It is a globally-known fact, that Israel is the only nation on earth which punishes political opponents or perceived enemies, through demolition.
Countless Palestinians, freedom fighters or ordinary civilians, have had to suffer loss of dear homes because they had fallen foul of the apartheid state’s inhuman laws.
But this week we woke up to the rude shock that even within our shores, there are politicians who subscribe to Israel’s horrific tactics. Though lots of condemnations have trailed Governor El-Rufai’s personally-supervised demolition of the office of factional APC in Kaduna state, it bears repeating that the level of intolerance shown by this action was never before seen in the history of factional politics in Nigeria.
As teenagers growing up in Kano, in the latter days of the Second Republic, a factionalised PRP was all the politics that my friends and I knew. There was the tabo (mud) faction headed by PRP founder and Nigerian hero, Malam Aminu Kano, and there was the santsi (slippery) faction headed by the flashy and fiery governor of the state, late Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi.
Naturally, our sympathies and loyalty were with young, handsome and eloquent governor. As school girls, it didn’t matter to us who was right and wrong, all we knew was that Rimi could charm the birds off trees and one could hear every word he said. While Malam Aminu who was rather old and hampered by fast speech just didn’t resonate with us. I can’t remember ever making sense of what he said because he always appeared to be mumbling.
But Malam’s part in the media war that characterized the two factions, was adequately filled by his staunch protégée and Rimi’s successor at the government house, Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo.
As Aminu Kano’s mouthpiece, he was always the one who responded to or initiated verbal attacks against the Santsi faction or Governor Rimi’s person.
The state-owned TV station was fair enough to give equal coverage to both sides of the verbal warfare, even though the governor was the one picking their bills. But we heard nothing about demolitions: either of offices or residences.
Yet, so obsessed were these factions with each other that they hardly had time for the ruling NPN, which was the real opposition party in the state.
I still recall an incident where Sabo Bakin Zuwo was shown saying that Rimi was so in love with his looks (narcissistic) that he would sit in front of the mirror and be saying to himself ‘Anya ni ko mutum ne?’ (Am I really only a human being?).
I’m sure Rimi had found something appropriate to say to Sabo in response, but I never got to see that. Suffice it to say that while they appeared to be at each other’s throats, in the media, the two factions never made moves towards harming one another in other ways. There were reports of clashes between supporters (yan banga) of both groups but the leaders always rose to the occasion by disowning the clashes and appealing for calm.
Needless to say, this civilised way of doing politics served Abubakar Rimi and Sabo Bakin Zuwo well, when they eventually found themselves in prison, the moment the Second Republic ended.
When the Buhari Regime commenced in January 1984, one of its earliest actions was to launch an all-out war on corruption. For this reason, most politicians and business tycoons were hounded and sent to jail for corruption. Irony of ironies, Rimi and Sabo found themselves in the same prison; and had no choice but to become friends.
When Sabo Bakin Zuwo died a few years after their prison experience, the chief mourner receiving condolences at the front of his house was Muhammad Abubakar Rimi.
This was made possible by the matured and civilized manner they managed their political differences. Imagine if Rimi had demolished Sabo’s houses and offices, I’m sure even as prisoners, they would have found a reason to fight.
Nor was factionalism peculiar to PRP alone. I had no idea the NPN in Kano had divided into two factions until my elder sister Zainab, then a political science student wrote her Bsc dissertation on it. I was in my first undergraduate year at the BUK when she was working on it. I still remember the title of her thesis, it was ‘Factionalism in the NPN: A case study of Kano NPN’. Yet there was nothing in terms of violence or highhandedness to show that those faction were in deep opposition.
For sure, someone needs to tell Nasir El-Rufai to try to learn about political maturity and tolerance. Everyone knows that he is a very intelligent guy and a well educated one, but no chain of Harvard degrees can rival a sophisticated and mature political mind.
And to President Buhari my advice is the need to quickly intervene and stop El-Rufai’s plan to commit further demolitions. It isn’t good for the APC that such level of political hooliganism is being initiated by its members. Like Professor Sagay argued, it’s not the office of opposition members alone that Nasir El-Rufai is demolishing, he is actually demolishing the party.