By Aminu Ali Dan Baki
A former Special Adviser to Nasir El-Rufai has proven to have more balls than Zayyad I. Muhammad, the purported author of a malicious piece, entitled: “Governor Uba Sani and Paucity of Funds”, the subject of this rejoinder. Maryam Abubakar, who also worked briefly with the Senator Uba Sani administration before resigning her appointment, has consistently attacked the new administration without hiding under any pseudonym.
She is different from the chicken-hearted “Zayyad I. Muhammad” who for obvious reasons decided to hide his identity because he knows he is a peddler of falsehoods. He has never been known to be truthful. At the appropriate time, the real identity of this “Muhammad”, a ghostwriter skilled in mendacity, will be unmasked to the world. Meanwhile, the only reason he chose to hide his identity is because he knows fully well that the good people of Kaduna State would go after him for his ignoble role in the Nasir El-Rufai administration.
Meanwhile, that the said former adviser attacks in her name does not, in any way, mean that she is truthful. It is also important to understand the motives of some of those who choose to indulge in malicious criticism of the Uba Sani administration because as I got to know later, Maryam sought another office which Governor Sani refused to accede to. Nothing else motivates her antagonism against Governor Sani other than this pain. Were she still the Special Adviser on New Media to Governor Sani, she certainly would have been defending the governor that she has taken delight in attacking for refusing to appoint her as the Liaison Officer, Abuja. A very powerful position.
Before we go into the nitty gritty of their perfidy, I will want to put Governor Uba Sani on notice that we, the people of Kaduna State, will soon perfect our legal briefs at the Federal High Court to “legally” compel him to disclose to the people of our dear state the true financial situation of their state. This has become necessary because going by the figures from the grapevines, that we are hearing, Kaduna state is bankrupt, contrary to the tales by Moonlight authored by Muhammad.
Meanwhile, it will be uncharitable to hold Governor Sani as being solely responsible for the concerted attacks on his administration by some former key players in the El-Rufai government, because El-Rufai remains Uba’s personal friend and mentor and for this reason, the governor will not bring himself so low as to respond to the vicious attacks by some persons who believe that they are fighting El-Rufai’s war. I say this because I know that it is not in Governor Uba’s nature to engage in needless fights, especially as it will also distract him. While we wish the governor good luck in his “quietness”, I also want to say that for the peace of our state, ‘we no go gree for anybody’, because it’s our patrimony that they fritted away with absolutely nothing to show.
The question therefore is, “Is Kaduna State Broke?” The answer is a resounding yes. According to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, Lagos State has the highest external debt of $1.26 billion, followed by Kaduna State, with $569.38 million and a domestic debt of N87,282,487,580.65 as at the second quarter of 2023. Taking into account, several under-the-table borrowings from some commercial banks by the immediate past government, the domestic debt would realistically be in the region of N150 billion. It will interest Muhammad to know that the El-Rufai government bluntly refused to subject the Zenith bank loan package to legislative approval because of the stiff opposition by Yusuf Zilani, the Speaker of the 9th Assembly of Kaduna. Zilani, who was perceived as being antagonistic to the El-Rufai administration, has now been vindicated by the salacious tales of several uncompleted projects and highly inflated contracts by the past administration.
What happened in Kaduna State between 2015 and 2023 was that El-Rufai embarked on a reckless borrowing spree. He refused to be cautioned. He also did not caution himself. The first point that must be strongly rebutted is that “In Kaduna State, there are insinuations that Governor Uba Sani is experiencing a slower start than expected, which many attribute to the substantial debt burden on the state. Before leaving office, former Governor Nasir El-Rufai acknowledged the government took loans; however, he asserted that the tangible projects and programme implemented by his administration demonstrate the value of acquiring those loans, with many projects generating revenue to repay the loans”.
Governor Sani and former Governor Nasir El-Rufai are two different kinds of men. Sani certainly would have no apologies for being different from El-Rufai. For instance, we the people of Southern Kaduna will not forget the shabby treatment meted out to us by the El-Rufai administration and the efforts of Governor Sani to give us a sense of belonging. If this is what Muhammad is worried about and describes as a lack of lightning speed, we the Kaduna state people are happy with his cautious approach to governance.
Unfortunately, while Muhammad acknowledged the fact that Governor Sani has, without doubt, been handicapped by an excruciating loan burden, it is rather surprising that he still wants the governor to move at the speed of light, which would be suicidal for the state. Excessive speed like that of El-Rufai kills. But the truth that Muhammad is cleverly trying to hide is that it will take our dear state more than 30 years to recover from the financial crisis created by El-Rufai through reckless borrowing.
