El-Rufa’i has shown that govt can work – Akumazi

Mr. Martins Akumazi is the special adviser to Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufa’i of Kaduna state on project implementation and result delivery; he was also his special assistant when he was the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). In this interview with CHAMBA SIMEH, he speaks of his more than 40 years relationship with Governor el-Rufa’i, dating back to his undergraduate days at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, as well as the governor’s urban renewal projects and other accomplishments.

Let’s talk about the next visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Kaduna state, which I understand the president has agreed to, when the deputy governor led a delegation to thank him for the four-day state visit in January, this year. But there is no way we won’t, in passing, talk about the last visit of Mr. President to Kaduna date which was a huge success.

It’s only natural that Mr. President will be coming back soon to commission additional projects in Kaduna state, considering that since the last visit, many more projects have been completed. The most significant ones under the urban transformational projects are the Kabala Costain – Aliyu Makama Road, Barnawa, complemented with a major bridge across the Kaduna River, which will considerably reduce the traffic on the over-stressed Stadium Roundabout to Station Roundabout. There is also the Rabah Road Reconstruction and Extension Road that connects to the Western By-Pass and then feeds onto the Rigasa Train Station to Mando Link Road. There is also the Isa Kaita Road Reconstruction and Dualisation project, and many others within the metropolises of Kaduna, Zaria and Kafanchan, all of which have direct bearing on the lives of the people. You can rest assured that when President Buhari comes back, it will be another big success story. Governor el-Rufa’i has, under seven years, without doubt, implemented many impressive and impactful infrastructure projects. You will recall that Mr. President couldn’t conceal his excitement and appreciation to the governor over his achievements during his previous visits. I must say that I feel proud to be associated with this success story.

Again, some opposition elements had alleged that Mr. President was booed and stoned in Zaria during his last visit. They tried to pass off the video of an incident that happened in Borno state, as having happened in Zaria. I am sure they will try some more propaganda when the president comes again, considering that we are in an election year. What’s your take on that?

Well, that is politics for you; negative politics though by opponents who resorted to telling lies because they had nothing concrete to attack the governor on. There were huge crowds at every commissioning location, cheering and chanting praises of Mr. President and Malam el-Rufa’i. I guess that visit made his political opponents very uncomfortable and they felt they had to create the negative and false impression of dislike of these two great leaders. So, they simply went on the social media with old videos of incidents that happened elsewhere to falsely project unpopularity of our leaders. It is a shame that, for political reasons, they would encourage the destruction of valuable public assets…it’s totally unjustifiable, and very sad.

We will talk about the other on-going projects. You’re not new to Kaduna state, having spent your formative years here, from primary school up to your university education at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Let’s talk about the old and new Kaduna state. What has changed, especially in the social and economic development of the state?

Yes, I grew up here in Kaduna state; attended my primary and secondary schools in Kaduna and Zaria, and my university education at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Absolutely there’s nothing significant in terms of the physical, economic or social infrastructure development. What I can recall is the effort by the defunct PTF in the late 1990s, specifically the improvement on Independence Way and the Trade Fair Complex. Previous administrations ought to have done more because infrastructure development is key for economic development. Infrastructure, in addition to the ease of doing business, is key in attracting private investments. The infrastructure and economic development of the state by the Nasir el-Rufa’i administration is monumental and unarguably incomparable to the past years. Is it the total transformation of the road networks; new modern buildings, markets, malls, recreational centres, etc. As an actively practicing quantity surveyor, I have not seen engineering infrastructure being delivered at such a considerable scope and speed; an entire state turned into a construction site. It is simply amazing and audacious. Malam is truly audacious. …you can’t deny that.

By the way, you have spent 50 years in Kaduna state even though you have been in and out. In every sense, you are a Kaduna boy like Olumuyiwa Adekeye the special adviser on media and communications is a Zaria boy. Congratulations to you.

Yes, I am very much aware that I have spent 50 years in Kaduna state. Thank you very much for pointing this out, and congratulating me. To God be the glory. Every time I drive by my former school – LEA Primary School, Independence Way, opposite the Catholic Social Centre – I have this nostalgic feeling, remembering that it all started from there. My exact classroom block of 50 years ago is still standing, though the school has been converted to a secondary school and I`m grateful to Malam’s administration for that. I am indeed a Kaduna boy!

What attracted you to el-Rufa’i; is it his intelligence?

With all modesty, I want to believe, I was one of Malam el-Rufa’i’s good students at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Though I was a very quiet student, I did exceptionally well in the courses he taught us. I believe my academic performance was the first and major attraction. Like you know, I am Igbo by tribe, from Delta state, and a Christian. So, certainly, those weren’t the connection. But being the great man that he is, it never ever got in the way or stopped him from building a great relationship with me.

So, you met at the university?

