If you had assumed that the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, was bothered by the spat between his administration and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) over the sack of some workers in the state, you missed the point. He was not concerned and would never be, given his stubborn antecedents and cocky carriage. In fact, he was rather on familiar track. For El-Rufai, a man of brief size and height, controversy seems a second name. He courts it and revels in it, even at the cost of public good. Recall when he threatened international election observers that they would be evacuated in body bags if they ventured into the country to monitor the 2019 presidential elections. Recall, also, when he claimed being asked to offer bribes by Senators during his screening for ministerial appointment, during the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency but when pressed to provide evidence for his claims, he chickened out.
Recall that the other day, in his usual assumption of importance, he took up the unsolicited task of advising the South East on what its people should do to get the presidency in 2023. To him, everything is politics and politics is everything!
His latest encounter with the organized labour over the sack of over 4000 workers in the state, would certainly not be the last. It is, rather, in line with his penchant for seizing attention. NLC and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), had embarked on a warning strike over the sack of their colleagues by the state government and demanded their recall. In defence of the action, the government explained why it disengaged the workers, claiming poor financial inflow. According to a release by the governor’s special adviser on media and communications, Muyiwa Adekeye, the finances of the state had been severely stretched by the high wage bill at a time the revenues from the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), have not increased. It pointed out that what the government has been receiving from FAAC since the middle of 2020, like most other sub-nationals can barely pay salaries and overheads. “In the last six months, personnel costs have accounted for between 84.97 percent and 96.63 percent of FAAC transfers received by Kaduna state government. In March 2021, Kaduna State had only N321m left after settling personnel costs”, the statement claimed.
In response to the shortfall in the FAAC revenue accruing to the state, El-Rufai’s strategy was to sack the workers. This is exactly the trend in many states. But Kaduna has no reasons to be in that odious basket. The state is enormously endowed in human and material resources. Its agricultural potential are huge. It is a melting point of economic and other engagements in the North. Kaduna was the capital of the defunct Northern Region and the seat of government from where the Premier, Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, provided people-oriented governance to the zone. Till date, it remains the pride of the North and every Northerner of note. It has no reason whatsoever to base its economic wellbeing on the fluctuations of the FAAC monthly accruals. But that is where El-Rufai and his co-travellers have left the state, due to their lack of vision and imagination.
Kaduna under Governor El-Rufai, is a reflection of Nigeria’s leadership failure. It is one that demonstrates the paradox of one living by the riverside and bathing with spittle. Sacrificing the workers for the shortfall in the state’s revenue, amounts to being clever by half. What it means is that in the days ahead when technological advances are bound to diminish or displace the importance of oil and the revenue accruing from it, Kaduna will go under. This is the summary of El-Rufai’s absurd logic.
No matter how he tries to run away from the facts or bend the issues, he must take the blame for the piteous state of Kaduna. His parochial tendencies and inclination at playing politics with critical issues in the state, are at the root of the sorry state of affairs in Kaduna. For example, the Southern Senatorial part of the state, has of late, been enmeshed in banditry and other criminal activities. Some months back when the crisis took a frightening dimension, over 45 lives were wasted. But rather than standing up to the tragedy of the moment, the governor embarked on a watery explanation that tended to make light of the situation. He casually explained the killings as being perpetrated by criminal elements who have been killing, kidnapping people and rustling cattle the entire North West.
In his words, “the criminality of the bandits gets coated with ethnic and religious hues when it affects communities in the Southern parts of the state, where it tends to exacerbate communal tensions and pitch people who have lived peacefully together against each other.”
El-Rufai knew that he was not stating the truth. His explanation simply begged the question. It failed to admit the pathetic issue of the inability and insincerity of his leadership to take decisive actions when the situation demanded such. The undisguised bigotry of the administration, especially in pandering to his Fulani kinsmen and members of his faith on state matters, accounts for why Kaduna under his watch, is going down the ladder in development and inter-group relations.
The truth is that the Governor had many opportunities of putting Kaduna on sound pedestal but fluffed the chances. His predecessor, Ahmed Makarfi, had in managing the complexities of the state, introduced local government reform where chieftaincy institutions were created to accommodate the peculiarities of the various peoples and interests in the state. Despite the imperfections in the arrangement, it went a long way in according the various peoples of the state, sense of belonging. Collapsing the chiefdoms into Emirates by the El-Rufai administration brought back old animosities and ended up alienating some sections of the state.
As if that was not enough, appointing a fellow Muslim, Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, as Deputy in a complex, religion-sensitive society as Kaduna, is also part of the faulty steps by the governor. Trying to be smart in picking her from the Southern senatorial district, has not been enough to allay the feeling of alienation in such sensitive setting. This is aside his comments and carriage that often portray him as governor of the Fulani section of the state and not the entire Kaduna residents.
So, the dwindling fortunes of Kaduna, go beyond the narrow interpretation of the shortfalls in FAAC revenue. The governor needs to think deeper, work on his temperament and carriage. He is a big factor in the poor financial outlook of the state. It is the comportment of the likes of El-Rufai that lend weight to the fear by some on governors mismanaging the state police, if eventually the agitation sails through. His provincial proclivities are the main issues scaring investors from the state.
The solution, certainly does not lie in panicky measures as in sacking workers. Cutting cost and rationalization should commence from his office and personal earnings. He also needs to take a look at his retinue of aides and their bogus pay packets. Most importantly, he and his colleagues in other states, should begin to think of Nigeria without oil as the only way to run away from the embarrassing and scandalous resort of sacking workers at the slightest drop in FAAC revenue.
*Duru is the Editor of TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos