Kaduna’s debt and EL-Rufaic silence


Apr 6, 2024



By Suyi Ayodele

Benjamin Franklin alias Mrs. Silence Dogwood (January 17, 1706-April 17, 1790), was one of the greatest statesmen of the United States of America. He was reputed to have signed America’s Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. He loved education. He was famously known as America’s Founding Polymath. He loved education and anything associated with letters. He also liked to document his life. When he was denied the opportunity of having his numerous letters published in his brother, James Franklin’s newspaper, The New England Courant, Franklin adopted the pseudonym of “Mrs. Silence Dogwood”. Under the name, the great American had 14 letters, which were first printed in 1722. His profile is as rich as the depth of his writings.


Franklin knew the value of documented works. So, he cautioned great men and women to always document their deeds in writing. Here is his famous quotable quote on that: “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.” Many great men and women followed his injunction. They wrote about their deeds in private and public circles. One of such men is our own Nasir El-Rufai, the former and immediate past governor of Kaduna State. El-Rufai also served as a minister in the cabinet of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He equally was the pioneer Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE). Taking heed of Franklin’s caution, El-Rufai wrote a book in 2013. He titled it: “The Accidental Public Servant”. It is a voluminous book of 627 pages without the lix (69) pages of introduction and prologues.


“The Accidental Public Servant” is written in the style of the author as an omniscient narrator. Such style allows for long tales. El-Rufai sticks to that underlying thisness of the style he employs. The book is no doubt a book of self-adulation. Self-adulation thrives on half-truths and outright lies. Only a few men of honour write their own accounts with dignity. Such value is lacking, to a greater extent, in the book under review here. My summary of “The Accidental Public Servant” is simple. Whatever the author lacks in physical appearance, he makes up for in the hyperbolic narrative of his deeds and worths, while in public service. I don’t have any problem with that. I learnt too early in life not to argue with a dwarf who claims to be tall enough to see whatever is happening around him. The training I got in dealing with such a person is to arrange his seat at the back row at the village square.


He will know his real height when the dance begins and all the tall people in front stand up to watch the masquerade dance. He will be forced to leave the arena in frustration. Nature is already putting a lie to most of the saintly claims of El-Rufai in his book. First, his terrible outings while he served as governor of Kaduna State run sharply in contrast to the self-righteousness of El-Rufai in his memoirs. Victims of his stay in office abound to tell their tales of woes under him. No doubt, there are others who see him as their hero, too. Life is like the proverbial gangan drum. While it backs some people, it faces many others. Posterity is the ultimate judge between the rulers and the ruled. So shall it be with El-Rufai and all our other leaders!


The inimitable Dr. Dipo Fashina (Jingo) taught us Introduction to Philosophy at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife. There was this story of Achilles and the Tortoise he told us. It is about the race between the fastest runner and the slowest runner. At the end of the race, Tortoise claimed victory on a simple logic: the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest because the fastest runner must always reach the point where the slowest runner who is being pursued, started from. For that to happen, the slowest runner must always hold the lead. So, it is with the truth and the lie. Lie may have the speed of light. It can also run for decades. It takes just a second for the truth to catch up with it.


That is exactly what has happened to El-Rufai. All his claims to sanctimony are collapsing before him like a pack of badly arranged cards. Happily, enough, the home truth about him is being served hot by a member of his own political household. The governor of Kaduna State, Uba Sani, is not just a member of the El-Rufai’s political family; he is the heir apparent to the ex-governor’s political dynasty. Nobody knows the dirt of the buttocks more than the pants – kò sí eni tó mo ègbin ìdí ju ìbànté lo. Reading the revelation last Saturday by Governor Sani, I begin to appreciate the Parmenidian principle of “All is one”, which when broken down to simple understanding, shows that all claims to change are illogical. Nigerians have been deceived for too long by sententious leaders. The reality is here at home with us.


There is a naked truth released a few days ago about El-Rufai. The one who claimed the garment of the Saints departed has been described as a chronic debtor who left Kaduna State prostrate. The former governor, former minister and former DG of BPE is said to be a debtor both in Dollar and Naira while he was the governor of Kaduna State. According to the incumbent Governor Sani, his predecessor, El-Rufai, left a debt of $587 million, N85 billion, and 115 contractual liabilities for him to deal with. It is like throwing a monkey to your neighbour’s compound without a finger of banana – I owe the philosophy of monkey and banana to the Great Guru (GG) himself, Dr. Mike Adenuga Jnr, Chairman of Globacom.


The indebtedness, the new governor said, is such that the state would no longer be able to pay salaries going forward. This, he added, was because of the N10 billion allocation the state gets monthly, N7 billion is used to service El-Rufai’s debt. After the deductions, what is left is a miserable N3 billion. With a wage bill of N5.2 billion, the state needs to borrow additional N2.2 billion to be able to pay its workers. Should the state succeed in doing that, it means that no other issue will be attended to. If the claims by Governor Sani are true, we all can conclude that Kaduna State is in a mess. Most states of the federation are in that gory state as Kaduna. We should not be surprised at this because this is what one gets when one’s plantation is yielded to the locusts.


