El-Rufai Observes Jummat Prayer In Aso Villa, Says No Rift With President Buhari
GOVERNOR Nasir El- Rufai of Kaduna State declared yesterday that his relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari remains intact despite his September 2016 memo that caused a stir in the polity. El-Rufai, who spoke to reporters after observing the Jumaat prayer with Buhari at the Villa, blamed those he called saboteurs for leaking the memo. He also spoke on his recent stand-off with House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara during which he demanded accountability in the finances of the National Assembly.
“There is no strain in my ties with the President. The Villa is a bigger place. Within the Villa, there are people that like me and there are those who don’t and it is normal. “ My relationship with the President has never been strained in anyway. I met with him last night (Thursday). I did not talk about things like that, but our relationship with him is like that of father and son and it is privilege for me. I told him I will come today (yesterday) for the Jumaat and I did,” he said. On how he was received by the President, he said: “As usual with great warmth and graciousness and I am grateful for that.” He had, in the memo, challenged Buhari to step up the tempo of his governance, saying Nigerians were demanding more from his administration and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Some critics accused the governor of playing to the gallery by writing the letter. But asked yesterday why he wrote the letter in the first place,the governor said it was aimed at ensuring development of the country. His words: “It was a private memo and it is not a letter. If you want to ask any question about it, you ask those who leaked the memo because I wrote it seven months ago.
“I have written similar memos to the President in the past and none of them got leaked. He knows that he can count on me to give him my views of what is out there that he may not hear and to give him sound advice without any interest on my part. “If anyone reads that memo, he will see that there is nothing in the memo that has anything to do other than the success of Mr. President and progress of the country. That is my goal, my motive and I am driven by that. I stand behind the President to the very end.” On whether his views in the letter have changed since he wrote it, he said “Yes, I believe that since September last year when I wrote the letter, there has been significant improvement in the delivery of services at the federal level. “Some of our federal programmes have started in earnest. “Social protection for instance. The N-Power, budget releases have been accelerated, this is an unprecedented move.
The Minister of Finance has released up to about a trillion naira of capital budget. In September last year, little or nothing was released and that was part of my concern. Since then, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan has been done and published. “At the time I wrote the memo, there was no five-year plan for the country. Since then, the government has moved ahead to change some of the appointees of President Jonathan in parastatals. This was something that we were worried about. “Many of us in the APC felt that we were in office, but not in power because the people that Jonathan appointed were still running most of our key agencies.” He expressed disappointment that the letter was leaked, saying: “I am disappointed that a private communication to the highest office in the land can be leaked and it was leaked from the Villa. I am told by those that published it. “But this is a fact of life. We live in an age where anything you write or say can be leaked. “
It is ok, my intentions are clear. I have no ill motive, but I wanted to communicate with the President what many Nigerians are talking about and what steps can be taken to improve governance of the country and move the country forward. “That was my motive and if tomorrow, as I said, I see anything that the President needs to know, I will discuss with him and I will articulate and put it into writing and on the record for him to have a reminder document to work on. I have no regrets and I have no apologies.” He denied suggestion that he was stopped at a point from coming to the Villa. “No, no one ever stopped me from coming to the Villa and no one can stop me from coming to the Villa. As a governor, I come here. I have a blank cheque; no one checks me at the gate,” he said. “The President needs quality time to rest because it is meeting too many people that strains leadership. I am a governor and I know that when I meet 10 people in a day I get really tired, it is not the paperwork, it is not really the memos approving them or asking questions that strains a leader, it is the stream of visitors.
“I do not want to contribute to the President’s problem by coming here every day. I am in touch with him, I know everything going on and I do not think I should add to his burden. Most of the time I come to visit the President, I do not come to the office, I go to see him at home.” Fielding questions on his recent verbal exchange with Dogara, El-Rufai said he has a right like every other Nigerian to call for transparency in the financial dealings of the National Assembly. He said: “There is nothing like falling out with the National Assembly. First of all, I am a state governor and do not have any direct relationship with the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly is the legislature of the federation and we have very good relations with the legislators. There are senators from my state and there are representatives and I meet regularly with those of them that are ready to meet with me. Here, beside me are Senators Abu Ibrahim and Marafa. “If I have problems with the National Assembly, they will not be standing beside me. So there is no problem. The issue is what I did last Friday was to ask the leadership of the National Assembly to fulfil the promise that they made themselves to publish the details of their budget and asking for that is my duty as a citizen. Every Nigerian is entitled to ask that question. “It is in the National Assembly’s interest to actually publish it because there are rumours of bogus amounts of money that they are getting which I do not believe is true. “ I think that the best way to kill that rumour is to publish the details of their budget, but some people took exception to that call for transparency and I have no apologies because as citizens we have the right to demand for transparency on how resources are being spent.”