Malam Nasir El-Rufai is a saint. El-Rufai’s intellectual and managerial wisdom is unmatched by any living thing that has ever been in power in Nigeria. Those are the things we discover in his memoir, The Accidental Public Servant. TAPS is not only a celebration of an individual’s narcissism but a revelation of the destructive elitism on whose back this polarised nation suffers.
But because TAPS documents the political tragedies we have witnessed since the coming of this present democracy in which the author was a privileged actor, we must repaint our triumphal arch to welcome this confession of an insider.
I won’t advise any hypertensive person to open the book, if not for the author’s inability to contain his large ego in this overtly expressive tome but for his exposé of the financial scams and abuse of power by the political elite who, despite declared differences and public opposition, are actual friends and family in the closet. El-Rufai reveals, somewhat unwittingly, that Nigeria is just a chessboard on which the masses are manipulated and taken for granted. In TAPS, there is President Obasanjo who wants to overstay, the lawmakers who abandon their duties and scramble for complicity, General Babangida who is just an expired buffoon, Nuhu Ribadu an unreliable confidant who is also an unprincipled anti-corruption crusader and Atiku Abubakar who is a smooth criminal—everybody wears the garb of a devil in this book.
One, though, hears a man too angry, as an opposition party member, to be decorous. El-Rufai has guts, and he is really arrogant about his illusory intellect and academic exploits. He makes everyone around him, including his boss Obasanjo, seem dumb as he keeps screaming about his A-grades at Barewa College where the late President Yar’Adua whom he portrays as unserious student and chain-smoker managed to leave with good grades which seemed to have shocked El-Rufai. It doesn’t matter that El-Rufai didn’t even meet Yar’Adua at the school.
Similarly, the literary prowess which he plays down in his major case of condescension in the book—with a claim that he was better with figures, as though he had propounded a mathematical theory—was later overblown in his boast that he wrote a speech “single-handedly” for the then military Head of State General Abdulsalam Abubakar.
Note that El-Rufai bases his reason on a conjecture by the use of “guess”, pondering the so-called accident that earned him a slot in that team. So you may be eager to know how he guessed a man’s thought. General Abdulsalam didn’t say it. In Nigeria, we know that political opportunism is facilitated by ethnic, religious and regional cronyism.
Yes, you only need to be member of a certain group to make it to that cycle! And as a member of that team, El-Rufai justifies his own brand of “cronyism” on recommending for ministerial appointment a man whose eligibility was built around what El-Rufai too calls “rumour mill”. The nominee, a suspended Deputy Governor at CBN, Alhaji Ismaila Usman, whom El-Rufai claims he had met just once, was rumoured to have refused to be an accomplice in a financial scam ordered by the late General Sani Abacha. This selection criterion, which is exactly the practice that brought El-Rufai too on board General Abdulsalam’s transition government, is an undeniable nepotism.
The El-Rufai who afforded such media stunts wasn’t broke as declared in this memoir. That politics is too cheap for Nigerians. The trick in this new turn of El-Rufailitics is to wallop his fellow members of the elite class just to earn the sympathy and trust of the “Suffering Class” and, more importantly, the Twitter-based youths many of whom only think that Nigeria is just the size of their blogs. One thing El-Rufai fails to acknowledge is: Though a crocodile may stay with a community of alligators, it can never become one. May God save us from us!