Many are yet to forgive Malam Nasir el-Rufai for destroying their homes and business premises when he was FCT minister. Once on TV, el-Rufai was showing remorse for the wickedness he had visited on the poor Abuja residents. The only mistake he made, he admitted, was failure to first provide alternative accommodation for victims before inviting the bulldozer.
El-Rufai doesn’t seem to have changed, however. Now governor of Kaduna State, he has not abandoned his passion for destroying houses. His excuse is that he is recovering government land from people that encroached on it. And I ask: Where was government when people were encroaching on its land? El-Rufai must not assume that no government preceded his in Kaduna State. Government exists to serve the people, not to punish the people.
The governor should have learnt a lesson or two from his activities in Abuja between 2005 and 2007. Many of the places he levelled still lie fallow. Others have returned to what they were pre-demolition: “illegal” builders are not deterred because house rents are too high while the master plan makes no provision for the poor. Land administration in Abuja remains chaotic; el-Rufai did not restore the master plan.
By his actions, he appears to have hatred for the poor. Why is he now preparing to chase beggars off the streets of Kaduna? Government is expected to eradicate poverty and not to wipe out poor people. El-Rufai should know that maltreatment of widows and orphans doesn’t go unpunished. In Abuja, he seized plots of land from mainly the poor and allocated them to the rich (including members of his family). Little wonder many would like to see the assets he declared, as well as how and when he accumulated them.
Governor el-Rufai should desist from transferring his deeds in Abuja to his home state. Kaduna needs builders, not destroyers. Were he more humane, he would seek to develop virgin forests found in many corners of the state and worry less about those who tampered with government land. After all, government did not pay (adequate) compensation to the original owners of Kaduna land. Certificates of occupancy and other papers are recent inventions.