By Fareeda AbdulKareem
My first ever question to Malam Nasir El-Rufai, the Governor of Kaduna State, when I met him was a simple one-letter enquiry. Why? As a part of Nigeria’s largest demographic, my experience differs from his. For myself and millions of other people in my age bracket, we were born into a country of infrastructural deficit and an ever rising corruption. We also inherited multidimensional poverty, terrorist-activity escalations and unemployment levels nearing 60%. For many youths, staying in the country was a last resort. Upon meeting a man who had spent most of his public life to reforming and building the very same country many of us are keen to escape, I had to ask why he chose to remain. His answer was simple. A long time ago, he decided not to have any passport other than the Nigerian one. By so doing, it would leave him with no choice but to reform his home country and make it a place worthy of pride.
Since he started his public service career , El Rufai has demonstrated a trajectory of such reforms. Often bullish, sometimes misunderstood, but the results are redoubtable . From his days as Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises(BPE), which spearheaded the privatization of non-performing government owned companies, to his accomplishments as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, where he took down illegal structures, he exhibited the same vigour to digitize the land register and rebuild the capital’s infrastructure by reverting to the master plan. As the governor of Kaduna state, which I have the privilege of calling home, he has embarked on an urban renewal project. In fact, the projects that have so far been completed is a study in legacy making. The massive infrastructural haul will make the people of Kaduna State benefit across educational, health and economic sectors for years to come.
The governor’s record of supporting women and young people is unparalleled as witnessed by Kaduna State producing the second elected female Deputy Governor in Northern Nigeria, the first in the North west geopolitical zone and in Kaduna State . In addition, El Rufai has a talent for hunting talents because he attracted, built the capacities of, and retaining some of the best minds in the country. Also, his administration is youth-friendly as many young men and women are occupying top positions in public service, united under a passion to return the state to greatness.
At sixty, Malam has many accolades and descriptions to his name. However, I prefer to call him a mentor. In line with his visionary thinking, he has taken the radical step of opening government to the young and giving us the knowledge and autonomy to participate. In 2018, he launched the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship to equip my generation with the knowledge of the public sector and the capacity required for the sort of transformational leadership he has exhibited in public service. Specifically, the Fellows spend time understudying the Government as they are attached to various ministries and rotated on a regular basis. In addition, leaders from various facets of human endeavor are invited to lecture them on leadership. Right now, the second cohort of Kashim Ibrahim Fellows are undergoing tutelage under the programme. In fact, 15 out of the 16 Fellows of the pioneer cohort have been absorbed into public service. As a member of the second cohort, it has been the privilege of a lifetime to witness the revolutionary and result-driven governance under his leadership.
Malam understands the need for equipping successors. At a time where young Nigerians are starved of quality mentorship, particularly in a sector as economically important as the public service, Malam is a beacon of hope for the young. For a country marked by economic and social uncertainty, conflict and low morale, the task of reform is a daunting one. Yet, having lived and learned under Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, I am coming away with less fear and more determination to continue the change he has bestowed on me and many others. His investment will not go in vain.
Fareeda is a Kashim Ibrahim Fellow