By Abdullahi Garba, Kaduna

Kaduna state governor-elect, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i, a former Minister of the FCT, has always been associated with controversy and barely a week to his inauguration, sections of Kaduna residents are already basking in the euphoria of what they regard as a possible return to sanity and transparency in the business of governance. As May 29 approaches and for a state that is often described as difficult to govern, developments in Kaduna within the week may have given clear indications regarding how El-Rufa’i intends to conduct the affairs of the state.

Members of the APC caucus at the House of Assembly were the first to fire the warning shot when on Friday, May 15, they raised the alarm that outgoing governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero requested the Legislature to approve his decision to disburse the 2014 SURE-P funds for the 23 local government areas, amounting to N2.744 billion.

Mallam El- Rufai

The protesting legislators described the move as suspicious and fraudulent arguing that, “there is no how a local government council can judiciously execute any meaningful projects within two weeks considering the fact that diligent due process and financial regulations have to be followed.”

The lawmakers said that the governor’s request to use 50 per cent of the money to fund a road project within the Kaduna metropolis was not acceptable. Moreover, they argued further that the funds in question had already been indicated in the handing over notes of the outgoing government.

Apparently still agitated over the matter, El-Rufa’i issued a statement on Monday warning that on assumption of office, he would “deal with” all those found to have been involved in the  disbursement of the funds. “Our government will certainly insist on accountability and no one should be in any doubt about our resolve, be it the instigators of any impropriety or those who facilitated and executed it,” El-Rufa’i warned.

By Tuesday, the governor-elect was sure that Yero had actually disbursed the funds even before seeking approval of the House of Assembly, prompting him to petition the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, through the APC transition committee.

I am not controversial

The last may not have been heard of the SURE-P standoff  even as El-Rufa’i has consistently disassociated himself from the controversy tag attached to his person.

It was through his ministerial position that El-Rufa’i became a household name in Nigeria, essentially due to his controversial land and housing reforms at the FCT and the programme earned him the nickname of Mr Demolition with the tag of “Giant.”

His reforms swept through the FCT and environs, affecting the rich and the poor alike and perhaps for the first time, El-Rufa’i reportedly stepped on the toes of some people hitherto considered untouchable in society. Some media reports also describe El-Rufa’i as stubborn. “I am vertically challenged,” El-Rufa’i admitted in in a recent interview because he is actually of comparatively little height.

According to him, “I do not know what you mean by controversial but I have always maintained that I am not controversial. Look at me, I am not big and I am not very strong. Until 1999 when I became the DG of Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), no one had ever heard of me. If I was a controversial person you would have heard of me. I think my fortune or misfortune in public life is that I tend to get the most difficult assignments that every other person is scared of doing. My first real job in government was DG of the BPE and my job was to sell public assets.

That is controversial. It is not El-Rufa’i that was controversial, it was the assignment because people are used to government managing everything. Some of these things are difficult to do and in this country if you want to do the job as written in the books, you are given all sorts of names and tags, controversial is one of them. I am not controversial, I mind my business. But once I am given a job and I agree to do it, I do it with all my heart and as Minister of the FCT which is one of the most difficult jobs, I did my job to the best of my ability. I do not think that the issue is whether I was controversial or not. The question you should ask me is whether I left Abuja better than I met it.”

The Kaduna challenge

If El-Rufa’i considers administering the FCT as one of the most difficult jobs, then managing the affairs of Kaduna may present a greater challenge. Described as a mini Nigeria, Kaduna has well over 50 different ethnic communities each with its distinct language and culture most of which are concentrated in the southern part of the state.

Through out the electioneering campaign, El-Rufa’i also adopted the APC ‘change’ slogan and for the Governor-elect, Kaduna needs the change perhaps more than any other state in the country. Ravaged by several years of ethno-religious conflicts, Kaduna has also become notorious for series of unsolved killings in its communities in both the southern and northern parts. The third most populous state  in Nigeria after Kano and Lagos, with a population of about eight million people, the Muslim Hausa and Fulani dominate the northern population while Christians dominate the southern part.

For several years running, successive administrations in  Kaduna have not been able to find solution to the intractable religious question that has continued to shake the state’s foundation. Perhaps, the bloody Shariah riots in February and May 2000 dealt Kaduna the most devastating blow in its history as residents began to adopt segregated lifestyle in Kaduna metropolis with majority Muslims preferring to reside in the northern part of the city while the Christians consider the southern axis as haven, in terms of security.

But El-Rufa’i has since pledged to return sanity to the area, assuring that, “we are ready to restore the civilised notion of political power as a platform for service, a tool for change and an enabler of order, security, harmony, peace and prosperity. We are committed to fostering a secure, peaceful environment that gives the confidence to all the residents of the state to make the most of their talents.

We intend to work with all communities in Kaduna state without fear or favour. We are  all equal  partners and stakeholders in this state. There will be no discrimination in Kaduna state on the basis of gender, ethnicity or religion.

Appointments and nominations into the incoming cabinet and government will be primarily on the basis of integrity and determined strictly by competence, capacity and capability. We are aware of your justifiably high expectations of our government. We will do our utmost to meet them  but we shall need your patience, sacrifice and support.”


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