…El Rufai small in size but a mighty engine of ideas, performance — Ooni
…Nigeria’s at crossroads — Senate President, Lawan
…El Rufai, a special gift to Nigeria — Oyegun
…He’s an outstanding public servant — Buhari
…He’s courageous, fearless, blunt — Oshiomhole
By Soni Daniel & Ibrahim Hassan
Nigeria’s political class converged on Kaduna yesterday and poured encomiums on Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el Rufai, who turned 60 on Sunday, singling him out as one of the selfless public servants who has rendered critical public service with rare courage, bluntness and fearlessness.
The adulation of the governor, however, coincided with the lamentation of the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, who cautioned that no Nigerian leader of northern extraction had any reason to be happy given the sorry state of insecurity, education, poverty, health care, nutrition and almajiri problem in that part of the country.
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Similarly, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, sounded a note of warning that Nigeria was at crossroads and needed the support and cooperation of all to wriggle out of the woods.
Sanusi said it was worrisome that the North had the largest chunk of poverty, out-of-school children and beggars in the country and called for immediate efforts to reduce the poor statistics so as to place the region at par with other parts of the country.
He said: “If the North does not change the situation it is grappling with today, it will destroy itself. We need to get our northern youths to study harder, get the required educational qualifications to compete with Nigerians for jobs and other positions instead of relying on quota allocations. This is because the rest of the country may not wait for the north forever.’’
On the governor, Sanusi described him as an enigma who understood what the state and Nigeria needed by devoting 40 percent of his state budget to education, a vital area that required more investments in order to take the country out of poverty and insecurity.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, who presented a symbolic talking drum to el Rufai, described the governor as a man of the moment who was doing in Kaduna what Nigerians really wanted to see.
“We want leaders like you who will continue to work for all Nigerians. It is obvious that you stand out of the crowd, given what you are doing and preaching in the northern states.
“You are a drummer and we want to hear from you loud and clear. We want you to continue to beat the positive drum for Nigeria,” the monarch said.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Mahmoud, described el Rufai as a true public servant who has served Nigeria diligently, dispassionately and conscientiously, bringing smiles to the people in the process and urged him to continue to render selfless service to his people.
Buhari said: “Your service to Nigeria and mankind marks you out as an outstanding public servant and we are very proud of your work.”
Chairman of All Progressives Congress, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, described el Rufai as a committed, fearless, blunt and courageous public servant who was implementing a welfare programme for all in Kaduna.
Oshiomhole said: “El Rufai is fearless, blunt and courageous and he has succeeded in implementing a socialism policy in Kaduna catering for the weak, the poor and powerful. He is a great man with ideas who speaks truth to power wherever he finds himself and we are very proud of him.”
Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, also praised el Rufai, saying Nigerian leaders must imbibe the story of his rare courage and fearlessness in dealing with the myriads of challenges facing the nation.
“Nigeria is at the crossroads and requires unity and cooperation of all to come out of the current predicament.
“I strongly believe that what the country really needs now is not only infrastructure, but to address the educational challenges that have afflicted the country. Until we solve the educational challenges in the land, particularly in the north, the problem of insecurity would persist,” Lawan said.
Ekiti State governor and Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi, commended el Rufai for steadily and successfully handling many critical assignments for Nigeria, and remaining on the side of the people all the times.
Also speaking, the former National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun described el Rufai as a special gift to Nigeria, adding that at 60, el Rufai had achieved more than what other Nigerian leaders had achieved in their entire lifetime and praised the governor for standing for what he believed to be right, no matter the thinking of others.
“You are working honestly for this country and you are creating a name that will go down in the annals of Nigeria. We pray God helps you to achieve all the things you have outlined to do for Nigeria,” he prayed.
The birthday celebration was climaxed with the launching of two volumes of books, entitled These Times: Selected Speeches by Nasir El Rufai.
The event was attended by the governors of Ekiti, Lagos, Plateau, Jigawa, Edo states and former governors of Zamfara, as well as the Ministers of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, and Finance, Zainab Ahmed, among others.