The corridors of power is wrapped in some mystique and those familiar with the internal workings of the seat of governments would readily concede to the existence of an inner circle which influences major decisions. In Nigeria, it is loosely referred to as the “kitchen cabinet.”
Most times, it is a combination of informal busybodies who arrogate to themselves the powers of scratching the leader’s conscience or claim usurpation of his wisdom to tilt perceptions and decisions on leadership issues. They regale in it and often display a pseudo aura of sophistry more than the crown himself.
Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s acclaimed stiffness, he is perceived to be surrounded by this clique, and Nigerians who know better even speculate and broadcast the names. And Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai is touted as belonging to this President’s Kitchen cabinet or his inner circle of influential men and women.
Whether it is true or false is less important. What is incontestable is El Rufai’s closeness’ to Buhari. There is no doubt that he is one of PMB’s closest confidantes. He is reputed as sharing same perceptions about life or leadership with Buhari. And El Rufai had once publicly confessed owing his elevation to the seat of governor of Kaduna state to Buhari’s prodding.
It implies the allegiance El Rufai owes to Buhari. And quite often he expresses concern about his desire to see an exceptional Buhari Presidency. He speaks in a manner that suggests a Buhari presidency excelling in performance to the level of not only disarming his critics, but to the point of gasping for breath.
A perturbed El Rufai once voiced his desire of a perfect Buhari Presidency during a state prayer session organized by an opaque group, by the nomenclature of Abdullah Network Communication.
After lamenting the enormity of the afflictions of Nigeria, he said; “it will be more painful if this government fails Nigerians.”
Therefore, in respect of El-Rufai, it is safe to hazard the guess of intimacy with Buhari and moreover, they belong to the same region and political party. By implication, El Rufai can have the President’s audience more frequently than his other colleagues.
An astute leader, no doubt, the governor is expected to deploy his energy and wealth of experience to assist PMB succeeds in the herculean task of governing Nigeria in order to redefine the Nigeria he wishes to see.
Nigeria is a large and complex country. And to abandon the burden of leadership of this great country on the shoulders of one man and expecting a wonderful performance is demanding too much. Buhari’s acolytes’ who share his vision and perceptions about changing Nigeria must necessarily and audaciously step out to render assistance.
Unfortunately, Governor El Rufai has not explored this plank of thinking. Rather, he has chosen to anoint himself with the toga of the many half-hearted loyalists and sympathizers’ of the Buhari administration. What these folks often flaunt is lamentations and wailings about the gravity of the decay in Nigeria and the hapless Buhari, always burdened with the responsibility of salvaging Nigeria from its degenerative pit.
It is what El Rufai has been doing in the last 18 months when Buhari ascended the throne as President and he held the other end as governor of Kaduna, a state referred to as the Northern mafia center. Some days back, El Rufai again repeated these idle and worthless talks, as he fielded questions from reporters after the National Economic Council meeting in Abuja.
Irritatingly drumming the obvious hardship in the country, which he blamed on pervasive corruption of past era, which Buhari inherited and the decline in oil production as a result of militancy in the Niger Delta, Governor El Rufai said;
“This collapse happened because there is a reduction in price of oil. Secondly, we were producing over two million barrels of oil per day but because of the situation in the Niger Delta, we are now producing about 1.1million barrels per day. It is therefore inevitable that there will be cut and pain. But to say that it is government that is doing it without referring to the cause, it is not fair.”
Earlier, as a guest at the Sunday Service of the Latter Rain Assembly, Lagos, Governor El Rufai had also descended into another session of wailing, pitying Buhari, instead of thinking on how to assist him to overcome the daunting challenges governance has bestowed on him.
Thus he said; “When we sit down with President Buhari these days, I pity him. I pity him because he has always become president anytime Nigeria is in trouble. First, it was after the NPN (National Party of Nigeria) government had almost grounded the economy (in 1984) and now, after a massive looting of the nation’s treasury; and he has to lead the team to fix it.”
Frankly, this is a flawed approach about someone you cherish who finds himself in a dilemma. But El Rufai can do more than his present posturing. Lamenting and wailing all over Nigeria about the country’s past or why the masses must suffer and necessarily lick their wounds in appreciation and why no one should expect anything good too soon is disguised mockery of the President and Nigerians. It dampens the spirit and faith of Nigerians in the Buhari Presidency.
El Rufai can be more positive and pragmatic, if his intention is to render genuine assistance to PMB. For instance, he could assemble some prominent Niger Delta leaders, (some of whom might be even his friends), to open their own mutual dialogue with the dissenting voices and restive interests in the region.
The initiative could offer an informal platform for a parlay with these disenchanted interests in the region, outside of the officialdom of government, with the intent of prevailing on them to also see the other side of the coin. If the parley strikes this reasoning and commitment from stakeholders in the region, it would douse tension in the area considerably and increase Nigeria’s daily crude oil exploration and export.
As a Northerner, El Rufai is in a privileged position to know the secret sponsors of Islamic extremism, which has mutated into religious terrorism. He could privately engage these arrowheads in secret talks to convince them to discard such ideas and call their adherents to order.
Though not part of Buhari’s media handlers, but it is more worthwhile during such public outbursts, El Rufai could devote time to explain to Nigerians the Buhari policies and programmes, which are still misty as well as the derivable benefits to wax masses support of them and the Presidency than wailing about past wrongs.
It is loftier to reason and act this way in support of the Buhari Presidency than posture in a manner suggestive of masses revulsion against PMB for inflicting pains on them. Competing for a medal in wailing as demonstrated by El Rufai is not the panacea. He must be seen engaging practical steps to assist President Buhari to salvage Nigeria. But if this task is too heavy for him, it is better and more honourable to remain mute than inspire and stir up the passions of hatred in Nigerians against the government with wailings’.
***Agbese writes from the United Kingdom