El-Rufai And His Unemployed Daughters By Law Mefor
Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, is not only a restyled ‘ ruffler of feathers’ and ‘accidental civil servant society’ but now also an accidental activist. At a lecture organized recently by the Nigerian Bar Association, Ikeja Branch, el Rufai once more brought to the fore that unemployment in Nigeria is now dangerously all-time high. He gave the figure as 42% of Nigerian youths who are unemployed and this included his two daughters with Masters Degrees. He further said they have been at home for more than a year and he cannot get a job for them despite his connections. This personal loss and private pain appear to have led him to conclude that the nation is sitting on a demographic time bomb and to warn that unless visionary leaders (like him perhaps) are in positions of authority to plan for the future, Nigeria would have a huge problem.
What el Rufai said is not essentially new; what is amazing is that it is coming from him, one who had had a great chance to do something to mitigate unemployment in Nigeria as Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE). He was not only the head of privatisation agency in Nigeria but also Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja from 16th July, 2003 to 29th May, 2007. If el Rufai had done well on both assignments, the figure he reeled out for unemployment would have been drastically reduced. If he discharged his duties more patriotically and had been as visionary as he recommends for current and future leaders, his girls and most other youths, some now dealing with the nation as terrorists, kidnappers and armed robbers, would today be gainfully employed.
On both strategic national assignments, like others before and after him, el Rufai focused on self, family and friends rather than on growing the nation and improving her economy. His spell with the government began under the transition government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, where he served as an adviser in the Transition government. By the time Obasanjo came on board in 1999, el Rufai had managed to make himself a beautiful bride of sorts, mostly on account of showmanship, packaging and media savvy, rather than for being a whiz kid.
Such yesteryears men like el Rufai will do well to objectively see the collateral damage of squandered opportunities which they now represent: when they were in power they did very little to improve the economy and shore up the private sector, which could by now be soaking up unemployment. Instead, they were busy manipulating the system to corner the meager common resources of the country.
For el Rufai particularly, to assess his dismal performance, beginning with the BPE, Nigerians need to be reminded that the essence of privatization and commercialization is to stimulate a transition to a more meaningful work. Privatization may have several meanings but it is primarily the process of partially or fully, transferring ownership of a business, enterprise, agency, public service or public property from the public sector (a government) to the private sector, either to a business that operate for a profit or to a non-profit organization.
Granted, government has a good reason for taking this route to economic recovery and development. A look at the dreary performance of some of Public Enterprises in Nigeria will show why government easily wins the argument that it is not a good manager of business in Nigeria despite the fact that government business is working excellently in other countries. Public Enterprises fail in Nigeria because of the absence of law enforcement, which allows the crooks that run them to steal the country blind and get away with it. Privatization in Nigeria was therefore conceived by the Babangida regime as a necessary panacea for corruption and rot besetting the Public Enterprises and saving them from looting Nigerian managers who are bent on using them only for feathering their nests.
Yet, right from the inception of the policy in 1986 when the Technical Committee on privatization and Commercialization (TCPC) under the late Dr. Zamza Zyyad was set up, through el –Rufai’s BPE to the present day, Privatization has only succeeded in transferring the nation’s common wealth to a privileged few and therefore has only worsened the disarticulation of the nation’s economy.
Why it so in our case is because Nigeria undertakes privatization in an negating and absurd manner rather than follow what other countries have done and are doing. Compared with other countries, like West Germany before unification with East Germany, Britain, Chile and a number of other places, efforts were made by their governments to achieve Labour Democracy and Popular Capitalism by providing citizens and workers with loans and mortgages to purchase shares in privatized Public Enterprises. In fact in Britain, government went further to criminalize reselling of shares. But in our own case , el Rufai and other handlers of privatization came up with a crazy policy, which they called ‘Core Investor’. What this means in practice, is handing 51% or more to a single person. This was how these privatized firms were handed over to the so-called ‘Core Investors’, who, in most cases, have proved to be fronts of other interests other than national interest.
For this reason too, following a motion moved by Senator Ahmed Lawan ANPP Yobe, the Senate recently passed a vote of no confidence on the process and called for reversals of many of the sales that failed integrity test. Some have even called for outright cancellation of the entire exercise, no thanks to el Rufai and his cohorts at the BPE.
An example of the failure of the exercise is the messy privatization of NITEL, which occurred due to Mallam el –Rufai and his preferred bidder, Pentascope. Some media sources alleged then that Pentascope had no ‘registered address’, let alone the irreducible minimum qualifications to take over NITEL. If NITEL and the other Public Enterprises shabbily privatized are working well today, el Rufai’s daughters and most other 42% jobless Nigerian youths will jollily be working and improving the nation’s economy. For the avoidance of doubt, one other cardinal reason government embarked on privatization as a policy is to open up the private sector as the main engine of the economy, but instead recorded mass retrenchments like NITEL and PHCN workers who are still stranded.
El Rufai’s stay as minister of the FCT posted no better result either. The Senate through a probe by its committee on the FCT, then chaired by Senator Abubakar Danso Sodangi, embarrassingly uncovered that he did not account for over N30 billion of the funds accruing from sales of government properties in the FCT while he was minister.
As minister too, he dislocated the economy of the FCT and rendered most thriving low income economic activities prostrate. Many self-helping Nigerians, rich and poor, died as a result, including Justice Sambo of the Court of Appeal, whose house was demolished by el Rufai, despite a subsisting court order restraining such action.
El Rufai built not structures but was said to cruelly demolish over 1000 thousand buildings, without providing any alternatives for his weak victims or paying them compensations. He instead planted flowers rather than build houses for his own workers, who came to work daily to Abuja from Kaduna, Niger and Nasarawa States.
El Rufai defended his barbarity in the FCT as needful and as the only way to recover Abuja’s master image. For him the beauty of Abuja was more important than its human inhabitants, pointedly telling the poor they had no place in the FCT. Yet, governance is not about spreading poverty; governance is designed as a means of making greater happiness available to a greater number of citizens.
Mallam el-Rufai was also accused by the EFCC of allocating plots of land to himself, his relatives and friends. The witness, one Sunday Idowu, had insisted that the man illegally allocated plot 1201 to his family members. EFCC arraigned el-Rufai and two others because he revoked the land belonging to the PHCN and allocated over 10 plots to himself , wives and friends. The two others arraigned alongside him were Altine Jibrin, former Director-General of the Abuja Geographic Information System and its former General Manager, Ismail Iro. The EFCC is charging them for abuse of public office and illegal conversion of a land meant for the construction of transmitting/injection sub-stations of the PHCN in Asokoro.
So, without a doubt, el Rufai had at least two ample opportunities to avert the soaring employment in the country. His actions in the two assignments only exacerbated the woes of the nation by creating social dislocations and mass retrenchments. As a matter of fact, he is believed to have sacked more staff in the FCT than all other administrations before him put together and replaced them with less qualified and inexperienced hands for private reasons.
Today, the man has become more of a nuisance in the name of activism and acting like loose cannon. But discerning minds can see it is a desperate effort to curry public sympathy in his naive attempt to stop his corruption trial. That is why he had the temerity to call President Jonathan a scumbag recently, just to provoke reprisal and divert attention and escape justice. He should thank his stars it is Jonathan.
• Law Mefor, author, forensic psychologist, is national coordinator Transform Nigeria Movement (TNM) Abuja. Tel.:+234-803-787-2893; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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