By Malam Ibrahim sheme
Malam Nasiru El-Rufai has shown tremendous leadership values in his intervention in the traffic gridlock yesterday. I said exactly that to my friend who was travelling to Kaduna with me after the governor walked past my car window acknowledging cheers from victims of the gridlock, scores of whom followed him enthusiastically. Even if he did not help clear the jam (but he did!), his presence alone – as the leader of the state – was enough balm on the bruised psyche of the commuters. He boosted our morale, raised our hopes, and assured us about the future. At that material time, that’s all what matters. I immediately saw in him a presidential material, i.e. if they don’t hand it over to Tinubu on a platter of gold!
What amazed me most was the distance the big man (I insist he is not a diminutive person as some insinuate) covered on foot. The beginning of the gridlock and its end were very long, maybe 30km, and Malam covered them all on foot! And his walk was brisk, energetic, jaunty even though he wore a babbar riga, as if he was enjoying it. I wondered how healthy he was physically and emotionally as to do that. Even younger elements like us would have to think thrice before daring to trek that long. He must have been inspired by the passion to bring comfort and solace to us, the stranded citizens. And he did so, selflessly. Some other Excellency would have turned back from the beginning of the gridlock or ordered for a helicopter to come and pick him. Some would even pretend that their tooth was suddenly aching again. But Malam was there from evening to morning, offering sympathy, smilingly reassuring everyone. He must have melted the hearts of many, including those that disagree with him on the political scene.
But then it is his style to be there just when it matters. Malam has always virtually walked into trouble – I mean trouble spots. Any time there is a crisis somewhere in his state, more so the recurring communal type, he will quickly dash there and be physically involved with the effort to solve it. He wouldn’t stay back in his cozy, air-conditioned offices receiving updates from minders. Somehow this works; it helps douse the tension. And it actually did so last night as admirers kept hooting, “Sai Malam! Sai Malam!” I heard several people, in spite of the debilitating situation in which they were caught, saying loudly that after Buhari it should be El-Rufai’s turn to become president. I laughed at the Nigerian’s propensity to mix politics with hardship and still enjoy the admixture.
It is a style other leaders, especially President Buhari, would do well to emulate. I remember that as Zamfara burnt with all those terrorist killings by bandits, the issue of the President needing to be there on ground (or even to go for commiseration) was tops in many people’s analysis of the incident.
Call it populism or whatever. Malam Nasiru is THAT type of leader the people want. He wouldn’t be sipping green tea as his Rome burns!
Kudos to Malam. I doff my hat to him multiple times!
Sheme is a successful journalist and author. Publisher of Fim magazine, Director communication, National open university. Abuja