By EMMANUEL ADO
“In war you can be killed only once. In politics, many times”. Winston Churchill Of all the sports, boxing is the most just and equitable because the various Boxing Boards of Control have continued to make strident efforts to ensure that as much as it is humanly possible, an Anthony Joshua, a Super Heavy Weight, doesn’t fight a Manny Pacquiao, a clear Welter Weight, because they are not equally matched. Such a fight would never be sanctioned by any of the Boxing Boards of Control because that would be pure suicide. A boxing match is usually scheduled for a fixed weight class, and each boxer’s weight must be within that weight to ensure equity and fairness hence the various divisions and only boxers of the same category are allowed to fight.
The other interesting thing about boxing is the power of the manager to intervene when his fighter is being pummeled blue and black. Boxing rules gives managers the power to throw in the towel in such circumstances. And when the manger fails to act in the best interest of the fighter, the referee has a duty to step in and stop further punishment. No other sport has this package of equity and justice built into its operations.
Football governing bodies – FIFA, CAF and UEFA haven’t made enough efforts to ensure fair play. A sports that can match a multi-billion dollar Barcelona FC against Kano Pillars Football Club cannot by any stretch of imagination be described as fair or just. A game that an unfortunate team must play the full ninety (90) minutes, even when it’s playing with two men down, can’t be considered as being friendly! Some two years before he retired, Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest managers in the world, watched helplessly as Manchester City hammered Manchester United. The match eventually ended at 6-1 in what is considered one of the most horrible days in the history of Manchester United. But there was nothing Sir Alex could do to stop the humiliation. Were it boxing, he could have thrown in the towel to stop the wallop by their noisy neighbours.
Politics is in many respects like football where a highly cerebral Malam Nasir El-Rufai of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in this case Barcelona FC, is pitched against Isa Ashiru Kudan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in this case, the Kano Pillars Football Club, for the 2019 Kaduna State Governorship Elections. The 2019 contest between both men can definitely be tagged an uneven contest. Was it a polo, another fair and equitable game like boxing, Isa Ashiru would have been awarded at least two and half goals advantage going into the elections due to the numerous and overwhelming advantages in several respects that El-Rufai has over him. Politics, unfortunately, is not boxing or polo, so Ashiru must brace up for the contest. Or, will it be a no contest?
Going into the 2019 general elections, the people of Kaduna State need to have serious conversations about the future of the State and the directions for the future. The election is of historic consequences and so beyond the normal. They are going to make very hard decisions, and whatever decision they make, they must be ready to live with it. I acknowledge from the very outset that politics, like religion, is an emotional issue and that the people have every right to vote in whatever manner they wish, and for whoever they wish. But they must be ready to bear the consequences of any irrational decision, like the people of Zamfara State, who have had to live with a visiting governor. It’s gratifying that they finally revolted against the Abdulaziz Yari/Yerima political dynasty that held them down for years, using religion. The people of Kaduna State don’t have to go through what the people of Zamfara State have gone through in the last 20 years. Thankfully, they can be educated to make enlightened choices – between Reforms and the “routine”, between development and stagnation.
From the very outset, it was obvious that Nasir Ahmed ElRufai wasn’t going to be a ‘routine’ governor in the mold of a Ramallan Yero, his predecessor, the kind of governor that would be contented paying salaries, leave grants, pensions and touting the construction of roads as achievements, though important. Nasir ElRufai was going to be radically different, and he has indisputably lived up to that billing or expectations. He has definitely shaken up things and governance in Kaduna State will certainly never be the same again. And this is at the root of the crisis between El-Rufai and the ‘traditional rent-seeking politicians’ who are so used to contracts and appointments as the sole purpose of being in government that they can’t make sense of the several reforms that has earned Kaduna State the title of the most reformed State and attracted investments running into billions of naira.
Isa Ashiru, who was defeated in 2014 All Progressives Congress governorship primary by Nasir El -Rufai, desperately wants to be governor of Gaduna State, which is not a crime. And he has the fundamental human rights to vote and be voted for. But the problem is that it seems it’s for the fun of it as he hasn’t demonstrated that he has what it takes to govern a complex state like Kaduna. Though Isa Ashiru has since 1999 been in the political limelight – from the State House of Assembly to the House of Representatives where he was the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, his views on issues of governance and the way forward are yet to be downloaded for proper scrutiny. If the past will be used to judge the future, Ashiru can’t perform better than he did as a member of House of Representatives where he never contributed to debates nor sponsored a bill. The common refrain of his key supporters are assurances that he will be a good governor, which are not good enough.
Nasir El-Rufai and Isa Ashiru are definitely not in the same league, though much bigger in size than El-Rufai, any day, anywhere, El -Rufai would comfortably hold his own. And this is where the comparisons end. Compared to Ashiru, El-Rufai is not short on ideas, which is why finding funding for projects or attracting investors hasn’t been a problem. His creativity in finding the needed funds or sweet deals is amazing and Ashiru must convince not just the people of the State but the various development partners – Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that he understands why the expanded progamme on immunization is very important, same for the programme against malnutrition. For instance, a negotiated retainer ship programme with some contractors, which entails continuous work on agreed monthly instalment, was what helped the State maintain momentum in the construction of roads. For everyone, this was a win-win – it kept the contractors busy and created jobs. Power is another project that has understandably received attention under him, considering his industrialization drive. Energy, as the oxygen of the economy, and Kaduna badly needs the oxygen.
Has Nasir El-Rufai made mistakes? Absolutely! Like Henry Onyiah argues “even the most determined and best of leaders are subject to limitations as human beings and cannot lay claims to being omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent. Posterity, however, looks down favourably upon leaders, such as we can currently largely lay claim to in Kaduna State, who approach governance with sincerity of purpose and forgives those mistakes. But from the overall perspective – despite the shenanigans of those who, in selfish interest, viciously resist (or are blindly led in ignorance to resist) the refitting and retooling of the institutions of governance in favour of the attainment of a greater society – we can see amidst the ashes, the obvious emergence of fresh green shoots of fertile progress associated with making Kaduna State great again on her journey towards being second to none and a default destination of choice”.
Governor Nasír El Rufai has no doubt given a credible account of himself, not even the ugly politics of those opposed to his policies has distracted from his focused strides. I most certainly agree with Henry Onyiah, that “there is much more to be done, and this as has been demonstrated by the rate of progress in the period under review, indeed much more can and will be done in a timeline that will no doubt be enthusiastically extended by the voice of the residents of Kaduna State representing the voice of God in endorsement and confirmation of the mandate of Mallam Nasir El Rufai for a second term till 2023.”
El-Rufai deserves the support of the people of Kaduna State to deepen the reforms and take the State to the next level. Kaduna State, despite its huge potentials, was lagging behind States like Katsina and Adamawa in infrastructural development, investment and education until the coming of Nasir El-Rufai. In a warfare, all is said to be fair. But there is a limit to politics. Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew became a First World country because Yew administered the necessary and painful reforms. There cannot be gain without pain. Much more fundamental is that governance in Kaduna State and indeed Nigeria can and should no longer be about the provision of roads, drilling of boreholes or provision of transformers. Such jobs are routine operational assignments that Directors are meant implement, while the Governor concerns himself with setting the strategic direction the State should travel and formulating the broad policies that will ensure that it happens.