“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour.” – Aristotle
“He who is not courageous enough to take the risks will accomplish nothing in life” – Mohammad Ali
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T. S. Eliot
I once published a piece titled “I believe El-Rufai” in 2003, the kernel of which was the controversy sparked when Nasir El-Rufai cried out that some senators were asking him to cough out 54 million naira as bribery so he could be confirmed as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The controversy involved Senators Ibrahim Mantu, the Deputy Senate President, and Jonathan Zwingina, the Deputy Senate Leader.
Since then, one has followed him in the public space. He has courted quite a few controversies and done his best to remain as clean as possible, while garnering detractors, as well as admirers, on his way. He has always followed his mind and does what he believes in. You may agree or disagree with him, it does not matter. In one’s book, he is a man of character. He is consistent. He is a man of the people.
El-Rufai became the governor of Kaduna State on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He was sworn in on the same day as our president, Muhammadu Buhari. But unlike our president who seems lost and confused about what to do after running thrice for the presidency in the past 12 years, El-Rufai is very clear about his vision and mission. He was very prepared for the task of governing Kaduna State.
While President Buhari has allowed corruption to seize the initiative from him and become confused on how to proceed, El-Rufai landed with a bang. He was very clear about his mission. He did not procrastinate. He did not dilly-dally. He was not laid back. He showed clarity. He had focus. He had guiding principles, and his ideological exactitude was not in doubt.
El-Rufai’s mission has been evident from his first day in office. His goal is to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people of Kaduna State. His mission is to stop any form of waste and redirect the resources of the state to a more meaningful end. He set off with a good personal example by cutting his own salary and that of his deputy by half. He reduced the number of ministries in the state by one-third. He addressed the State House of Assembly and pleaded with the lawmakers to follow his example by cutting their own pay too.
He pointed out that 80 percent of the state’s revenue goes into the payment of the salary of workers and that little was always left to pursue other goals for the development of the state and benefit of its people. This made him to mention the health and educational sectors as areas requiring urgent attention, in order to build a better future for the state and its people. Along with this, he noted that the infrastructure of Kaduna State would need to be maintained and improved upon.
When he was pressured over the usual Ramadan welfare packages to powerful interests in the state, he did not mince words. He said he could not and would not do it. He made it clear that there was no money to engage in that sort of profligacy, and that the state needs money to be able to pursue lots of projects for the people; besides, he did not think that government should be playing such a religious role.
How can one not be impressed with this kind of a man? How can one not be excited about him? You can hate him or dislike him, but you cannot question his commitment to his people. You cannot question his courage to lead. You cannot question his sincerity to be a good example. You cannot question his clarity and vision of where he wants to lead his people to. I have never met him, but I am impressed with him. I am happy with him.
Though, as some would say and argue, it is still too early in the day to criticise or praise anyone, but like our fathers in Yoruba land would say, I insist that, “Bi ale yio ti ri, owuro ni a o ti mo.” The morning signals the day. And more so, “A ti okeere ni oloju jinjin tii m’ekun sun.” The message in that aphorism is that the earlier you set out to address a serious problem, the better. Yes, you don’t sit around when there is a problem to tackle. El- Rufai is not sitting around or idling.
From the way Nasir El-Rufai is going, it is one’s candid assessment that the people of Kaduna State have a good deal with his election as governor of the State. They now have someone, like in the days of Balarabe Musa, who has their back. They have someone who feels their pain. They have someone who shares their aspirations and hopes. They have someone who advocates for and protects their interests.
El-Rufai is a very good example to others. His footsteps are already being followed by other sensible governors across the country. Governor Muhammadu Umaru Jibril of Adamawa State has also cut his own salary by 50 percent. Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State has done the same as a form of solidarity with the unpaid workers in his state. Governor Goje of Kano State is following suit. This is what is called leadership. This is what is called sacrifice. This is what is called courage.
El-Rufai is a sharp contrast to our president, who ought to know and do better than he is presently doing. President Buhari has been running for Nigeria’s presidency since 2003 and, finally, after about four weeks in the saddle, he is yet to name the principal officials of his administration! You cannot run for a particular office for 12 years and claim not to know what to do from the day you are sworn in. You cannot run for office for 12 years and not have a plan of action from Day One. But with President Buhari, this is what we are getting! It is unsettling.
“Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, despite his imperfections…is a hero of the new Nigeria that is yet to manifest. He must know that majority of Nigerians appreciate his courage, honesty, integrity and dignity…we appreciate his passion and conviction, which is more than palpable. He is a very courageous lamb in the midst of ferocious and hungry wolves desperate to devour him. He is a worthy Nigerian. He represents a new source of hope in the dungeon of despair and a shining light in the dark alleys of Nigeria’s corridors of power.”
President Buhari’s appointment of his spokespersons sparked controversy. His declaration of assets sparked controversy. His position on the election of the Senate President has sparked controversy. His age and effectiveness in the office have equally ignited unnecessary controversy, in the attempts to understand or excuse his annoyingly slow start. His movement into Aso Rock sparked controversy. Everything about him so far is controversial, without any concrete action to move Nigeria forward. President Buhari is coming across as convoluted, clumsy and confused. He does not seem to share the sense of urgency of Nigerians.
President Buhari’s handlers should wake him up from his slumber. It is time to get to work. The electoral campaign has ended. He has been sworn in. They should point in the directions of Kaduna State and Governor Nasir El-Rufai to borrow not just a leaf from him, but a pack-load of leaves. If necessary, they should request for a short and intensive capacity building training to be able to engage Nigeria and Nigerians.
As for Nasir El-Rufai, one is confident that he is aware of the expectations of the Kaduna people and other Nigerians betting on him to deliver. He has an obligation to deliver and do so with more than a bang. The future of the Kaduna people is in his hands. The posterity of Kaduna children is in his hands. The destiny of the state is in his hands. It is obvious that he recognises that time is of essence and as such he cannot afford to perambulate.
In me, El-Rufai has a believer. And also a fan. He cannot afford to disappoint. He must continue to champion the interests of the people. He must continue to be open and above board. He must continue to show uncommon courage. He must continue to push the envelope. He must consciously fight corruption and waste. He must be deliberate in challenging and eliminating practices that incubate graft and grand larceny. He should also be aware that he would be called out if he slips off the track. He cannot afford to take the support and the goodwill of Nigerians for granted. He would be held accountable. This is because to whom much is given, much is also expected.
As of now, El-Rufai has created excitement in the midst of disillusion. He has aroused enthusiasm in the midst of dejection. He has induced ardor in this arduous dash across the desert of drain. He is planting hope on the field of despair. On the field of dreams, he is laying the concretes of positive reality. He is a lone candle in the thick of darkness. El-Rufai is the new ray of hope for the Kaduna masses.
As I posited in 2003, still, “Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, despite his imperfections…is a hero of the new Nigeria that is yet to manifest. He must know that majority of Nigerians appreciate his courage, honesty, integrity and dignity…we appreciate his passion and conviction, which is more than palpable. He is a very courageous lamb in the midst of ferocious and hungry wolves desperate to devour him. He is a worthy Nigerian. He represents a new source of hope in the dungeon of despair and a shining light in the dark alleys of Nigeria’s corridors of power.”