By Ayuba Ahmad
“A friend in need” goes the old saying, “is a friend indeed.”
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is popularly extolled for having the attribute of one who doesn’t dispense with the ladder on which he climbed to the top of the roof. That is, he doesn’t forget those who believed in him, and stood by him in his hours of need.
At a rally in Kaduna in the course of his campaign, the then APC presidential candidate, now President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, openly told the then Governor of the state, Malam Nasiru El-Rufai, that he should not think of jetting out of the country after his tenure as governor, and on the victory of the APC in the presidential election.
In apparent reference to El-Rufai’s seeming endless pursuits of education, President Tinubu had said: “El-Rufai, I am not going to allow you to travel out of the country after our victory in the election. You are not going to embark on another round of schooling and acquiring certificates because we are going to be needing you. You are going to be among those in the driving seat in the task of moving our great nation forward.”
Though seemingly jocularly made, the import of the statement would have tasted like a sour grape in the mouths of the myriad of El-Rufai’s army of variegated adversaries. Alarmed, they dug in deeper in their trenches as they sharpened their weapons and perfected their machinations against the APC and, the man they so much love to hate.
But to his teeming admirers, it was a good tiding and sweet music. To the clan of the APC faithful in the state, Tinubu’s muffled but clear promise was a tonic, an elixir that gingered them to work even more assiduously to ensure victory of the party at the polls. Their efforts paid off hugely, even in the face of the formidable opposition by forces from within and outside the state.
President Tinubu’s expressed desire to have the immediate past governor of Kaduna state in the center stage of his administration was certainly based on certain pertinent considerations.
It was, at once, a reward for his (El-Rufai’s) pioneering, bold and single-minded contribution to the political legworks, rigmarole and horse trading that cumulated into his (Tinubu’s) emergence as the APC’s presidential standard bearer. It was as well as a recognition of one with a unique track record of a nimble and clear-sighted goal getter. Check out the El-Rufai’s trajectory, from his days at the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), his stint as the FCT Minister and his last turf as the governor of Kaduna state.
The APC won the 2023 presidential election with its candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu becoming the President of the country.
Against the backdrop of the President’s publicly declared wish to have him as one of the prominent gladiators in his cabinet, it was rife in many political circles that El-Rufai was either going to be the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) or, the Chief of Staff (CoS) to the President. El-Rufai got neither of the positions at the end of the day and, not unexpectedly, some people rolled out the drums in celebration.
On the other hand, many political pundits were happy that he was not appointed to either of the two positions. To this school, the office of the CoS or the SGF are, after all, mere high sounding, prestigious portfolios that are conventionally occupied by buddies and acolytes of the President. In practice, the functions of the two do not elicit much of initiative, the zest and acumen of a goal-getter.
Also, political expediency would not have allowed for a Muslim SGF or CoS from the northwest in view of the fact that the President, the Vice President, Speaker of the House and Deputy President of the Senate are all Muslims. Though a Muslim, it was a well-known fact that, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, a long-time associate and confidant of Tinubu, was the CoS-in-waiting.
In the circumstance, it was thought that, in the context of his RENEWED HOPE philosophy, President Tinubu was preserving El-Rufai for a place in his cabinet as a Minister in charge of a very critical ministry that demands for a courageous and a visionary personality with stupendous wealth of experience and milestones of groundbreaking accomplishments in public service.
What then, happened that of the forty-eight ministerial nominees, Malam Nasiru El-Rufai was one of the only three who were not confirmed by the Senate?
The Senate was reported to have refused to confirm El-Rufai on the nebulous grounds of, “security concerns”, allegedly contained in reports by the Department of State Security (DSS) and the National Security Adviser (NSA). The Senate did not let the public into details of the said “security reports,” surreptitiously and exclusively delivered to the Senate President, while the screening of the nominees was well under way.
Whatever the security concerns contained in their reports, the entire scenario is a negative portrayal of the authors of the reports. It comes out as an exercise in self indictment; admittance of gross incompetence; grand scale dereliction and negligence of duty. Thus, giving rise to the myriad of questions begging for answers from the Nuhu Ribadu’s office and Yusuf Magaji Bichi’s agency.
What happened all along in the process that the DSS and the office of the NSA had missed out on what is otherwise, overwhelming and grave security concerns on El-Rufai when, his name was initially sent to them by the President for security checks and clearance? Why did they, ab initio, issue him with a clean bill of health in their first reports submitted to the President which formed the basis of the forwarding of El-Rufai’s name to the Senate for vetting?
Why the belated submission of their second damning reports? Was the security agencies’ latter action an after-thought? Procedurally, if it was that the DSS and the NSA only later stumbled into the facts contained in their second reports, should they have directly sent such to the Senate without going through the President? The lines are blurry. So many links appear missing. The sums are not just adding up.
The giddy, discordant cords conveyed in the actions of the DSS and the NSA strike deafening notes of a cavalier or lackadaisical approach in their handling of serious matters of the nation’s security. It is a bizarre and a confounding puzzle that defies all tests of logic and comprehension by discerning minds.
Ordinarily, the two agencies on which the nation greatly depends for its security, safety and stability, are expected to have done a much better clinical job in the performance of a fundamental, statutory assignment with crucial and multi-dimensional repercussions on the polity.
Could the NSA and the DSS have based their reports on the cacophonous campaigns by a coterie of merchants of primordial sentiments who are in truth people embarked on a mundane and self-seeking mission of getting at El-Rufai by all means? That will, sadly, imply that the NSA and the DSS succumbed to the gimmicks and deception of those with the puerile objective of depicting El-Rufai as a religious bigot who, as such, is not suitable for the office of a Minister!
It is bewildering as it is confounding if, indeed, the two security agencies were bought on the obfuscating antics, the guile and pranks of those who are but bands of boisterous partisan politicians masquerading in the borrowed garbs of piety and altruism. On a good day, the security agencies, more than other sets of people, ought to have seen through the facades.
Be that as it may, beyond the intriguing tragicomedy being played out by the NSA and the DSS, the stack reality is that we are certainly yet to be over with the issue of the Senate screening of the ministerial nominees. While the perplexed, stupefied public remains enthralled and anxiously wait to see how it unfolds further, the scenario pointedly, presents President Bola Ahmed Tinubu with a knotty debacle that he must very quickly strive to unravel.
It calls for a strong show of the president’s muscles of leadership because, it appears that, so early in the day, some forces may have gone to work, subtly but seriously wanting to test his grasp, grip and authority.
He must rise to the occasion, show the firmness of character of a Leader in full control, and the assertion that he is the one who ultimately calls the shots. President Tinubu in this instance, must painstakingly endeavor to get to the roots of the noxious development.
Yes, Nasiru Ahmad El-Rufai must not be a Minister or a key player, as of a birthright, in this government and can as such, be left out of the scheme. But the fact is, love him or hate him; take it or leave it, El-Rufai has it all that would have made him a phenomenal asset to the Tinubu’s administration.
As it is, while it would appear on the surface that those that are daggers drawn against El-Rufai are driven by the share mundane elements of envy, covetousness and hatred, President Tinubu may indeed be the ultimate, real target of the vicious, lethal fangs and venoms of the serpentine forces lurking in the shadows.
And, come to think of it, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu undoubtedly owes the man a huge moral and political debt. At least, to the extent that he shouldn’t have been given the sort of shoddy treatment he got in the process of the Senate ministerial screening.
Ayuba Ahmad is a veteran journalist based in Kaduna.