El-Rufai: A new dawn in Kaduna -By Dele Olowu

Filed under: Democracy & Governance |
Mallam Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State

Mallam Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State


The most enduring crisis of governance in Nigeria, is the continuing trend by which recurrent expenditure customarily outpaces capital provision. This has stunted growth and undermined the general welfare of the Nigerian people. This disequilibrium, though a dire social scourge, was little noted by the Nigerian public until fairly lately.

That this dilemma has become widely noted today, is due to the selfless clamor of a few social activists in our midst, who from time to time, have attacked the unjustness of perverse public finance appropriations. The heroes of this campaign are several, but Nasir El Rufai, the incumbent Governor of Kaduna state stands tall, as an outstanding example.

Nasir El Rufai obviously takes pride in his self description as an “accidental civil servant”. But there is perhaps, even greater justice in regarding him as an accidental politician. For it was his clamor for equity in the allocation and distribution of resources, which inducted him into the universe of politics. In scholarly articles, at symposiums and media platforms, El Rufai called attention to the bloated nature of Nigeria’s recurrent expenditure, and how this had historically impeded the growth of infrastructure, and instead created a parasitic elite class, which fed on the lifeblood of the masses. All over the land, with a few notable exceptions, recurrent expenditure was gulping more than 75% of total budget.

Nasir El Rufai, soon turned his gaze on this same oddity, as expressed in his own home state of Kaduna, and made it an important plank of his political campaigns. It was of course clear, even to casual visitors to Kaduna, that the old metropolis, once the glamorous heartbeat of the political North, had seen better times. While its industrial base was in decline,its physical look showed signs of emaciation and ill health. Surely, a change was necessary, if Kaduna was not to collapse on its knees!

That change came, when El Rufai was elected as the governor of Kaduna State. The overwhelming nature of his victory was in many ways an expression of the frustrations of the people with the ousted government. In fact ex Governor Yero was not merely defeated. The people themselves seemed to have renounced everything he stood for. Now El Rufai, famed for his campaign for good governance, has a chance to practice what he preaches.

In our political community, praise comes too easily from the lips of the civic population. Our leaders themselves are impatient of criticism and have tended to cultivate the imperial syndrome in their politics. So we need to be guarded in offering support for policy directions. However, in spite of all this, it is becoming increasingly clear, that the welfare of the people, is the string on which El Rufai proposes to hang his pearls. These are early days yet, so judgement must be both careful and tentative.

However a few indicators of the character of the El Rufai government have already been noted nationally. His decision to earn only 50% of his salary should not be regarded as mere tokenism. It is an exemplary piece of sacrifice which makes an important announcement about the inauguration of austerity in government processes. It is not yet an officially sanctioned government policy. But I doubt if political appointees will resist the temptation to follow the worthy example.

El Rufai’s decision to prune down the number of ministries to13 from 19, and reduce Permanent secretaries from 35 to18 is also significant. For a state that has customarily had to borrow to meet salary and pension obligation, the most revolutionary response of the El Rufai government is the decision to slash overheads by as much as 60%. This may affect the creature comforts of the leadership elite, but surely, it leaves more margin for capital growth and development.

The Kaduna government, in removing government funding support for holy pilgrimages has also struck an important blow for separating the state from religious observances. More importantly the 1.5billlion, which was annually committed by Kaduna to pilgrimages can now be deployed for other areas of need.

The Nigerian public must see a great future for Kaduna, going by El Rufai’s pioneering steps. The crises of governance in Nigeria, consists of giving to the few,what belongs to the many. El Rufai has sought to reverse this order. He has placed the requirement of the people themselves over and above the comfort of the ruling elite. He has also shown the courage to take decisions which may appear in the short term to be painful, knowing fully well that they are in the enduring interest of the people. He has ordered the priorities right while at the same time putting a lid on the expectations of the people. There is a lot going on in Kaduna state, from which the rest of Nigeria can profit. Are we listening?

Written by Dele Olowu