It is really difficult to understand the motives of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the newly assumed do-gooder of the Nigerian polity, for his back page column in the ThisDay of last Friday, June 8th, which he entitled Anambra’s Budget of Misplaced Priorities. According to him, he had previously embarked on the analyses of the 2012 budgets of the other South East states. While it might not be apposite to query what might have warranted this sudden interest of Mallam el-Rufai in the affairs of Igbo people, many of whom he had maliciously and deliberately done in, when he destroyed and appropriated their property and means of existence in the FCT which he re-allocated to himself, his family members and friends, as it is his right and preserve to write on anything that catches his fancy.
However, querying eyebrows must be raised when he, in the process of discussing the socio and political economy of the area and one of its components, he takes a jolly ride on a road of abuse, distortion of facts and deliberate lies. By tarring Anambra State, its people and governance in such malicious and putrid brushes as he did in his said article, it would be foolish of him to believe that he would go unchallenged.
On the surface, el-Rufai, gave the impression that he was engaged in an intellectual and analytical treatise, by as usual, employing statistics and data which are not worth the pieces of paper on which they were issued. This is by the very fact that Economics is “a science of the commonsense”, and in daily socio-economic issues that govern human existence, you can tell a blind man that there is no oil in the food, but you definitely cannot tell him that there is no salt there.
In order to arrive at his real mission of insulting the people and leaders of Anambra State, El-Rufai, back-grounded his treatise with certain tendentious, but highly naive fallacies that he tried to pass off as facts, having laced them with statistics whose veracity fly in the face of commonsense, and which expose at the same time the woeful capacity of the institutions from which such statistics and date emanate. For instance, El-Rufai claimed that the poverty and unemployment levels in Anambra State are crying to the high heavens for deliverance.
In his words, “unemployment rate in Anambra is among the highest in the South-east zone, at 21.3 per cent, it is higher than the national average of 21.1 per cent”. Because unemployment is always associated with poverty, he then further posits that, “the incidence of poverty in the state is very high – actually disappointing”. He argued further with his weird statistics that, “the South-east has a food poor incidence of 41.0 per cent of which 60.9 per cent is absolutely poor, while 66.5 per cent is relatively poor and 56.8 per cent live under a dollar a day. Anambra has a poverty index of 22.8 per cent, the third highest in the zone, and shares the sixth lowest position in Nigeria with Rivers State which also has 22.8 per cent. About 47.6 per cent of the state’s population is core poor, 45.0 per cent is moderately poor and only 7.4 per cent of the state’s population is classified as none poor.”
As to Mallam El-Rufai, the spectre of the poverty of Anambra State must be driven home, for whatever reasons, so he lamented what he saw as the paucity of natural resources in the state, and that where they exist in any quantity, they are not exploited, like the oil deposits which he claimed are found in where he described as Ebenebe Ridge. According to him, “Anambra State is not much endowed with mineral resources and the few known to exist are not exploited”. Added to what he saw as the high criminality and dire security situation in the state, El-Rufai, in his copious crocodile tears, urged Anambra and its neighboring Igbo states to “ address the security challenges arising from violent crimes and kidnapping that has scared the elite and investors from the state.”
El-Rufai’s motives got a bit clearer when he inferred that this ‘sore’ state of affairs in Anambra State are in place or exacerbated by what he saw as the inability of the administration of the Mr. Peter Obi to rise to or overtake those calamitous situations in his state. That motive could not be hidden right from the title of his piece which indicated that the budget made and being executed by the government of the day which places extreme premium on all-round development of the state and its citizens, as misplaced.
But then, it is not easy to understand Mallam Nasir el-Rufai without understanding the duplicity of his personality and his character as a man whose ego is inversely proportional to his diminutive stature. It beggars understanding as to why el-Rufai suddenly wants Nigerians to start seeing him as the conscience of the public after his dubious performance as the minister of Federal Capital Territory. This is a man who was found guilty of a Senate committee of terrible and unspeakable fraud and told not to hold public office for the next ten years. But then, all that has to wait till the wrap up of this piece, when we shall see what all this has to do to the man’s current quixotic efforts.
Even if El-Rufai who claims to be a wizard in any new field he blunders into, including when he was undergoing tutelage in development studies during the Obasanjo era when he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, all who have amply extolled the management capacity of Governor Peter Obi and have often given an imprimatur to his development strategies. In fact, el-Rufai is an artful manipulator who twists any position he finds himself, including writing a column in a flagship newspaper, to claim laurels which he does not deserve in any form. I have no business defending Governor Obi, but being the governor of my state at a time when I am well appraised on the situation in my state, as well as the motives of the writer are suspicious, there is no way I can stand by and watch an El-Rufai drag my state, its government and pride to the mud.
If El-Rufai had ever physically gone to Anambra State, he would have understood the idiocy of the statistics he employed to interpret what he describes as the ‘poverty’ of the people and the state of Anambra. It has been said that there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. El-Rufai has proven to be the master of all the variants of lies. Even while informed Nigerians look on, El-Rufai lies about poverty in the state where the per capita standard of living is about the highest in Africa. He describes Anambra State as a ‘rural state’ with a high level of unemployment even as he refuses to acknowledge that more than three-quarters of communities in that state have installed electricity and other forms of amenities by themselves. These are people who build their own roads, secondary schools, hospitals and cottage industries and where no Anambra indigene has been stopped from going to school on account of financial difficulties.
