Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Interview with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai on Boko Haram and State of the Nation by Zainab Usman

I use this opportunity to present to you, as I have always tried to do so, one of those Nigerian and African write-ups that I judge worthy of promoting and sharing. I am happy to propose this particular one to you for some crucial reasons that every objective reader will confirm after reading this. It’s strength is not only on the capacity and capability of the interviewer and the interviewed but on the crucial nature of the topics discoursed. It’s just a must read as topics like Insecurity, Corruption, Governance, Leadership, Kidnapping, Militancy, Religious and Regional crisis, just name them, are laid bay in this interview. Refusing, not just to read this interview, but also failing to finish it all will be a serious denial to ones intellectual curiosity. I leave you to Usman Zainab and Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.

This post is an excerpt from the February 25th edition of the Nigeria Village Square (NVS)NOW WHAT weekly series of which I am a panel member. It was originally posted HERE. Enjoy!!

Now What Podcasts[1] : The NOW WHAT podcasts Series are initiated by a desire to chart a way forward for Nigeria following the January occupy protests, Boko Haram and other security challenges and the seeming slide to anarchy in Nigeria. Each week, members of the NVS forum will exchange ideas in a round-table and will also invite high profile guests to offer ideas
On Saturday February 25, 2012, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was our guest. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai spoke on Boko Haram, Sovereign National Conference, Security, and so much more in a very frank manner.
The following is transcript of the first part of the interview, with focus on Transformational Leadership, his support for Buhari and How to deal with the Boko Haram menace.
Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Part 1)

Introduction: Good-day everyone. My name is Anwuli Emenanjo in Toronto, Canada and I’ll like to welcome you to another episode of the  Nigerian Village Square podcast series entitled ‘’Now What’’.
This week, we are pleased to have Mallam Nasir El Rufai as our special guest . Many of us are familiar with Mallam Rufai following his articles, Facebook comments and tweets so no formal introduction  is really required but for the benefit of those that don’t know him, Mallam Rufai was a former Director General of The Bureau of Public Enterprises, the head privatisation agency in Nigeria and also the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja from 2003 to 2007.  He also served as an adviser in the transition government of General Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Our co-hosts for today’s show are Zainab Usman from the UK and Ajibola Robinson from West Virgina U.S.A.
We also have some of our forum members also known as villagers that have called in. we would be taking questions from them in the course of the show and also at the end in the Q&A segments with the audience.
Without further ado, I will hand over the Baton to Zainab to begin with the series of questions we have for you today…Zainab….
NVS: Hello everyone, its our pleasure to have you here with us today. I will be handling questions on transformational leadership and on Boko Haram. My first question is on transformational leadership.
In a recent article, I stated that the core north is in terminal decline due to lack of transformational leadership, economic decline and retardation of the region due to dependence on oil revenues, and a cultural mindset that is contributing to our retrogression in many aspects. What’s your take on these?
El-Rufai: Zainab I found your article very inspiring and interesting. I agree with views you expressed in the article. I think the north has not been doing very well in many ways, and the key issue, like most of Nigeria is the challenge of transformational leadership. I agree with you, I think I went out of my way to share your article because I think every Nigerian, indeed every northerner needs to read it. So I agree with you 100%.
The question is what do we do about it? How do we create a system that throws up new generation of leaders that are transformational rather than transactional? This is the challenge.
Do I have any answer? I don’t, but I think that those of us that care about Nigeria and the north ought to put our heads together to continue that search, and I am in opposition to do more in that search. But there are no silver bullets, no quick answers. I agree with everything you wrote in your article.
NVS: thank you for your answer to that question, and this actually leads to my second question – As a speaker at a TEDx event in December 2009, you also stated there is a failure of leadership in Africa. SO it appears its across the Continent. Could you please elaborate on that?
El-Rufai: Yes yes, you know your article focused on the north and it’s good, but I think the leadership deficit is throughout the country and the continent. Some countries are better than the others, Botswana, Mauritius are better, some parts of Southern Africa, but generally we have problem of leadership in Africa and it’s something that we all must put our heads together and try to find solutions to. In Nigeria's case, its very evident where we are now and where we are going. It clearly shows that we need transformational leadership. Clearly!
NVS: You just stated that you don’t really have any answers to the leadership issue, but is there anything you think ………………………..
