February 11, 2016
6 mins read

A few years ago, the Management of Media Trust Limited

was in some difficult search for the appropriately located

plot of land to build its print shop and corporate.

headquarters in

Abuja. Nasir El-Rufai was the proconsul that

Obasanjo had appointed to supervise the affairs of the FCT; in my

mind, I had thought that it should be easy for the fledgling media

company to get the assistance of the small man that was poised to

turn around the city. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. What I

heard was that el-Rufai had been opposed to media trust and its

publications, because we were ‘opposed to reforms”.


That was supposed to be a euphemism for the series of

unpatriotic, neo-liberal, capitalist reforms that the so-called

economic team was ramming down the throat of an unwilling and

prostrate country, during the days of the kleptocratic regime of

the despotic Olusegun Obasanjo. It was with a near-religious

frenzy, which the putative Nasir El-Rufai, took to the larger-than

life role that he was given to play in the regime of the disgraced

kleptocratic despot, Obasanjo.

El-Rufai a Quantity Surveyor with a brilliant academic record,

had been said to have attended a few courses in some American

institutions, and had unfortunately become absolutely deluded

that, together with other pro-imperialist “experts” like Oby

Ezekwesili (who enjoyed lapping up the title of “Doctor”, when

she doesn’t have a PhD degree!), they were teaching Nigerians

the last words in orthodoxy! El-Rufai did some very positive


Is’haq Modibbo Kawu, kawumodibbo@yahoo.com



The Writings of a Media Life. Things in the effort to reclaim the FCT, as I have always

acknowledged in my write ups, but he also made serious mistakes

which seemed certain to haunt him into the future. And as the

revelations of the past few days are beginning to show, that future

was eventually going to be an abbreviated one.

Nasir El-Rufai’s effusiveness beyond the call of duty,

unfortunately, became a most easily manipulable aspect of his

persona; and in the hands of a ruthless and immoral dictator like

Obasanjo, el-Rufai became like an attack dog, willing and able to

do anything, for as long as he got the plaudits of the monster that

he worked for. The Obasanjo pat-on-the-back became the entire

basis of his satisfaction as a public official. The only basis? Well,

as we have been shown this week, there was also the “small

matter” of “juicy” plots of land along with other points that we

may still not know about: just yet! The general manager of the

Abuja geographical information system (AGIS), Malam ismaila

Iro, told the senate committee hearings on the FCT

administration that members of Obasanjo’s family got 15 plots of

land, including one that he got on the last day of office, on May

28, 2007. That particular plot was one that Fela Anikulapo-Kuti,

would have described as “government magic”, because

according to Iro, “the allocation was revoked and the land re

allocated to Obasanjo, a day before he handed over to president

Umaru Yar’ Adua”. Having satisfied the clearly demented despot,

El-Rufai, like the smart fellow that he is, and by all account he

truly is! He also decided to join the gravy train. Malam Iro is

quoted as saying that “about 19 plots, which were revoked

because they were on sewage lines, were later re-allocated to

relatives of the former FCT Minister, Malam el-Rufai”.

If these allegations are true, and I say that they still remain

allegations, because el-Rufai has not stated his side of the story,

as I write this piece, then we might be in far more trouble in

Nigeria than we have previously suspected. The patterns of

revelations of the past few weeks, either from the power sector

probe or the FCT hearings, all point to a systematic project of

banditry that was instituted during the eight year regime of

The Writings of a Media Life. Obasanjo. These revelations and the effort to prevent them ever

happening in the first place, had been the main reason why there

was the need to get a Third Term agenda off the ground. Our

defeat of Third Term was therefore a very important victory,

because without it, we might never have arrived at the point

where some efforts are now being made to lift the lid off some of

the rot from the Obasanjo period. We cannot gauge just how far

the ruling elite is willing to go, to expose their own collective

dirty linens in the sun of Nigerian public life; it is the Nigerian

people that can force the hands of the elite to make judicial

examples of the most patently criminal elements amongst


However, we can still make some assessments of the roles of

individuals caught within the vortex of abuse of priviledges that

we have heard so much about in recent days. Nasir el-Rufai

belongs to my generation, and that in itself is a point of genuine

sympathy for the man in his difficult situation. However, El-Rufai

got it coming, as the Americans would say; he alienated too many

people in his work and did not make things easy for himself by his

haughty manner while in public service. The main points of El-

Rufai’s problems must be located both in his world view and his

psychological make-up. Ideologically, El-Rufai is a viciously

right-wing, neo-fascist, who believes that the best way forward

for Nigeria or any country for that matter, was shock therapy

capitalism. He has a particular disdain for the poor, and even

when the steps he needed to take in public life were essential and

inevitable, he did not learn the tact and did not have the humility

to attempt to win people over to his side. He saw things in the

either-or, black or white perspectives of the fundamentalist

fanatics of the George Bush type. El-Rufai enjoyed the ambience

not to say the latitude, which Obasanjo gave him, believing.

erroneously, that he had become invincible and able to achieve.

anything! Unfortunately, because of that inability to see the larger

picture, he did not realise that Obasanjo was moving him around.

a chess board of political intrigues like an unprotected pawn. The

problem was that El-Rufai enjoyed that role and the power and

paraphernalia of office; he genuinely grew taller (no pun

The Writings of a Media Life. intended!) atop the ruins he brought to the lives of so many.


Then there is also the deeply psychological dimension to El-

Rufai’s difficulties. A small man, who excessively needed to do.

“giant” things; El-Rufai has a deep-seated inferiority complex.

which he could not exorcise, even when he held very high office.

There must have been some very deeply ingrained trauma from

his early life which continued to seep to the surface in so many

ways and were easily discernable to whoever can do a basic

psychological portrait of the man. He was so obsessed with

foreign degrees, foreign life, and all those trappings of life that

imperialism has cultivated with the neo-colonial bourgeoisie,

that he was willing to bend the rules to indulge this pandering to

the foreign. That explains the infamous salaries he paid to staff

barely out of NYSC, just because they trained abroad. The

obverse was his disdain for Nigerian bureaucrats, many of whom

in fairness to Nasir El-Rufai were hopelessly corrupt. What was

deficient again was his handling of those issues, betraying his

deep-seated psychological inadequacies!

Nasir El-Rufai became a tool in the hands of Obasanjo;

unfortunately we cannot now say that he was an unwilling pawn.

He consciously chose to abandon or is it betray his erstwhile

benefactor, Atiku Abubakar, and to show how complete his

change of master was, he became a shameless attack dog, that

was unleashed to abuse Atiku Abubakar. He had attached himself

so completely to the Obasanjo chariot, that far into the future,

even the good that he achieved (and no one can deny his focus and

ability) would always carry the blots and stains of close

association with the most reviled, most criminal and most anti

people president that Nigeria ever had, the kleptocratic despot,

Olusegun Obasanjo. It is not good company for a young man who

still has a life time ahead of him.

But el-Rufai made his choices very consciously and his chickens

are just returning to the homestead to roost! The probing of the

FCT might have an intention that is quite noble, but who can fail

The Writings of a Media Life.to see that El-Rufai is actually the main person that is being set up

for a fall? The truth is that not a few people will be willing to see

the humiliation of a young man who carried on, as if life began

and ended with Obasanjo, or as if there was not going to be the

day after! That is really why not many people will defend El-

Rufai, except perhaps his former aides, those who benefitted

from his tenure and a set of lumpen hack writers that can always

be paid to abuse whoever said anything critical of their


It is good to learn vital lessons from the plight of el-Rufai,

because when individuals who have an access to power do not

handle their position very adroitly, even the good of their days

might be interred before they leave the scene. The objective

observer of the FCT today will not fail to see the creeping return

to the old ways of rot, chaos and lawlessness. It stands in contrast

to a lot of the good things which El-Rufai’s leadership of the

process of reclamation of the city did, while he held sway. But it is

the pains inflicted on people; the impolitic outbursts and the

arrogant posturing which a lot of people now associate with El-

Rufia. it is an incredible indictment of his undoubted intellect, and

his failure to deploy same in a manner that can help sustain a

positive image into the future. Those who have brought out his

role in the land grab scandal in Abuja are only applying a final

nail to his public service record, because they know that they can

count on people’s bitterness against El-Rufai, to sustain their

counter-attack. The winter belonged to Nasir El-Rufai, now his

adversaries have seized the spring!

The Writings of a Media Lif


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