EL RUFAI’S MEMO TO BUHARI: THE MESSAGE AND THE MESSENGER, By James KANYIP

“It is not only the message that we need to think about, but how we are as the messenger. Both elements are important”
(Couros, G.: “The Principal of Change: Stories of Learning and Leading”, March 21, 2017)

The Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Nasiru Ahmad El Rufai wrote a memo to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari dated 22/09/2016 and entitled: “Immediate and Medium Term Imperatives for President Muhammadu Buhari – September 22, 2016”.

The memo which was supposed to be personal, confidential and classified for the President’s eye and attention only was leaked for reasons best known to those that leaked it. Leaking confidential, intelligence and classified information has now become a pastime and game in governance and civil service in Nigeria. Therefore, it is not any surprising that this memo leaked. In fact, what is surprising is that it took a long time (from September, 2016 to March, 2017) to leak. Ordinarily, it would have been leaked almost immediately it was submitted.

I took time to patiently read through the 16-page online version of the memo and the three (3) annexure attached thereto which, all together, upped the memo to 29 pages. I have equally taken time to read some of the trajectory rejoinders and responses written as fallouts of the memo.

In fairness to Governor El Rufai, the memo addressed a lot of issues which he segmented into three (3) categories; to wit: Politics, National Economy and Governance.

The observations, the issues raised and addressed, the recommendations and the annexure attached thereto are commendable as expected of any patriotic citizen that is devoid of sentiments and other personal and parochial considerations.

In all honesty, he addressed a lot of issues and proffered solutions to them. The mesage was clear, discerning and well presented. For taking his time to write that memo, he earns my respect and commendation irrespective of any latent motive that might have underbellied it.

I see nothing wrong in Governor El Rufai writing that memo to President Buhari despite their mentor-mentee political intimacy and closeness that knit them together contrary to what some people would want to portray to us.

The memo was intended not only to be on record, but a guiding work document to assist as a reminder to the President on the issues raised and recommendations made therein. Certainly, Governor El Rufai could not have made such deep expressions orally. Besides, an old adage says: “the faintest ink is better than the sharpest memory”. The memo will be there for record and posterity.

As a post mortem to the memo, the Governor said he had written many of such memos in the past bordering on the same and other national issues.

I think a Governor who creates time to write such memos to the President by advising and proferring solutions on burining national issues despite his tight official duties should be commended and not condemned.

But can the message contained in the memo be separated from the messenger?

Nigerians always find it difficult to separate a message from the messenger, thereby paying more attention to the messenger than the message. In this manner, both the bath water and baby are thrown away. This is Nigeria for you.

Whenever a past leader speaks or brings his experience to bare on serious national issues, he is always berated and criticized as having no moral standing to speak. Ditto our present leaders. I think Governor El Rufai’s memo is suffering the same fate from a large audience of Nigerians. But would you blame them?

When the memo was leaked sometime this month (March, 2017), it attracted diverse views of discourse and critisms. There are areas in the memo that raised curiosity and thereby hyped.

Governor El Rufai said some things about two (2) close aides of President Buhari, B. D. Lawal (the SGF) and Abba Kyari (the Chief of Staff). This is what he said about them:

“You appear to have neither a political adviser nor a minder of your politics. The two officials whose titles may enable them function as such generally alienate those that contributed to our success. The SGF is not only inexperienced in public service but is lacking in humility, insensitive and rude to virtually most of the party leaders, ministers and governors. The Chief of staff is totally clueless about the APC and its internal politics at best as he was neither part of its formation nor a participant in the primaries, campaign and elections. In summary, neither of them has the personality, experience and the reach to manage your politics nationally or even regionally”

Dr Ahmed Tijjani Ramalan and Dr John Danfulani, for instance, also accused Governor El Rufai of being guilty of what he said about Lawal and Kyari in his memo. Ramalan cited the examples of Jimi Lawal and Uba Sani as replications of his descriptions of Lawal and Kyari. Danfulani on the other hand preferred to tag Governor El Rufai as a “pot calling kettle black”. I think both of them have a point here.

