Daily Trust (Abuja)

8 February 2013

Nigeria: I Was De Facto Vice President - - El-Rufai

Photo: This Day
Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.

Former minister of the Federal Capital Territory Mallam Nasir El-Rufai said he took over virtually all the functions of a vice president when former president Olusegun Obasanjo fell out with then vice president Atiku Abubakar.

El-Rufai, in his book titled, "The Accidental Public Servant" which was presented to the public yesterday, said the fact that he was de facto vice president was known to many including his colleagues in the then federal executive council.

El-Rufai was member of Obasanjo's cabinet from 2003 to 2007 after he had served as Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises in the president's first term.

He said in page 366 of the book that he was the one handling almost all the activities which were supposed to be handled by the vice president as Obasanjo handed them over to him.

"Indeed in the final year of Obasanjo's presidency, I was not just running the FCT but involved in an array of activities - I was required to handle the portfolios of the minister of commerce and industry (twice) minister of interior, chair of national or cabinet committees on electric power supply improvement, sale of federal government houses in Abuja, national ID card, development of a national mortgage system, public service reforms, review of salaries and emoluments in the public service, (including the military and the police) destruction of contraband, and was at various times points the oversight and liaison with chairmen of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the National Population Commission.

"In the eyes of many, including some of my cabinet colleagues, I had by default become a de facto vice president. The more I sorted out these issues, the more Obasanjo threw others at me, and it just became too much.

"Being the final year of his presidency, people did not have to make too big of a leap to conclude that Obasanjo was preparing me for anointment to succeed him. Obasanjo even sent me to the Niger Delta to work with James Ibori to find a way to create jobs in Warri.

"He established a presidential commission on job creation in Warri and made me the chair of it, so I ended up having to make three or four trips to Delta State just to meet with the state government and youth organizations to try replicating the job creation and entrepreneurship programmes we introduced in Abuja that spawned many new small businesses and thousands of construction related jobs.

El-Rufai however said that while people thought Obasanjo was preparing him for something, the truth really was that no anointment was being contemplated.

"I knew that I was simply an overworked machine and nothing more because I know my boss very well," he stated.

He said assignments given to him pitched him against then vice president Atiku Abubakar and some of his colleagues in the federal cabinet.

"The record of extra ministerial assignments listed above and the history of my apparent closeness to the president neither endeared me to Atiku Abubakar, who was estranged from Obasanjo at the time, nor some of my ambitious cabinet colleagues," he said, adding that the late president Umaru Yar'adua also did not like him for the same reason.

"In the future, the same reasons made it more difficult for an insecure Umaru Yar'adua as president to feel comfortable with me visibly walking around in Abuja, hence the need to cut me to size," he said.

Sanusi disagrees with El-Rufai on Yar'adua

But governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, disagreed with El-Rufai on Yar'adua saying he owed it as a duty to defend the late president since he was no longer alive to defend himself.

He said at the book launch that whatever impression El-Rufai may have about Yar'adua, it is clear that in Yar'adua, Nigeria had a leader who was willing to take a risk for the development of the country.

Sanusi said he never met Yar'adua until February 2009 when he was invited to meet with him and the late president asked him questions on issues concerning the economy and they chatted for about 10 to 15 minutes.

He said to his surprise, few months after that, Yar'adua called him and said he was giving him the job of the CBN Governor.

Sanusi said for the late president to have chosen to give him the job over and above those he knew, shows he was willing to allow merit guide his decision in appointments.

The CBN governor said other people who are alive can defend themselves but that having worked closely with the late Yar'adua he felt he should set the records straight if given the opportunity to talk.

I'm ready to be president - Gov Aliyu

Governor of Niger State Mu'azu yesterday said he is ready to be Nigeria's president in 2015 even though he is not ready to talk much on the issue.

"When people ask me if I want to be president, I say I am prepared but I am not saying anything now," he said this while speaking at El-Rufai's book launch yesterday.

For some time now, there have been speculations that Governor Aliyu and some northern governors serving their second term in office have an eye on the presidency, but this is the first time he would make a categorical statement regarding his ambition.

...Why we ejected Sambo

Governor Aliyu also explained the circumstances that led to the evacuation order on former president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bashir Sambo, to vacate his residence.

Justice Sambo was asked to quit the residence during the administration of Nasir El-Rufai as FCT minister, which compelled the then retired judge to place his personal belongings outside in protest and attracted public sympathy.

Governor Aliyu who was then a permanent secretary in the ministry said the FCT had allocated some plots to the Jama'atul Nasril Islam (JNI) for development as schools and worship centres but that the ministry later discovered that the plots were given out for purposes other than the ones they were allocated.

He said on investigation, it was discovered that some of the plots had been sold to individuals. He said when they inquired from some of the people involved, they were told that "na where man dey work man go chop" suggesting that the land which accommodated Sambo's house was sitting on one of such plots. This, he said, led to the ejection order on the late justice. The governor said he had to explain the circumstances because the issue was one of the matters raised in El-Rufai's book.

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InFocus

El-Rufai's Memoir Stirs Angry Reactions

Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Nasir El-Rufai.

Many prominent Nigerians have reacted angrily to unflattering mentions in a lengthy memoir, "The Accidental Public Servant", by Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, who served as a Federal ... Read more »