El-Rufai: Cannibalism as Governance

by Philip Ikita

In the city of Abuja, Nasir El-Rufai, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister has been methodically unleashing terrible pain, agony, anguish and despair on poor Nigerian citizens resident in the federal capital city, all in the name of recovering the city’s “master plan”.

In democracy, governance is an activity in the interest of the people that constitute a given community, region or country, including disadvantaged groups. Social democrats see governance as the act of protecting the poor from the predatory interests of the rich. In all the world’s major democracies, state power is used to mobilize excess resources from the rich through taxes; to “protect, support and nurture the improvement of the weak and disadvantaged groups”. But any state that uses state power and resources to hurt the people through “killer” policies like in the on-going demolition of houses in Abuja can conveniently be defined as a cannibal government.

For the man El-Rufai, democracy or governance is about carrying out the will of the powerful and their cohorts, friends and cronies. The man said so: that he is working not for the interest of citizens, but for the ruling PDP. The arrogant El-Rufai shocked all watchers of democracy when he told his critics to stop criticizing, challenging them to go and form political parties and defeat the ruling PDP, which he claims membership of.

The circumstances under which large lands belonging to poor natives came to the ownership of the federal government were clearly unjust. Land was simply grabbed from the poor natives in a cheap manner by military decree. After taking over Abuja, the ruling elite went on to balkanize and shared choice pieces of land in a way that clearly favored the rich and powerful only. They developed infrastructure, beautiful roads, great water and electricity supply networks to favor the rich only. Just go to Abuja city and see the wonderful infrastructure. However, no iota of thought was spared for developing a place for low income earners in Abuja. In fact, since Abuja came into being 30 years ago, ministers merely presided over and administered the partitioning and sharing of choice lands to the rich and powerful through free land allocation. Government ministers conspired with crooks and civil servants to issue “legitimate” land deeds to desperate Nigerians. These crooks and civil servants who have made criminal riches from the allocations still exist and are still working as civil servants with impunity as the cannibalistic government of Abuja demolishes houses. For not bringing anybody to book, the government of Abuja has shown that it is not only unreasonable but also inhumanly selfish towards their own tools (civil servants) who work to ensure the survival of the rich and powerful only.

And El-Rufai uses the Nigeria Police, who loves to obey and carry out orders of not only their commanders, but also of any clown who can afford to “pay”, and they obey with maximum brutality. The Nigeria Police follows El-Rufai’s agents of pain in the course of demolitions. Families, women and children have been destabilized, to the pleasure of political cannibals in government, who want to create a “London” in Nigeria, where they can “relax” without having to fly to Europe. How shallow and myopic!

El-Rufai bulldozes any obstacle, human or material that stands against his “PDP” interests. He does not have a human face, PDP and its cronies must be pleased. And for him, the entire “human nuisance” that inhabits the satellite towns, the okada riders, the drivers and conductors, the house helps, the mai-guards, the market women, the laborers and their like must be eliminated to make Abuja look like “London”. As he plans to demolish over 40 satellite towns and settlements that house disadvantaged citizens, what alternative plans do they have for these potentially homeless citizens? None! Even the civil servants are being edged out of the city because they cannot afford the houses El-Rufai is offering them. The sale is a bogey; no civil servants can afford the houses on their legitimate salaries. El Rufai and his co-politico-economic cannibals in Obasanjo’s economic team are also promoting the development of private estates that cannot be afforded by Nigerians. Just come to Abuja and see, more than half the houses are empty because people cannot afford rents.

El-Rufai says that Abuja is not for all Nigerians, that only people who have “job” or “business” should come near Abuja. Let me tell the man: all over the world, people of all classes, rich and poor, are driven by the urge to seek the “golden fleece” and “life more abundant”. This explains why mass numbers of people gravitate toward cities. Freedom of movement to pursue lawful means of survival is a legitimate right of citizens in all countries. In must cases, masses moving to cities become a big burden and dilemma to city governments, but they are tolerated because of the valuable services they provide to cities. Indeed, the manual labor for construction, support services and numerous other legitimate economic activities of the poor are the ingredients that keep the wheel of the city rolling. The rights of the poor to move in search of better life must be respected by government. Their value to the city must be recognized. The world over, (good) governments tolerated them (the poor) and strive to accommodate them howsoever.

Not so for El-Rufai, Abuja is not for every Nigerian; it is only for the rich and powerful that can “afford”. He spares no thought and cares not about those who provided the manual labor that ensured the construction of the city and the vast housing and commercial estates in Abuja. Some of the poor were killed, and others became physically handicap from accidents during construction. These poor cannot afford to live in areas they toiled and are still toiling and contributing much to build, which is why they “invade” any available land to lay their heads. Not even a mention of the valuable contribution of these poor masses is made, never has any government appreciated their role in the making of Abuja city. For El-Rufai and his ilk, the masses are a nuisance; this is what they believe and execute: the poor masses must be chased out to give Abuja a “London” look.

Let me tell El-Rufai and his co-travelers: th

ere is no way they can drive Nigerians out of Abuja or any Nigerian city for that matter. Government must find a place or have a system that will accommodate every Nigerian citizen anywhere in Nigeria irrespective of economic status, provided they are pursuing legitimate means of survival. Else, they (government and their rich friends and cronies) will never sleep due to what the mass of the poor would unleash on cities like Abuja. For goodness sake, let El Rufai stop feasting on the poor, they have also immensely contributed to Abuja’s development, they also deserve opportunities for survival in Abuja.

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1 comment

Anonymous April 22, 2006 - 8:18 pm

It is public knowledge that El Rufai sword cut both ways – without fear or favour. Poor or rich a good number of us are just plain indisciplined. The rich also complain. E.G. Former Senate President Pius Anyim validly built his property on a specified approved area. Them he suddenly woke up one day and built an extension exceeding the approved space. What should El Rufai have done? Same applies to the poor.

El Rufai knows that a mega city like Abuja must have and must accommodate the not-so-rich as is done the world over. The Minister could not have delibrately set out to drive the poor from Abuja. his actions would seem harsh because his predecessors condoned the indiscipline and when a wrong thing has been repeatedly done over a period of time, people start believeing that it is right. The minister has an augean stable to clear. He has spared no one.

The issues of Planning and management of a modern city like Abuja transcend the dichotomy of rich and poor. By all means if you smell incompetence, mischief, partiality or corruption expose it but be fair not to impute wrong motive upon this distinguished Public Officer. El Rufai is "Olu Omo" of Nigeria. Lagosians are itching to have a taste of El Rufai so as to also clear the augean stable of our economic capital. (Some Lagosians have errected structures on land proposed for the Lagos Metroline and only an El Rufai can recover that projrect as he is doing the Abuja Masterplan)We need more El Rufai's all over Nigeria.

Gratitude goes to this writer for this excellent testimonial for the Minister. It confirms reports in the foreigmn media that he is indeed making an impact for the ultimate benefit of us all – rich and poor.

As for the refrence to Political Party, that is what you get when you provoke a man exceedingly when he was only carrying out his lawful public duty.


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