Nasir el-Rufai’s Humiliation

Farooq Kperogi
Farooq Kperogi

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By Farooq A. Kperogi

The rescission of the invitation extended to Governor Nasir El-Rufai to speak at the annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as a consequence of sustained social media pressures from people who are discomfited by his history of intolerance and verbal terrorism against his own people will inflict tremendous violence on the governor’s psychic well-being.

You see, there is nothing El-Rufai hankers after more than the approval of the intellectual, media, and cultural elites of Nigeria’s Southwest. He lives for and basks in their plaudits and strives excessively hard to avoid inviting their disapprobation.

I had always known this, but I developed a heightened awareness of it when a fellow northern Nigerian Muslim called my attention to it in his disagreement with a social media update I wrote on August 18 about El-Rufai’s visceral anti-Southern Kaduna bigotry.

“Why does El-Rufai hate and despise the people of Southern Kaduna with such unnaturally infernal intensity?” I wrote. “He strains hard, often too hard, to be seen as ‘cosmopolitan’ when he relates with Southern Christians. Why can’t he even pretend to be prepared to get along with the people of Southern Kaduna? I don’t get it.”

My interlocutor said El-Rufai’s stone-cold derision and loathing of the people of Southern Kaduna broadly represents his attitude toward most northerners, whether they are Christian or Muslim, Hausa-Fulani or ethnic minorities. His disdain for and murderous rage toward the people of Southern Kaduna is on a par with, or even less vicious than, his attitude toward Shiites with whom he shares the same religion.

He added that El-Rufai’s contempt for the people of Southern Kaduna may be magnified by his self-conscious nurturing of the historical memory of the enslavement of the ancestors of the people of Southern Kaduna by his ancestors but that he is an equal-opportunity rhetorical pisser on everyday northern Nigerians.

El-Rufai cherishes the illusion that he is the undisputed champion of the North. He thinks he is the region’s nonpareil center fielder and regards most northerners as beneath him. The only people who humble him and whose approbation he perpetually seeks—obviously for transactional and opportunistic reasons—are the elites of Nigeria’s Southwest.

On the surface, this sounds like a cheap, conspiratorial whispering campaign until you step back and gaze at the facts. Let’s start from the obvious. El-Rufai’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication who issues press statements on his behalf is some guy called Muyiwa Adekeye, although there are scores of competent media personalities from Kaduna who can do that job.

Ordinarily, I would have applauded El-Rufai’s cosmopolitanism in appointing a “non-indigene” to be his spokesperson, but he didn’t appoint Adekeye as his spokesperson as a testament to his broadmindedness; he did so because the only constituency whose opinions of him he truly cares about are those of the elites of the Southwest, and only an Adekeye can effectively communicate his self-presentation to that constituency.

El-Rufai also has a slew of well-paid “social media influencers” as his “social media consultants” (which is a polite term for visceral and vicious social media attack dogs), all of whom are from the Southwest. He, of course, also throws a few miserly crumbs to hordes of hungry northern Nigerian social media users to defend him, but he really doesn’t care what the North, or even Kaduna State, thinks of him.

Recall, too, that the annual Kaduna Book and Arts Festival, also informally known as KABAFEST or KADAFEST, which El-Rufai finances, is largely powered by the Lagos literary elite, even though, on paper, it is supposed to be a “celebration and promotion of creatives in the Northern region of Nigeria.”

When he ventured into newspaper publishing in 2004 by founding NEXT, El-Rufai hired members of the Lagos media elite. The paper was also headquartered in Lagos, not Kaduna or Abuja. And he has a substantial financial stake in a prominent digital-native newspaper that is also run by members of the Lagos media elite.

I am not saying this to disparage or begrudge the media, intellectual, and cultural elites of Southwest Nigeria but to show that El-Rufai’s politics of ethnic and religious supremacy isn’t blind and unbridled. It is carefully circumscribed. It is nurtured by his warrantless contempt for northern Nigerians and delimited by the profound inferiority complex he feels before the elites of Southwest Nigeria whose admiration he lives for.

That is precisely why his humiliation by the NBA has rankled him intensely and torn his self-esteem into shreds. The greatest gift in this saga for northern Nigerian victims of El-Rufai’s bigotry and disdain is that they now know where to go when they want to get at him.


– Farook Kperogi can be reached on Twitter: @farooqkperogi

– Aug. 23, 2020 @ 13:05 GMT |

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