Malam Ahmad Nasir el-Rufai has had a controversial political career marked by both successes and setbacks. While he has been a driving force behind some of the most significant reforms in Nigerian politics, he has also faced criticism for his approach to governance, particularly his tendency to bulldoze through policies without proper consultation or consideration for the impact on ordinary citizens. For instance, El-Rufai’s time as Director of the Bureau of Public Enterprise was marked by a string of successful privatizations, but he also drew criticism for his heavy-handed approach to the process, which some saw as lacking transparency and accountability. Similarly, his tenure as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory was marked by ambitious development projects, but also by accusations of land-grabbing and forced evictions of poor communities. As Governor of Kaduna State, El-Rufai has continued his reputation as a no-nonsense reformer, but his methods have been criticized as divisive and authoritarian. His decision to sack thousands of teachers in the state for failing to meet competency requirements was seen by many as a heavy-handed approach to education reform, and his clashes with religious and traditional leaders have raised concerns about his commitment to building consensus and promoting inclusivity. Although his commitment to results is commendable, yet it is important to recognize the challenges and criticisms that have been levelled against him throughout his political career. As Nigeria looks to the future, it is important for leaders to find ways to balance the need for bold reforms with the need for consultation, inclusivity, and accountability.
Born on February 16 1960 in Daudawa, Faskari Local Government Area of Katsina State, Nigeria, El-Rufai attended the prestigious Barewa College, where he graduated at the top of his class, winning the “Barewa Old Boys’ Association Academic Achievement” Trophy. He studied quantity surveying at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and received a bachelor’s degree with first-class honours. He also holds an MBA from the same institution, a law degree from the University of London, and a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University.
Professionally, El-Rufai has had a distinguished career in both the public and private sectors. He served as the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, overseeing the privatization of many state-owned enterprises, including the Nigerian Telecommunications Company and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. He also served as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory from 2003 to 2007, during which time he implemented a series of reforms to improve the city’s infrastructure and services. As Governor of Kaduna State, El-Rufai has implemented many reforms aimed at improving the quality of life for the people of the state, including reforms in the education sector, healthcare, and infrastructure.
Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai has made significant contributions to the Nigerian government in various capacities, but his achievements as the Director of the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) stand out. As the Director-General of the BPE from 1999 to 2003, El-Rufai played a critical role in the privatization of state-owned enterprises. He implemented policies that promoted transparency and accountability, which helped to reduce corruption and increase the efficiency of the privatization process. Under his leadership, the BPE successfully privatized over several companies, including the Nigeria Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and Nigerian National Oil Corporation (NNOC), among others. These privatizations generated billions of dollars for the Nigerian government, which were used to fund various developmental projects in the country.
As the Minister of the FCT from 2003 to 2007, El-Rufai introduced several reforms aimed at improving the infrastructure and social services in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria. One of his most significant achievements was the implementation of a comprehensive waste management system, which helped to address the sanitation challenges facing the city. He also initiated the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS), a digital mapping system that improved land administration and property management in the FCT. Under his leadership, the FCT witnessed significant improvements in infrastructure development, including the construction of new roads, bridges, and public facilities. El-Rufai’s efforts helped to transform Abuja into a modern city that could compete with other global capitals.
Nasir El-Rufai became the Governor of Kaduna State on May 29, 2015, and was re-elected for a second term in 2019. He inherited a state with a history of insecurity and religious tension. In his first term, El-Rufai focused on addressing these challenges by implementing policies aimed at promoting security and stability in the state. One of his major achievements in office was the establishment of the Kaduna State Security Council, which brought together security agencies and traditional rulers to coordinate efforts towards maintaining peace and security in the state. He also implemented the Community Policing Initiative, which involved recruiting and training members of the community to assist the police in maintaining law and order. Another of his most notable achievements was the Free Basic Education Program launched in 2019, which provides free education to primary and junior secondary school children in the state. The program covers tuition fees, uniforms, and textbooks, and it has increased school enrolment and reduced the number of out-of-school children in the state. In addition, El-Rufai implemented policies aimed at addressing the security challenges in Kaduna State, such as increasing the number of security personnel and equipment, establishing a Peace Commission to promote peace and conflict resolution, and launching the “Operation Yaki” initiative to tackle crime and maintain law and order in the state.
El-Rufai also created an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in Kaduna State. He introduced several policies to attract local and foreign investors, such as the Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA), which is responsible for promoting and facilitating investment in the state. In the health sector, El-Rufai’s government initiated policies aimed at improving healthcare delivery in the state, such as the Primary Healthcare Under One Roof (PHCUOR) policy and the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme, which provided affordable healthcare services to the state’s citizens. In the agricultural sector, El-Rufai’s government established a state-owned fertilizer blending plant to ensure the availability of quality fertilizers for farmers at affordable prices. The government also implemented a policy that provided financial support and training to smallholder farmers, which significantly improved their productivity. El-Rufai also initiated a series of policies aimed at promoting economic development in the state. He introduced the Kaduna State Urban Renewal Project, which focused on improving infrastructure and creating a more conducive environment for business. This led to the construction of roads, bridges, and other public facilities across the state.
