El-Rufai’s unkindest cut

Nasir El-Rufai

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, is getting increasingly controversial. In February, he stated that his administration paid money to Fulani herdsmen to pacify them so they would stop the killings in Southern Kaduna. Justifying the action, he said the herdsmen in reference were not Nigerians; they came from neighbouring countries. They had been trapped as a result of the post-election crisis in 2011. Did they have visas or Ecowas travel documents? Were they carrying passports? Yes, our borders are porous. Since they were confirmed foreigners it means they were illegal aliens. Not only were they illegal aliens, they turned out to be criminals. Rather than getting them to face the law they were paid ransom so they could leave us in peace. Can anything be more bizarre? There is nothing wrong in being controversial if one so inclined does not just generate heat, but beams light. In a controversy of the right kind and not just blowing of hot air, there is deepening of understanding and widening of space.

The other day, El-Rufai waded into the restructuring national discourse raging in the land. In the intervention, he exhibited what may pass for a resolve to shoot down any talk about the imperative of restructuring and to rubbish the 2014 National Conference Report the exhaustiveness of which attention is being drawn as panacea for our immediate troubling national problems. Leaders from across different zones, namely South-West, South-South, South- East and North-Central as well as the media are canvassing that the Conference Report be made the basis of the restructuring because it is closer to meeting the aspirations and interests of practically all our people. In his accustomed cockiness and sometimes thoughtlessness, Malam El-Rufai dismissed with irreverence certain leaders from among those pressing for the restructuring as opportunists. With his arrow unmistakably trained against former President Ibrahim Babangida and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, El-Rufai said impudently, “This is where many of our politicians get it wrong, they think you can be irresponsible today and correct it tomorrow once you get headlines. For many people, when you talk about restructuring, it is political opportunism. Most of what you see in the media, most of the people that talk about restructuring or give long lectures about restructuring are unable to give you any concrete ideas about what it really means.”

“As I said, a lot of the talk on restructuring is political opportunism and irresponsibility in my opinion. It is popular and people that have presidential aspiration think it is a platform to which they can exploit this.”

In its issue of 10 August, 2010, the ThisDay newspaper, Politics Today section, reported El-Rufai himself as calling for the restructuring of Nigeria. The headline read ‘El-Rufai: It’s Time to restructure Nigeria.’ The newspaper stated as follows in its intro: “For Nigeria to move to the next level, the issue of true federalism must be addressed, according to former FCT Minister, Malam Nasir El-Rufai. He shares his thoughts with Imam Imam.” Can we say His Excellency El-Rufai can be called an opportunist as well?

Pooh-poohing the 2014 National Conference Report and seeking to throw it into the dustbin, Malam El-Rufai said “We do not believe that this should be used as a basis for opportunism, we do not believe the 2014 confab report is a sensible basis to even begin. We all know the circumstances in which the so-called confab was put together, we all know the supposition, how lopsided it was, how important stakeholders were not taken into account, how the composition did not reflect the demographics and diversity of the country.”

There was nothing peculiar about the circumstances in which the conference was put together. The problem in the land is we waste much time quarrelling over form rather than on content. The Kaduna State governor has not commented on the substance of the report but concerned himself more with the convener of the conference and who the delegates were. Even then, I doubt if he had a rounded picture of who the delegates were and their distribution which he claimed did not reflect the demographics and the diversity of the country. Unfortunately for him while he was speaking live on Channels Television SunriseDaily where he made his wild claim, he shot himself in the foot. Little did he realise that the list of the delegates was in The Guardian that morning carried by this column on this page.

This column did state on the day, 29 June: “As I reflected on the Report during the week, it occurred to me we should remind ourselves of the eminent and great minds that produced the document. Step forward, Honourable Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, retired Chief Justice of Nigeria. He was chairman; to follow suit, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, a cerebral and resourceful fellow and former minister of External Affairs, deputy chairman; and Dr. (Mrs.) Valerie Azinge, secretary. Dr. Akilu Indabawa was assistant secretary, conference proceedings. Professor Mahmood Yakubu, assistant secretary, finance and administration and Mr. James Akpandem, assistant secretary, media and communications. The delegates were 492 eminent persons, a majority with track records of great achievements, knowledgeable, experienced and broadminded and men and women of undoubted patriotism. They were drawn from all classes, all the states and from practically all fields, all professions and nearly all institutions.”

To satisfy the diversity requirement each of the six zones sent 15 delegates. Each of the 36 states was similarly represented by three delegates. FCT sent six delegates. From Malam El-Rufai’s own zone, North-West came the following: Retired Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Coomassie; Professor Auwalu Yadudu; AVM Mutari Mohammed; Ambassador Yaro Yusuf Mamman; Alhaji Magaji Danbatta; Senator Bello Maitama Yusuf, Ms. Fati Eunice Ibrahim; Senator Mohammed Kabiru Jibrin; Senator Saidu Musa Dansadau; Col. Bala Mande; Hajiya Maria Waziri; Bilkisu Magoro and Hajia Laraba Dattigo and Senator Ladan Shuni.

