Guest Columnist

Nasir el-Rufai’s exemplary courage, By Ehi Braimah

Ehi Braimah
Ehi Braimah

On Channels Television, last Wednesday, during the station’s Daily Sunrise morning show, Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna state, confirmed the suspicion of many people when he disclosed that there are fifth columnists within Aso Villa that are working against the interest of their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the upcoming presidential election.

As el-Rufai explained without naming names, power brokers in the Villa and their collaborators want APC to lose the presidential election holding on February 25 because their preferred candidate did not win the primary conducted in June last year. Well, as you can see, the chickens are gradually coming home to roost.

Who was the cabal’s preferred presidential aspirant that lost out to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC flag bearer? Again, el-Rufai did not mention any name but it should not be a difficult test to pass.

Recall that the APC presidential primary was postponed three times before it finally held in Abuja. It was a high-stake affair which threatened the survival of the ruling party. In the absence of internal democracy, APC struggled to pull out the chestnut from the fire.

Besides Asiwaju Tinubu and the aspirants that stepped down, the other front runners in the presidential primary were vice president Yemi Osinbajo, senate president Ahmad Lawan and former minister of transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.

Lest I forget, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), also threw his hat into the ring under controversial circumstances without first resigning his position.

Now, you can pick and choose who you think the cabal wanted. By the way, the APC governors from the northern region must be commended for their decision and commitment for power to shift to the South in the spirit of fairness and equity.

Our leaders need courage and the political will to do the right things – right from the municipal councils to the subnational government and Abuja. The courage is lacking because our political elites, too often, pander to other unproductive sentiments: ethnicity, region and religion.

Make no mistake about it, politicians work round the clock to align their interests. When there are disagreements, they throw their weight and money around, hold parallel primaries and end up in court rooms. Lawyers become richer with fat pay cheques and smile to the banks.

Nasir el-Rufai headed BPP (Bureau of Public Enterprises) and was subsequently appointed as Minister of the federal capital territory (FCT) by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He distinguished himself as a first class public servant.

The Kaduna state governor gave a blow-by-blow account of his stewardship in his book, ‘Accidental Public Servant’. I enjoyed reading the book. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy.

Nasir el-Rufai is a graduate of Quantity Surveying and he bagged a first class honours degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in Kaduna State, amongst several other distinctions and awards.

People like him always excel at what they do, no matter the circumstances or where they find themselves. They serve as role models and excellent examples for others to follow. In today’s Nigeria, we need leaders like el-Rufai who are forthright, bold and fearless.

From his vantage position, the Kaduna state governor who never shies away from his convictions knows what is going on in the corridors of power. He also fully understands how the power calculus has been influencing appointments and shaping policies that affect every Nigerian under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

We cannot continue to pretend that there are no fifth columnists in Abuja; they exist and possess enormous powers. What they have been doing is to exploit President Buhari’s taciturn nature to their advantage.

Nasir el-Rufai explained how members of the cabal change the course of events by citing some examples. He said a decision was reached by the government to remove petrol subsidy, a matter he also personally discussed with Buhari because speaking truth to power has become his second nature.

According to el-Rufai, he told President Buhari in 2021 that it did not make sense to have a capital budget of N200 billion for federal roads and spend N2 trillion on petrol subsidy. That is what leaders do; they act with courage because they are the conscience of society.

After his meeting, the President was convinced that the subsidy which had become an albatross must be removed but the decision was reversed – even after everyone in government agreed it was the right thing to do. The petrol subsidy has remained ever since. It explains why in the 2023 budget of N21.8 trillion, there’s a provision of over N4 trillion for petrol subsidy – a complete waste of money that should be avoided.

In the same budget, the re-current expenditure is N8.32 trillion, out of which 75% is for personnel costs only. It simply means our cost of governance is huge and it keeps going up amid dwindling revenue.

N5.97 trillion was earmarked for capital expenditure while N6.55 trillion (a whopping 30% of the national budget) was provided for debt servicing to assuage our appetite for borrowing. Ideally, capital expenditure ought to be more than re-current expenditure to stimulate the economy but it is what it is.

It is now obvious that the powers behind the throne are the ones pulling the strings and changing the decisions made by government for their selfish interests. There are usually no consequences when approved government policies are not implemented as el-Rufai pointed out because some people are above the law in Nigeria.

We would be kidding ourselves if we think that Nigeria can make any meaningful progress with a powerful cabal in charge and calling the shots. What is their sense of higher purpose? Do they even care about the greater good?

There has always been a scramble for Nigeria’s wealth and positions by those who have access to privileges but only a few people benefit from such arrangement. If you are not favoured by the cabal, it might be difficult for your nomination to serve in government to scale through.

Even if your name is already on an approved list for a high profile government position, it can still be removed and replaced with their favourite; it does not matter whether such persons have the competence and capacity or presence of mind to do the job.

Another example el-Rufai cited was the redesign of the currency which has created untold hardships for Nigerians. Although he did not fault the policy, el-Rufai believes the timing was wrong.

To make matters worse, you cannot find the new notes, whether at the banks or ATMs. Nigerians are angry and frustrated because they are between the rock and a hard place. Nasir el-Rufai argued that state governors should have been involved ab initio to jointly own the process with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The Kaduna state governor gave interesting data on the few banks available in local councils covering large swathes of land in the northern region. Farmers are therefore required to travel long distances – with the high risk of losing their money – to the nearest banks to lodge their cash in exchange for the new notes that are not available.

With a few weeks to the general election, CBN’s “Buharinomics” was poorly timed and it has backfired badly. Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor and his colleagues, are in damage control mode to restore normalcy.

CBN says new notes have been allocated and distributed to all the banks but the banks are not disbursing the new notes because they claim they do not have the new currency. So who is hoarding the money?

If we are to believe the CBN story, then all the banks must come clean and tell us exactly what is going on because the cash shortage crisis is already boiling over. It will be unhelpful for the mob to take over.

We are experiencing shortage of new notes at the same time that there is nationwide petrol scarcity alongside blackouts everywhere. If this is not a grand conspiracy to inflict pain on Nigerians and sabotage the general election, then I don’t know what else to call it.

Nasir el-Rufai has spoken his mind, however provocative he might be. Others should also speak up and let their voices be heard as long as they advocate for a better Nigeria.


  • Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (



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