Again on El-Rufai and Bitterness: Another Response to El-rufai on President Jonathan

Malam Nasir El-Rufai is at it again. My readers may ask what I mean. Well let me put it this way. Malam El-Rufai is an extremely intelligent and knowledgeable man who knows how the government works and when such a person who has worked within and knows how the system operates writes to the public and cites facts and figures that tend to show only one side of the story and suppresses other facts and figures that show the other side of which he is well aware, there can only be one conclusion. He is trying to manipulate the minds of the public to see things not as they are but as he wants them to perceive it. Before I go further, let me say that everything I am about to write here is already known by Malam El-rufai. The question to be asked by the reader is why he has suppressed them.

For instance in his latest back page piece entitled ÔÇśWhat Nigerians Pay the FG' (the title itself is a misnomer because Nigeria is one of those countries were the Federal Government is not exactly practicing True Federalism where each component part of the federation contributes to the common wealth and where resources control exists and the government is run by the monies sourced from taxation of the people and the federating units. Nigeria is largely run on receipts from the Oil and Gas industry) Malam Nasir tries to paint the picture that the current administration is only paying lip service to its oft stated desire to improve the power sector by spending more on the office of the National Security Adviser than on the Power Sector itself. But is this true?

It is said that a good illusionist wants you to focus on what he is doing with the hand before your eyes and not the hand he uses to blindfold you. This is precisely what El-Rufai attempts to do when he says that "the Ministry of Power only got N91 billion as total appropriation in 2011, while the National Security Adviser (NSA) controls and will spend N208 billion (recurrent - N51 billion, capital N59 billion, and another N98 billion for the amnesty programme!)".

The above creates the wrong impression that this money is to be spent on the office of the National Security Adviser. If you believe that, you will believe anything!

Firstly, 50% of those funds will be spent on the Amnesty Programme. Now Nigerians may recall that there was a drop in the productive capacity of our Oil and Gas industry as a result of the Niger Delta militancy and that as a result of this the government came up with the Amnesty programme to tackle the issue and that with the overwhelming success of that programme our Oil and Gas sector's productivity has increased by 20%. In other words because of the ongoing Amnesty programme an estimated $9 billion comes in as additional revenue that we would not have received were it not for the programme which is due to be concluded this year.

So when weighing the cost (just under 100 billion naira) and the benefits (over 1 trillion naira) Nigerians may then see that the government has taken a good business decision on their behalf. If this is the case, the question should be asked what Malam El-rufai's motives are seeing as he knows what I have written about already.

Still on the National Security Adviser's office, the balance of the monies allocated to that office is to be spent on security matters such as countering the growing threat of militancy in some parts of the country which requires sophisticated and hi tech hardware which do cost a pretty penny. Nigerians are aware of recent events which will necessitate a serious administration placing a high premium on security and in fact in one of his critiques against this administration Malam El-rufai called on the government to pay more heed to security issues especially in the wake of recent bombings. How does Malam El-rufai expect the government to do that without bomb detectors in sensitive government offices, without planes and helicopters for aerial surveillance, without infiltration and counter surveillance? But of course these things cost money and Malam El-rufai knows this, but to him anything is fair game in an attempt to paint the type of picture he wants to paint of this administration.

What Malam El-rufai should note is that these funds are not being used to pay dollar denominated salaries to youth corpers in the office of the National Security Adviser. In fact less than 5% of that money is to be spent on salaries! The money is going to the real task of providing security for Nigerians!

And even as he tries to paint the picture that this administration is spending only 91 billion Naira on the Power Industry Malam El-rufai knows that he is only being clever by half because he knows as well as I do that Mr. President has launched a Roadmap to Power Sector Reforms whose sole purpose is to change the way investments have been made in the power sector because it is now clear that the way things have been done in the past has not worked and has led to unimaginable sums of money being sunk into the sector without commensurate results especially at a time Malam El-rufai wielded a lot of influence on how things went in this country.

