Kaduna governor shows Buhari how it’s done
Iam writing from Kaduna, a midsized city in northwestern Nigeria and the capital of Kaduna State. While not huge in population terms compared with Lagos or Kano, Kaduna has historically had a high profile in Nigeria. It has a car plant, a Coca-Cola bottling plant and a recently restarted oil ref inery nearby, so it is of understandable commercial and industrial importance.
Most recently the state and the city have been making headlines because of newly elected governor, Nasir El-Rufai, former federal capital territory minister. He’s the man seen as responsible for much of Abuja’s relative efficiency and the smooth running that stands up favourably against many other major African capitals.
Kaduna is a complex cit y with a turbulent recent history. In the past few years it has suffered interfaith tensions; divided into a majority Muslim north and minority Christian south, the deadly post- election riots of 2011 proved a particular f lashpoint, while the religiously motivated Miss World riots of 2002 saw the deaths of more than 200 people. Drive through the city streets and you’ll see underemployed and unemployed young people everywhere, keen for safe jobs and secure futures free from such violence and uncertainty.
Unlike president Muhammadu Buhari, criticised for his sluggish start in the hot seat since he was inaugurated in May, or Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike, who has been agitating as much as acting since the elections, El-Rufai has started work in earnest: changing officers, appointing new commissioners, cutting state overheads and attempting to unpick the mess he was left by the previous state government. He has slashed his own salary, a move that will always be popular in a country infamous for its bloated state and sticky-fingered politicians.
If you ask around in Kaduna, people will tell you that they think he’s doing a good job so far. In particular they welcome his moves to rid the state payroll of so-called ghost workers – people who claim salaries without performing a service or being qualified for the role. The elimination of Kaduna’s phantom workforce should create opportunities for qualified young people.
On a national level he is encouraging cross-state border security cooperation; on a micro level he’s overseeing the purchase of more dialysis machines for hospitals and is reviving Kaduna’s taxi service.
Of course, like all state governors in the heavily indebted Nigerian regions, these are tough times, and El-Rufai’s plans face enormous challenges both f inancially and practically. They also depend on his officers and staff being as committed to an anti-corruption agenda as he appears to be. Decades of government theft have entrenched a culture of corruption and there are hundreds of slips twixt cup and lip in Nigeria that can push even the simplest plans off course.
Still, there’s a sense of optimism that the governor’s administration may bring with it positive change, even in such testing conditions. On a road bridge in the centre of the city some wobbly graffiti proclaims, “YOUTH SUPORT BETAR LEADERSHIP”; for now at least there’s a feeling that in the form of El-Rufai, they might just be getting it.
Nasir El- Rufai (R) arrives at a polling station to cast his votes during the Governorship and House of Assembly election in Kaduna, Nigeria, on 11 April.