From North-East geo-Political Zone came Mallam Mohammed Ibrahim; Hon. Mohammed Umara Kumaila; Mr. Paul Bassi; Ambassador Ibrahim Mai Sule; Dr. Abdu Bulama; Mr. Bar Abubakar Samo; Amb. Adamu Aliyu; Dr. Sale Dauda; Dr. Daniel Madu; Sen. Saidu Kumo; Amb. Hassan Adamu; Kashim Ndjida; Chief B. Leonard; Barrister Chris Abongaby and Alhaji Isa Mafindi.

North-Central was represented by Lt.-General Jeremiah T. Useni; Sen. Ibrahim Mantu; Alhaji Aliyu Akiwe Doma; Elder Bulus Dareng; Anthony Sani; Prof. Onje Gewyedo; Prof. Iyorcha Ayu; Prof. John Uko; Dr. Philip O. Salawu; Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN); Prof. (Mrs.) Mariatu Tunuche; Dr. Shem Nuhu Zagbayi; Engr. Mustapha Bello; Sen. Gbemi Saraki and Mr. John Dara.

I have listed the delegates from the far North and North-Central to debunk El-Rufai’s unfounded claim that the representation did not reflect the diversity of the country and his veiled attempt to instigate resistance to the Conference Report. It should bear mentioning that state and zonal delegates were not imposed by the then Jonathan Administration. The states and the zones sent those they wanted.

Can anybody talk of absence of stakeholders at a Conference that had the Hon. Justice Mamman Nasir, retired president of the Court of Appeal in attendance to lend his knowledge, expertise and experience on account of close connection with and to clean up what eventually culminated in the 1999 Constitution? Here was a Conference that paraded Prof. Jubril Aminu, a former vice-chancellor, former Minister of Education, former senator and first chairman of JAMB. He is known for the courage of his convictions no matter whose ox is gored. The conference had as its delegate Prof. Auwalu Yadudu, professor of law; Rtd. Mohammed Gambo Jimeta; Rtd IGP Ibrahim Coomassie; Prof. Munzali Jibril who represented the Academy of Social Sciences; former governors Saidu Barda, Ailero Adamu and Amb. Fidelis Tapgun; Gen. Tanko Ayuba, a former Minister of Communications; stormy petrel Dr. Junaid Muhammed; Alhaji Bashir Dalhatu; Alhaji Sule Yahaya Hamma; Amb. Hassan Adamu; Prof. Yusuf Turaki; Amb. Isah Muhammed Argungu; Engr. Bello Sulaiman from Sokoto and from Yobe, Khalifa Hassan Yusuf and from Zamfara, Hon. Justice Lawal Hassan Gunmi, the Emir of Gunmi.

Can anyone mention stakeholders and the following would not make the list: Lt.-Gen. Jeremiah T. Useni, Gen. Geoffrey Ejjega ; Prof. Onje Gewyelo, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, a former External Affairs Minister and later permanent representative at the UN; Prof. Iyorchia Ayu, a former Senate President; Senator Ibrahim Mantu; Anthony Sani, secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum ; Chief Bayo Ojo SAN, former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Prof. John Uko?

Can we talk of stakeholders and leave out the traditional rulers among whom, at the conference, were HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Zayyannu Abdullahi, Emir of Yauri; HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Nuhu Mohammed Sanusi, Emir of Dutse; HRH Dr. Muhammed Barkindo Mustapha CFR Lamido of Adamawa; HRH Abdullahi Ibn Muhammed Askirama 111, Emir of Askira; HRH Hon. Justice Sulu Gambari, CFR, Emir of Ilorin who was for years president of the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court and HRH Elder Jacob Gyang Buba?

Of course, it was to be expected that the South-West would field their first eleven. Consider the list: Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Dr. Tunji Braithwaite; Chief Olu Falae; Chief Richard Akinjide; Sir Olaniwun Ajayi; Gen. Alani Akinrinade; Chief Olusegun Osoba; Chief Ajibola Ogunshola; Senator Femi Okunrounmu; Aare Afe Babalola; HRM (Arc) Aderemi Adedapo of Iddo Osun and secretary Association of Yoruba Obas; Prof. Akin Oyebode; and HRM Oba Michael Gbadebo Adedeji, JP, CON, Ariyowonye Owaoye of Okemesi and Erelu Olusola Bada; Niyi Akintola SAN; Dr. Amos Akingba; Fola Adeola; Pastor Tunde Bakare and Yinka Odumakin. Same as the South-East. The team comprised Gen. Ike Nwachukwu; Senator and former Governor Jim Nwobodo; Prof. Anya O. Anya; Prof. I, C. Madubuike, a former Minister; Chief Onyeama Ugochukwu , former chair of NDDC; Dr. Sam Egwu, former governor and Dr. Dozie Ikedife; HRH Igwe (Amb.) L.O.C. Agubuzu; Iyom Josephine Anenih; Mike Ahamba SAN; Dr. Joe Nworgu and Sen. Azu Agboti. The formidable team from South- South paraded a formidable team of Chief Edwin Clark; King Alfred Diette Spiff; Nosakhare Isekhure; Senator Daisy Danjuma; Prof. G. G. Darah; Ray Ekpu; Prof. Ambrose Okwoli; Atedo Peterside,(though a Federal delegate); Chief Peter Odili; Activist Annkio Briggs and Chief Nduese Essien.

