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Babatope Falade: Jonathan, Obasanjo and the accidental public servant


Babatope Falade: Jonathan, Obasanjo and the accidental public servant

by Babatope Falade

Nigeria’s political landscape – just like that of other countries – is predictable. The victors and the vanquished are easy to identify. The tussle for power, relevance and the benefits that come along is a given – and is not going anywhere.

A perusal of Nasir El-Rufai’s, The Accidental Public Servant  betrays one thing – that ours is a system where patronage is chief and corruption is king. I must commend El-Rufai for writing a book of reflections and a personal account of his service to country; the challenges, expositions and propositions. More government officials from the past and present should take a cue from him. Jerry Gana, Dalhatu Tafida, Audu Ogbeh, Tony Anenih and others should kindly write for us to read.

El-Rufai had things to say about both Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan in his book and he is still saying a lot about the latter.

El-Rufai served Obasanjo judiciously and was very influential in Obasanjo’s 8 years in power. He, alongside Okonjo-Iweala, Ribadu, Oby Ezekwesili and Soludo worked together as a core team. They were quite influential in charting the policy direction as well as execution for the country. They relished their authority as well as good PR from international agencies. The third term agenda apparently changed all these as they refused to support Obasanjo. They led a subliminal clandestine movement against it according to El-Rufai’s account. Anyway, the agenda didn’t succeed and everyone returned to status quo, except Baba Obasanjo.

One way or the other, he dealt a blow to Aunty Ngozi by redeploying her to foreign affairs and Sister Oby to education. This frustrated both of them. El-Rufai was expected to play the pacifier hence he thought that his influence is an indelible one. I guess he did a good job for Obasanjo all through, but Obasanjo would not pay him the due he wanted – the office of the president. This is something Nasir El-Rufai wanted, afterall he was a proven technocrat, the president’s boy, a northerner and a propagandist.

El Rufai recounts how he gave Umaru Yaradua his word of support, but warding off any notion that he would be available to support late Umaru as he was billed to proceed with studies in London and Harvard. The accidental public servant attempted a diagnosis of how his and Ribadu’s problems started and the nature of the political vendetta meted against them. The Yaradua government no doubt was after both of them, as well as their former boss, Obasanjo, according to feelers El-Rufai got.

El-Rufai’s ascension to public office was not accidental in my opinion. He was too prepared for it to be accidental. He had an influential brother in telecommunications and an influential person who got him to attend a programme on privatization. He got to work with former military ruler, Abdulsalam Abubakar based on his connections. He was a Barewa boy and he attended Ahmadu Bello University.

El-Rufai may have known what a humble beginning was, but he was indeed most privileged afterwards. His appointment to BPE confirms a line I had drawn earlier and the source of that line is the fact that he attended a customized programme for privatization. He knew where he was going and he got there. He was not an accidental public servant, he was a prepared public servant who started privately.

El Rufai is surely a loser in the political scene. He confirmed that whilst Ngozi Iweala and Ribadu were playing active politics, himself and Oby Ezekwesili were technocrating and that they even call themselves “mumu” jokingly. The only thing he had to fight Yaradua was a good sense of media use and guerilla propaganda strategy.

He, of course, is an intelligent person; an intelligent person who didn’t know when to stop. He made a lot of enemies with political might. This people went after him also using the de facto consent accrued to them by Yaradua. El Rufai destroyed houses of powerful men, he abused ministers, he damaged the image of senators and he technically destroyed NITEL. He had enemies surely, enemies Yaradua could not stop easily. To make matters worse, he ignored the golden opportunity to be politically savvy while he was FCT minister.

El-Rufai enjoyed the admiration and support of opposition elements and some publishers in Nigeria. He had  a brother who was a top shot in NITEL. His exile was a romantic one, spent in Harvard, Dubai etc.

El-Rufai lost the final political party, when all attempts to ensure reforms brought him nothing but political irrelevance in the PDP. He had to leave  for CPC to launch his onslaughts on the Jonathan administration. He calls the president all sorts of things; a zoologist who thinks Nigerians are cows, a scumbag also. Obasanjo did worse things El-Rufai himself recorded in his book and he did not go to such extents with Baba.

My take: El-rufai is a man looking for a void to fill, a void to still serve his country and they won’t let him. He has acquired so much knowledge, yet he seems underutilised. Now he has found a midnight lover to torment in Jonathan for not heeding his call on better ways to do things and for occupying a position he covets. And no, he was not an accidental public servant – he was prepared, very prepared.

Babatope Folade is a critical theorist and could pass as a post-structuralist. He is a graduate of Pan African University, Victoria Island, Lagos. He has a passion for global and local policy analysis. His greatest influences are Emerson, Condoleeza Rice, Karl Marx,Joseph Schumpeter, Engels, Obafemi Awolowo, and Professor Robin Mansell. Folade currently works as a Business Analyst consultant to small businesses and a Research Associate with the Knowledge Economy Group at the Pan African University, Victoria Island, Lagos.

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