Kaduna State of Nigeria turned into a battlefront towards the weekend. The test of strength is on-going between the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) and the Kaduna State Government, from the courts to street actions and discursive warfare featuring Ayuba Wabba, the labour leader on the one hand and Nasir el-Rufai, the state governor on the other. Some observers are wondering how this test of strength came about in a state such as Kaduna which has a history of being governed by melted individuals whether under civilian or military dispensation. The list would include Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa in the Second Republic, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar under the Babangida regime, Col. Ja’afaru Isah under Abacha regime and Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi in the Fourth Republic. Some people remember how Ja’afaru Isah was commended by the defunct Women in Nigeria, (WIN) for something he did, a decision that took nearly two hours of debate. In the hey days of radical politics, it was no mean victory for a sitting military governor to be commended by a platform such as WIN. The convoluted nature of the debate that arrived at that decision must suggest that.
The inference is that none of these governors would have made the statement credited to Gov. Nasir el-Rufai to the effect that the protests meant nothing to him as far of sacking of 36, 000 teachers on the ground that they are unqualified. That is the statement making his critics to compare him to an unfeeling emperor. And they go on to contest his own qualification to be a governor, having been declared unfit as such by a session of the Nigerian Senate and carrying the baggage of a privatisation exercise that rests in controversies.
Others make the point about the senselessness of abstracting teachers from a system that is rotten from head to toe, not only in education but as a whole. The argument is that the atmosphere for education does not even exist in Nigeria. The evidence adduced as conclusive for that claim is the fact that more than 90% of those who can afford it have sent their children abroad for more organised educational opportunities. So, as the question goes, what quality might the governor have in mind when the most conscious segment of the society has since declared none to exist? In that case, sacking the teachers for not being qualitative may not be a well thought out action but an example of punishing them for a crime fellow elite travelers of the governor committed by denying the people quality education and for which a more balanced leader would have apologised.
Pursuing this argument further, critics compare the decision to sack the teachers to the approach of a mechanic: they can fix a crease in a car but they have no idea about the overarching principle underpinning it. That is to suggest that Kaduna State abstracted the crisis of unqualified teachers from the Nigerian crisis, seeking to solve it through a problem solving or mechanical approach that sees the problem in and of itself. What that approach suggests is that there is problem with political leadership of the state, with implications for social order and stability.
It is this logic that informs the postulation that, in some other climes, his fellow elite would have forced him out of politics since because he is creating problems for hard thinking which is the capability which sustains elite control of power over the masses. That power derived from critical thinking is antithetical to the structural violence the sack or humiliation of teachers or any category of citizens embody. Interestingly, the teachers the governor has called unqualified have recognised this point in their poster which asserts that “mass sack is not an intelligent solution to education sector challenge in Kaduna State”. The workers stretch that analysis by inferring sadistic efficiency in the rhetorical poser: “Is el-Rufai a sadist?” What a pity!
It is, indeed, a pity that someone who craves power as Nasir el-Rufai would keep subtracting from power by the manner he exercises it. He probably has never heard the wise claim that power is comparable to a savings account in the sense that the more you withdraw from it, the less you have left. With his quarrel with a senator from his state, the recent volatile summon to rebellion by a cleric in a video that went viral and now the confrontation with the labour movement in revolt, critics would say here is a disaster in the management of power.
Those who are wondering whether the Kaduna State governor can change his view of power might then not be wandering far. In the aftermath of his regime of demolition of structures as FCT Minister, an Inspector-General of the Police told the Senate in March 2008 that the demolition triggered higher crime rate in and around the Federal Capital city. As Kaduna State governor, demolition remains part of his definition of the job. To that has been added what labour is calling arbitrary termination of the state government’s contractual agreement with thousands of workers in an unemployment ridden economy. What principle might then be driving the governor in his attitude to governance?
Dr Peter Ozo-Eson who is today the Secretary-General of the NLC once responded to that sort of question by saying that “There are some people whose socialization has prepared them as intellectual vanguards of the privileged class”. He argues that the type of policies that will promote the interests of that class occur naturally to such people and that some of them who have not evolved with that consciousness may catch on it opportunistically. Whether Governor el-Rufai evolved with it or caught on opportunistically is now besides the point. What is not besides the point is that he is a promoter of privilege, a very dangerous approach in a very chaotic and crude capitalism as obtains in Nigeria. He tries to rationalise it by saying, in this case, that the government is paying the sacked teachers three months salary in lieu of notice and ready to help them settle into farming.
Some people are, however, not in agreement with this analysis. They assert on how incorrect it is to blame the governor when those who should have publicly asked him to back down did not do so. The All Progressives Congress (APC), the party whose ticket he flies does not appear to have warned him. President Buhari gave him a go-ahead of some sort much, much earlier on. So, as the query goes, why blame the child whose parents are clapping for his foot works on the dance floor. Those who argue along this line do not accept that the reported absence of many governors of the north in the recent centenary of the state should be read as a rebuke of the governor’s styles.
There is yet a third line of reasoning. A prominent religious leader with vibrant national presence from the state told a magazine in an April 2016 interview that the contradiction between the governor and the citizenry is that he is shooting for turning the state into “a small Singapore or Dubai”. According to the analyst, that is not the sort of thing the rest of the masses would take as a priority. Going by this rather interesting analysis coming from a classmate of the governor, it would not be out of sync to call the governor a ‘Stalinist’. That is, notwithstanding that the governor might not have read much of what Joseph Stalin wrote, the two converge in the practice of extracting exacting sacrifices from the rest of society in lieu of a greater future. Perhaps, we are all slaves of our perspectives!
Battlefronts as opened in Kaduna last Thursday is nothing new in Nigeria of 1986 to date. What might be new are the players. The Kaduna State governor would most likely not have dared if it was the civil society, particularly the NLC of 1986. This is not necessarily a critique of current labour leaders but a recognition of the shifting dynamics at work. The government of Kaduna State until recently and except in the one case of Col Hameed Ali, (rtd) would not have taken the option that has brought this battle about. But it is an interesting battlefront nevertheless.