This is a state where every village has assumed or is assuming an urban status, even as the entire state is growing into a one-town community. If one is driving through the state, it would be difficult to know when one has entered the next local government area. This has been made even more possible through the network of road which has linked or is linking every hamlet in the state. While it is true that the road construction feat was started by Dr. Chris Ngige, it would be stupid not to acknowledge that it was Mr. Peter Obi who has linked all the parts of the state through his array of road networks and bridges which have reached areas which had never dreamt of road communications in their lives. Incidentally, those areas are mostly the hitherto locked out and obscured food baskets of the nation.
El-Rufai talks about poverty of Anambra people because in his immaturity, he sticks to the classroom definitions of poverty where he divides the amount someone earns over the number of days in the month. That being so, he himself must have been a very poor man too, because hardly can the take-away pay of any public official in Nigerian take him home, and so, if he could garner estates and mansions all over Abuja and the world with his earnings as a minister, then he needs account to Nigerians. Having said so, my people in Anambra State are very communally minded people and as he even acknowledged, we are among Nigeria’s most successful Nigerians materially and professionally. In our system, we speak of “Aku luo uno” doctrine, which translates into the fact that we export all our fortunes home because that is only where we consider them secure and safe from such haters as el-Rufai and friends. They should understand that unlike where he comes from, Igbo fortunes spread to kinsmen.
El-Rufai might have thought that he succeeded in his ploy, alongside other Igbo haters like Obasanjo, to impoverish Igbo people by destroying all their properties in Igboland and allocating them to his people and himself. It must have been a very sad fact to him that he hardly succeeded and that must have been why he rued, that ’75 percent of the property in Abuja belong to Ndigbo and that FCT qualified to be described as the sixth South East State”. Does El-Rufai know that Anambra investors own about half of those Igbo investments in FCT, and not any of them had stolen the money with which they invested?
It is foolish to speak of misplaced budgeting in Anambra State because the government of the day did not put more funds in areas that El-Rufai, in his myopia, was informed by his ‘researchers’ to be more beneficial to the people. How is the man supposed to know where the eyes and priorities of the people lie? While the ANIDS development philosophy of government is geared towards spreading investments to all the crannies and circumstances in the state, Anambra people do not expect to be spoon-fed by any government; that is why the likes of El-Rufai would never understand that the so-called unemployment does not mean to an Anambrarian what it means to el-Rufai’s fellow Kaduna citizen. In fact, an Anambra person is not very hot about being employed by the government, as in fact, the concept of Olu Oyibo is not often a very attractive option. In fact, when el-Rufai believes that the government misplaces its priority when it invests less in agriculture than in education or roads, it clearly means he does not understand the Igbo persona.
It is needless to inform el-Rufai that our people are entrepreneurs and expect the government not to meddle in their lives more than it should. They just expect the government to equip their schools with good teachers and facilities. I did not say that we expect the government to build schools for us because we, have built them through our missions and communities and up till early this year, when Governor Obi handed over more than 1000 primary schools and many secondary schools to their owners, people had grumbled over government messing up things in those schools. A community that built and equipped secondary schools as out 177 communities had done could not be regarded as poor by any stretch of imagination, no matter what the crooked statistics say. In the same token, we expect the government to build our roads and provide policemen and other security officials to watch over and secure our lives and property. And should the appropriate government believes that means doing us a lot of favour, we strive to provide it for ourselves, as we did with the Bakassi Boys.
It is those states where beggars move around in droves and constitute a menace to daily life that are really poor. Poor people beg; in Anambra, the only beggars we have speak el-Rufai’s language.
In the next part of this article, I will strive to educate el-Rufai and his misguided analysts on the true nature of the Anambra person when it comes to industry, commerce and entrepreneurship that has made the state the destination of choice by an array of investors, who are genuine and well-meaning. I will also elaborate on the falsity of el-Rufai’s thesis as it concerns the exploitation of natural resources, so as to show how shallow those analyses have been relative to my state.
It surprises me that a man who flaunts several exposures forgets that in today’s world, intellectual property avails more than all the coal and gold that is under the feet. For, how did Japan become the world’s second largest economy without any discernable natural resources? It might interest the likes of el-Rufai, whose intellect is often questionable, to become aware that the best resource of Anambra State is their bold and bright people, who dare wherever and whenever the need arises.
I will also make an expose to debunk the wishful thoughts of the el-Rufais of this world that Anambra could be deterred by such bogus analyses of jaundiced writers who are seeking undeserved relevance and attention. I will do that by exposing the fallacies in El-Rufai’s analyses of Anambra’s political economy, concentrating on such factors as his take on criminality, natural resources and the way our people view the current efforts to open Anambra to the world to which our people have always looked. After that, those who do not know el-Rufai as many of us do, would start to have a clearer inkling into the man whose stock in trade is to run with the hare and chase with the hound…
So Nasir el-Rufai, keep your powder dry.