Why El-Rufa’i Should Become the Next SGF

By Fidelix J. Bagudu

Let me start by congratulating the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whose hard work, perseverance and dedication have finally paid off. Tinubu’s emergence is timely, as Nigerians are in dire need of a leader that will carry everyone along regardless of ethno-religious differences. I have confidence that you have what it takes to turn Nigeria around.

Few days ago, I stumbled upon a publication where the Asiwaju established the criteria for appointing the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and the first person that came to my mind was the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i.

Nasir El-Rufa’i, a gifted fellow has demonstrated excellence from his childhood days, to date; in Barewa College, where he was educated, as a junior at the college. In 1976, he graduated at the top of his class, winning the “Barewa Old Boys’ Association Academic Achievement” trophy. He later attended Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) in Zaria, where he received a bachelor’s degree in quantity surveying with first class honours.

In 1984, he received a Master of Business Administration, (MBA) from Ahmadu Bello University. He has since attended several professional and post-graduate programs, including the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C and programs on privatization and leadership.

In August 2008 he received a law degree from the University of London; and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University in June 2009. He also received the Kennedy School Certificate in Public Policy and Management, having spent 11 months as an Edward A. Mason Fellow in Public Policy and Management from July 2008 to June 2009.

In 1982, he founded El-Rufai & Partners, a quantity surveying consulting firm with three partners which he managed until 1998. During the military juntas of 1983–1998, the firm received building and civil engineering contracts including during the construction of Abuja, making the partners “young millionaires”. In addition to his practice, El-Rufai held management positions with two international telecommunications companies, AT&T Network Systems International BV and Motorola Inc.

In 1998, following the death of military head of state General Sani Abacha, his successor General Abdulsalami Abubakar appointed El-Rufai as an economic advisor. In this role he worked with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In November 1999, he was appointed the Director of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, and Secretary of the National Council of Privatisation where he spear-headed the privatisation of several government-owned corporations alongside Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

In July 2003, he was appointed the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. During his tenure, he presided over a radical transformation of the federal capital earlier riddled with corruption and vast deviation from the original masterplan. With the establishment of the Abuja Geographic Information System, the capital became the first municipality in Nigeria with a computerised land register and information system.

Along with the President and members of the Economic Management Team, he led the reform of the Nigerian public service which had become dysfunctional during years of military dictatorship. At various times during his tenure as Minister, he oversaw the Federal Ministries of Commerce (twice) and Interior. He also chaired several high-profile cabinet committees that led to the establishment of a mortgage system in Nigeria, National ID card system for Nigeria, Electric Power Supply Improvement and the sale of Federal Government real estate in Abuja.

On 29 May 2015, El-Rufai was sworn in as the 22nd Governor of Kaduna State. In his inaugural address, he declared that he and his deputy were cutting their allowances by half pending an improvement in the state’s fiscal situation. On 6 August 2015, El-Rufai in one of his first acts as governor announced that Kaduna State will adopt the Treasury Single Account policy by 1 September of the same year.

At the end of the exercise, 470 accounts belonging to different ministries, departments and agencies were closed and a sum of N24.7 billion was recovered and remitted to the Kaduna State Government TSA with the Central Bank of Nigeria. By blocking leakages and cutting the cost of running government, it is estimated that the el-Rufa’i administration was able to save N1.2 billion in just two months.

El-Rufa’i also reformed the civil service in Kaduna State and reduced the number of ministries from 19 to 13 and the number of permanent secretaries from 35 to 18. In a bid to reduce the cost of governance, El-Rufai appointed only 13 commissioners, 10 special advisers and 12 special assistants as against the 24 commissioners, 41 special advisers and about 400 special assistants appointed by the previous administration.

As governor, El-Rufa’i has embarked on a comprehensive education reform with the goal of revamping the moribund state of education. El-Rufai sacked over 22,000 unqualified primary teachers. El-Rufai’s administration launched the School Feeding Programme, aimed at providing one free meal per day to 1.5 million pupils in public primary schools within the state. He also abolished the collection of fees and levies in public primary and junior secondary schools in Kaduna, thereby removing a financial burden of N3 billion from the parents.

