El-Rufai’s security briefing by Ben Okezie – A rejoinder

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Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai

“A well informed public opinion is essential to the growth of political and social awareness. Only he who is informed can comment intelligently on his nation’s development and only by such comments can errors be corrected and progress stimulated” – Haile Selassie.

The summary of Ben Okezie long winding epistle titled:“El-Rufai’s security briefing”, published on the August 4, 2022, in the Sun newspaper, was that Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna state, meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari was not motivated by the deteriorating security situation in the country, but by the threat of the terrorists to kidnap the president and himself. Okezie went further to tragically and unfortunately allege, without any evidence, that El-Rufai “bluntly and selfishly” refused to address the numerous security challenges facing the country, and the need to release Nnamdi Kanu,the IPOB leader, presently on trial.

Based on this false premise, Okezie savegely portrayed El-Rufai’s meeting with the president as selfishly motivated, and El-Rufai as unconcerned about the plight of other Nigerians, naturally traumatised by the increasing and daring attacks by the terrorists, and the near helplessness of the security agencies.

Okezie said, “What is rather painful is that El-Rufai, who was able to reach out to President Buhari, only remembered his personal case, which he tabled and discussed with the president, and also including the story of the bandits’ threat to kidnap the president, who is a four-star military general”.

Ben Okezie’s real grouse with El-Rufai, despite his pretentiousness, was the “failure” of El-Rufai to discuss Kanu, the IPOB leader’s matter with the president. “By the way, is it out of place for the governor who wants a better Nigeria to have remembered to brief the president about the request of the United Nations about the release of IPOB leader? After all, Nnamdi Kanu was addressed as a terrorists”, he said.

It’s rather regrettable that Okezie concluded, without evidence, that Kanu’s matter wasn’t discussed, in either specific or general terms. The question is, why should Mr. Okezie crucify El-Rufai, and not Godfrey Onyeama, the minister of foreign affairs, whose primary responsibility it is to bring the Report of the United Nations UN Human Rights Council Working Group to the attention of the president? And, assuming El-Rufai had veered into Onyeama’s area of jurisdiction, wouldn’t Okezie have turned round to scream marginalisation of the Igbo by the Hausa/Fulani, and accuse El-Rufai of hijacking the duty of an Igbo minister?

Okezie equally had a problem with the choice of Hausa for the Wednesday, July 27, 2022, radio interview by El-Rufai. Though Okezie couldn’t, by any stretch of imagination, describe El-Rufai as an “aboki”, who can’t speak or write good English, it’s a shame that a columnist, who ought to understand the advantages of El-Rufai communicating in Hausa, had a problem with that. El-Rufai, in choosing to communicate with the good people of Kaduna state in Hausa and using radio as the medium, wanted to effectively communicate and reach the heart of his audience!

Another low point of Okezie’s diatribe was the description of Hausa as a vernacular. This is, no doubt, a hangover of colonial mentality, that glorified English language, while denigrating other languages. What is vernacular about El-Rufai communicating in his mother tongue? The Igbo language is gravely endangered because it is falling out of use for two main reasons – speakers are dying out and the likes Okezie have shifted to English.

The above is the story that Okezie, supposedly a reputable columnist, an authority on security matters, laboriously tried to tell, in more than one thousand words, but spectacularly failed, because he was clearly out for mischief. He only used the July 24, 2022, meeting of El-Rufai and the president as convenient cover for his ethnic agenda.

Nasir El-Rufai is an open book, written in bold letters. His position on the terrorists and what Nigeria needs to do are public knowledge. For several years since 2017, he stridently campaigned for the government to appropriately designate the bandits as terrorists, which they are, to enable the military legitimately go after them without fear of indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). El-Rufai has been pushing for the carpet bombing of the terrorists’ hideouts, while acknowledging there would be collateral damages. To date, only El-Rufai has openly and vigorously campaigned for massive recruitment into the security agencies, so they can overwhelm the terror merchants. At present, security agencies lack the numbers to match the terrorists who, apart from being well armed, equally attack in large numbers.

This reality is certainly different from Okezie’s picture of a selfish and unconcerned man.

Again, Mr Okezie displayed amazing ignorance, when he falsely accused El-Rufai of not informing the president of the economic crisis confronting the country. He claimed that El-Rufai “forgot to brief the oresident about the total collapse of the Nigerian economy. He was in haste to receive a thank-you appreciation remark from the president but forgot to brief the president about the unbelievable total collapse of the naira, which is exchanging with one dollar for N720. Is El-Rufai not aware of the rising wave of kidnapping across the country? How come El-Rufai also forgot to brief the president about the ASUU strike that has crippled our university education?”

The tragedy of Okezie’s mercenary treatise is that though he pontificated with magisterial authority, he unfortunately treated facts with utter contempt, which a knowledgeable columnist shouldn’t. A columnist adds value, but in this particular article, Okezie murdered truth and misled his readers. It’s worth repeating here, that Okezie displayed a tragic lack of respect for facts and concerned Nigerians, who invested their trust in him.

 It is public knowledge that El-Rufai met with the president on two critical issues: the security situation and the worsening economic crisis, due to the unsustainable fuel subsidy regime that will, in 2022, cost Nigeria more than N7 trillion. El-Rufai, it needs be stated, engages the president and other stakeholders, because he is deeply worried about the general direction of the country. He has never asked to be thanked, though there’s nothing wrong to be commended for selfless service to nation and humanity.

Clearly, Okezie hoodwinked his readers with the name of El-Rufai, and at the end, hugely disappointed them with his tales by moonlight. Moving forward, El-Rufai should consider demanding royalties, as a matter of right, when the likes of Okezie use his hard-earned reputation to attract readership.

The outcome of the meeting between El-Rufai, who despite personal insults, has patriotically refused to keep quiet, unlike those who because of their presidential ambition prevented the National Economic Council from taking a decision on fuel subsidy in 2018. Today, the subsidy has not only astronomically increased from N257 billion in 2006, to N7 trillion in 2022, but Nigeria is borrowing to fund it. For the benefit of Okezie, the NNPC, our cash cow, only earned N4.6 trillion in 2020. Without doubt, the subsidy regime has not only failed, but is threatening to collapse the national economy. Presently, many state governments can neither pay their wage bills nor meet their contractual obligations to service providers.

The governors who, in 2018, ignored the admonitions of El-Rufai and refused to administer the difficult pill, are now pushing the president to take the difficult decision on subsidy. So, to a very large extent, El-Rufai’s meeting with President Buhari was fruitful. The icing on the cake was the promise by the military to embark on an onslaught against the terrorists. If they don’t, the joke will be on them.

The huge demand on El-Rufai, by the likes of Okezie, while an acknowledgement of his qualities as a leader, has equally made him a fair game for attack by many interest groups whose lack of capacity is exposed by El-Rufai’s honest actions and public utterances. Okezie admitted as much in his write up. Unlike other governors who are largely unseen and unheard, yet go scot-free, El- Rufai constantly gets whacked for his efforts towards a better Nigeria. His camp must accept this in good faith, as the price he keeps paying for vision and far sightedness.

Like Thomas Jefferson warned, “He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors”. Readers are warned to be wary of some journalists who peddle falsehoods to drive traffic to their platforms. Unfortunately for everyone, the legion of the gleefully uninformed is becoming the order of the day.

Ado writes from Kaduna via [email protected]

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