The Accidental Civil Servant has just missed the takeoff of the train meant to take him to the station of becoming a reluctant two-times minister. Nasir El-Rufai, former Kaduna State governor and a one-time minister, who wrote a memoir by that title, came short of picking the ticket. According to Godswill Akpabio, El-Rufai did not pass the security clearance before the Senate packed up for its two-time delayed recess.
As a result, it was believed that the failed ministerial nominee bought a ticket to the University of Maastricht instead. Except Bola Ahmed Tinubu is able to find him a more acceptable position, El-Rufai would be putting finishing touches to a doctorate in governance and policy that he confessed he had been pushing off due to the demands of state.
There are some who wondered why he bothered in the first place having said that he was above a ministerial position or bowing down before any political godfather in the Nigerian political arena. If he had been cleared, he would have recanted on those statements. His fans say he is bothered because of his love of service. We might never know the truth except he volunteers them in an interview or in another memoir.
El-Rufai is neither a stranger to political intrigues or to controversy. His foes, of which there are many, believe he courts them and he thrives in spite of them. As FCT minister, his obsession with the restoration of the Abuja master plan made him an enemy of many whose houses or buildings he ordered demolished because they violated the master plan.
Yet, on the eve of his departure from Area 11 headquarters of the FCT Ministry, it was discovered that he allocated plots of land to members of his immediate family including toddlers. He defended the decision by asking his critics to wait for their turn to allocate plots to their enemies.
In Kaduna, where he was governor for two four-year terms, el-Rufai pursued the same policy and much more. His subjects nicknamed him ‘mai rusau’, literally the bulldozer. He embarked on other decisions that did not endear him to his critics. He was also known to have upturned the age-old tradition of balancing the state’s top political leadership that is sustained on religious balancing scales.
He angered religious zealots by picking not only a fellow Muslim as running mate but a woman, the first in northern political history.
He did not end there; he sold the formula to his party’s presidential nominee, Bola Tinubu who picked Shettima, a fellow Muslim, as his running mate. Before handing over to a preferred successor in Kaduna, El-Rufai earned electoral victory for his own son to become a member of the federal legislature.
In the end, Godswill Akpabio, the presiding officer that blocked El-Rufai from being chewed on the political chopping board of senators, would only say his nomination and three others were pending security clearance. It is curious how a one-time minister and ex-governor failed security clearance while others, including a man facing international inquest for aiding and abetting the alleged Abacha family in acts of corruption cleared his nomination. These mysterious clearance indices have made Nigerians request for a publication of the criterion for clearance.
Ahead of being posted to head the energy or power ministry, El-Rufai was believed to have held meetings with electricity generation and distribution companies. Power is said to be germane to Nigeria’s development and the ministry that answers to it has both literal and normative connotation in the political arena. One thing is certain – Nigeria has not heard the last from El-Rufai.
The journey to ministerial clearance under the present system is pretty Nigerian. Here is a Senate led by Godswill Akpabio, a peer who crossed floors from the party that made him two-term governor, senator and minority leader to catapult himself to the position of minister. A Senate president, who as minister kicked off political dust at a public hearing on the Niger-Delta ministry that he headed that led to the admittance of the expression “off the mike” into the political lexicon as a ploy to shield the public from official corruption.
This is happening under a regime whose National Security Adviser once accused the president of being perhaps one of the most corrupt former governors. It is happening under a party now headed by a man who, as governor was seen in video clips stuffing alleged bribe money in every orifice of his overflowing robe.
These events throw up a few questions one of which was why Tinubu did not reach out to his party chieftains to save his nominee from this embarrassment. It has led to conjectures that the president might be reluctant to stridently defend a nominee who at one time considered him a godfather to be obliterated from the political arena. As things stand, Nigerians might never know what was in that petition that Sunday Karimi, a senator alluded to on the floor of the red chamber while El-Rufai was being screened.
Nigerian politics always leave open conjectures. Like the phoenix, our ruining class recycles itself in office, careful not to enrol any hothead that is likely to threaten its cabalistic code of ethics. With its initial flip-flops on policies, programmes and nominations, the Tinubu administration is not looking like the architect of the renewed hope on which it campaigned. Only a few of his nominees so far are not welded to the established old order. This is why optimism is a misplaced emotion when it comes to what this administration can achieve both in the immediate and in the long term.
Try as it might, the Tinubu administration will have to provide answers to some yearning questions that might shorten the political romance between the North and the South West that saw him becoming president. The latest is the revelation that incarcerated former CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, borrowed $13.8 billion from two American banks – JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. The loan was said to have been obtained with Nigeria’s external reserves as collateral allegedly to stave off the dwindling value of the naira.
If the authorisation for the loan came with the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari, then he has a question to answer on how that helps his economic plan. If it was unilaterally done, then he has even more questions to answer bothering on sleeping on duty. In spite of Buhari’s touted cleanness, more sleazes are coming up that taint his stance on skulduggeries.
Before the West pushes Nigeria into a war with its neighbour, Niger, which it is ostensibly insistent on doing, it should show its example of commitment to accountability. If its former leader, Donald Trump, could be indicted for threatening democracy at home, then it should insist that African leaders, that it is so insistent on defending, play by established rules. This is one surefire way of preventing coups anywhere in the continent of Africa and elsewhere it wants to see the seeds of democracy and good governance grow. Anything short of that is superpower hypocrisy.