of our indisciplined elite and our love for disorderliness and impunity. If people want to build anywhere against town planning rules and regulation, do not stop them. Pat them on the back. Do not try to do what is right, fair and just. Do only what will please people, especially the tiny political and business elites that have held this nation hostage for so long.
There is great wisdom in the advice I am giving here because no one is talking ill of other ministers who ran the FCT before el-Rufai when the probe is supposed to also inquire into the affairs of el-Rufai’s predecessors like Bunu Sheriff Musa and Abba Gana. No one is saying anything bad about them because they obeyed this code I am trying to formulate to guide the steps of any one who does not want to be abused after he leaves office. They allowed illegal squatters a free rein. They toadied up to the rich and powerful. They learnt to live with the rot they found. They did not demolish illegal structures, or sack corrupt FCDA officials or revoked lands that were illegally acquired. They were ‘humane’ people who love ‘due process’ and who did not inflict pains on the “poor masses”.
5. An adjunct to rule 4 above is that you should stand for no principles at all. Try very hard to be a survivalist. Do not try to swim against the current. Flow with the crowd. If people love disorder, commend them. Do not try to change them. Go along with them. Tell them to build their houses anywhere that catches their fancies. After all, they are bona fides citizens of Nigeria and in Nigeria, anything goes. We are not white people so why any talk about decency, orderliness and such other craps.
Put it at the back of your head that this country is not worth dying for at all. The dream of every patriot is to serve his country with dedication. Do no such thing for Nigeria. We do not value such people here. When you set out to serve with dedication, you will necessarily have to step on powerful toes. Those people will fight you fair and foul. They have a long reach. Their long reach is now getting to el-Rufai.
6. In other places, politicking ends when a government is elected and formed and governance starts immediately. But in our country, the rule is that government plays politics forever. There is no time for governance. If you are a technocrat like el-Rufai, forget about your technocratic expertise. What rules the wave here is politics for ever. Learn to play endless politics.
Be ready always to kiss the backyard of traditional rulers, retired generals, godfathers, movers and shakers of the society. Bend the rules to favour them. Do not be focused on anything in order to deliver development dividends to the people. El-Rufai thought he could win the acclaim of his countrymen by focusing on the ten-point agenda former President Olusegun Obasanjo gave him to make Abuja a world-class federal capital city. See what sad mistake he made.
7. Do not be controversial. In Nigeria, you are in power to loot. So eat your loot quietly and thank your God or god for your good fortune. Be generous with it. Adopt the posture of eat-and-let’s live. Do not try to challenge anyone about looting the public till. That will make you controversial and hated.
8. Pretend to be an extremely humble man because Nigerians do not appear to like any man who acts with a lot of self confidence. Our people will see you as unbearably arrogant. That is one of the problems some people say they have with el-Rufai. They will say in one breath that they like the work he did as FCT minister but that he carried on with too much arrogance.
Some of us can not understand this at all. What problem will I have with any man who is arrogant if the man has helped to make my life better or if he has done his job well? I am a very self-confident man. I do not have a fragile ego. I truly wish I have men and women out there who will do my country and me some good and boast about it to the whole world. I can live with beneficial arrogance, the type that el-Rufai displayed while in office as FCT minister.
9. Our people love duplicitous people. They do not like a straight talker and doer. Do not be straight forward with them. That is one of el-Rufai’s undoing. He thought that being a technocrat and no politician, straight talking will win him friends and admirers. He was mistaken. In our country, a former President is famous for being a dribbler. Dribble Nigerians endlessly and they will applaud you for being smart!
10. Please remember, this is Nigeria. The rich and powerful are the very set of people who love impunity in our country. Do not insist on following the law or due process with them. If you do so, you will incur their wrath. And they are a people who love to fight dirty. If you attempt to prevent them from taking privileges which they think they are entitled to they will fight you with a vengeance as they are doing to el-Rufai today. Fear them. Avoid them. Do not do or say anything that would be seen as an attempt on your part to stand on the way of their heart’s desires.
I may not be John Maxwell and other world-famous authors who have written books on the laws of power but if you follow these simple principles of mine, you will emerge a Nigerian hero.
Mr. Emere is a public affairs commentator based in Jos, Plateau State.