Not a few Nigerians have been taken aback by the decision of the Senate not to clear former Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and two others as ministerial nominees, citing “security checks”.
But, of the three, the one that has generated the most controversy and sent tongues wagging is El-Rufai’s and this is obvious. His contributions to the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as candidate and president are all in the public domain.
El-Rufai opposed the plan of the former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu, to retain power in the North and led the team of Northern governors who insisted that power must shift to the South.
At the heat of the campaign for APC’s presidential ticket, Aisha, the wife of the immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari reportedly asked him to speak with the other governors who were running for the presidential ticket to step down for Tinubu.
He went about the task and a good number of them, especially from the North, stepped down and supported the Tinubu candidacy.
Fast forward to the 8th of June, 2022 when Tinubu emerged as APC’s Presidential candidate.
After his emergence, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele and the so-called cabal in the then Federal Government came up with the currency swap initiative.
The Kaduna State Government under the leadership of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and two other state governments sued the Federal Government, the CBN and others, to challenge the policy at the Supreme Court. Later on, other state governments joined the suit; and they won. That was how the currency swap policy and the hardship it brought were mitigated.
Then in October 2022, Tinubu publicly said he would not leave the stage at the Kaduna Investment Summit until El-Rufai rescinded his decision to retire from public office and pursue other private endeavours. He said he needed him to stay and work with him.
In deference to Tinubu, who was his guest at the time, El-Rufai went on stage to meet him and said he would work with the then incoming government even if it was on part-time basis.
After emerging victorious at the poll, President Tinubu reportedly invited El-Rufai and told him that one of his campaign promises to Nigerians was uninterrupted power supply and that he had looked round and decided that El-Rufai was the man who could deliver for him on that promise.
At first, El-Rufai was said to have hesitated in accepting the offer. Over time, it took the interventions of some patriots and well-meaning Nigerians who allegedly prevailed on El-Rufai to accept the offer.
But, before he accepted the offer to serve, El-Rufai was said to have informed the President that based on his past experiences, it was imperative for gas to be under the same roof with the Federal Ministry of Power since gas was a critical component for electricity supply in this time and age, coupled with the drive for clean energy and climate change. It was said that if the proposal was accepted by the President, the new ministry would be known as Federal Ministry of Energy.
Informed sources also hinted that El-Rufai proposed the setting up of a National Energy Council under the Chairmanship of the President with representatives of the relevant ministries, agencies and departments, such as Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Petroleum, Federal Ministry of Environment and others.
With all these, it was gathered that the idea was for the President to drive the initiative for uninterrupted power supply while El-Rufai would implement it as Minister of Energy. The President consented and asked him to assemble his team and get to work immediately.
So, with the Presidential directive, El-Rufai assembled a team and began working about three weeks before his name was sent, alongside others, to the Senate for screening on the 27th of July, 2023.
Surprisingly, when El-Rufai appeared before the Senate for the screening, a Senator from Kogi State, Sunday Karimi, after commending El-Rufai for his achievements in public office, said he had a petition against him that bothered on “security, unity and cohesiveness”. He urged the Senate to consider the petition while the screening the nominee.
When El-Rufai wanted to speak to the petition, the President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio said he should not bother.
His words: “I have to inform all of you that I have received similar petitions from some people against other nominees, but this is not where we are to deal with petitions. Our job here is to screen. And, of course, we can refer petitions to where petitions will be dealt with.
“They are nominees of Mr. President. If it is something where there is a formal petition before the Senate, we will look at it formally. But there are certain petitions we have to refer to the Presidency or security agencies to look at, and that has nothing to do with us. By the time we go into confirmation, we will be so advised. So, I want my brother to take a bow and go, and don’t bother to explain the petition.”
However, discreet investigation has revealed that the petition was allegedly given to Senator Karimi by Akpabio on the morning of the screening exercise. He was only asked to present it. This, perhaps, explains why he was recognized by Akpabio immediately he raised his hands.
Reliable sources in Abuja said Senator Karimi has reportedly apologized to El-Rufai for the embarrassment. Other prominent leaders and politicians from his home state of Kogi have allegedly tendered unreserved apologies and distanced themselves from the petition and the acts of the senator.
Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the petition, which formed the basis of the non-confirmation of El-Rufai, is the subject of a libel suit which the former governor instituted against the petitioner, one Gloria Mabeiam Ballason, from Southern Kaduna.
Again, contrary to the insinuation that El-Rufai had been banned from holding public office in Nigeria, independent checks have revealed that there is no such resolution. It was a mere recommendation of a Committee of the House of Representatives over 20 years ago. The recommendation has been quashed by a court of competent jurisdiction. Besides, El-Rufai has since become a two-term governor of Kaduna state with outstanding records of performance!
A source at the Senate said even the letter that the President of the Senate relied on to stop the confirmation of El-Rufai and others was not addressed to him. Rather, it was addressed to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) and signed by one Aminu Yusuf, a Director in the office of the Director-General of the State Security Service (SSS). The President of the Senate was merely copied. This is against the protocols on Communication between the Executive and the Legislature which forbids the National Assembly from acting on any communication that is not signed by the President, much less one that was not addressed to it.
What has now emerged is that the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, working in cahoots with the Chief of Staff, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, allegedly got a Director in the office of the DG, SSS, to sign the letter when the helmsman of the secret service purportedly refused to do the hatchet job.
Reliable sources alleged that Vice-President Kashim Shettima, Ribadu and Gbajabiamila feel threatened by El-Rufai, especially if he is able to deliver on the task. They do not want him to serve in the government and succeed because they are already planning for 2027 or 3031, as the case may be and they see him as a potential threat to their aspirations.
They are also being allegedly propelled by other forces outside the government.
Some stakeholders in the Power Sector who have been paid between N2billion and N3billion as subsidies for electricity are afraid that with El-Rufai coming onboard, the free money will stop.
They allegedly lobbied the President not to make El-Rufai the Minister of Energy because they contributed to his campaign.
There are political foes like Shehu Sani and some elements in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and even some sponsored Muslim clerics are allegedly part of the gang up.
On Tuesday, it was said that El-Rufai requested to see the President. When they met and El-Rufai expressed his reservations about all that happened, the President reportedly asked for 12 hours to investigate the matter and resolve it. On his part, El-Rufai allegedly said 24 hours was ideal given the President’s busy schedule.
It was 24 hours on Wednesday, 9th August, 2023, when the media reported that El-Rufai was at the Presidential Villa to meet with the President.
The meeting, it was gathered, was actually for the team assembled by El-Rufai to make a presentation to the President on their activities and plans to reform the power sector. But surprisingly, at the meeting, the President allegedly began to query some of the things they had agreed on weeks ago about the bringing of Gas under the same roof with Power and to be renamed the Federal Ministry of Energy and other reform initiatives. It seemed the appointing authority has had a change of mind. Hence, all the avoidable drama that dogged the screening and confirmation.
At the end of the meeting, a source at the Presidency said El-Rufai asked the President if he could see him one-on-one in respect of the other matter that the President said he would get back to him on.
The President reportedly said he needed to see some persons who were waiting for him and that the Director of Protocol would call him to schedule a meeting. The meeting has not held. But, sources close to the former Kaduna state helmsman say he is already at the verge of rejecting the ministerial offer.
As a prelude, El-Rufai has reportedly submitted the Curriculum Vitae of a senator from Kaduna state as a replacement for him since Kaduna state has no representative in the soon-to-be composed Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Sources hinted that the former Governor of Kaduna state has since jetted out of the country to ward off pressures from party stalwarts and concerned Nigerians who are worried about the turn of events, wondering how those who lobbied him to come and serve would turn round to rubbish his enviable public records!
But sources say, whatever is the case, the bulk stops on the President’s desk.
“If he really means well and wants El-Rufai to deliver for him on constant power supply, he knows what to do to get him confirmed as it happened in the case of Festus Keyamo.
“Recall that during Obasanjo’s administration, El-Rufai had an issue with the lawmakers when he alleged that some of them were demanding bribe from him. Obasanjo intervened and the matter was resolved and the Senate cleared him,” one of the sources said.
It remains to be seen what the President would do in the next couple of days: to keep his words or pander to inanities and thereby sacrifice proven competence and capacity.
Danny Kwangogo wrote from Abuja.