El-Rufai: Surmounting challenges of the next 2 years, By Emmanuel Ado

Posted by News Express | 5 June 2017 | 2,844 times

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•Governor El-Rufai.

There is a consensus that Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, has provided leadership in the last two years as Governor of Kaduna State. John Oyegun, the National chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC), the party that sponsored him, further attested to that fact when he said: “El-Rufai is showcasing what governance stands for,” at the commissioning of the Zaria Water Project. But Oyegun only said the obvious, as there was never any doubt about el-Rufai’s capacity to fundamentally restructure Kaduna State, and deliver democracy dividends as our governors are fond of saying, even if it means buying wheel barrows as poverty alleviation schemes.

And, as I argued in part two of this series on his two years, it is the governor’s perceptions that will always be a problem and, consequently, distract from his accomplishment. Those politically opposed to el-Rufai, for example, the likes of Ahmadu Ali, Atiku Abubakars, Shehu Sani and some governor-colleagues, will in whatever way possible exact their pound of flesh, just to keep him in his place. In the same series, I further argued, that the essential el-Rufai, will never walk away from a fight, especially if convinced of the relevance of the fight in engendering development.

Recent events such as the leaked memo to President Muhammadu Buhari has shown that el-Rufai is also a victim of circumstances, as much as he is a victim of what people think is his ‘loud mouth.’ Before The Authority newspaper story on the leaked memo, many had sworn  that el-Rufai leaked the memo to further his own interest. The Authority story revealed that it was written at the behest of the President, and that the Chief of Staff and the now suspended Secretary to Government of the Federation, actually leaked it to portray him in bad light.

Another case is the National Economic Council Report on the Ecological Funds. Not many people remember that Mrs Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance and seven governors are members of the committee; and that el-Rufai is just a chairman. But, as usual, the attack from former President Goodluck Jonathan has been concentrated on him. He, sure, has a way of attracting wahala.

Governor el-Rufai knows for a fact that he has the luxury of just the next one year to consolidate on his reform programmes, such as the public service reform, to an extent they would be difficult to reverse. Below are some of the challenges that he must tackle in the next two years.

2019 General Election
The 2019 General Election from every indication will be more complicated and fiercely fought than the 2015 poll. El-Rufai, will definitely be playing a major role in it, as he played in 2015. Though he is still playing his cards very close to his chest, indications are that he will seek re-election and that he will support the president for a second term. But unlike 2015, the bulwark forces of Bola Tinubu and Bukola Saraki might work against him, if APC survives. It is doubtful if Tinubu has or will want to forgive him for opposing his choice as the vice-presidential candidate Gen Buhari. One certainty about 2019 is that there will be political realignments, as events of the last few days in two APC states of Adamawa and Lagos have shown: The fight against imposition in Lagos, and the separate democracy day rallies of the Atiku/Bindow group and the pro-Buhari Nyako group, showing clearly that Atiku would be running.

In Kaduna State, there will be efforts to gang up against el-Rufai. But this will only fly if a powerful candidate emerges from the north that can challenge him. That will be a problem, considering his frosty relationship with the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District. So far, he has managed his relationship with Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi very well. Hunkuyi is more or less el-Rufai’s brother, considering the relationship between the governor and his senior brother, Idi Othman. This is why those pushing for a war with Hunkuyi must be careful. The recent statement by el Rufai condemning moves to recall Hunkuyi, shows deep political awareness, that Hunkuyi is the one aspirant that can give him a good fight in the north. That also has the capacity to make an in-road into the south. Ahmed Makarfi, in 2003, faced a similar challenge from Hamisu Yusuf Abubakar, who was reportedly sponsored by former vice-president Atiku Abubakar. Will Southern Kaduna Senatorial District be his albatross? There is still enough time to fix the communication crisis in the relationship with the south. And, if he wins without Southern Kaduna support, that will have serious consequences for the south. 

Southern Kaduna crisis 

“It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

The Southern Kaduna crisis is another challenge that Governor el-Rufai inherited, but must give his all to resolve the circle of violence. He, definitely, has his back to the wall on this issue. His efforts have absolutely nothing to do with the 2019 elections, but everything to do with leadership and conscience. The governor once told the BBC Hausa Service: “God will ask me what I did about the Southern Kaduna killings.” Talking about judgment day is an opening that the Southern Kaduna people should explore and hold the Governor on. There is an urgent need for critical confidence-building measures, especially as the Southern Kaduna people believe the governor “hates” them, and the governor equally believes they “hate” him. According to Louise Diamond, “conflicts are a call to creative problem solving.” This is a perfect example.

The fact-finding and community-engagement committee, chaired by the highly-respected Gen Martin Luther Agwai (retd), has submitted its report. Other initiatives such as the deployment of security agencies to the zone and peace programmes must be pursued aggressively. Kaduna State has a bad “image”, going by the number of crises it had witnessed in the past, even though many of the crises had to do with issues that were foreign, like the United States  bombing of Afghanistan, ThisDay newspaper publication  of an offensive article on Prophet  Mohammed, which led to total breakdown of peace, and adversely affected interpersonal relationships, the economy and also given Kaduna State the horrible reputation of a “killer state” where people, at the slightest provocation, are at each other's throat. 

