By Emmanuel Ado
In the political camp of Governor Nasir El-Rufai, positive media headline isn’t what they often expect. But the last few weeks have proved to be refreshingly different.
From “ El- Rufai raises the bar”, by The Nation newspaper, a paper that hardly sees anything good in any of his actions; to The Leadership newspaper editorial “Our Stand; Kaduna Electronic Voting And 2023 Genon”, and several others, which celebrated El-Rufai’s conduct of the 2021 local government elections, we’ve seen a positive departure from the usual politically motivated vicious media campaign that has been his lot in the last six years.
Even the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, couldn’t resist joining the hallelujah movement. It generously described the successful conduct of the election, as a ‘A glimmer of hope from Kaduna state, and el-Rufai’s loss of his polling unit in the election as “a big gain for democracy”.
The truth is, there are several glimmers of hope from Kaduna state under El-Rufai. The problem is that some Nigerians, motivated by politics of bitterness and hate, decided to close their eyes to his numerous legacy developments.
While this belated recognition of just one, out of many impactful efforts by El- Rufai, a man that has redefined governance, is worth noting,the fact remains that since 2015, when he became the governor of Kaduna state, El- Rufai has indeed, consistently raised the bar of governance. From the reform of the decayed public service; the reform of the Kaduna Internal Revenue Service, which substantially increased IGR collection from a paltry N12 billion to N50 billion, without increasing any tax line; to the reform of the traditional institutions, and to the breathtaking Kaduna, Kafanchan and Zaria urban renewal programmes. These bold footprints are enduring on the sands of time and cannot be eclipsed by ill-motivated denial by disgruntled political opponents.
It’s indeed an irony that El-Rufai’s genuine democratic credentials are only being acknowledged after his so called “defeat” at his Ungwar Sarki polling unit, which by the way, was heavily funded by political opponents. It’s this same gang of naysayers that funded the disinvite by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and several other negative media campaign against a performing Governor, in furtherance of its calculated mischief to politically embarrass him.
Thankfully, the reports of his defeat, breaking news on many media outlets, spectacularly backfired, this time around. Once again, to convince their sponsors that the El-Rufai led All Progressives Congress (APC) can be defeated in the 2023 elections, they need to work harder.
El-Rufai’s successful conduct of the 2021 local government elections, is regrettably being celebrated as a one – off achievement. That is far from the trurh. In reality, it is the continuation of a democratic philosophy which didn’t start with the 2018 elections, when for the very first time a sub- National government deployed electronic voting machine for the conduct of elections. And Kaduna state, became the only state in the country were the opposition, in this case the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), picked up significant number of seats, like they have also done in the 2021 LG elections.
Indeed Nasir El-Rufai’s democratic record goes back to his days as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where the opposition All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), won some area council seats. It’s very important to stress that El-Rufai is not a recent convert to democratic principles.
Only an El-Rufai will admit, to the embarrassment of his party members,that they lost because they fielded unpopular candidates.
Without question, the 2018 election, being the pioneering effort on which the widely acclaimed and improved 2021 elections was built upon, ought to have brought him accolades, more than the 2021 election.
On the 12th of May, 2018, three (3) states, Kaduna, Kano and Oyo, all controlled by the All Progressives Congress (APC), conducted local government elections into their various local government councils and development areas. Predictably, in what has unfortunately become the new normal, the APC cleared every seat and chairmanship positions in Kano and Oyo states, thus creating the impression of a nonexistent opposition party. The story was refreshingly different in Kaduna state, were the PDP decisively won in five (5) councils.
The futility of winning at all cost played out, just weeks after the landslide victory of the APC in the Oyo polls, with the PDP handing it a resounding defeat in a House of Representatives bye election, which put a lie to its landslide victory of 12th May,2018. The defeat naturally raised questions, of why a party, which had just cleared all the 33 local government and 35 development councils, would suddenly lose a House of Representatives bye-election? The result, of course, showed that after all, the PDP wasn’t dead in Oyo state. In fact, it went on to win the 2019 gubernatorial elections.
It is to El- Rufai’s credit that he refused to breath down the neck of the Kaduna state independent electoral commission. That he allowed the commission function without interference, is because he strongly believes that elections should be true reflections of the wishes of the electorate. The concrete steps he took to give effect to that article of faith, included encouraging the commission to adopt the electronic voting machine, is thus not surprising. It’s also the reason why the electoral body could declare Jema’a local government election, convincingly won by the APC, inconclusive, one week after it had announced APC candidate as winner. There is no other state in Nigeria were the electoral commission would have dared deny a ruling party, its hard earned victory, except Kaduna state.
The tragedy of the demonization of El-Rufai, largely championed by a section of the media, that has grossly misused its agenda setting power, was that Nigeria hasn’t profited from his vast experience, because of the very negative picture the media had painted of him. An informed media, would have celebrated the defeat as a victory for democracy, because it was a departure from the norm, of a ruling party sweeping all chairmanship and councilorship seats, a travesty of democracy, which undermines faith in democracy.
Moving forward, the ball is in the court of those who share same ideals to act in a similar manner, to place the credibility and integrity of the electoral process over and above their very narrow interest and reject the win by all means mentality fueled largely by the desire to show invincibility, to ward off any opposition in general elections. Even the unconvinced despot, can make efforts to embrace democratic ethos, it only takes efforts.
As usual, El-Rufai has pointed the way forward, of the infinite possibilities of what a determined country can achieve with the necessary political will. He hasn’t deployed technology to show “I too know”, like it’s been interpreted in some quarters. Knowing him, he won’t be deterred by such mischief . The decision to heavily invest in the acquisition of the Electronic Voting Machines and to superintendent over a credible electoral process, is informed by the desire to promote electoral integrity and transparency and not to spite his colleague governors.
Though late in coming, the vindication goes beyond the successful conduct of the local government elections, but of his many other progressive policies.