September 20, 2007
5 mins read

The DAILY INDEPENDENT newspaper of Thursday, September 6,2007 carried on its front page a picture an apparently happy Nasir el- Rufai, laughing very heartily alongside Dr. Rilwanu Lukman at the inauguration of the National Energy Council, that el-Rufai was named a member of the previous day by President Umar Yar’Adua. For many Nigerian newspapers, el-Rufai’s appearance in the new council was an indication that his short exile in the Siberia  of life outside of the limelight  of power and the governing process was over el-Rufai’s toothy laughter in that picture seemed to have confirmed so much.

But there must be so much about the el-Rufai disappearance and re-appearance, which most Nigerians do not know about. Let us remind ourselves that soon after the election of Umar Yar’Adua, el-Rufai and his partner, Nuhu Ribadu, committed a major faux pas of announcing at a public function that el-Rufai was going to be the next minister of energy in the yet-to-be-constituted government of Umar Yar’ Adua. The duo seemed oblivious to the fact that they wer damaging the prospects of Umar Yar’Adua ‘s presidency, because they were confirming the fears that people had that the new president was going to be a puppet of the outgoing despot, Olusegun Obasanjo.

To further compound the problem, Nasir el-Rufai was quoted by the media that he knew that Yar’ Adua was not going to bite the finger which fed him. That statement was the final nail in the coffin of el-Rufai’s arrogance anf infantile outbursts. Even a naïve man would not touch such a person with the longest pole, not to talk of briging him in as a minister, el-Rufai had also made an enemy of Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, the former governor of his state,Kaduna, it became clear to all that el-Rufai was not going to be nominated as minister from Kaduna State.

el-Rufai had told editors in his residence at Life Camp at dinner over a year ago that he was just waiting for the end of his tenure as Minister of the FCT to turn back on the politics of Abuja. He assured us that he would take off for China to leran Mandarin. Unfortunately, that was not what he dis. He was there, and according to several sources, lobbied unsuccessfully to be named minister. He had made too many enemies and in the long run, he was too damaged politically to become “the next energy minister”, as was publicly announced by his friend, Nuhu Ribadu. Nuhu in fact told somebody that he had done the very best he could to get his friend back to reckoning;that was just before he was named a member of the Natuional Energy Council.

el-Rufai is truly controversial individual and people seem to like or hate him almost in equal measure. There can be no denying the fact the he was a very hardworking individual when he came into government. The best example of his commitment was the single-minded manner that he approached the job he did as the Minister of the Federal Capital. He brought sanity to the ministry, went on a slums-clearly frenzy and he did a lot to reverse the abuse of procedures, the corruption and iiresponsibility, which have engulfed the process of building the new federal capital. I think that el- Rufai made major contribution to reversing the rot and restoration of some ordered existence in Abuja. If  he had not taken some of the painful decisions, Abuja would have been lost, just as we have lost most urban cities around Nigeria. This much I acknowledge in a piece I wrote on this page, which I titled “EL-RUFAI AND THE FATE OF LAGOS” about two years ago.

On the negative side, el-Rufai’s arrogance often destroys any basis for empathy frompeople, and he seems to have visciously neo-fascist inclination which results in his diadain for people , especially the poor. On the Alhaji Umaru Sanda Ndayako died, he hosted us to break fast at Sheraton Hotel; I think that was in September 2003. Amongst many things he told us was his gleeful account of how he told the police to teargas a group of Abuja politicians who had visited him as minister to ask him to expedite action on the conduct of local council elections in the FCT. He showed them by his action,as he told us, that he did not hve time for idle people!.

el- Rufai is a blue-blooded apostle of neo-liberal capitalism, and he beats his chest, literally, that if he had his way, he would sell offNigeria to the private sector. He represents the typical neo-colonial technocrat doing the biddings of imperialism, and having attended all manners of courses in American imperialist institutions, he holds on to his convictions about privatization almost like a religious doctrine. He was instrumental in bringing PENTASCOPE to  taking over NITEL, and as we all now know, with disastrous consequences for Nigeria.

Yet he did not show the slightest remorse, saying that he owed no one any explanations. He was only beholden to his bosses, Obasanjo and Atiku(when the goings were good between the duo), and these were so happy with the job that he did that they named him Minister of the FCT.  el- Rufai once told the leadership of the Nigerian labour movement that they do not debate policies with anybody and whoever was not happy with the neo-liberal agenda should go and form a communist party.

Nasir el- Rufai is a very brilliant man, a member of my generation. But he is a vicious, right-winged, neo-fascist. He has a tremendous technical abaility and can always  be reled upon to carry out any assignment with single-mindedness and devotion. But because of the poverty of his philosophical outlook, his politics is often wrong and opportunistic. He cannot see the big picture, especially lacking as he in the empathy for people , which can make the technocrat work with humaility for the people. The concepts of the  humility and service for the mass of the people in fact anger hin, as if there is something in his own background that he needs to exorcise.

He was obsessed with foreign degrees, so much so that he was willing to bend the rules just to play huge sums of money to a young lady whose only bona fide was that she studied abroad . As for royalty, el- Rufai would not be able to look at Atiku Abubakar in the face today. He abandoned the Atiku ship for Obasanjo’s umbrella, because it served him better, and the fact that Atiku brought him into relevance in the first place did not matter. To prove his new loyalty, he regularly took Atiku to the cleaners in very indecent tones.

el- Rufai survived the Obasanjo years, and he was carried away in a delusionthat he would be able to carry that into a new dispensation. He however underrated the wily political fox that is Umar Yar’ Adua. I think he was deceived by the calm exterior which conceals a calculating interior. He had also made too many enemies who were waiting to ensure that he did not get the prominence he achieved under then Obasanjo administration. But it is good that el- Rufai can somehow find a way to serve the new regime, because even his worst enemies must acknowledge that he gets things done.

The best way to use him is to put him on a leash, and set zhim working within a political ambience which allows him to apply his energy and intellect, unburdened by the need to take philosophical and political responsibilities. Unfortuanately for that brilliant man, he is far too limited in those broad sweeps, which make a brilliant man a political leader. el- Rufai is an unguided missile and his anti-people disposition is also a baggage that a regime in search of legitimacy can do without. But it is good to see that Nasir el- Rufai is back in the limelight.

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