Malam Nasiru E-Rufai was a guest at the Kaduna State correspondents Chapel of the NUJ interactive forum where he bares his mind on his plans for Kaduna citizens if elected as governor come 2015 general elections under APC, why he demolished NUJ National Secretariat, the difference between PDP of Yesterday and toady etc. Abubakr Abba was there for Desert Herald. Read on:
Your tenure as Minister of the FCT was controversial especially with your land and housing reforms. From your body language, are we likely to have a rehash of the Abuja experience in Kaduna if you become the Governor?
I do not know what you mean by controversial but have always maintained that I am not controversial. Look at me, I am not big and I am not very strong. Until 1999 when I became the DG of BPE, no one had ever heard of me. If I was a controversial person you would have heard of me. I think my fortune or misfortune in public life is that I tend to get the most difficult assignments that every other person is scared of doing. My first real job in government was DG of the BPE and my job was to sell public assets. That is controversial. It is not El-Rufa’i that was controversial, it was the assignment because people are used to government managing everything. Some of these things are difficult to do and in this country if you want to do the jobs written in the books, you are given all sorts of names and tags, controversial is one of them. I am not controversial, I mind my business and when I was Adviser to Gen. Abdul salami Abubakar for one year, you never heard of me because an Adviser advises quietly. But once I am given a job and I agree to do it, I do it with all my heart and as Minister of the FCT which is one of the most difficult jobs, I did my job to the best of my ability. I do not think that the issue is whether I was controversial or not. The question you should ask me is whether I left Abuja better than I met it. And think most people in Abuja will say I did. That is what matters. Now, what about Kaduna? Kaduna is different from Abuja in many respects. So, there is work to be done here. Not everything to be done here will be loved by the people. A lot of it will be embraced by the people but if there is a job to be done and I undertake to do it, if the people of Kaduna state elect me it is because they want change. They do not want this place to be a state of billboards and no action. They want schools to be better than what they are now; they want our health care system to cater for everybody, not the friends of the government that get sponsored to go to Egypt. They want agriculture to flourish and they want the state of insecurity to be addressed. Currently these things are not being done. In the process of doing them, some people would say I am controversial. Let me give you an example. Around the Birnin-Gwari area, there is a lot of cattle rustling, armed robbery. Why has it persisted? It is because nobody has addressed it. If I go there with the security and we crush it, it may be controversial but what needs to be has to be done and we will crush them if we have to. We have outlined in our manifesto, the draft policies and programs, the commitments we have for the people of Kaduna state. We will do it. Whether that thing is controversial or not, if I am voted in, the people of Kaduna state want those things done and we will do them to the best of our ability. And everything we are going to do will be based on extensive consultations and participatory democracy. You said something about my being controversial in Abuja but did you hear about any community in Abuja protesting while I was Minister? Never. Why? It is because everything we did in Abuja, we made sure we got the communities to key into it. I had town hall meetings every three months. Nobody in Nigeria did it, town hall meetings during which FCT residents were free to ask me questions and complain about any policies and about any public officials and I investigated such complaints. Everything we did in Abuja had the full support of the people of Abuja because they knew what we were doing. Each time we were going to do something, we had town hall meetings and we explained to the people and we carried them along. And that is what I intend to do in Kaduna. Do not worry, we will do some things which they may term controversial but we will get the job done for the people. We will not fill this state with billboards and no action. You will see results on ground by the grace of God even though we are inheriting the second highest debts in the country, you will see the difference by God’s grace.
The privatization of public enterprises started during your days at the BPE but unfortunately, privatization does not seem to be working, some 15 years after. What do you think is responsible for this? What do think is responsible for the current atmosphere of anxiety as if Nigeria will come to an end in 2015?
I do not agree with you that privatization that privatization has not worked. I think privatization has worked well in favor of the Nigerian people. You have to understand the state of these companies before they were privatized. The Senate did and investigation about the privatized companies and found out that two thirds of all the privatized companies, about 67 per cent were doing very well, one third of the companies were not doing well. Sixty-seven per cent anywhere in the world is a good score. Benue Cement was one of the companies we privatized and sold it to Dangote. There were all sorts of resistance but today, where is Benue? The installed capacity of Benue Cement was 900,000 metric tons of cement. It was producing less than 600-000 as at the time we privatized it because of spare parts problems and other factors. When Dangote took it over, it is now producing two million metric tons of cement. It has expanded and the employment figure has since doubled. You cannot say that privatization has networked. Yes, not all the companies may work. One of the companies that privatized that failed is Electric Meter Company of Nigeria in Zaria. Why did it fail? It failed because the company had only one customer, NEPA. But NEPA moved from those kinds of meters to pre-paid metres and they did not tell them because NEPA wanted to import from South Africa and make commissions. If they had given them notice and said that in two years, for example, we will stop using those analogue metres, get facilities to produce pre-paid metres, may be the company would have made the shift. That is why the company died. It died for clear reasons and not because of mismanagement. Coming to Kaduna state, yes, industries were established by the Balarabe Musa administration but those industries were sabotaged by the Federal Government, initially. I remember in one case, the entire equipment for one of the companies was auctioned to an NPN chieftain and they had to pay 10 times the price to get them back. So, they had issues from day one. We have commissioned someone to study some of these companies, the Kachia Ginger Company, the Ikara Tomato Processing Company, Zaria Pharmaceutical Company and one other. We have commissioned a consultant to find out their current status, whether they are partially privatized or not, so that we find ways of reviving and expanding them. Some of their equipment may even be obsolete. The challenge of industrial development for a state government is that industrial policy is controlled by the Federal Government. Let me give you an example. We got experts to look at the textile industries in Kaduna, to examine their problems and what we can do as a state government. The first problem that our experts identified is electricity. That is the biggest problem for the textile industries. But that is out of our hands as a state government. There is nothing we can do about it unless the Federal Government makes policies that make electricity available and affordable especially for industries. The second problem is the trade policy, whether they allow textiles or not. Again, that is also the Federal Government and unless we are able to get the Federal Government to make certain policy adjustment, there is little we can do. But we are looking at all these issues because we believe that it is possible to restore the Kaduna industrial capacity to the previous situation, particularly if we have a Federal Government that is willing to work with us. Since we are confident that we are going to have Gen. Muhammad Buhari as our President, we have a blueprint on some of these things and we assure that Jonathan is returning to Otueke.