No! It`s a long story. I have known Malam el-Rufa’i for more than 40 years now. I first met Malam in 1983, as a student of quantity surveying at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. No one introduced me to him. I had heard about him, his exploits as a student in the department, and the wave he was making in professional quantity surveying practice. I needed to do my mandatory internship (industrial attachment) in a professional quantity surveying practice. So, I came down to Kaduna from Zaria. I visited several quantity surveying firms to solicit for placement. Initially, it seemed I wasn’t lucky, but God had his long-term plans. Malam’s office wasn’t part of my plans because I had never met him, and I had no prior appointment with him. I reluctantly decided to gamble it. I asked for and luckily got his office address from one of the other Quantity Surveying firms.

My first pleasant surprise was that he agreed to see the student from ABU. I introduced myself and my mission and solicited his assistance to work in his firm, which was then a consortium of architects, engineers and quantity surveyors – the highly reputable Environment 7. Malam only asked me a few questions about myself and quantity surveying courses. Satisfied with my responses, my request was expressly granted. My classmates couldn’t believe the story of my successful encounter with Malam. I worked as trainee for a few weeks until school resumed….this was in 1983. In April, 1984, as part of my second internship programme, I was privileged to once again work under Malam’s direct supervision, and for a longer period. I returned to school in September, 1984 and, as providence would have it, Malam became a lecturer in the Department of Surveying, Ahmadu Bello University, and he became my teacher in two core courses, Professional Practice and Procedure (PPP) and Construction Management.

Malam, from day one, made an immediate impact on me, and my admiration of him increased tremendously when he started teaching me. Naturally, I took extra an interest in my quantity surveying degree course. Malam is a born teacher, who delivered the “stuff” in his very simple style of teaching.

After my National Youth Service primary assignment with the Lagos state government in 1986, I secured employment with el-Rufa’i & Partners, a firm of chartered quantity surveyors and project managers. I was posted to the Lagos Office. I worked with the firm until 2003, when Malam became the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and appointed me as his special assistant on project implementation and monitoring. Again, this is where el-Rufa’i is remarkably different. His appointments have nothing to do with tribe or religion. It’s about competency. It’s an office that is highly lobbied for by many construction professionals because of the highly rich exposure to the conception, planning, design and implementation of a broad range of first-class engineering infrastructure projects, and the other benefits.

In 2015, when Malam was elected governor of Kaduna state, he once again appointed me as his special adviser on project implementation and monitoring and result delivery. I remain eternally grateful to Malam because he could have appointed an indigene of the state, someone of his tribe and religion. That he settled for me shows his de-tribalised nature and nationalistic disposition.

Malam is a good man with a good heart. I know this for a fact because I am a living evidence of his good nature. And this is not all about me, because there are many more like me around him. I speak authoritatively because I have been with him for over 40 years. Look at the Kaduna State Executive Council, his appointees are from more than 10 states of the country – north and south.

Let’s talk about what everyone agrees is an eventful tenure as the Kaduna state governor. Has el-Rufa’i given a good account of himself? Has el-Rufa’i delivered on his campaign promises?

My answer is simple … res ipsa loquitur; meaning the facts speak for themselves. The evidence of his achievements is very visible. Malam has performed far beyond his campaign promises. Unlike many other governors, he completed many inherited projects. He did not abandon  them; just as he started and completed many new projects that have impact on the lives of the people. He has many projects that are on-going. While concerted efforts are being made to complete them, certainly some, especially major water and power projects, will spill into the next administration. There are many other projects that are captured in the state development plan 2021-25; some of them have been planned and designed or being designed, but have been deferred for implementation by the next administration. We pray the next administration will complete them because they are good development projects that will complement that already on ground, and further pave the way for a sustained economic prosperity of the state. When Malam came, there were no functioning industries in the state, but with determination, he changed the industrial landscape of the state. So far, he has attracted private sector  investments worth over $3 billion.

You have known him for over 40 years, why do you think el-Rufa’i accepted the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) and ministerial appointments? And eventually took the plunge to run for Kaduna governor and why is it, in everywhere that he has served, he gives his all?

Malam’s motivation for accepting and giving his all in every public office he has held is because to him, it’s service to humanity. This also informs his giving his all to every assignment. It’s in his nurture; a life driven by the spirit of excellence. I believe that his public service is his way of giving back to society. Malam doesn’t feel comfortable hearing the elite engage in the usual complaints without any effort to change the situation. You must agree with me that Malam has shown that government can work. So, making a difference in governance is critical for Malam.

He has always given his all to every task, endeavour or assignment he has handled. He gave his all to his academics. Similarly, as a practicing quantity surveyor, he was unarguably the best in the industry. This is not hearsay. I worked with him; so I know what I am saying. His clientele size grew extremely fast based on his reputation for hard-work and best interests of clients. There is no client we worked for that didn’t hold Malam in very high esteem because of his exceptional professionalism and integrity. Malam excelled in professional practice. Our practice was the first to migrate from manual to use of computers; that was in the 1980s.

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