Kaduna gover­nor shows Buhari how it’s done

Finweek English Edition - - IN BRIEF -

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.

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