Mallam Nasir el-Rufai ,the governor of Kaduna State crossed the Rubicon some days ago when he got hold of his twitter handle in a Donald Trump manner and used pejorative words on Peter Obi, the vice presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was quoted as saying “Peter Obi is a tribal bigot”, a statement that has ruffled many feathers and has troubled the waters that the crocodiles have been crawling out of the waters for a show down.
The polemicist and highly vocal, Femi Fani Kayode coming in defence of Peter Obi, has equally left some scathing remarks, while Senator Shehu Sani, another vocal voice in the red chambers has dropped his own bombshell. The list is burgeoning as many are rising in defence of Peter Obi and condemning Mallam el-Rufai for stirring the hornest nest .
What have elicited interest of the writer is the dignified reply of the man in the eye of the storm . Listen to him “what his Excellency, Gov Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai said about me has been brought to my attention. I believe that as we grow older and are saddled with more responsibilities, we are expected to become circumspect in our thinking and avoid recklessness in our speeches and utterances”. Whoever is dissecting the above statement would be struck with how respectful, the vice presidential candidate is. He recognized the high office of the governor, from his opening comment, and went ahead to advise against how elders should talk.
He ended by saying “all I do for people like el-Rufai is to pray for them and encourage them to concentrate on doing those things that will better the lots Nigerians rather than engage in hate speeches that will divide and destroy the country” This part got the best part of the writer and so many other peace loving Nigerians. Ruminating over this last part of Peter Obi praying for el-Rufai the writer’s mind raced to the story of Stephen in the Christian Bible.
As recorded in the book of Acts, Stephen, a man richly blessed by God and full of power, performed great miracles and wonders among the people of Cyrene and Alexandria but yet was disliked by members of the synagogue. He was brought to members of the Jewish council who condemned him to death by stoning. As the mob kept on stoning Stephen he called out to the lord “Lord Jesus receive my spirit”. He knelt down and cried out in loud voice, ”Lord! do not remember this sin against them. “ He said this and died.
Peter Obi has demonstrated that he has the kind of heart that Stephen had . A heart that forgives and pray for even your enemy .This is a virture that is found in true worshipper’s of God and great statesmen. It is a virtue that is in short supply amongst Nigerian politicians, as politics of bitterness, the anti thesis of late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim’s “politics without bitterness “ is taken to the zenith in the Nigerian political space.
Regarding the allegation of Peter Obi being an ethnic bigot, the writer is yet to reconcile how an ethnic bigot should move beyond his ethnic boundary and pick former Miss Margreth Brownson Usen, from Cross River State as a wife? Margareth Obi has been married to Peter Obi since 1992 and she has not at any time alleged that her husband or people are treating her badly. Peter Obi like his principal Atiku Abubakar are true Nigerians, as both married outside of their ethnic groups.
In the businesses of Peter Obi, exists different ethnic nationalities, which also renders invalid the accusation of being an ethnic bigot, as ethnic bigots think only of their stock. In all the blue chip companies that Peter Obi had substantial shares, nobody has come with the allegation that he flooded the place with Igbo’s, which then leaves the writer and so many others in quandry as to where this allegation of being a tribal bigot is coming from.
The only reason within contemplation is that this is campaign season and politicians are trying everything inside their magical bag to trounce their opponent’s and secure victory. Peter Obi is a big brand and the best way to deal with such a brand is to demarket it .The question then is, must we throw caution to the winds in seeking political power? Must we suspend the law of defamation, just because we are in the political season? Must we use hate speech to play to the gallery?
Why political leaders should be circumspect with their utterances is that we have a nation to protect.For it is on record that unguarded utterances led to ethnic tension in Rwanda ,which later snowballed into genocide that led to the slaughtering of 800,000 people in hundred days. That should not happen here, as Africa looks up to Nigeria to show the light.
In communication theory, there is what is called the two-step flow theory. It is a theory that opines that followers take the opinion of their leaders as immutable truth and are ready to do the bidding of such leaders. Hallmark of the theory remains “opinion leadership”. With such a theory in place, it does becomes dangerous for political leaders, religious leaders, business leaders, etc to begin to express opinions that tend to throw spanner in the works of peace or incite ethnic tension. To do so, is asking their followers to go berserk. A sign that such has already started is the threats on certain politicians to steer clear of certain states.
If the writer were el Rufai, having read the beautiful reply of Peter Obi, which has endeared him more to teeming fans, he would immediately withdraw the comment on the twitter handle and If possible offer an apology. By so doing, those waiting to unleash their tongue on him will be tongue-tied and the tension generated by the comment will fizzle out .
In conclusion, the writer joins Peter Obi in praying for his Excellency, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, as the holy books enjoins us to pray for those in authority, but more importantly, praying that leaders in the mould of Peter Obi should not elude our nation.
–Akunebu, is a media consultant and author based in Abuja.