March 17, 2017

El-Rufai to Buhari: “Our APC administration has failed”

el-Rufai's entry into public service accidental ― Presidency

Buhari and El-Rufai

Kaduna state Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, in an alleged memo to President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2016, told the President that the All Progressives Congress, APC, party “has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance outside of our successes in fighting BH insurgency and corruption.”

He also said in the letter that, ““Overall, the feeling even among our supporters today is that the APC government is not doing well.”

Mr. El-Rufai also told President Buhari that he(Buhari) remained Nigeria’s only hope now, adding that it is not too late to reverse the situation. He also said in the memo that “…it is also clear to many of us that have studied your political career, that so long as you remain in the political landscape, no Northerner will emerge successfully on the national scene.”

He said,“All those wasting time, money and other resources to run in 2019 either do not realize this divinely-ordained situation or are merely destined to keep others employed and rich from electoral project doomed to certain failure.”

Buhari and El-Rufai

Read the full letter below:


  1. Background:

In April 2015, I sent a short memorandum to you, Sir – then as president-elect. We never discussed the memo in detail and I am not even sure you got to read it bearing in mind the levels of human traffic visiting you in those heady days.

I crave the indulgence of Mr. President to please read the memo(attached herewith as Annex II) and see how like every aspect of life, the memo was sometimes presciently accurate and at the same time off-target! Itis on the basis of that message, and my commitment to write anytime I feel compelled that matters of urgent national importance confront you, that I address this with greatest respect and humility.Mr. President, SirI address this and other past memos with all sense of responsibility for at least three reasons.

First, I owe my modest political ascendency so far toyou. Without your adoption and trust reposed in me and the recognition you have shown in spite of attacks on my person by some people around you, I will not be where I am today. I remain eternally grateful for this.Secondly, Sir, poll after poll in Kaduna State before and after the 2015 elections clearly show that my fate politically and otherwise is uncannily tied to yours. If you do well, I stand to benefit immensely. If you do not do well Sir,whatever I try to do in Kaduna matters little to my present and any future political trajectory.

Finally, Sir, I am of the strong opinion and belief that you are our only hopenow and in the medium term of saving the Nigerian nation from collapse, and enabling the north of Nigeria to regain its lost confidence, begin to be respected as a significant contributor, and not the parasite and problem of the Nigerian federation.Mr. President, it is also clear to many of us that have studied your political career, that so long as you remain in the political landscape, no Northerner will emerge successfully on the national scene.

All those wasting time, money and other resources to run in 2019 either do not realize this divinely-ordained situation or are merely destined to keep others employed and rich from electoral project doomed for certain failure. As I explained to you shortly after your election in April 2015, you have to run again in 2019 if your objectives of national restoration, economic progress and social justice are to be attained in the medium and long term.

You must therefore succeed for the good of all of us – individually and collectively, and particularly those of us that have benefitted so clearly from your political ascendance.Mr. President, Sir As stated in my April 2015 memo, you have inherited serious political,economic and governance problems that you had no hand in creating but now have a duty to solve.

These inherited problems were aggravated by the continuing slide in crude oil prices and the renewed insurgency in the Niger Delta that reduced oil production by more than 50 per cent! In my honest opinion, we have made this situation worse by failing to be proactive in taking some political, economic and governance decisions in a timely manner.

In very blunt terms, Mr. President, our APC administration has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace that expected overnight ‘change’ but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance outside of our successes in fighting BH insurgency and corruption.

Overall, the feeling even among our supporters today is that the APC government is not doing well.It is in light of all the foregoing that I intend to analyze where we are, and present some suggestions for Mr. President’s consideration and further necessary action in three areas –

Politics, National Economy and Governance

  1. Political Situation:

Mr. President would recall the tribulations we went through with membership registration, congresses and the first national convention. And with the games played by various groupings within the party, it is correct to assert that you got elected in spite of our party leadership, and not due to its wholehearted support.

At the moment, with the appointment of B.D. Lawal and Dikko Radda to executive positions in the Federal Government, we have no more than one or two clear supporters or sympathizers in the NWC out of 20 members. We have no footprint in the party structure today and this situation can remain unchanged until the national convention of 2018!

Mr. President, Sir Your relationship with the national leadership of the party, both the formal(NWC) and informal (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso), and former Governors of ANPP, PDP (that joined us) and ACN,is perceived by most observers to be at best frosty. Many of them are aggrieved due to what they consider total absence of consultations with them on your part and those you have assigned such duties.

This may not be your intention or outlook, but that is how it appears to those that watch from afar.This situation is compounded by the fact that some officials around you seem to believe and may have persuaded you that current APC State Governors must have no say and must also be totally excluded from political consultations, key appointments and decision-making at federal level.

These politically-naive ‘advisers’ fail to realize that it is the current and former state governors that may, as members of NEC of the APC, serve as an alternative locus of power to check the excesses of the currently lopsided and perhaps ambivalent NWC.

Alienating the governors so clearly and deliberately ensures that you have near-zero support of the party structure at both national and state levels. It is not too late to reverse the situation.You appear to have neither a political adviser nor a minder of your politics.

The two officials whose titles may enable them function as such generally alienate those that contributed to our success. The SGF is not only inexperienced in public service but is lacking in humility, insensitive and rude to virtually most of the party leaders, ministers and governors. The Chief of staff is totally clueless about the APC and its internal politics at best as he was neither part of its formation nor a participant in the primaries, campaign and elections.

In summary, neither of them has the personality, experience and the reach to manage your politics nationally or even regionally.Those of us that look forward to presenting you again to the electorate in 2019 are worried that we need to sort out the party’s membership register,review the primaries system to eliminate the impact of money in candidates election, and reduce the reliance of the party on a few businessmen, a handful of major financiers and state governments for its operations and expenditures.

A surgical operation is needed in party machinery, financing and electoral processes if the future political aspirations we desire for you will not be made more difficult, if not impossible, to actualize.Mr. President, Sir It is a constitutional reality that to succeed, the Federal Government must work harmoniously with two other arms of government; the National Assembly and the Judiciary.

These relationships need improvement as well.The relationship with the Senate was marred by the betrayal the party suffered at the hands of many of its members, while the recent ‘padding scandal’ has created tensions with the leadership of the House of Representatives.

These challenges are difficult, but not impossible, to fix once the Judiciary concludes the Saraki cases in a timely manner.The paralysis within the National Judicial Council in the face of the current worrying state of the Judiciary, compounded by the lack of harmonious relationship with the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the all-important Federal High Court, make the expeditious disposal of the Saraki cases not only unlikely, but puts the administration at risk of a humiliating loss of some key anti-corruption cases.

Once again, it is not impossible to reverse the situation.Mr. President, Sir The public service we inherited is the product of one and a half decades of doing business in the mould of the PDP. The senior public servants are largely corrupt, with a sense of entitlement that they have a first claim on the country’s resources, before any is spent for the benefit of the 99.5 per cent that are ordinary Nigerians (and voters!).

Persons on director grade today in the federal public service were mere Grade Level 9-10 officers when President Obasanjo took office in 1999, so PDP’s way is the only way they know and are comfortable with. Due to these orientational and ideological differences between the federal public service and what you believe Mr. President, most of them are unable to serve you with integrity, dedication and commitment. We therefore generally have an uneasy relationship with the bureaucracy as well.

This state of affairs is far more difficult to reverse immediately, but must be attempted if you are to succeed, as no nation develops beyond the capability,competence and capacity of its public service. It is within the realm of both politics and governance that you must navigate to extract the best out of the public service while suppressing its base desires.Mr. President, Sir This memo started with the state of our politics because it trumps everything else. If we don’t get the political machinery smooth and working, it will be a miracle if we are able to get the economy and governance right.

The distraction of genuinely unhappy political actors will affect our ability to face our national problems; we need to pull together in the same direction to resolve them.We have been incredibly lucky and successful so far without the support of,and in spite of, the prevailing patron-client political system, Mr. President.

Weare 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. The consequences can be negative.

  1. The State of the National Economy:

Without any doubt, Mr. President, you inherited an economy in dire straits.The Yar’Adua-Jonathan administrations not only blew the national savings of about $27bn in the excess crude account (ECA) and ran down over $40bn in foreign reserves they inherited in 2007, but earned and wasted nearly $300bn of oil and gas income between 2007 and 2015. At the time you were sworn into office, ECA was down to some $2bn and net reserves (allowing for swaps, forwards and other set-offs) were less than $20bn with little or nothing to show for it.

Between 2007 and 2014, we used to earn an average of over $3bn monthly from oil and gas sales and taxes. By May 2016, this had collapsed to about$500 million. Mr. President, it is a simple truism that no nation loses nearly 80per cent of its foreign exchange earnings without significant reprioritization and painful adjustments. This is a message we have failed to transmit to Nigerians clearly and we must. This, however, is merely the symptom and simplest explanation of our current economic problems.

However, we cannot, after more than a year in office continue to rely only on this ‘blame them’ explanation. We were elected precisely because Nigerians knew that the previous administration was mismanaging resources and engaged in unprecedented waste and corruption. We must therefore identify the roots of our enduring economic under-performance as a nation, and present a medium-term national plan and strategy to turn things around.

We must persuade Nigerians that they have to withstand the individual pains of today for the collective gains of tomorrow.With a clear economic strategy that shows our citizens some light at the end of the tunnel, it is not only easier for them to sacrifice and bear some pain,but enough to highlight the wasted opportunities, wrong choices and sub-optimal decisions made by previous administrations. We have no such clear roadmap at the moment.

Mr. President, SirIn this era of global interconnectedness, nations compete viciously in the economic arena – for a larger share of international trade, investments, maritime and aviation services, and a whole raft of knowledge-based services and industries. This competition is neither moral nor fair, even if the advanced nations pretend to present it as such to those that are gullible.