In 2015, when malam Nasiru El Rufa’i  took over power, Kaduna State Government generated N11.7 billion as Internally Generated Revenue. That could not cover wages and administrative costs of the state government.

It is noteworthy that Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service’s monthly generation was put at 600 to 800 million per month during the reign of the People’s Democratic Party (7ation from the Federation Account, which hardly covers salaries and leaves nothing for infrastructure development.

As a remedial measure, the administration of malam Nasiru El-Rufa’i considered the appointment of Ms. Ifeuko Omoigui-Okaru, the ex-Chair of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIIRS), to restructure Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS) in 2016; That year, the State generated N23 billion and in 2017, IGR increased to N26.5 billion. In 2018, KADIRS raked in N29 billion

However, in 2019, the service set for itself a target of N43 billion and it ensured that all its 28 tax revenue lines remained active and it collaborated with other agencies. The diligence and collaboration paid off as KADIRS collected a whooping N44 billion in 2019, surpassing its own target of N43 billion. And in seven years of his administration, Kaduna attracted 4.48 billion Dollars investment.

For those who have not been to Kaduna, capital of the former Northern Region, in the last one year, a visit would leave them surprised at the new look of the town, due to the on-going Kaduna Urban Renewal programme of Governor Nasir El-Rufai.

With the rehabilitation, expansion and building of roads in the metropolis, the administration has brought about what can arguably be described as one of the most ambitious urban renewal programmes in the country in recent times. No wonder President Buhari thanked Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i for the infrastructure he had provided that would make life for his retirement and that of the people of the state much better.

President Buhari, who spoke at length about his retirement proposal, said that he intended to be home in Daura for six months before eventually moving to Kaduna.

Though El-rufai’s leadership style may be misunderstood by a pocket few. However, what most pessimists cannot take away from him is his philosophy of competence and hard work in his administration and recruitment processess He believes in one Nigeria which is evident in the way he governs Kaduna State, which is like a mini Nigeria. He is one governor in Nigeria who does not care where you come from before he offers you a job especially when it is obvious that you have the Midas touch.

Rufai’s contribution towards making sure that the presidency was zoned to south shows that he is a patriotic Nigerian who can go to any length for the soul of the nation. His sincere obligation to the success of the All-Progressives Congress (APC) during the last election indicates his commitment towards ensuring good governance.

He is a man with a heart of gold; a compassionate fellow whose preoccupation is to better the lives of the people of his state, Nigeria and humanity in general. These and many more are the forces driving his government in Kaduna State. The idea of raising the bar of competence and hard work is one missing link in the public and private sectors in Nigeria. The governor is already addressing them in Kaduna. It was not an accidental approach to governance as it was also the hallmark of his administration as minister of the Federal Capital Territory.

Malam is fondly remembered for restoring the Abuja Master Plan and returning sanity in the ways businesses were done in the ministry of FCT. After the usual vilification, he was at the end celebrated by many to have left a mark in the sand of time. It may be painful but joy comes at dawn.

He has shown in words and deeds that competence and hardwork forms the fulcrum of his administration. Opportunities are regularly given to men and women with big responsibilities assigned to them not because of the complementary cards they presented but for what they can offer.

El-rufa’i, who was known as a giant in his days at Barewa College, Zaria, was not so much attributed for his physique, but for his intellect and smartness. It is a welcome development that he is bringing this and his wealth of experience to bear in the incoming administration.

To him,, governance of Kaduna is likened to the Biblical plow; he never looks back when he places his hands to it. Governor El-rufai’s philosophy of competence and hard work is exactly what the nation deserves at this time in our history.

Governor el-Rufai possesses the requisite leadership quality to serve as the SGF in President-elect Tinubu’s administration. He is a good leader, who has all the intellectual characteristics, sagacity and competence to serve as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation if given the opportunity. It is said that the reward for hardwork is more work.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Pix Caption: Fidelix J. Bagudu

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