“If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.”
—Criss Jami Killosophy
By Cosmas Omegoh
Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai last week set the polity buzzing. He probably was in his best elements when he did so. It was the characteristic el-Rufai many know. Everything about the salvo he fired bore clear marks of his character. Indeed, he did not disappoint.
El-Rufai, now about to complete a second term as governor, is such a fertile mind. In fact, when he acts, he acts bigger than what many think about him. Once he climbs the big stage, he lets out the fire in his belly. So much about him underscores the undying aphorism that dynamites come in small packs.
In a nut shell, whenever Governor el-Rufai chooses to speak on issues he feels strongly about, he does so with such amazing guts. For long, many have come to know him as one with a mind of his own – one who speaks his mind each time he is compelled to do so. El-Rufai speaks straight from the heart with fire following his words; they are characteristically power-packed, and with the potential of setting any space aglow. That is the El-Rufai many know. He has been like that from his days as director of Bureau of Public Enterprise and then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Minister (2003-2007).
Last week Wednesday, El-Rufai took up one of such opportunities to speak to the big issues: the redesigned naira and the pains trailing it, the festering fuel scarcity crisis and much more – all of them clearly vexatious matters which are taking a life of their own. And now, they are dangling over the nation like the proverbial sword of Damocles.
When, therefore, El-Rufai who was sworn in as governor of Kaduna State in 2015, appeared on Channels Television to address those big issues, the vintage Kaduna State helmsman was on a free rant. His words were like fiery fires fired by a sniper. He went for the jugular of some acclaimed fifth columnists, he believes, are holing up in the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He pointedly and unapologetically accused them of methodically plotting to sabotage his principal, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential standard bearer of the APC. The activities of the cabal, he lamented, were threatening the chances of his party retaining power at the centre as President Muhammadu Buhari faces the exit door months from now.
Here is El-Rufai’s blast: “I believe there are elements in the Villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way. They had their candidate, but their candidate didn’t win the primary election.
“I think they are still trying to get us to lose the election, and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is right.”
Then taking a holistic view at the handling of the redesigned Naira and the petrol scarcity crisis sweeping the nation, he saw a well-scripted plot to torpedo Tinubu’s presidential aspiration.
Without keeping his voice low, the Kaduna State governor smoking on all fronts dropped his bombshell. “I will give two examples: this petroleum subsidy, which is costing the country trillions of Naira, was something that we all agreed would be removed.
“In fact, I had a discussion with the president, and showed him why it had to go. Because how can you have a capital budget of N200billion for federal roads, and then spend N2 trillion on petroleum subsidy? This was a conversation I had with the president in 2021 when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed. Everyone in the government agreed, and it changed.
“The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the president. People are blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for the currency redesign, but no. You have to go back and look at the first outing of Buhari as president. He did this; the Buhari-Idiagbon regime changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that were stashing away illicit funds.
“It is a very good intention. The president has his right. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”
Expectedly, the el-Rufai missile has left the political space reverberating and convulsing. His party, the APC, is grappling with the haul back; the Presidency he accused is fighting back.
Reacting to the el-Rufia remarks, a wounded Presidency through the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, dismissed the alleged gang-up claim with a wave of the hand. Picking his words carefully, Mohammed said: “If there’s anybody who is working against any candidate, we don’t know officially.
“On a more serious note, one thing I can assure you is that, no matter who, this administration is focused, and determined to ensure a free and fair election. And I think this administration, and for that matter now, the most important person in this regard is Mr. President.”
Mohammed added that President Buhari was not favouring any party’s candidate against the other as the elections approach, insisting that he was only interested in being fair to all.
“I think he has shown by words and deed that he is committed to free, fair and credible elections. And fair, free and credible elections mean not favouring or disfavouring anybody.
“Everywhere he goes, he makes that very clear, even as recently as Friday, when he was in Daura. He said the same thing. So if there’s anybody who’s working against any candidate, we don’t know officially.”
In the words of some analysts, el-Rufai’s last Wednesday’s outing left the citizenry with so much to chew.
Some people still believe that el-Rufai’s words drip with frustration. Recall that he is a director in the Bola Tinubu campaign office, and in charge of Tinubu/Shettima operations in Kaduna State. Already, some people are beginning to believe that as an insider, he has privileged intelligence many out there do not have. And so when he insists on sabotage, he should be taken seriously.
It is equally being suggested that although el-Rufai did not turn the nozzle directly at Buhari, he feared the president’s much touted aloofness to very serious issues is taking the wind off Bola Tinubu’s electioneering sail.
Going forward, there are more suggestions that a much bigger chasm within the APC has continued to emerge. Recall that the APC was only knitted together to challenge for power in 2014. Then, strange bed fellows: elements of the new-PDP and other parties joined President Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Bola Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Therefore, it is believed that as the curtain gradually falls on the Buhari Presidency, the wedlock is troubled. And perhaps, the silent acclaim right now is “to your tents Oh Israel.”
Now, hate or love el-Rufai, he gets accolades for directing attention to the new realities that are bludgeoning the APC. But where that leaves the party in the days ahead is what curious Nigerians are eagerly waiting to see as the elections D-day and H-hour approach.