Nasir El-Rufai, former governor of Kaduna State, who has confirmed BusinessDay’s story on the imminent launch of a $100 million venture capital and private equity fund, is setting a new route for Nigerian politicians who may be leaving office and considering what next to do, experts have said.
El-Rufai is one of the very few ex-governors or elected officials who will leave office and embrace the private sector. For the majority, if they are not being dragged around courtrooms by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), they lay low for a while only to resurface to take up an appointment, vie for a political office or act like godfathers in a bid to stay relevant.
Many reports have also shown that Nigerian politicians prefer to stash their loot abroad rather than within the country where the anti-corruption agency EFCC will find it easily. This is not the case in developed economies where ex-presidents or ex-governors have returned to life in the private sector. Helping to set up funds that support entrepreneurs. David Cameron, former UK Prime Minister, left office and joined Greensill Capital, a financial services company based in the United Kingdom and Australia. Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister, also joined Facebook as its head of global.
Experts say the private sector and many businesses will benefit should more politicians deploy their experience while in office to attract finance and expertise to the businesses they chose to be part of outside politics.
El-Rufai describes his role in the VC-PE firm Afri-Venture Capital Company, Limited, as a “part-time chairman of the board”. The firm which will begin operations in January 2024 will be run in collaboration with Jimi Lawal, El-Rufai’s former special adviser on investment, Hafiz Bayero, Senior Advisor Councillor to the Kaduna State Governor, Eyo Ekpo, co-founder of Excredite Consulting Limited, and Kabir Yabo, co-founder of Touch and Pay Technologies Limited.
“El-Rufai is arguably the smartest person in APC right now. That VC move is pure genius, maybe he should also do PE as well,” said Osaretin Victor Asemota, Growth Partner at AnD Ventures.
Some experts say the former governor would be looking to replicate his heroics as the Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises and Secretary of the National Council on Privatisation in Nigeria from 1999 to 2003. He was reportedly instrumental in advocating for privatisation and eventually drafted and implemented a concrete multistage plan.
“A lot of people don’t agree with his politics, but on economic issues, he has fared better than his peers. He was part of the country’s top economic team of 99.03,” said Olumide Adesina, a public analyst and journalist.
El-Rufai also cut his teeth as an entrepreneur in 1982 when he founded El-Rufai & Partners, a quantity surveying consulting firm with three partners. He managed the company until 1988. He also held top positions with two international telecom companies: AT&T, Network Systems International BV, and Motorola Inc.
He was appointed as an economic advisor to General Absussalam in 1998. He worked with the World Bank and the IMF. In 1999, he was appointed as a director of BPE and secretary of the NCP. In 2003, he was appointed Minister of FCT. He was a two-term governor of Kaduna State.