While we must acknowledge that no government can operate without borrowing, the point of departure is the uses to which the loans are deployed. In the case of Kaduna State, sadly, what we have are white elephant projects, one of the main reasons the loans are unpayable. From the reports being held on to by Governor Sani so as not to be seen as fighting a man who made him, we know for a fact that the policies of the El-Rufai are not sustainable. Though it might be music to the ears of El-Rufai’s supporters, the gospel truth is that his administration was everything but transparent.
Muhammad should start by asking to know what happened to the N100 million released for the takeoff of the Kaduna State Produce Marketing Company and the four-wheel vehicles that are parked in the Abuja residence of a former commissioner.
We are praying that the El-Rufai camp will continue to push Governor Sani to the wall which will leave him with no other option but to fight back. Before that, I agree with Muhammad that Kaduna State citizens’ desire is that Governor Sani to complete the urban renewal projects that were abandoned long before El-Rufai exited on the 29th of May 2023. Muhammad is aware that the only road constructed by El-Rufai in the Southern part of the state, the Pan Drive to Sabon Tasha road, was abandoned, in continuation of his war against the southern Kaduna people.
It might equally interest Muhammad to know that Governor Sani resolved the bottlenecks that held up the Rabah road to the train station road, which El-Rufai couldn’t resolve before he left office. Muhammad is also aware that due to poor supervision by the Kaduna State Roads Agency (KADRA), the cost of the Barnawa to Kabala Costain road project increased by over 500 percent. Muhammad is invited to take a drive to the road and see things for himself.
Certainly, Governor Sani will complete every project that he inherited from the El-Rufai government. He has no choice but to do so because he gave his word that he will. On the “gradual resurgence of street begging by children (Almajiri), and the ‘economic’ lull”, this is a confirmation that the El-Rufai group is simply interested in criticizing Governor Sani. The economic crisis is a known fact to everyone, except the El-Rufai people.
Muhammad has given what can best be termed pedestrian suggestions on how Governor Sani can generate the much-needed revenue to complete the numerous projects abandoned by El-Rufai and also resolve liabilities from the over 1,000 court cases due to El-Rufai’s penchant for unlawful actions. Information from the Kaduna State Geographical Information Service (KADGIS) has it that the agency alone has over 300 cases, because of the way and manner the El-Rufai administration handled land matters. Because it had so much contempt for people it refused to negotiate even when it was comprehensively proved that he erred. If the Sani Abacha family wins their case, as they are most likely to, the compensation they might likely be awarded would worsen the financial situation of Kaduna state.
In his budget speech, Governor Sani was emphatically clear that the revenue agencies would have to up their game. A committee headed by the Special Adviser Revenue is currently working day and night to look at alternatives. So it is another lie from the pit of hell to conclude that the governor is doing nothing.
Muhammad, as usual, made very “brilliant suggestions” on how Governor Sani can address the paucity of funds, but by asking him to initiate “a renegotiation of the debt servicing terms with lenders by leveraging his experience as the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, Insurance, and Other Financial Institutions to secure more favourable terms.” Has the critic not unwittingly acknowledged the obvious? Readers should kindly note “to secure more favourable terms”.
It’s interesting to see the El-Rufai people acknowledging that they didn’t get the best possible loan terms for the state, which they expect Governor Sani to immediately resolve. The question is why the brilliant El-Rufai didn’t, in the first place, negotiate the best terms for his numerous loans? Was it a plot to ensure that his successor doesn’t succeed?
Some of Muhammad’s suggestions, like collection of taxes at the weekly markets, are laughable because the Kaduna State Internal Revenue Service (KADIRS) is already doing that. What Governor Sani is doing is to ensure effective collection. Muhammad’s suggestion that Sani “should look at ways to generate revenue other than over-depending on the declining federal allocations” portrays him as a critic who criticizes for the fun of it. Kaduna State for his information is one of the few states that can survive without FACC allocation. Records from the NBS affirm this fact.
Again, Muhammad has suggested that Governor Sani should “capitalize on disposing of Kaduna’s abandoned assets”. Unfortunately, El-Rufai sold everything. There is absolutely nothing more to sell and that’s the fact Muhammad’s suggestion that Governor Sani should “leverage on his experience and connections to lead discussions within the Governors Forum to explore the possibilities of accessing pension funds, unclaimed dividends, etc”, appears to be a dig at the governor, rather than a well-intentioned suggestion. First, why wasn’t the all-knowing El-Rufai able to accomplish this? Secondly, for the education of Muhammad, it will take an amendment of the various laws before the government can access the pension funds.
While Governor Sani might be avoiding a fight, there are millions of Kaduna state citizens, including sacked public servants whom El-Rufai bluntly refused to pay their severance packages; the people of Southern Kaduna that he marginalized, and those whom he demolished their homes, that will gladly reply to their jaundiced articles.
Baki writes from Kaduna