Governor Sani made the allegations of outright mismanagement of Kaduna resources against El-Rufai on Saturday at a Town Hall Meeting held in Kaduna. This piece was penned on Monday. As at the time I hit the sent button on my device, the man so accused had not uttered a word. That is strange of the famed rambunctious personage. That is unEl-Rufaic! I need somebody to nudge the volcanic former governor out of his slumber. If he doesn’t know, someone close to him should let him know that everything he laboured for is at stake. He cannot afford to be silent over this. This is not the time to philosophise that “silence is golden.” El-Rufai should speak and speak loudly too. In his handover note in May 2023, El-Rufai said he left debt of $577.32 million and N80.60 billion only, in addition to $2.05 million and N5 billion in the state treasury. El-Rufai has the responsibility of explaining the differences in the figures. He equally needs to tell citizens of Kaduna what he did with the debts. Granted, blame game is the middle name of the All Progressive Congress (APC), the party which produced El-Rufai and his successor, Sani. The party blames the dead, the living and the unborn for its personal obvious failures.


But this Kaduna issue is within the family, and it is more than the normal siblings’ rivalry. Nigerians need to hear the other side. Kaduna civil servants need to know why hunger and starvation will be their lots in the months to come. Did El-Rufai borrow that much? If yes, what did he do with the money? I know El-Rufai to be an Arógunmátìdí (the one who does not draw back from war). This is a war the man cannot afford to avoid. Nigerians expect every “Accidental” discharge from their Accidental Civil Servant. We are all set for the circus show. The word of the Lord is sure and comes to pass. Egyptians must surely rise against Egyptians. Other governors that are dying in silence should also speak up. I am waiting for the day my home state governor, Abiodun Abayomi Oyebanji of Ekiti State, would come to the public crying about the burden of the recklessness of the former governor, Kayode Fayemi. The little Baba Afe Babalola said penultimate week has already brought out the ‘unOmoluabi’ traits of former Governor Kayode Fayemi. Even without any direct mention of his name by the nonagenarian, Fayemi went haywire. Fayemi claimed that Baba Afe’s first child is far older than him, yet, he was not deterred from calling the old man names I dare not repeat here! It is true that èéfín nì ìwà – character is like smoke! It cannot be covered.

Kaduna State workers will go hungry soon. They are not alone. Pensioners in the state would have their own full share of the mess. The catastrophe will cascade to petty traders and children. There will be an increase in the number of school children who will drop out because parents and guardians alike will not be able to pay school fees. Small businesses will also fold up, just as the big ones will downsize. The overall implication is that many will suffer more. As it is in Kaduna, so it is in many other states. Nigerians are not having the best of times at the moment. I saw a video of two elderly fellows fighting over food. A man and his wife were recorded fighting over ‘chop money’. The wife, in her late 70s, was struggling with her husband, a man in his early 80s over feeding Allowance. “I’m hungry. Give me money to eat”, the old woman said in Yoruba. The husband responded that he had nothing to give her. Not letting go, the old grandmother recalled her woes in her marriage to her husband. She asked if the man had ever set up a business for her. She reminded the husband that even though she tried on her own and set up a table for trading in front of the house, the husband destroyed it. “Today”, she told the husband, “You will have to do that which you plan to do to me”, the woman intoned. Then she got up, tied her wrapper and announced: “I am hungry. My legs are shaking. Give me money to eat.” She made for the husband’s “wallet” and the struggle continues!


No matter how strong-hearted one is, nobody will watch that video without feeling so sad. I could not shed tears in my sadness. Unfortunately for me, the video was sent to me late at night. The rest of my night was ruined. These are people in their departure lounge. Senior citizens, no doubt. Somebody recorded that video. Someone posted it. I could not question our humanity after watching the video. We lost that long ago. But then, I asked: what about the children and grandchildren of these old folks? What about their relations, friends and neighbours? Again, where is the government which has the fundamental function of making life bearable for the citizens? Why do we, as a nation, subject our people to this kind of situation when we are not in Afghanistan or Pakistan; two countries that are in perpetual conflicts with themselves. Why would our leaders leave behind huge debts like the El-Rufai, the debtor of Kaduna did, without repercussions?


How long shall we continue to tolerate the malfeasance of the ruling class? How long shall we continue to be stranded at the road that leads to nowhere that our leaders have led us? We have laws. We have statutes that address the recklessness that the current Kaduna State governor painted of the financial health of the state. El-Rufai, and many other ex-this and ex-that are walking the streets with crass impunity because nobody will dare ask them to account for their stewardship. From the comatose legislative arm to the intimidated and compromised judiciary, Nigerians are at the mercy of a rapacious and unfeeling executive whose sole aim is inflicting more pain on us all. Our landscapes are dotted with a-heroic characters who rode to power on the chariots of change and hope but end up doing worse things. We chased away grasshoppers only to be replaced by locusts. Now, nothing is left on the field for us to harvest, not even the leftover for our Ruth to glean! When will this end?

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