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El-Rufais Wish For An Islamic Republic of Nigeria -By Olu Fasan

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Mallam Nasir el-Rufai is an unrepentant religious bigot; a militant Islamic supremacist, who believes Islam is superior to Christianity and should be privileged in national leadership. 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’s large Christian population.

Now, out of office, he prides himself on installing a successor on a Muslim-Muslim ticket, and entrenching Muslim dominance of Kaduna State governance. 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 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. Thus, any responsible leader interested in nation-building should 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 Nigeriawhose leadership is controlled by Muslims. 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 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 disputed INEC-declared results of the presidential election do not justify El-Rufai’s triumphalism. It’s not clear to me how securing 8.79 millions out of 24 millions votes, as Tinubu did, can amount to acceptance and legitimisation of the Muslim-Muslim ticket when the overwhelming majority of voters, 14.6 millions, 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!

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”. Sadly, that’s how one must view El-Rufai: smart but dangerous, a toxic influence on Nigerian politics!

But 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! Tinubu’s denial was deceptive, and El-Rufai has 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 governance of Nigeria.

Ironically, the same Tinubu who said his Muslim-Muslim ticket was based on competence, not religion, then, once in power, used religion to push for Godswin Akpabio’s election as Senate 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.” Of course, 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 reveals the dishonestyat the heart of their politics and, potentially, 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 said 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. Surely, if Tinubu does eight years in office, he will, inevitably be succeeded by a Northern Muslim, who may do eight years. Thus, by 2039, Nigeria would have had a Muslim president for 24 consecutive years since 2015!

Sadly, some Nigerians are currently carried away by Tinubu’s exercise of the enormous presidential powers. But the implications of his Muslim-Muslim presidency, and the potential for a 24-year Muslim presidency, will be unavoidable. They will severely test Nigeria’s fragile unity. Well, thanks to el-Rufai’s “finished work” and wish for Islamic domination of Nigeria! 

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