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Nasir Aminu: Tinubu’s Useful Northern Idiots



by Nasir Aminu

To be clear, the term useful idiot is not an insult. It is the term used to describe political puppets. It is regarded as a Machiavellian technique, a calculated move to use others as tools for personal or political advantage without regard for their autonomy or awareness.

The notion that Tinubu is a master political strategist can be confirmed by how he chose el-Rufai as his useful idiot. Tinubu saw it necessary to recruit el-Rufai for his campaign even though he was pained for not being considered the Vice Presidential candidate and dared to leave the country immediately after his tenure. Thus, el-Rufai’s lukewarm attitude during the campaign made them choose him as the perfect prey to play script for a useful idiot.

So, during the campaign, Tinubu courted el-Rufai the way he would court the attention of the most beautiful lady town. He lined up like a suitor to dance and catch his attention at all costs. Tinubu’s attention to el-Rufai, like the suitor’s attention to the lady, might be seen as deliberate and strategic, as he perhaps sees something unique or valuable in el-Rufai that aligns with his political or personal interests. The way Tinubu courts el-Rufai, standing out from the crowd, mirrors the special treatment a gentleman might give to the most admired lady in the room, ensuring she feels distinguished and treasured. 

Tinubu showed el-Rufai the respect he craved throughout their courtship. He even brought him into the spotlight at Chatham House when no one expected. He visited Kaduna and begged him to change his mind and work with him. The adoring public was mesmerised by this newfound love between the most coveted lady in town and prince charming. Many saw it as love made in paradise. 

For el-Rufai, he felt empowered to go after anyone that worked against his newfound love. He was so confident to the point of assuring people that he would be Tinubu’s goalkeeper—Chief of Staff—once they won the presidency. At some point, he overcompensated his confidence by quickly turning it into arrogance. He denigrated the northern elders, and when the campaign got tougher, he even took Buhari to court at the expense of his newfound love—Tinubu. 

Who would have known this love would end like this? Well, many knew exactly how it would end. APC knew he was dispensable because there were so many petitions against him. One standing order was the one from the committee of Senator Sodangi from Nasarawa State that indicted him for misappropriation of public funds in 2008 and recommended that he be banned from holding any public office in the future. The designed strategy also served as a sweet revenge due to his unguarded utterances. In his book The Accidental Civil Servant, El-Rufai wrote a 4-page story about how Atiku prevented Tinubu from scamming the federal government. In May 2019, during his war of words with Tinubu, there were newspaper reports and videos of him saying he would never agree to be a Vice President to a drug baron or corrupt politician. In the same month, he suggested that Lagos godfatherism could be ended as he did in Kaduna and said he was unapologetic to those who felt offended. Some would say his behaviour is just politics, and I hope they will agree what Tinubu did to el-Rufai is politics too. 

The argument about competence is a non-issue because the president cannot be compelled to work with those he does not want to. And by listening to his senate presentation objectively, it was clear he was not the right fit to be the Minister of Energy. He clearly failed to demonstrate a track record of education or experience in the energy sector. He said he had degrees in quantity survey and law, a diploma in computing, and master’s degrees in business and public administration. His experience was in construction consultancy before joining the public service as the DG BPE, Minister and Governor. If this was a job interview, he did not articulate his competence. Some say he has the political will, but should that be a prerequisite for being a Minister of energy? With el-Rufai’s antecedents in Kaduna, for making public services unaffordable for the common person, providing cheap energy is not one of his skills.

The well-orchestrated plan included another useful idiot, Senator Khalid Ibrahim, from the PDP. He was played like el-Rufai too. He was the one that stood up to commend el-Rufai for his good work in Kaduna and even asked the senate members for him to bow and go. The story behind Khalid’s emergence as a senator is an emotional one. His constituents voted for him in protest against el-Rufai’s government. His local government, Soba, is one of the most bandit-ravaged areas in Kaduna. Of course, the non-confirmation has debunked his false praises about el-Rufai. If he were wiser, he would have kept quiet instead of saying what is untrue, but this is how they select them—useful idiots.

Following el-Rufai’s non-confirmation, he went on the radio to say no one could ever mentor him before leaving the country. Obviously, everyone knows it is just another gimmick. He will come running whenever Tinubu decides to be benevolent. If that time comes, I recommend he works under the tutelage of Vice-President Shettima because he has a track record of taming people like el-Rufai, including some past Governors. 


article written by Nasir Aminu


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