There is a popular adage that states that a child who washes his hands well can dine with elders. By implication the physical and social gap between a child and his elders is not necessarily sacrosanct and to earn the rare privilege of rubbing shoulders with the elderly, the young must, as it were, pay their way with respect and due process. The elders cherish and jealously protect their exalted positions in the hierarchy of life as a veritable badge of honour bestowed, not by man or any self-preserving feat, but by the singular divine grace of God Almighty. It is the divine origin of longevity and its attendant privileges that denies the elderly the exclusiveness that could have been a befitting seal on membership rites against the chance intrusion by the young with spotlessly clean hands. The passage of time and the coming of age have not however made the elderly comfortable with even the few fortunate “children” who get dinner tickets to the elders’ high table.
The seemingly simmering stand-off between Nasiru El-Rufai and his erstwhile gerontocratic dinner mates has all the features of a blind date gone bad. Though none has made an issue of the obvious role of age (and lack of it) in the display of such unspeakable table-manners before respectable elders by a youngster who was assumed to have qualified for mingling with the aged, a detached and less sentimental view of the brouhaha bats reveals that it is a classical case of youthful exuberance clashing with senile dementia. It may well go down in the politics of aging as yet another example of the need for segregating screens between the young and the elderly.
Fortunately, the history of Nasiru El-Rufai’s sensational snuggling into the hallowed ranks of his elders and subsequent subversion of the age-old rites of passage is not occulted, though several of his stunned mates swore it was another unnerving manifestation of the “Giant” gnome behind their diminutive comrade. He literally bulldozed his way into the alarmed attention of Nigerians when his now lamenting patron noticed how El-Rufai’s clean hands would immaculately handle some dirty jobs lined up for the Federal Capital’s master-plan. The sheer misery and scale of destruction OBJ had in mind for Abuja’s restoration needed not just youth and exuberance but also a deceptively negligible physique that would leave victims shocked and awed. The worst the shattered victims came up with were curses and spells which then seemed to merely bounce off El-Rufai’s over-sized body guards, but could now be haunting their tormentors.
The young intruder into elderly chambers derived immeasurable instigation from his sadistic assignment whose monumental devastation of lives and property hugely satisfied that genetic streak that is said to drive small people into improbable extremes of hyper-action which even larger homo sapiens would fear to contemplate. In no time he had also demolished whatever remained of the social and age distance between young and old in the federal cabinet with particular impact on his patron and sponsor, himself swooning from the ogogoro of power. Thereafter, beginning with the then VP Atiku who was even more stunned than El-Rufai’s mates by the ambitious audacity of the “small boy”, minister after minister in the apex leadership cult watched with bewilderment as El Rufai picked and chose whatever caught his fancy in their schedules of duty and dealt with them as he deemed fit. No Nigerian had any doubt who was de facto VP then and, as they say, the rest is history!
But now history has turned out to be a very potent brew causing some really serious accidents in the present and future of our elder-leaders . We can clearly see that even the chief elder whose whimsical and capricious exploitation of the Presidency once found good use for Malam Nasiru’s immaturity now regrets ever bringing him into their conclave and would not even have him adorn his Foundation’s London launch as a human trophy of past conquests of peoples will. The rest of the variously exposed, betrayed and humiliated targets of ElRufai’s bibliographic bombshell now aim their venomous vendetta at his book as the reality of evil outliving devils stares them in the face. But Nigerians just can’t stop laughing last at the sordid spectacle of big men’s dirty linen littering the arena like refuse heaps. All thanks to the youthful yeoman whose uncharitable public reputation may have been salvaged by his selfless demystification of the ruling class he was privileged to join.
And so the elder-rulers’ wrinkled underbelly of senility, selfishness, insatiable lust for power, rabid parasitism and assorted abuses of power and office is laid bare for all to see and understand why leadership (or lack of it) is the lingering problem of Nigeria and why, by divine determination, the youngster who washes his hands to eat with elders may help rid us of their voracious appetite for the prosperity of our nation. Amen !
ABDULHAMID BABATUNDE, ex-editor in Kaduna