The Judiciary was represented by Hon. Justice George Oguntade; Hon. Justice Abdullahi Mustapha; Hon. Justice Baba Alkali Ba’aba; Hon. Justice Adamu Bello and Justice Veronica Ngozi Ume. The association of retired military officers was appropriately represented by Gen. Zamani Lekwot; Major-Gen. Alex Mshelbwala; Rear Adm. C.S. Ehanmo; Brig.-Gen. Idada-Ikponmwen and Gen. Raji Rasaki. Retired State Security and NIA officers were similarly represented by A. K. Horsfall; Chief Jeremiah Okwuonu; Ilaya Danga; Babatunde Ala; Amb. B.M. Sani and Amb. J.K. Shinkaiye. Six persons represented the Association of retired Police Officers—Mamman Misau; Bashiru Albasu; Osanaiye, all AIGs to name just three.

Civil society organisations were represented (Dr. Olisa Agbakoba; Femi Falana, Joe Okei-Odumakin) . So were the professionals, Labour ( Abdulwahed Ibrahim Omar; Joe Ajaero; Isa Aremu and Ayuba Wabba to mention four out 12 delegates from Labour), Students Union, Muslim Leaders Delegates as well as Christian Leaders delegates; market women associations, women professional bodies; Youth Organisations and Delegates of People Living With Disabilities. Organised Private Sector ; Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria were all represented—Chief R.U. Uche; Mallam Mahmud Othman; Chief Kola Jamodu and Alhaji Ali Madugu. The newspaper proprietors were represented by Nduka Obaigbena and Kabir Yusuf, Chairman/ Publisher of Daily Trust.

Considering the foregoing it will be necessary to know Governor El-Rufai’s definition of stakeholders, demographics and diversity reach he had in mind when he knocked the delegation spread. It was the unkindest cut, deliberately designed to mislead Nigerians. My listing of the delegates excluded the delegates from Nigerians in the diaspora. Jim Rohn, an American business philosopher says in his book: “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude.”

In his remarks at a symposium in Abuja in honour of the late director-general of the INEC Institute, Prof. Abubakar Momoh, Femi Falana reminded us that the APC promised Nigerians restructuring. In the preamble to the APC manifesto, he said: “It is clearly stated ‘To achieve the laudable programme APC government shall restructure the country, devolve power to the units, with the best practices of federalism and eliminate unintended papralysis of the centre.’

“Furthermore, it is expressly stated in section 25—Politics & Government of the manifesto that ‘the APC believes that our politics is broken. Our nation urgently needs fundamental political reform…APC will initiate action to amend our Constitution with a view to devolving powers, duties and responsibilities to states and local governments in order to entrench Federalism and Federal Spirit. Before his latest outburst, the Progressive Governors’ Forum of which Governor El-Rufai is a member, had supported the call for restructuring.”

General Babangida has been out of power for 24 years after being in the saddle for eight years. He has experience of a complex society that Nigeria is . He must have had a lot of time, too, for reflection, for introspection and for very wide consultation. He may have come to recognise why and how things can now be done differently. We don’t have to agree with him, but we must defend his right to ventilate his new appreciation. He did say we should not be prisoners of our past and we should not allow civilisation to leave us behind, hence his support for restructuring and the establishment of state police. Atiku as former vice-president has had comparable experience of governance. And what is more there is hardly any subject in area of governance that he has not commissioned papers and read. And he is evincing it in his public statements. If we make them to forfeit their rights to espouse their new light, we will find that with the likes of El-Rufai lurking in the shadows we will not be able to claim ours as well.

John Oyegun, APC national chairman said about the time El-Rufai spoke that political restructuring cannot exist without economic restructuring. Indeed, the contrary is this case. Economic restructuring becomes easier once the political restructuring is in place. El-Rufai is my witness: “The present situation of things where all component units get monthly allocation from the Federal Government only makes the states lazy and unproductive. The lack of foresight, financial discipline and lackadaisical approach to governance has played huge roles in limiting the country’s march to greatness” so said El-Rufai to This Day on 10 August, 2010. How? Mr. Chairman, Sir, the answer is in the 2014 National Conference Report. Oil your lamp; burn the midnight oil and read the Report! The 2014 National Conference was the 17th of such conferences since the amalgamation of 1914!!

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Kaduna StateNasir El-Rufai


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