Page Nav




“Body Bag”: El-Rufai’s History of Rhetorical Violence and Semantic Duplicity

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai’s ludicrously impotent threat that citizens ...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai’s ludicrously impotent threat that citizens of foreign powers who intervene in Nigeria’s internal affairs “would go back in body bags” and his duplicitous attempt to explain away the homicidal signification of the trope of “body bags” are only the latest addition to his lengthening record of rhetorical violence and semantic legerdemain.

There is now no doubt that El-Rufai is a rhetorically violent and murderous thug whom the good people of Kaduna have had the singular misfortune to elect as a governor. I hope they undo their mistake on March 2. El-Rufai started to publicly invoke bloodcurdling thanatological allusions to shut down his political opponents on October 16, 2015.  

“All of us in Kaduna State Government have sworn with the Qur’an—Christians with the Holy Bible—to do justice and we will do justice,” he said in Hausa during a town hall meeting in Kaduna. “We better stand and tell ourselves the truth. Everyone knows the truth. No matter the noise, the truth is one. And as I stand here, no matter who you are, I will face you and tell you the truth. If you don’t want to hear the truth, you can climb Kufena Hill and fall.”

Sunday Vanguard of October 17, 2015 reported him at the time as having taunted his opponents to “go and die” if they didn’t agree with him. As is now his wont, he resisted that indisputably logical interpretation. Nevertheless, falling from Kufena Hill, as I wrote my November 1, 2015 column titled “El-Rufai’s Kufena Hills and Metaphors of Death in Nigerian Public Discourse,” is a chilling local metaphor for death. No one falls from a high, rough, steep hill like Kufena and survives.

Although Governor El-Rufai didn’t directly utter the word “die,” I pointed out, Vanguard’s interpretive extension of his thanatological metaphor is perfectly legitimate, even brilliant. It’s interpretive journalism at its finest. It helped situate and contextualize the governor’s utterance for people who don’t have the cultural and geographic competence to grasp it.

Since anyone who jumps from the edge of an enormous hill will naturally plunge to his death, it was impossible to deploy the resources of linguistic logic to defend the governor’s choice of words as anything other than a call to suicide to his opponents. Text derives meaning from context. In any case, the video clip of the town hall meeting where El-Rufai enjoined his critics to go climb Kefena Hill and fall showed him in a combative and livid mood.

I challenged Governor El-Rufai and his media aides who insisted that asking people to jump from a giant hill and fall wasn’t synonymous with asking them to go die to prove their point by jumping from Kufena Hill and living to tell the story. They didn’t take up my challenge.

Again, at a Kaduna APC stakeholders’ meeting in September 2017, El-Rufai told political opponents that should they insist on fighting him, they would all die like the late President Umar Musa Yar’adua did. “I had fought with two presidents,” he said. “Umaru Yar’Adua ended in his grave, while President Goodluck Jonathan ended in Otueke.”

Many people in Katsina understood this statement as El-Rufai’s self-confession of culpability in the death of the late president and asked that he be prosecuted for murder. That was, of course, an inaccurate interpretation of his words. El-Rufai obviously cherishes the illusion that he possesses supernatural powers that can send his opponents to their untimely graves if they dare him. That is probably why he thinks he can put citizens of the US, the UK, and the EU who intervene in Nigeria in “body bags” and live to tell the story! He fancies himself as some invincible, immortal man-god.

In the aftermath of the massive domestic and international backlash against his threats of mass murder of foreigners, he said he didn’t imply that foreigners who intervene in Nigeria’s affairs would be murdered. But that’s an indefensibly unintelligent semantic obfuscation. A body bag is a “bag used for carrying a corpse from a battlefield or the scene of an accident or crime.” Other than mass murder, what else could El-Rufai possibly mean when he said US, UK, and EU citizens who intervene in Nigeria’s affairs would go back to their countries in “body bags”?

I called it a ludicrously impotent threat because you’re talking of the world’s strongest military powers. In the event of a military confrontation with these powers, Nigeria would be history in a matter of weeks, perhaps days. And should these powers desire to eliminate El-Rufai, his corpse wouldn’t even enjoy the dignity of being wrapped in a body bag.

El-Rufai’s fulmination against foreign intervention is particularly noteworthy because during the late Umar Musa Yar’adua’s administration, he and unprincipled, airheaded Nuhu Ribadu went on self-exile in the West and actively discredited and sought foreign intermediation against the Yar’adua government from their foreign bases.