No matter how lofty and ingenious the message in Governor El Rufai’s memo may be, it will be difficult to separate it from the messenger. And this is where the problem is.

Charity, they say, begins at home. Whatever Governor El Rufai desires President Buhari to achieve with the memo must first be seen to be physically done in Kaduna State. The Governor cannot expect the President to implement the recommendations contained in the memo when he, himself, is doing the total opposite in Kaduna State. There is no moral basis and legimacy for that.

It is also said that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. How can Governor El Rufai say that the SGF “is lacking in humility, insensitive and rude to virtually most of the party leaders, ministers and governors”; and that the Chief of Staff “is totally clueless about the APC and its internal politics at best as he was neither part of its formation nor a participant in the primaries, campaign and elections” when he, himself, is guilty of surrounding himself with worse people than the duo?

Because he has sidelined the key actors, experienced and seasoned politicians of his party in the State who played prominent roles to bring him to power and, instead, brought in strangers from nowhere to partake in the governance of Kaduna State, I think he lacks the moral pedestal to complain about the SGF and the Chief of Staff in the manner he did.

Governor El Rufai complained in the memo that the current APC State Governors have been “alienated”; “have no say”; and “totally excluded from political consultations”. The memo also pointed out that there was “total absence of consultations” with “both the formal (NWC) and informal (Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso), and former Governors of ANPP, PDP…and ACN”; and that the President’s relationship with these set of people “is perceived to be frosty” and that they are “aggrieved”.

In writing this text in the memo, Governor El Rufai was oblivious of his relationship with the major stakeholders of his party in his Kaduna State. If he was not guilty of what he stated in his memo, would there be a division in his party in the State which has led to what we now have as “APC Akida”? Presently, Kaduna State has two APC factions: “APC Government House” and “APC Akida”. Recently, caucuses meetings of both parallel factions were held the same day and at about the same time. No thanks to the Governor.

Governor El Rufai complained in his memo of “lack of harmonious relationship” between the Presidency and “the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the all-important Federal High Court”.

My worry here is that the same Governor has a penchant for disobeying court judgements and orders. For instance, on 14/12/2016, a High Court in Kaduna State gave a judgment voiding and nullifying the Interim Management Committees (IMCs) of the twenty three (23) LGCs of the State; and ordered for elections to be conducted after ninety (90) days.

Till date, he blatantly refused to obey the court judgment and the orders made therein despite their constitutional and criminal implications and a demand letter for compliance dated 09/01/2017 served on him. The IMCs stayed put till today (I heard that their “tenure” expired today, 29/03/2017), and LGC elections are still not conducted.

Therefore, what legal and moral base does he have to speak about a harmonious relationship with the judiciary? A judiciary that he has no respect for? He should first respect the judiciary in his State by obeying its judgements and orders before he can have the legal and moral justification to advise the President on the need for a harmonious relationship with the Federal judiciary.

Come to think of it: how many memos has Governor El Rufai received from the people of his State and implemented their contents? If he expects the President to implement his memo, he must be ready to do same in Kaduna State.

Let me appeal to Governor El Rufai’s conscience: how would he feel if what he said about the SGF and the Chief of Staff were said against him in a memo written by someone he closely knows to the President? Would he accept all the accusations in good faith and still maintain a cordial relationship with him?

Since Governor El Rufai has a strong penchant for writing memos with a view to seeing the implementation of their contents, I will suggest that he appoints a Special Assistant that will be saddled with the responsibility of receiving and collating memos on his behalf from the people of Kaduna State and beyond. The viable ones should be considered for implementation.

Given the antecedents and demeanour of the Governor, it will be difficult to separate the message from the messenger. He saw this coming when he said in the same memo that:

“I am conscious of the likelihood that my memo may be misunderstood, misinterpreted and even perverted. I am willing to accept the usual accusations of arrogance and ambition, but Mr President knows that none of these hold water.”

Despite all said herein, the Governor should strive to practice what he preaches; and Nigerians should strive to look deep into the substance of the message and downplay the outlook of the messenger.

James KANYIP
29/03/2017.

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