Despite his efforts, El-Rufai faced several challenges during his tenure. Kaduna State is situated in the northern part of Nigeria, which has experienced high levels of insecurity in recent years. The state also has a history of religious tension, with periodic outbreaks of violence between Muslims and Christians. El-Rufai’s approach to addressing these challenges was controversial. He implemented a policy of demolishing illegal structures and evicting squatters to free up space for public projects. This policy was criticized for being insensitive to the needs of the poor and vulnerable, and for exacerbating the state’s housing crisis. El-Rufai also faced criticism for his handling of religious tension in the state. His government was accused of using excessive force to suppress protests by members of the Shiite Muslim community, leading to the death of several people.
Regardless of these challenges, El-Rufai remains popular among many residents of the state. His efforts to promote economic development and improve security have been widely praised. He has also taken steps to promote transparency and accountability in government, including implementing a system of electronic voting for local government elections. As his tenure draws to a close, El-Rufai has focused on ensuring a smooth transition of power to his successor. He has expressed confidence that his policies will continue to be implemented, and that the state will continue to make progress towards its goal of becoming a hub for business and investment in Nigeria.
A founding member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Malam El-Rufai played a significant role in the party’s emergence as a major political force in Nigeria in 2015. His leadership skills and strategic thinking helped to build the party’s structure, and he has remained a prominent figure in the APC’s leadership ever since. In 2015, Malam El-Rufai was instrumental in the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC in the general elections. His tireless efforts in the campaign, along with his sharp political acumen, helped to secure the support of millions of Nigerians for the APC’s vision of change. In the lead-up to the 2023 presidential elections, Malam El-Rufai has once again demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the party’s success. As a key member of the campaign team for Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he was actively involved in developing and implementing strategies that ensured victory for the party.
As the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu prepares to take office and begins the task of selecting his cabinet members, it is hoped that he will prioritize merit over political considerations and select the best candidates for the job. Antecedents have shown that Malam El-Rufai will make an ideal civil servant as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). He has held numerous high-level positions in the past, including Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, and Governor of Kaduna State. In each of these roles, he demonstrated his ability to lead and manage complex organizations, implement policies and programs, and deliver results. If El-Rufai is appointed as the SGF, it will be a significant milestone in his career, and it will undoubtedly be a positive development for the country.
As the SGF, El-Rufai would be responsible for overseeing the coordination and implementation of government policies and programs, as well as serving as the link between the President and other government officials. He would play a crucial role in helping the President to achieve his goals and objectives, and in ensuring that the government functions smoothly and efficiently. Additionally, El-Rufai’s reputation as a reformer and his commitment to transparency and accountability would also be assets in the role of SGF. He has consistently pushed for greater efficiency and effectiveness in government and has been a vocal advocate for the rights of ordinary Nigerians. He has demonstrated a willingness to take on powerful vested interests and to make difficult decisions when necessary, to advance the public interest.
Malam Nasir El-Rufai’s accomplishments speak for themselves. From his tenure as the Director of the Bureau of Public Enterprise to his work as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, and now as Governor of Kaduna State, he has shown that he is a visionary who gets things done. His policy reforms and infrastructural development projects have made Kaduna State a model for other states. His efforts in addressing the security challenges in the state and improving the education sector have also received commendations from Nigerians. Despite the religious and ethnic tensions he faced during his tenure, he remained resolute and committed to promoting unity and progress in the state.
Malam Nasir El-Rufai has also received numerous awards and recognitions for his achievements in public service. In 2017 he received the African Governor of the Year award from African Leadership Magazine. In 2019, he was awarded the Vanguard Governor of the Year award. El-Rufai was also recognized by BusinessDay in 2017 with the States Competitiveness and Good Governance Award for his strides in improving Kaduna State’s economy and infrastructure. These awards serve as a testament to El-Rufai’s dedication to public service and his commitment to improving the lives of the people of Kaduna State and Nigeria as a whole. Malam El-Rufai is also an accomplished author and has written several books, including “The Accidental Public Servant“. This book provides insights into his experiences in public service and his vision for Nigeria’s future.
As he looks to the future, there is no doubt that Malam El-Rufai has his sights set on making a bigger impact in Nigerian politics. He will be an incredible addition as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) under a Tinubu presidency. Malam El-Rufai is a fearless helmsman who is not afraid to take bold steps towards achieving his goals. His reputation as a competent and effective leader is well deserved and his potential role in Nigerian politics going forward is one that should be closely watched. As the country looks towards a brighter future, Malam El-Rufai is one to watch out for.
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