El-Rufai: In Nigeria, the country I’m most familiar with, I think the key to getting the right leaders in Nigeria is to have elections that matter. Now, part of the reason we have the type of leaders we have and the way they behave is because they know that we do not need to elect them, they will elect themselves, they will rig elections, they will bribe judges to remain in power. So they don’t care what you think, they don’t care what I think, they don’t care to deliver on any promise or to perform. At every election cycle all they need to have is a load of money with which to bribe officials, bribe results and challenge you to go to the tribunal.
So the real thing that we should focus on in Nigeria, I think, is to get accountable election. We must get elections that matters. Once we have elections that matters, it will take time, but over a few election cycle we would throw out the bad leaders and hopefully elect the good ones. That is what I think is the long term solution. Do we have any short term solutions? I don’t think so. We have these people, they are entrenched and they will do everything to protect their system of governance, and unless we all stand up and ensure that we have better elections, I think we are on our way to perdition.
NVS: This also leads to my next question. You talk about elections as the key to solving our leadership problem. In the last election you had the opportunity to support either Nuhu Ribadu or Muhammadu Buhari and you supported the latter. A lot of people will like to know ..given that you have been an advocate of transformational leadership, some would argue that supporting a man who has been in various forms of power for over 30 year contradicts this stance. Could you shed more light on this?
El-Rufai: I decided to support General Muhamodu Buhari because I think that even though he has been around for the past 30 years, in the times he had to lead he was transformational … when he was head of state between 1984 and 85, he moved Nigeria in the direction that I think if it has not been terminated we would have been a different country. So he was transformational as head of state, and in his other assignments as minister of petroleum under Obasanjo, and head of the Petroleum Trust Fund his leadership style was transformational rather than transactional. This is part of the reasons why I supported him, but on the whole, I looked at all the candidates out there, including my brother Nuhu Ribadu and I felt that Buhari was just more qualified to change the direction of the country at that point in time, and that’s what I did. I don’t think being around makes one less transformational, or being new makes one more transformational than others. I think you have to look at the track record of performance, and that’s what I did.

NVS: Thank you. Now I’m moving on to the next section which is on Boko Haram. Obviously a lot has been happening in Nigeria. What is your take on the current state of insecurity in Nigeria, especially in the North?
El-Rufai: Well, it is very sad. I think the situation and the general security situation in Nigeria is terrible. And it all has to do in the short term, with the incompetence of the government to deliver on security. But I think the problem is something that has been in the north for a while, joblessness, poverty and the fact that the 19 northern governors has not been investing enough in human development.
This has built up for a long time, but in the last 12 years I think we have had the most clear case of lost opportunity. Because the northern state governors have received a lot of money but they have not invested enough in education, health care, and the environment that will create opportunity and work for our people, and I think that some of these outbursts of violence are related to this lack of opportunity.
The problem is more pronounced in the north obviously, but it’s all over the country. You have area boys in the South west; you have kidnappers and militants in the South east and the South south respectively. All these arise due to deficit of opportunities and hope, and I think that unless as a country and as a region in the north we address this issue, they are going to manifest in many ways. You cannot have security when you have hopelessness in the society, and this is the challenge that we face as a country and the northern region.
NVS: Alright, thank you. My next question is that there are lots of concerns in the South that Northern Hausa/Fulani leaders are not doing enough to speak out and condemn the activities of Boko Haram, what would you say to that?
El-Rufai: I think that is an unfair assessment. I don’t think people in the south are listening. I think every notable leader in the north, from the Sultan of Sokoto, the governors to many leading politicians, have condemned the activity of Boko Haram and has shown that what they are doing has nothing to do with Islam. But beyond that what is anyone expected to do? It is not the condemnation of Boko Haram that will solve the problem. It is government using it’s resources and intelligence to solve the problem.
Part of the reason you have all these issues is because we have a government that chooses to blame rather than solve problems. I think it is unfair to say that northern leaders have not condemn Boko Haram, they have, but they didn’t get the media attention, it is only when Boko Haram strike that get media attention. And in that way I think some of the distorted media attention is actually encouraging the activities of Boko Haram, rather than the other way round. I think it’s unfair, which northern leader has not condemn Boko Haram? I don’t know, they should name names, but that is not the main issue.
The main issue for the government to solve the problem, because security is in the hands of the government, it’s not in the hands of northern political leaders or traditional rulers or anyone.
NVS: Thank you for that very interesting point. What short and long-term solutions do you think can be implemented to solve the security question in Nigeria?
El-Rufai: Well, you know, I think in the short term government should do what it should do in the area of security, get better intelligence, be more proactive to prevent attacks rather than issue dry statements after the deed has happened. Intelligence is the key. How do you get good intelligence? By ensuring that you win the hearts and minds of the communities in which this terrorists and other criminals operate, there’s no other way of getting intelligence.
