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Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai

Posted by By Chris Ajaero on 2004/11/26 | Views: 941 |

Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai


Some people are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them. Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, achieved greatness.

Some people are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them. Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, achieved greatness. He rose from grass to grace.He was born 44 years ago in Daudawa, Katsina State of poor parents. Ahmadu el-Rufai, his father was a retired veterinary assistant on a monthly pension of £3. He had 15 children. El-Rufai was the 13th child. Due to his poor parental background, he was exposed to the hardship of the rural setting as a child. "We used to walk three kilometers everyday to the nearest primary school and after school go to the farm to help our father…I got my first pair of shoes when I was eight years old. That is why sometimes when people talk to me about the common man, I just laugh because I know the common man, I was one," el-Rufai said.

El-Rufai took it as a challenge to work extremely hard to achieve success in life. He knew that education was the key to success in life. He embraced it and at six, he could read and write. However, while el-Rufai was struggling to acquire sound education, his father died when he was only eight years old. Luckily for him, Yahaya Hamza, his uncle and former permanent secretary, federal ministry of education, took him as his ward and gave him all the support he needed to win the battle against poverty.

Today, el-Rufai has overcome poverty and become one of the foremost technocrats in Nigeria. Courageous and energetic, el-Rufai's meteoric rise could be largely attributed to the fact that he was determined to excel. He proved his mettle through his academic excellence. At the famous Barewa College, Zaria where he had his secondary school education, el-Rufai passed his West African School Certificate in 1976 in division one with distinction. He was the best all-round student of the college. He proceeded to the School of Basic Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where he also emerged as the best student in the Interim Joint Matriculation Board Examination. El-Rufai, who enjoys calculating figures, studied quantity surveying at the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria and graduated in 1980 with a first class honours degree. Again, he was the best all-round graduate of quantity surveying and winner of Qu-Ess Partnership and Adeoye & Partners prizes.

Still hungry for knowledge, this whiz-kid went back to ABU two years later and earned a master's degree in business administration, MBA, and a post-graduate diploma in computer science in 1984 and 1985, respectively. Armed with these qualifications, el-Rufai then settled down to put into practice what he had learnt in school. He established and managed el-Rufai & Partners, a very successful quantity surveying consulting firm.

Dynamic and restless, el-Rufai set up the Nigerian office of AT & T Network Systems International Limited in April 1988. Between 1997 and 1998, he was the business development manager of Motorola in Nigeria. When Bashir, his elder brother and closest sibling who taught him how to read and write, retired from the Nigerian Telecommunictions Limited, NITEL, in 1996, el-Rufai helped him to establish Intercellular. Bashir is the president of the fast-growing telecommunications firm in which el-Rufai is a major shareholder.

His track record in these companies endeared him to General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former head of state who appointed him a member of the programme implementation monitoring committee, PIMCO, the think-tank that formulated and monitored the implementation of the key political, economic and social policies of that administration. Indeed, el-Rufai and a few other members of the committee virtually wrote the privatisation act.

When Olusegun Obasanjo took over as president on May 29, 1999, he appointed el-Rufai director-general, Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE. El-Rufai was optimistic that as a member of the team that designed the privatisation Act, he would have no difficulty implementing it. He made conscious efforts to handle the privatisation process with transparency and won the confidence of potential investors in Nigeria. As an apostle of reform, el-Rufai sold off many moribund and poorly-performing government owned companies.

He was, however, shocked when he was subjected to personal and institutional attacks by many vested interests. Despite the opposition, el-Rufai succeeded in putting the privatisation programme in high gear. He demonstrated tremendous courage and the political will in selling off inefficient public companies.

Based on the good job he did at BPE, Obasanjo appointed him minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on July 16, 2003. He had hardly settled down to the task of piloting the affairs of the FCT when he tumbled into a controversy. As an anti-corruption crusader, el-Rufai had publicly admitted that some senators demanded N54 million gratification from him during his ministerial screening. This allegation pitched him against the senators who challenged him to name names. He did. He named Ibrahim Mantu, deputy senate president and Jonathan Zwingina, senate majority leader. But the senators cleared their colleagues. It saddened el-Rufai.

El- Rufai received a presidential mandate to restore the Abuja master plan and make the nation's capital city one of the most beautiful in Africa. It was a tall order. It was also a Herculean task because over the years, the Abuja master plan had been distorted by some of the nation's most influential politicians and businessmen.

El-Rufai took on the task with zeal. This led to the demolition of many illegal structures in the FCT. In the process, the minister stepped on many powerful toes. But he soldiers on.

El-Rufai told Newswatch that it has really been tough piloting the affairs of FCT but that he was determined to make the desired impact by restoring the original Abuja master plan designed in 1976 under the late General Murtala Mohammed, the then head of state. He said that his legacy would be to leave FCT better than he found it. He said: "I will like to see the satellite towns developed so that the city will be decongested. I will like to see the low and middle-income people of Abuja get cheaper alternatives of where to live linked with good transportation so that they can come to work in the city and go back without much inconvenience. I would like Abuja to be the cleanest city in the world built according to the master plan."

El-Rufai is from Zaria, Kaduna State. He has two wives and seven children. He said that his wives encourage him to achieve his mission because they share his vision for mankind. Hadiza, his first wife, was his schoolmate in ABU where she studied architecture. She runs a property development company, but is active in her official responsibilities as the minister's wife. Azia, his second wife is a lawyer and works at the Debt Management Office, DMO.

As a Muslim, el-Rufai believes that apart from worshipping God, the social content of religion is for a person to do unto others, as he would like them to do to him. Against this background, his guiding principle is to always try to make decisions that will be to the benefit of a greater number of people, even though they may hurt a few people.

El-Rufai's role model is the late Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto and premier of the Northern Region. He believes Bello provided real leadership. To show how much he admires Bello's leadership qualities, a large portrait of the Sarduana adorns his office. "I constantly look at his picture to get inspiration," the minister said.

The contributions of this energetic young man to the Nigerian society have been acknowledged. In 2001, he received a national honour as Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic, OFR.

El-Rufai has himself become a role model to thousands of young Nigerians for his commitment to excellence and courage in the face of odds.

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