The people of Southern Kaduna must be commended for keeping the “peace” despite their justifiable anger. The search for peace remains “complicated” by the rough terrain, the spatial nature of the settlements, proliferation of small arms (the Blackman’s nuclear weapon) and the obvious fact that Nigeria doesn’t have the manpower to police the area, etc. Hopefully, the understanding of the nature of the crisis, that Christians and Muslims are not at war, that terrorists are killing Nigerians irrespective of religious affiliations would go a long way in calming the situation. The foreign invaders are an affront to Nigeria's sovereignty. While the killings in Zamfára State, because it is Muslims on Muslims, would not generate “ethnic cleansing or genocide” charges, while that of Southern Kaduna would always be open to various conclusions and interpretations.

Southern Kaduna needs a Nelson Mandela, (where are the new Patrick Yakowa, Isaiah Balat, Yohanna Madaki, Charles Garba Ali, Harrison Bungwon, etc) who will lead it through these challenging times and help ensure peaceful co-existence among all the peoples of the area, after the marauders have been chased away? The bottom line is that Kaduna State, which has always been in the news for all the wrong reasons, must change the narrative.

Biometric verification, pensions, etc
The verification of workers should be concluded. Having concluded the first phase of the biometric verification of its employees, efforts should be stepped up so that civil servants that are not on the payroll can be restored. And to serve as a deterrent, those behind tempering with the payroll or in the business of ‘ghost workers creation’ should be prosecuted. The government decision to set up the Contributory Pension Agency is a step in the right direction. It is obvious that government does not have the resources to bear pension burdens alone. As the governor stated, “It is unacceptable that retired people should face pension headaches after a life-time of work. We shall take steps to resolve this matter, ensure that pensions are properly funded, and pass an updated law to make pensions a sustainable undertaking by committing the state to an improved contributory pension scheme, consistent with Pensions Reform Act 2014.” The governor must deliver on this. It is critical and urgent.

Agricultural projects
Main objectives of the agricultural agenda of Governor el Rufai include increasing crop yields, creating opportunities for storage and transportation, and stimulating demand through the growth of agro-processing. The ambition is to increase the number of companies operating in Kaduna, drive down prices of consumer goods, revitalise the rural economy and generate jobs and propel economic growth. This is in line with the bold objectives of Kaduna State Development Plan 2020:  Delivering on jobs, social justice and prosperity.

So far, the governor's investment drive has led to the establishment of industries that are in need of raw materials. The Crown Mills needs 40 trailers of maize per day. Olam International Integrated Animal Feeds Mill is expected to produce 600,000 tons of poultry and fish feeds. There is also Vicampro Farms that has set up a potato-processing plant. The governor is determined to deliver on raw materials for these industries. The ambitious multi-billion Ladduga Farm Settlement Project that will engage more than 30,000 youths in the cultivation of pulses for export, moving forward deserves his full attention.

The other challenges of the next two years are: change in the dependence on rain-fed agriculture, by building dams and rain collection facilities, construction of road to ensure access to Ladduga Farm Settlement, the provision of improved farm seedlings, processing, preservation storage, and addressing the high cost of credit. If el-Rufai achieves these, then his revolutionary policies aimed at increased agricultural productivity of selected value chains will be on track. It is estimated that approximately 80-85 per cent of Kaduna State’s $15 billion GDP is accounted for by agriculture.

Urban renewal 
A restraining order by a Kaduna State High Court on the governor not to demolish Kasuwar Barchi Market, was widely celebrated as a judgment. A clear evidence that people resist change, and sometimes for the fun of it. Kasuwar Barchi, like the other markets - Television, Station - are totally run down. They lack basic sanitation, water and toilets. They are all in a state of disrepair and decrepitude.

The challenge is to ensure that the various initiatives to give Kaduna State a facelift are vigorously pursued. But government must take the interest of the traders or tenants into consideration, by first providing alternatives and by ensuring that when the new markets are built, they have priority in allocation. Kaduna State deserves a modern fruit market like the Farmers Market in Abuja.

Financial management 
While Nasarawa State is still battling to produce its 2014 audited accounts, Kaduna State has published its 2016 audited accounts. The objective of a financial audit is to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free of material mis-statement. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. Kaduna State under el-Rufai has progressively strived to be open and transparent. It has laid its books open. It has also done well reducing personnel cost from about N26 billion in 2015 to N21 billion in 2016. The challenge of the next two years is to fully comply with IPSAS. The presentation of the 2016 audited accounts in IPSAS Cash Basis, is indicative of that determination. 

Human relations
As a man of over 57 years, el-Rufai is formed. He won’t “dramatically change” his style. But governing Kaduna State has no doubt been a huge learning curve, and has definitely changed him. In a sense, he must have realised that Kaduna State is not Abuja. Though the changes are there, but they won’t be quite obvious as most people expect. Behind the image of a strong man is a “soft heart”, according to his aides. Not all Hausa/Fulani men will dance openly or display affection openly for their wives as he does. Though el-Rufai banned state sponsorship of medical tourism, he has sponsored many distressed patients that came to his attention. While el-Rufai works on his relationships, the people of Kaduna State, must also device ways of relating with him. The perception that he is a difficult man has, obviously, not allowed for mutually beneficial relationship. El-Rufai’s aides must facilitate a mechanism through which people from diverse political and socio-religious backgrounds can appreciate his essence, and the challenges he confronts in changing the state’s narrative for development.

•Being Part 3 of Emmanuel Ado’s series on Governor Nasir el-Rufai's Second Anniversary.

Source: News Express

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