Kaduna is the heartbeat of the nation, a veritable home of Kaduna mafia who used to make and unmake the nation, depending on the direction of the nation’s leadership and the interest of the mafia. In the 1980s, during my undergraduate days, an Army Major of about 40 years of age was appointed as the governor of Kaduna state.
We were bewildered how a young military officer could administer the state. A few years earlier, the state was almost made ungovernable under the leadership of the first democratically elected governor, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, of blessed memory.
Musa was a highly radical personality and a highly rated disciple of sagacious radical, late Mallam Aminu Kano. But Musa was challenged until he became the first governor to be impeached, no thanks to unseen hands of the mafia. Musa did not fight alone; ferocious-looking, vastly social radical, Dr. Yusuf Bala Usman, of blessed memory, with his chains of disciples, supported him.
Yet, the state was snatched out of their hands. Musa spent 18 months in office without commissioners under turbulent political shenanigans but was able to bring unprecedented development in education and cottage industries. Funtua Bricks and Danja Sugarcane industries are part of Musa’s evidence of achievements. So, why was the Army Major appointed to govern such kind of state? After more than three decades, I got an answer from a key player of that dispensation. The appointment was made to deal with Kaduna mafia. Well, whether the Army Major dealt with Kaduna mafia or it was vice-vasa is a story for another day.
In the last 40 years, the developmental pace of Kaduna state has been very sluggish exacerbated by demographic challenges. The state has witnessed pockets of mishaps; religious and ethnic crises, banditry, and kidnapping. The absence of infrastructure in some parts and the dilapidation of the existing ones were the common symbols of the state. However, in the last four years, the state is speedily changing towards progress and wearing a new look. Yes, if you have been away from Kaduna, Zaria, and Kafanchan towns for the last four years when you are back, you can hardly recognise these towns because of their new looks. These days, one can hardly hear of Kaduna mafia and the religious crisis of yesteryears are becoming history.
However, rampant banditry and kidnappings are currently the biggest challenges in Kaduna and neighbouring states of Katsina, Zamfara, and Niger. What is the magic wand of Kaduna’s transformation?
Mallam Nasiru El-Rufa’i orchestrated and midwifed the magic wand of Kaduna’s transformation. Who is El-Rufa’i? Even though, I am a distant observer, I can still say what El-Rufa’i is and what he is not. He is not a “roadside politician”, neither is he a political pushover. El-Rufa’i is bold, courageous, and dexterously accomplishes his political agenda, not minding the consequences.
He took some political decisions, which were hitherto inconceivable. First, he made a relatively unknown personality, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe, a Muslim lady, to be his running mate for the 2019 election in a state that was traditionally having Muslim-Christian or Christian-Muslim team as governor and deputy. Second, he provided relative independence or autonomy to local government councils. He did a surgical operation of the primary school teachers with attendant consequences of losing thousands of jobs and today several parents are taking their wards to such schools. At one time, his children were attending public schools. Then, the big bang; he provided infrastructural development in Kaduna, Zaria, and Kafanchan townships, which are best seen than described. He accomplished Zaria township water supply, which dragged for over 39 years and gulped billions of naira.
By all measures, El-Rufa’i knows how to use political power to crush obstacles against his performance. He is a counterbalancing force to the general indiscipline and bad attitude we exhibit in our daily lives as Nigerians. For instance, he has cleared the multitudes of trucks wrongly being parked in Mararabar Jos on the way to Zaria. For over 30 years, several attempts were made to remove these unruly drivers without success.
They caused several accidents with uncountable fatalities. Today, El-Rufa’i has made them eat humble pie and they have all disappeared. The next town needing to be liberated from the hands of truck drivers is Tafa village, along Abuja road, if it is not already done. This political prowess of El-Rufa’i is not doubtful; even the Abuja residents tasted it as they were made to toe the line when he was their minister during Obasanjo regime.
El-Rufa’i did not acquire his political sagacity accidently; it was the product of his intellectual capacity, wealth of experience and exposure, and sincerity of purpose. He is an alumnus of the famous Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he graduated with first-class in quantity surveying. He acquired additional qualifications abroad and then worked in the private sector before he joined the public service.
The secret of his achievements may not be unconnected with his ability to shun nepotism as he brought result-oriented personalities to his team, irrespective of religious inclination and ethnicity. He coordinates and physically supervises key projects. El-Rufa’i is not flawless; his roles in quashing the Shia movement in 2015 left much to be desired. At the time of the incident, Shia movement activities of erecting roadblocks, etc were becoming public nuisance but overkilling a fly with a sledgehammer was not the answer. His reluctance to pay retrenchment benefits of workers he downsized a few years ago is causing unprecedented hardship to several families. However, his performance as governor of Kaduna state is amazingly commendable.
There are several El-Rufa’is in every community across the nation but are being denied an opportunity to transform their communities. Nigeria is tired of mediocres and non-performers clinching to power for their selfish reasons. Can we democratically discard them? Nigeria needs El-Rufa’i’s type of excellent transformation adorned with milk of human kindness.