The truth of the matter is that Mr. President initiated a vehicle called the Sovereign Wealth Fund to be managed by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the unique thing about this vehicle is that with an initial seed capital of $1 billion, this interventionist agency is designed so that monies from the fund may ONLY be used for investment or infrastructural purposes. This is a unique agency meant to achieve what the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) (another brain child of this administration) has achieved in our banking and finance industry.

But crucially, the point that Malam el-rufai suppressed but which are well known to him because he himself has advocated for it is the fact that the Power Sector is scheduled to be privatised this year and government is to divest from the generation and distribution ends of the business in line with international trends that have proven successful in other countries. As a matter of fact the government is only to retain control of the transmission end of the business which is why it is spending money on building a new Super Grid for Nigeria.

But again as I said, Malam El-rufai knows this as well as the fact that when he says there is no ÔÇśsocial justice' in the large amounts spent on our legislators he forgot to add that while there is little the president can do by law to curb this seeing as there is Separation of Powers in our constitution, President Jonathan nevertheless used his influence to get the National Assembly to reduce its budget by 30% this year before he agreed to append his signature to the budget. But pray, if paying so much salaries to people is bad (and I agree that it is especially when there are multitudes who need the money on social services as malam rightly points out) then why did someone allow huge sums in dollars to be paid to a youth corper even if the money was sourced from first USAID and later the World Bank? You ought not to criticise somebody or an agency over something of which you are equally guilty. The issue is worthy of criticism don't get me wrong, but someone who has not engaged in similar acts ought to be the one belling the cat!

And does Malam El-rufai really believe that "the policeman that should protect you on the road block, stops you and demands for bribes and has no qualms shooting dead any motorist that refuses to give him N20". Now is this fair to our police officers? Is this true? There are hundreds of thousands of police men in Nigeria. Is Malam El-rufai telling us that every police man collects bribes and is willing to kill Nigerians if they do not receive bribes? I am close to one or two serving and former policemen including Malam Nuhu Ribadu who is a pride to Nigeria and a shining example of gallantry and the art of being an officer and a gentleman and Malam Ribadu did tell me that there are multitudes like him in the Nigerian Police force. Imagine the effect on their morale when they read Malam El-rufai's scathing and hasty generalizations on all of them.

What type of Nigeria does Malam El-rufai, a man to whom Nigeria has given so much, project to the outside world when he says that our soldiers "get so bored that they occasionally go on a rampage, using policemen for target practice"? Is that all he sees in the Nigerian army?

Malam El-rufai also wants us to put blame on the current administration for the state of our recurrent expenditure but managed to suppress key facts about this issue such as the fact that this administration is honour and constitutionally bound to pay living wages to Nigerian workers as a result of the New Minimum Wage bill passed into law by the National Assembly as well as pay up a backlog of salaries and pensions at PHCN, NITEL and sundry other government ministries and agencies before such agencies can be privatized.

Nigerians can now see what I meant in my last response to malam El-rufai entitled ÔÇśGet Better not Bitter'-Malam El-rufai since his return from exile in the year 2010 has become so bittier that he has lost his objectivity and I can prove it.

Nigerians may recall that Malam El-rufai on the 11th of May, 2010, was the first major political figure to call on President Jonathan to contest for the 2011 Presidential election when he paid a solidarity visit to Mr. President at the Presidential villa and praised him openly saying inter alia that "This President does not interfere with the work of the judiciary

Nigerians may also recall that Malam El-rufai was equally one of the first major political figures to launch a scathing attack on Major Gen. (rtd.) Buhari of whom he described on the 4th of October, 2010 as a man whose record as military Head of State has rendered him and I quote "perpetually unelectable". This was after Malam El-rufai accused Major Gen. (rtd.) Buhari of sundry acts of gross indiscipline including but not limited to the 53 suit cases affair and the extra judicial execution of certain young men.

But today Malam El-rufai is a staunch supporter of Buhari whom he described as "unelectable" and an even stauncher critic of President Jonathan whom he described as electable. This is all within the space of one year.

So the question is what happened in the intervening period? You guessed the answer right-bitterness as a result of unfulfilled expectations. I rest my case!

Reno Omokri is the founder of the Build Up Nigeria project and