For the first time since the memo he wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari became subject of intense debate, Governor Nasir el-Rufa’i of Kaduna state has revealed – in a no-holds-barred interview – other details Nigerians didn’t know about the memo. He also spoke on how it leaked, his relationship with the president, and members of his inner circle; why he felt being targeted, his rumoured presidential ambition and a lot more.
In an interview conducted by Sunday Trust, Mallam el-Rufa’i said that the memo was sent to the president to right some wrongs in his administration. He also said he was compelled to write the memo because he felt that people close the president could not tell him the bitter truth he would like to hear.
“First of all, let me say that this is not the first memo I have written to the president. From the time I began to interact politically with him in 2010, anytime I saw a situation requiring advice or change in direction, I usually went to discuss with him. I always said, ‘I will go and reduce it to writing so you can have a document to reflect upon and decide and guide your action’. This is not even the tenth memo I have written to the president. I have probably written more than 20 memos. I did this at various stages – from our days in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), before the 2011 elections, after the 2011 elections and during the merger process. I have always felt that my duty to him as my political leader is to pick up what he doesn’t hear because as a lower person, I get to hear more about what is going on. And if I see things going wrong, I have duty to go to him and say, ‘This is what I have heard, the facts I have established and my advice on the way forward’. They are all problem-solving memos, they identify problems, analyse them and propose solutions. So, this is the spirit of all my memoranda to the president from 2010 till date.
“I wrote this memo because I felt very strongly at that time that many things were not working as planned. I was part of All Progressives Congress (APC) Strategic Planning Committee. I am one of the authors of the manifesto; I was part of the 34 people that signed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) document to register the party. So, I consider the APC as one of my children. I know the dream we had and the very high expectations our people had in Buhari’s government. And I am close enough to the president to know what he is committed to in terms of social justice and progress. I see the people that have been trusted to drive the agenda are not doing it.
“They are focused on other things that what is Buharism. And I am a Buharist. I believe in the man, I gave the last seven years of my life working with him and knowing him. From the time we worked with Obasanjo’s government, Oby Ezekwesil and I would always go and confront him when we see something going wrong. When it required writing, we would write to him. This is how I have been. I feel that the duty of every subordinate is to tell the truth to his superior and the superior can take a decision. “I saw these things going on and decided that I would have a comprehensive discussion with him. I raised many issues in the memo in the previous discussions with him because every once in a while I go to the president with my list of issues.
“When I visited him in Daura during last Sallah in the company of Pastor Tunde Bakare, his running mate in the 2011 presidential election, I shared some of the items on the memo with him, So three of us sat with the president and went through the first draft memo. We looked at it and debated. He gave his views about some aspects of the memo. This was about seven months ago. I have done my bit. I have put on the record what I think is not going the right way. It is the president’s call to move the agenda forward. If you look at some aspects of the memo, you would see that he has begun implementing some. “
When asked why the memo was leaked to the media, Mallam el-Rufa’i said that he didn’t know how it became the public property, adding that if he had wanted it to be made public he would have done so before now. He said he was not behind the leak of his ‘private’ memo to President Buhari, blaming the APC members with 2019 presidential ambition for twisting its content to achieve sinister motives.
“As I said, I have written several memos to the president. This is the first one that has leaked. I can state categorically that I did not leak it. If I did I would say so. I wrote the memo, it’s my own, I could make it public if I chose to, but I did not. It was a private communication and I can’t understand the motives of those that leaked it. I don’t know who leaked it. But who knows? In these days of Wikileaks, even if it is in your computer it can be hacked and taken out. I don’t want to speculate on who leaked it or whatever, what I am surprised at is those that are attributing motives to the memo without even reading it.
“If you read that memo you would see that there’s no bad motive. There’s nowhere in the memo that I said the government has failed. It’s our government; if it fails then I have failed too. But there’s a lot going on. We are on the political terrain and I am the target of many people for reasons I may come to know later.
“But anyone that reads that memo will see that I did not intend it to be anything other than a private memo to the president. Secondly, my advice or analysis or opinions were based on what I believe to be the truth and what I think will advance the cause of the president. There’s is nothing in that memo that is advancing the interest of Nasir el-Rufa’i or even Kaduna State. It’s about Nigeria, the president’s success and our party.
“Why would anyone take that memo and say I have any ill motive? The reason I said in the memo that it would be misunderstood is because of experience. As I said, I have been with the president since 2010, and anytime I write anything and he discusses it with his inner circle, they always say I am very ambitious.
“I have always been accused of having presidential ambition since 2007. I have suffered from these accusations. The late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua exiled me because of it; former President Goodluck Jonathan tried to imprison me because everyone around him told him to keep me busy or I would contest against you in 2015.”