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. In the last 50 years, many countries in Asia (Japan, China, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.), and Botswana, Mauritius and Seychelles in Africa have done it.

We can do it within a generation, and we must begin this journey of redesigning our political, economic and governance structures, systems and staffing for superior performance and global competitiveness as soon as possible, under your leadership!Mr. President, SirIn every crisis there lies an opportunity for fundamental change.

The current crisis of reduced oil production, unit prices and earnings, which has led to the deterioration of the exchange rate, escalation of levels of debt and interest rates, and reduced levels of industrial production and employment constitutes an opportunity for our nation to change decades of bad habits and wrong direction in our political economy and governance.

This crisis should not be wasted.Devoid of all the economic jargon and the many, even conflicting, opinions of the experts, the Nigerian economy suffers from the following fundamental and structural defects that must be addressed for us to move forward:i.

Oil Revenue Addiction:

The nation’s economy, politics and governance are centered around, and focused on distribution of easy oil and gas revenues amongst all tiers of government.

The Nigerian economy has therefore been consistently reliant on oil and gas revenues – averaging 90% of foreign exchange earnings and 80% of government revenues, and accordingly characterized by low levels of:a. national savings averaging about 15% of GDP evidenced by the low levels of ECAb. taxes (5% of GDP versus global average of 20%), andc. investment (FGN’s recurrent budget is 107% of its revenues and the capital budget is only nominally 30% of total budget, and is entirely borrowed).

Rentier Economy, Perverse Incentives:

Easy oil money creates anunproductive society with weird incentives. Today, our best andbrightest people are attracted not to productive endeavors and sectorslike agriculture and manufacturing, but ‘get-rich-quick’ schemesparticularly in the telecoms, financial services, wholesale and retailtrade, and the extractive industries, that appear to offer quick returnswithout creating jobs, adding very little value or doing little or nothing. Awhole generation of Nigerians now believe that not only does corruptionpay very well, but that honesty and hard work do not pay at all! This hasto change and only you Mr. President has the antecedents to lead this.

iii.Persistent Infrastructure Deficits:

No society can develop without physical and governance infrastructure. Our consistent reliance on government control, funding and management of the infrastructure sectors has led to persistent inefficiencies, corruption and escalating deficits:


, which is the heartbeat of any modern economy is in very short supply in our country. Currently, we produce less electricity than the city of Dubai. The electricity supply industry whose reforms began in the year 2000, earlier than the reforms of telecoms, is now in serious crisis and nearly at the point of total collapse.

Water supply, which is largely under the purview of sub national governments, is also in crisis, exacerbated by the failed participation and intervention of the Federal Government bureaucrats interested only in awarding contracts, collecting kickbacks and not caring if the projects are completed or even feasible in the first place.

Transportation– interstate (Federal) roads are generally in a state of disrepair. The national rail system is still the colonial narrow gauge constructed by the British for the extraction of needed raw materials rather than for the encouragement of intra-national trade and connectivity. The dual track, standard gauge national railway system initiated by the Obasanjo administration in 2006 has been partly abandoned in favour of piecemeal implementation of sections rather than the integrated programme.

There is significant potential in the development of inland waterways but there has been no serious effort at seeing the dredging of Rivers Niger and Benue to completion. The aviation sector is largely private and mostly insolvent. Virtually all the major airlines are beholden to AMCON, and their services are poor,unreliable and expensive.

ICT infrastructure

is slightly ahead of other sectors due to thederegulation and privatization efforts of 2001. We have nationwideGSM system but without full 3G and 4G networks. Furthermore,there is as yet no national fibre optic backbone with redundantsatellite back-ups in case of natural disaster.

E-Governance infrastructure

with a foundation in a national biometric identification system is almost non-existent. While the NIMC is struggling to register 10 million Nigerian adults out of some 100 million, we have wasted billions in parallel biometric ID systems (FRSC, INEC, PenCom, Nigeria Immigration Service,NCC, CBN’s BVN, etc. to mention a few) without a central,validated and rogue-free AFIS engine.

The national potential to deploy these data and linking them with GIS, Land administration and tax compliance has therefore not been realized.Mr. President, Sir 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. What is needed is political will, technocratic capacity and focus, which you, Mr. President must ensure are present here and now.iv.

Absence of a Clear National Strategy of Export Orientation and/orImport Substitution:

Countries like Nigeria with large internal markets tend to first pursue generic import substitution strategies before graduating to some form of export-oriented industrial strategy. Small countries like Singapore are forced by their demographic circumstances to aggressively export to survive.

It is a matter of regret that with the exception of cement (2003-2007),Sugar (2008 to date) and Automobiles (2012 to date), no clear effort along any of the two strategies has been invested in recent times by governments. Indeed, only the cement strategy initiated by the Obasanjo administration appears to have totally succeeded.Today, our country spends between 45% and 60% of our foreign exchange earnings to import what it should be producing (food and fuel).

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR Governor of Kaduna State September 22, 2016