My Relationship With Buhari Not Strained By Memo, Says El-Rufai

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For the first time since the return of President Muhammadu Buhari to the country from medical vacation in London, Kaduna State Governor, Nasiru el-Rufai

yesterday joined him for Jumat prayers at the State House, Abuja, and said that he had no regret writing his controversial memo which strongly criticised the Buhari administration, saying his intentions were right.

El-Rufai who made this declaration while answering questions from journalists, after attending the Jumat prayers, said his motivation for writing the memo was not driven by ill-motive but the desire to draw

the president’s attention to ills in the society and to offer him suggestions on how to address them.

He said he had earlier met Buhari on Thursday night and that the memo and its leakage had not by any means strained his relationship with the President, pointing out that his relationship with Buhari is like that of a father and son.

He added that when he visited him on Thursday night, the president received him with warmth and grace.

The governor, who had been accused in some quarters of leaking the memo he had

privately sent to the President, said contrary to that belief, the memo was actually leaked by some individuals in the Villa.

Disclosing that there were some faces who did not like him in the Villa, el-Rufai said he was disappointed by the leakage of the memo, revealing that those who published it had told him that it was leaked to them by the Villa.

“I’m disappointed that a private communication to the highest office in the land can be leaked. It was leaked by the Villa. I was told by those who published it. But it’s part of life. This happens. We live in an age when everything you write or say can be leaked. My intentions were clear.

“I had no ill motive. But l wanted to communicate to the president what many Nigerians are talking about and what steps can be taken to improve the governance of the country and move the country forward. That is my motive and even till tomorrow as l said, if l see anything that the President needs to know, l will discuss with him and l will articulate and write it and put it on record for him to have a reminder document to work on. I have no regret.

He added: “It’s a private memo to the president. It’s not a public letter and if you want to ask a question, ask about those who leaked the memo because l wrote it about seven months ago and l had written similar memos to the president in the past, none of which ever leaked.”

He said even though there were faces in the Villa that did not like him, such faces could not stop him from visiting the State House, adding that he could drive into the Villa anytime unhindered.

He further pointed out that he had only stayed away from the Villa since the President returned from his medical vacation in London on March 10 because he believed that he needed time to rest.

He appealed to Nigerians to spare the President “many visits,” observing that leaders are easily worn out by visits.

El-Rufai, however, disclosed that he no longer held the opin- ion he expressed in his letter to the president in September last year because some of the issues he raised had been addressed.

He also said the president knew that he wished him well and could always depend on his views and advice on the state of the nation, assuring that he would stand by Buhari to the very end.

“He knows that he can count on me to give him my views and sound advice on what’s out there that he may not hear and to give him sound advice about my party. If you saw the memo, you would see that there is nothing in that memo that has anything to do with anything other than the success of the president and the progress of the country. That is my goal. That is my motive and I’m driven by that and l will stand behind the President to the very end.

“I believe that since September last year when l wrote the letter, there has been a significant improvement in the delivery of services at the federal level. As l said, some of our programmes have started in earnest. Social intervention programme for instance, power and budget releases have been accelerated. “In an unprecedented manner, the Minister of Finance has released up to N1 trillion for capital budget. In September last year, little or nothing had been released and that was part of my concern. Since then, the economic growth and recovery plan had been published. At the time, there was no economic plan for the country. Since then, the government has moved ahead to change some of the appointees of President Jonathan.

“This was something that we were worried about and many of in All Progressives Congress (APC) felt that we were in office but not in power because people that Jonathan appointed were still right there at the agencies. But since September till date, even up till yesterday, there have been significant changes. So, that is improvement and l believe that parts of what l recommended to the president are being implemented; whether it is as a result of my memo or not, the country is moving forward and I’m grateful for it,” he stated.

On his current face-off with the National Assembly, el- Rufai said he had no personal issues with members of the National Assembly but was only exercising his right as a citizen of Nigeria to demand for transparency and accountability in its operations.

El-Rufai who also said his drive was to challenge the leader- ship of the National Assembly to fulfill its earlier promise to Nigerians that they would make public details of the income and expenditure of the federal legislature, added that it was in National Assembly interest to make its budget public.

“So, there is no problem. What l did last Friday was to ask the leadership of the National Assembly to fulfill a promise that they made themselves to publish the details of their budget and asking for that is my duty as a citizen and every Nigerian is entitled to ask that question. It is in the National Assembly’s interest to publish it because there are rumours about how humongous amount of money they are getting which l don’t believe it’s true.

“I think the best way to kill that rumour is to publish the details of their budget. But some people took exception. By calling for transparency, l have no apology because as citizens, we have the right to demand for transparency about how our resources are being spent because this N100 billion or so budget of the National Assembly is money belonging to the people of Nigeria.

“Any Nigerian can ask. I’m exercising that right. So, there is no strain relationship with the National Assembly. I have no problem with the speaker. He is my key brother. He respects me and I respect him. I have no problem with the Senate president. We worked together in the past. I have confidence that we will come together in future in the interest of Nigeria. There is no problem but the demand for accountability is not a problem. It should not be construed to be undermining something. It is when somebody has something to hide that he should feel that way,” he said.

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