You do not get intelligence by asking Soldiers to go and kill everyone in the community. You get the intelligence by winning the hearts and minds of people in the community and I think in that regards, the Nigerian military has messed up and its the reason why we are where we are, the government has messed up by unleashing the military on communities that are innocent, and killing more people than even Boko Haram has been killing. But they are using Boko Haram here as an example, but it’s the problems all over the country, whether it’s the kidnappers, the militants and so on and so forth.
So that is why in the short term I think we need better intelligence. The government needs to re-think it’s strategy because the strategy of over militarization has not worked. That is one.
Secondly, the government must work with community leaders to try to get to the root of this problem, and the government should not think it has all the answers, it should be willing to listen to the communities to try to solve this problem. In June last year the Borno elders came and saw president Jonathan and advise him to withdraw the military and work with them to try to get to the root of the Boko Haram problem. He didn’t even consider the advise, he rejected it outright and said he prefers the military option. Well, we are now in February, within last year, 9 months has passed, things has gone from bad to worse because the government has not listened to the community leaders. The community leaders have some solution, they have some answers and they should be listened to.
That’s in the short term, now in the medium term and long term, the root of the terrorism; the root of hopelessness must be addressed. So the government should create the opportunity for restoring hope in people by more investments in education, in health care and employment opportunities. That will definitely solve the problem in the long term. The current level of poverty and inequality in our society are the roots of these problems and unless they are attacked in a sustained long term manner we will continue to have this kind of outbreak of violence in many different ways. These I think are the short and medium term approach to the problem.
NVS: You have actually answered the next question I was going to ask you, about the recent meeting of the Vice President and the 19 northern governors where they agree or resolved to go back to the “old traditional ways of gathering information and intelligence” in other to defeat Boko Haram. I guess you have already answered that. It’s something you actually recommended right now.
El-Rufai: When you’re trying to gather intelligence, you have to rely on traditional institutions, formal institutions, beer parlours etc. and this is the way it should be done. And that's what security agencies should be used for and not for …..
But having said that,  I think the 19 northern governors ought to understand that in many ways they are the root of this problem. Because they are not investing in education and health care and employment opportunities for the people that’s why some of these problems are breaking  out and thinking they could use the traditional rulers to get intelligence is scratching the surface, they should do the right thing. They should deliver good governance, that is the way some of these problems could be solve, just as an addition.
NVS: Ok, thank you for that. So with the growing tensions in the North between Muslims and non-Muslims, what is your take on the perception that  some sections of the core north, have refused to allow non-Muslims and non-northerners to exist in peace? How can this issue be resolved?
El-Rufai: I think that the contention that there is tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in the north, I think is exaggerated. Yes there are tension in some states of the north, but during the fuel subsidy protest, we saw videos of Muslims protecting Christians in their churches and Christians protecting Muslims as they were praying. So I think that to some extent the fuel subsidy protest has bridged the gap between Islam and Christianity in many part of the north particularly in Kano, Kaduna and some of the hot spots.  So I’m not sure that is the big issue on the table right now.
But having said that, even assuming that there are tension, I do not agree that non-Muslims are not being allowed to live in peace. You know in every society you have defiant, you have strange groups that do all kinds of things that are wrong, but that does not mean that the majority of the people share that view. Book Haram is a defiant group, they are doing things that most Muslims do not agree with.
Northerners, whether Muslims, do not agree with their doctrine, but they are doing it anyway. But to take the conduct of Boko Haram and label all northerners or all Muslims as Boko Haram I think is unfortunate which we must stop as a country. I do not think that this issues are beyond resolution, and I think that Muslims and Christians, especially in the north and in fact all over Nigeria are living in peace. But you have a few cases of defiance and those that wants to cause division., and it is up to all of us as Christians and Muslims, as enjoined by the bible and the Koran, to come together and say no to all of these..
NVS: So, how do you react to the news that CBN donated N100 million to the Kano State Government for onward delivery to victims of the recent Boko-Haram bomb attacks in the state? A lot of people want to know why he chose Kano and not other states where there have been victims of Boko Haram as well. Who is the money meant for and why the lopsided donation. What’s your own opinion?
El-Rufai: Well, do you know I don’t have a clear opinion on this because I have not spoken to the governor of the Central Bank to know the rationale for their decision. But I know that the Central Bank does many such donations as part of their corporate social responsibility.
They have donated hundreds of millions to universities to set up doctoral chairs and they do not explain why they choose one university over another. They have not donated to Ahmadu Bello which is the university I and Sanusi Lamido attended, but they have donated to University of Nigeria Nsukka, for instance.
