February 4, 2023

Too many inexplicable public statements in Nigeria

Governor Nasir El-Rufai

By Tonnie Iredia

Last week’s revelation by Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State that some elements within the Presidential Villa were working assiduously for the defeat of the ruling party and its presidential candidate in the coming general elections was a major story of the week. But for the general hardship caused by the new naira notes and fuel crisis, the story could have won a medal in political communication in Nigeria. But as grave as the allegation appears to be, it is likely to dissolve soonest with no substantial follow up efforts to interrogate the statement. The implications of a governor elected under the platform of the ruling party publicizing such a weighty observation when he can easily work for its resolution internally are many. It could be that there are certain persons in the villa who neither belong to nor believe in the party. Another possibility isthat previous efforts by the governor at seeking to raise internal alarms were rebuffed.

Whereas Nigerians are free to discountenance happenings within one party, it is dangerous for the ordinary citizen to help the ruling party to use its large broom to sweep under the carpet, weighty allegations concerning the abode where the number one citizen resides. In another clime, the media would not allow the governor to get away with raising grave allegations against unnamed citizens or groups. They would insist he names the persons concerned. Unfortunately, the reported reaction of the federal government to the subject did not help the matter; it probably compounded it. According to media reports, the Minister of Information Lai Mohammed who is the official spokesperson of the government, said that the federal government was not formally aware of the allegation. To start with, governor el Rufai did not accuse the federal government, he only targetted certain elements in the Villa. The contention of the governor that the unnamed elements often misled the president is instructive. So why was Minister Lai defending government that was not accused?

In addition, considering that el Rufai did not say the federal government was aware, the insinuation that government was colluding with the elements did not arise. In any case, the government statement did not successfully convince anybody about the likely innocence of government and its officials, all that the statement said was that the government was not “formally” aware making it appear that the government may have been informally aware. Our government should not behave like the colonial police that would do nothing about an offence committed within its precincts until it gets a written complaint in a specified format. If governor el Rufai was able to be aware of the subject, our security forces ought to have known. Could it be that most of them know but would not inform the president? This question is relevant becausein July last year, it was the same governor El-Rufai that claimed to be the one who told President Muhammadu Buhari of the terrorists’ threat to abduct him

It is therefore strange that it is the same Kaduna governor known for his courage of saying something as it is, that now wants to postpone the disclosure of the accused persons till February 27, 2023 when the results of the presidential election would have been made known. The proactive Nasir el Rufai that we know has helped the nation severally by holding powerful people accountable and naming names. Only last year, he courageously told the nation that the NNPC had become a liability that should be immediately disbanded. To drive home his point, he alleged late in the year that the oil giant wasfor the better part of that year unable to contribute as little as N20,000 to the federation account. In 2017, he was the only governor that called out the leadership of the National Assembly by admonishing them to publish their bogus salaries and allowances. In 1999, El Rufai, then a ministerial nominee did not only tell the nation that some legislators were asking him for bribe for clearance, he named the Senators concerned. 

Based on the above, is it not too late in the day for the governor to generalize an allegation as weighty as one which says certain elements were using their access to the presidential villa to mislead our president? Perhaps the people in question have some mystical powers because everyone appears to be scarred to name the elements. Even Aisha Buhari, the nation’s First Lady who seem to know about the people concerned was only able to reaffirm El Rufai’s allegations by retweeting it. But is there evidence that the people El Rufai indicted last week are same as those that the First Lady accused early in the life of this administration as those who had hijacked her husband’s government? We cannot know because she too omitted to name the people- a direct contrast to how she dealt with officials of the State House clinic that were operating with a dysfunctional X-ray facility amidst non-availability of everything medical including basic drugs.

Aisha Buhari’s exposure of the rot in that special hospital helped the media to undertake several investigations that showed that figures that are bandied around in budgets are a far cry from reality. For instance, although the Centre was said to have received a zero allocation in 2017, records indicated that it got a total of N11.01billion as appropriation between 2015-2017. It was also found that the highest decision maker concerning the hospital was not its Chief Executive and Medical Director but a civil servant described as Permanently Secretary, State House. By her direct intervention, the First Lady helped to halt the misapplication of resources in that hospital to the benefit of the nation. But very little could have been achieved if she had merely said some hospitals in Nigeria are poorly run. This is why allegations that can open up governance in the country need to be direct and specific.

Painfully, the nation continues to hear so many unsubstantiated allegations by politicians especially those who belong to the ruling party. Only two days ago, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu at a rally in Ado Ekiti alleged that those behind the naira and fuel scarcity in the country are anxious to create a scenario that could lead to the postponement of the general elections.Who was he referring to and why couldn’t he specific? Could it be that the opposition parties have already taken over the country’s government and are reversing APC policies or are the suspects enemies within?  If those in government continue to make such allegations some analysts might soon begin to imagine that government has run out of steam. 

Indeed, many analysts in non-partisan platforms are probably wondering why the ruling party is so concerned about naira notes and fuel but completely silent about scarcity of voting cards-PVCs! Will the Nigerians they claim to be helping use fuel and new notes to vote? One would have thought that the possibility of having many Nigerians disenfranchised would have correspondingly provoked reactions if not more from the APC or has the party found that those without pvcs are its opponents?Rather than fight over naira redesign which everyone knows to be a good policy some politicians are only interested in exploiting the challenges of its implementation. That can take the nation nowhere. 

Those who are using the argument of insufficient banking facilities to make loud calls for the postponement of the naira redesign policy should peep into Borno State and see how government solves the problems of her citizens. In that state, where years of insurgency have left the people with bank branches in only two out of 27 Local Government Areas, Governor Babagana Zulum immediately swung into action to establish branches of Microfinance Bank as well as ICT centres across the state to facilitate easy exchange of old currency notes to new ones. It seems more fulfilling to have such leaders who are willing to help the execution of desirable public policies instead of using challenges to run governance by excuses. Let the elite help the poor to retrieve their monies from banks instead of wanting to have access to funds to buy votes.