You are reported in Liberty Radio advocating for free and fair elections, while you were one of the PDP elections manipulators during your reign as a Minister. What is your comment?
It is a big mistake today that the PDP of 2003 is the same as the Jonathan PDP. They are completely different. The PDP that I was a member of had some rules and processes. Let me give you just one example. As a Minister of the FCT, I demolished house belonging to the Chairman of the PDP. Today, no minister of the FCT can touch the house of a member of PDP national executive committee. So, it is different PDP. The PDP of 1999 is not the same as the PDP of today. And, do not equate members of the 1999 with members of the current PDP. The PDP of today is criminal PDP. They have no regard for rules, they say they are People’s Democratic Party but they do not have regard for people and they do not have regard for democracy. If you have any doubts about that, go and check what they did during their last primaries in all the states, whether there was any semblance of election. So, please do not speak as PDP is a fixed entity. The party has evolved over time and for the worse. I was Minister on the platform of the PDP but I was not a Minister because I was in the PDP. I was Minister on my merit. I represented no state in Nigeria. The Minister for the PDP representing Kaduna state was Nenadi Usman because the Governor of Kaduna state at that time disowned me and said that I did nothing for the party. He objected to my being Minister but Obasanjo told him that whether you like it or not this man is going to be Minister because I have a special assignment for him. Even though I was Minister under a PDP government, some of us were different animals. We were brought in not because of PDP but because we have certain skills that did not exist in the PDP. I, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Obi Ezekwesili , there were a handful of us who were ministers not representing a state per se. We were called technocrats. As Minister of the FCT, I enjoyed two positions in the party. As someone from Kaduna state, I was supposed to be a member of the Executive Committee of the PDP but go and check, I never attended their meetings. I did not see myself as a member of the PDP. I saw politics as a distraction from the work I was asked to do. As Minister of the FCT, I was the leader of the PDP in Abuja. So, I enjoyed that dual position but go and check, who won the election in 2007. The ANPP won because I called all the leaders of the PDP and told them that anybody that rigged the elections, I would ensure that the person was arrested by Nuhu Ribadu who unfortunately has gone back to the PDP. I did not care who won the elections. All I cared was that the elections should be free and fair. I have never manipulated the results of elections because I would never sleep if I change the results of elections, I have never done it.
You demolished NUJ National secretariat in Abuja when you were a minister of FCT, Will the same fate befall Kaduna NUJ when you become governor?
The NUJ had an illegal national secretariat in Abuja. Let me give you the history and why we did what we did. When the seat of government moved to Abuja in 1991, the NUJ was asked to move but they did not have an office. So, one of the primary schools at Garki was given to the NUJ as temporary office. It was a primary school which at the time was not populated because they had no pupils. The NUJ was given a site to build a permanent secretariat and government even gave them a grant to build it. Go and ask those who got the grant what they did with it. When I came in as Minister, I checked the records and found out that the Minister before me, Abba Gana, had pledged to give a further contribution of N3 million to the NUJ to continue the building of the secretariat. He did not redeem that pledge but I approved the payment. When we were reviewing the status of our schools we found out that we had a primary school that was over congested because Garki district had become populated and we needed that primary school for our pupils. Now, who is more important, the NUJ or our children? I do not know what you think buy our children are more important than anything. So, I called Smart Adeyemi who was NUJ President at that time. I told him that government gave you land and also gave you money to build it but some people diverted the money. My predecessor promised you N3million to continue with the building, he did not pay but I have paid. I am giving you six months to get out of that place. He said they could not finish the building in six months. I said, fine but school starts in six months and I want to move children from that congested primary school to the one you are occupying. I told him to go and find an office accommodation and I will pay the rent for two years. They thought because they are journalists and by writing nobody could do anything. He thought I was joking. And the NUJ also built a hotel in that place. The NUJ headquarters was a brothel at night where we were supposed to have a school. They did not move .We did not revoke the place because one can only revoke what you own. It was never property of NUJ, it was given to you to use temporary and I chased them out. We demolished the hotel and put our children there. I am proud of what I did and I have no regrets. I became an enemy of Smart Adeyemi but I did my job and those children got a school. I know I did the right thing and I sleep well at night. If the Kaduna NUJ secretariat is a school, the same thing will happen if I become governor. But I do not think it is a school.