For Governor Nasir El-Rufai at 60

Malam Nasir El-Rufai
Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.

Congratulations Governor, and welcome to the 60s.

It is now about 20 years since those early skirmishes in Abuja when you served the PDP government of Olusegun Obasanjo first as boss of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, and then as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

The latter almost didn’t happen, following your stunning disclosure that Senators Ibrahim Mantu and Jonathan Zwingina had demanded a bribe of N54m of you to advance your clearance.

That era was the heart of the darkness in the PDPand the Senate which it controlled.

Of that darkness, Mr. Mantu, in a fit of conscience two years ago, confessed that the PDP did ravage Nigerian elections, and that he had helped to rig to rig a few on behalf of the party.  His motivation?  He had tired of Nigerians being seen as criminals around the world, he said.

I wondered what you thought of Mr. Mantu’s confession.  Or for that matter, what Obasanjo thought.

And of your work as Minister, particularly in affirming the original Abuja Masterplan, I sometimes wonder if you remember “Engineer Success,” whom you handed over to the EFCC in 2004 for forging over 1,000 documents and illegally allocating and selling plots of land, including to Senators. And I wonder: did the powerful Success engineer his way out of trouble?

This month, one of your most high-profile celebrators was Obasanjo, at the end of whose second term you entered a period of introspection in which you put to paper an assortment of illuminating thoughts on what Nigeria had learned (or failed to learn) since 1999, and what lay ahead.

In no order, you said:

“Simply put we have lost the opportunity to routinize the spirit of democracy while we stay busy observing its formal rituals.”

“Freedom stirs in the hearts of humanity; neither blandishments nor the whip of tyrants can extinguish these stirrings or even deter a determined people from securing it.”

“Some fraudulent elections have been overturned and illegal impeachments quashed. Nigerians even united to surprise and defeat the third-term attempt of a sitting president.”

“We recall the brazenness with which a well-connected thug sponsored arson against government buildings in Anambra State as an assault against Governor Chris Ngige from whom he was estranged. That thug was not called to account; instead he was elevated to his party’s board of trustees. If people consistently escape justice because of their connections to power, it is an open invitation to people of lesser quality to seize the state and suitably defile it.”

“We also managed to compound impunity by assaulting the very basis of democratic legitimacy: free and fair elections. It is a fact that elections in Nigeria have been progressively worse since 1999.”

“Our political elites have encouraged divisions that keep them in office, forgetting that the depletion of trust and cohesion will make it difficult if not impossible for them to enjoy the fruits of the office! This created the insecurity we now suffer all over the country.”

“We have not built as much infrastructure as our development requires, and we have failed to moderate our escalating cost of governance. More importantly, democratic Nigeria is yet to grow in a way that can democratize its fruits through the creation of jobs for our youths. As we dither, divide our citizens, and condone fraud and corruption, the world just leaves us behind.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that we need to give our people a stake in keeping democracy aglow. History shows that even in the developed societies, extremist groups attract more support in moments of economic hardship. And when this is compounded by corruption and politics of self-advancement of a few, and the economic exclusion of the many, only the peace of the graveyard can result.”

“Most of the states are also spending more on running their governments than on improving the welfare of their people and investments that will enhance their productive capacity. These are governments of the people but not for the people – but to serve the political elite…”

“Most states have high personnel costs, attributable to the appointment of unreasonably large numbers of political appointees. As an example, until recently the governor of Bauchi State had over 900 assistants.”

“To develop their states and meet the needs of the people, governors will have to change their strategic focus in a manner that will enable them to increase their IGR and reduce dependence on federal allocation.”

“Each state needs to develop a blueprint for a post-oil economy and identify and promote investments in sectors that will generate jobs.”

Of equal importance, in your famous Memo to President Buhari in September 2016, you told him:

“We are now in power and in a position to shape our national political culture in your image through active stakeholders and process engagement. We are not engaging at all, and taking things and important matters for granted.”

“No one cares about, or will ‘help’ us unless we get our act together and organize our political economy and national affairs to be regionally, continentally and globally competitive. It is not rocket science.”

“It is not difficult to reverse these negative trends and change the narrative to one of a nation with a growing, efficient and well-managed national infrastructure. All the plans and strategies are there.”

“We are inadvertently creating successive generations of poorer, barely educated, unskilled, hopeless and angry children of the poor, side by side with increasingly richer, privately educated, skilled and optimistic children of the privileged.”

“There is a perception that your ministers, some of whom are competent and willing to make real contributions, have no clear mandate, instructions and access to you. Ministers are constitutional creations Mr. President and it is an aberration that they are expected to report to the Chief of Staff on policy matters.”

“Mr. President, there is an emerging view in the media that you are neither leading the party nor the administration and those neither elected nor accountable appear to be in charge, and therefore the country is adrift.”

“We are facing an unprecedented national economic crisis, but our administration has failed to roll out a coherent response and action plan…”

That was four years ago.

In this period, Buhari has since implemented the TSA, in principle.  But nothing else: Not leadership.  Or urgency.  Or accountability.  Not one credible, consistent thought, let alone action.

The result: open fights in Aso Rock between the first family and staff and parts thereof; between the First Lady and presidential advisers; between Ministers; and between agencies, including security agencies. Open fights between arms of the government. Diplomats and other officials without access or instructions.  Memos and documents never read; signed without reading, or never signed.  Policies never implemented, policies forgotten, and policies without origin.

All of that even before the new political bloodletting between the NSA and the Chief of Staff, and between the Chief of Army Staff and the NSA.

They have a word for it, governor: anarchy, itself the highest form of corruption.

And it yields this sad question: Will Nigeria survive Buhari?

I wonder what you think.


[This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials].


•  @SonalaOlumhense


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