 By the way, the most potent bulwark against foreign interference or intervention is to resist begging for and accepting aide from foreign governments to conduct elections. The US, the UK, and the EU have collectively sent millions of dollars to Nigeria for the conduct of the forthcoming election. The moment you take money from foreign governments for something as basic as conducting elections, you’ve already surrendered your sovereignty, and your patriotism is hollow. Samuel Johnson was right when he said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

In all of this, though, my greatest relief is that El-Rufai’s tenure as Kaduna State governor has afforded the nation the opportunity to know who he really is. Many people who had been seduced by his occasional flashes of intelligence had suggested that he would do well as Nigeria’s president someday. Now we know that he is an intolerant psychopath with homicidal impulses.

 In my September 23, 2017 column titled “El-Rufai’s Morbid Fixation with Death of His Political Opponents,” I pointed out that El-Rufai betrays a disturbingly shallow humanity and a murderous inner disposition. He, for example, endorsed, defended, and even celebrated the brutal, cold-blooded, and unjustified mass slaughter of hundreds of Shiite Muslims in his state.

My immersion in psychiatry also leads me to suspect that El-Rufai is suffering the early onset of a condition some psychologists call “megalomania with narcissistic personality disorder.” As I’ve pointed out in the past, he obviously has grandiose delusions that lead him to think that he deserves unquestioned obeisance from everyone. He also thinks he has a special relationship with imaginary supernormal powers that fight his opponents to death. Those are classic symptoms of malignant megalomania.

The American Psychiatric Association defines megalomania, which it also calls “delusional disorder, grandiose subtype,” as “delusions of inflated worth, power, knowledge, identity, or special relationship to a deity or famous person.”

Mayo Clinic, a go-to site for medical research, defines narcissistic personality disorder as “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

El-Rufai’s claim that Yar’adua’s death was the price he paid for opposing him politically, his self-delusion that he can successfully murder US, UK and EU citizens who intervene in Nigeria, his oversensitivity to even the mildest criticism, his legendary lack of empathy (evidenced in his perverse love to remorselessly destroy people’s homes, the joy he exudes when people he hates die, etc.), and his exaggerated notions of his importance, for me, show symptoms of a man who is held hostage by megalomania and narcissistic personality disorder.


  1. Of course, his megalomaniac condition is classical. And it's not a recent deteriotion. That book of his, "The Accidental Public Servant", is full of it. You do remember Oby Ezekwesili, President Obasanjo and almost everyone he recounted their personal dealings refuting some of the mind-boggling lies he told in the book.
    El Rufai's mental health will worsen but like Mr Buhari's mental state, the governed will still explain it away, to themselves.

  2. In all of this, though, my greatest relief is that El-Rufai’s tenure as Kaduna State governor has afforded the nation the opportunity to know who he really is. Many people who had been seduced by his occasional flashes of intelligence had suggested that he would do well as Nigeria’s president someday. Now we know that he is an intolerant psychopath with homicidal impulses.

  3. I witnessed an aftermath of a suicide bombing that claimed the lives of more than fifty people and their corpse wrapped in a body bags. It was horrific and up to today it gives me sleepless night. I never imagined that a serving governor will want that his enemies put in a body bags talk more of innocent foreigners observing election something that have been happening for a years . I am disappointed in El- Rufai to say the least.

  4. El-Rufa'i's major problem could be the fragile self-esteem which could have evolved from his small physical frame. It makes him to always want to prove that he is not a "small man."

  5. El-rufai ,the midget defender who plays for lifeless FC as a left full back wants to permanently damage the video assistant referees (VAR) in order to prevent them from reviewing the offside goal that the centre referee may give to lifeless FC of Daura.But God is in charge.

  6. This article tallies with my perspective that the forthcoming gubernatorial polls in Kaduna may come with brutal consequences, for I think El-Rufai is trying to write in the history book of the state what has never happened–choosing a Muslim as a running-mate. And this is a pointer to the chaos that looms.

    In short, he is best called an unsuspecting daredevil as his various public encounters have demonstrated.

  7. Only in Nigeria will you see the type of el Rufai been given the kind of chances he has had in our polity.

  8. While El Rufai may brag of his unmatchable intelligence, what he has failed to understand was that, his intellectual capacity would have been precious to Nigeria 50yrs ago, not this era where nations need intellectuals with innovative and artificial intelligence. El Rufai should please keep the little respect we have left for him with his "dead" brain.

  9. I am afraid, my former governor, Rabi'u Kwankwaso has this disorder. He has shown all those symptoms you listed and always wishes his political opponents same thing as El-Rufa'i. He too publicly bragged about people died after challenging him politically. He cited late Kano gov Abubakar Rimi and the same Umar Musa 'YarAdua. He had countless number of times called for his supporters to violently confront his opponents in the event they try thwarting his plan. May God save us from these unpatriotic politicians. Thank you for crystallising things for us always.


Share your thoughts and opinions here. I read and appreciate all comments posted here. But I implore you to be respectful and professional. Trolls will be removed and toxic comments will be deleted.