So the motive behind their decision to donate to Kano instead of another, I’m sure, Sanusi will be able to explain because I know he is one of the most logical human beings I have come upon, and I’ve known him since we were both 15 years of age. So I think Sanusi will have a rational explanation for it, and if you look at the Central Bank website and see the pattern of their social responsibilities and donations, perhaps something will strike you as they pick and choose where they donate. But I have not spoken to Lamido Sanusi to understand the reason behind it.
NVS: Thank you. The next question is that Some of your tweets seem to suggest that  government should dialogue with Boko Haram despite its belligerent stance towards non-Muslims and its increasingly deadly attacks.  How would you respond to suggestions from some quarters for government not to engage in any form of dialogue with Boko Haram?”
El-Rufai: I think that those that are saying that you should not dialogue with Boko Haram are not being rational, honestly. Because today, America’s been in Afghanistan for 11 years. They’ve kicked out the Taliban, they are still fighting the Taliban, but they are willing to discuss with the Taliban.
America went to Iraq, spent 1 trillion dollars, left without solving all the problem. You cannot defeat an insurgence with military force alone. You should combine military force with political discussion. Those that are saying we should not dialogue with Boko Haram don’t get it. Look around you, you will see that the countries that say you should not negotiate with terrorists are also talking to what they called terrorists.
The British fought with the IRA for many many years, but they open channels of communication to talk to them. This is the only way to defeat insurgency.
So I think, based on the situation that we are as a country, the government should find channels to communicate and talk to Boko Haram and try to find out what is their real grudge, why are they doing what they are doing, and see which of their demands can be accommodated, because we all know what happened.
The police killed their leader extra-judicially, so they have foundation for them to feel aggrieved. And since those that killed their leader have not been brought to justice, Boko Haram has a reason to feel aggrieved against the government. So the government should talk to them and find out if there’s away this issue can be settled without further loss of lives and property.
I support the need to discuss with them, I do not think those that are saying don’t discuss with Boko Haram, crush them, know what they are talking about because they have not looked around the world to see how similar situations are being handled. And I refer them to Afghanistan, to the UK as well as Iraq.
NVS: My last question on this section is that Lamido Sanusi recently linked Boko Haram activities with revenue allocation and derivation, that is the ‘’inequitable’’ distribution of revenue with the oil producing states in the Niger Delta getting 13 percent was responsible for Boko Haram activities. Do you agree with this view?
El-Rufai: That is not what Sanusi said exactly. I tried to follow up this story very carefully because I sit on the Thisday editorial board. It was Thisday that first published the story that Sanusi linked derivation to Boko Haram and they took the story from the Financial Times and when I read the original story in the Financial Times, I didn’t find Sanusi saying that. What Lamido Sanusi said which is economics prism- anyone that studies political economy  know is true is that  inequality and poverty leads to violence in any society and the reason why societies have social safety net is because they want to avoid that. It is an established fact the political economy all over the world. When you have inequality of income and poverty, you have violence. This is what Sanusi said to Financial Times but many Nigerian newspapers took this and recast this to say that he has linked Boko Haram to derivation.
Having said that, I believe as I indicated that when you have serious income inequality you have all these problems. So they should be addressed. I don’t think that derivation alone is the problem. I think the problem of Nigeria is bad governance. Because even though the Niger delta states are getting 3, 4 times the average Nigerian…..per capital in income, I think apart from a couple of them, they are not using their resources well. So you have the same kind of hopelessness that led to militancy, and the kind of hopelessness that may have encouraged Boko Haram and other insurgents all over the country, also in the Niger delta.
My concern really, when the money being given out under the amnesty program gets finished, this ex-militants will become new militants because they are used to getting free cash and where would they find jobs that would give them as much money. So it’s something that’s quite tricky, it’s something that we need to think through how to manage. But I believe that a fairer more equitable distribution of income in any society and addressing poverty issue and giving people hope is the solution to the problem of violence and terrorism and so no and so forth, in the long term.
NVS: We are now mid-way in the podcast and we will be taking some audience questions but before I move on to that, I will like for you to go back to talk more or elaborate more about dialogue with Boko Haram.  Goodluck Jonathan has already reached out and tried to talk to Boko Haram when he appeared on BBC and Al-Jazeera and their answer to his request for dialogue was that they are not interested in anything; that that they want him to become a Muslim, you know…actually dialogue was not a success. Boko Haram was already violent and the Government has tried to talk to them. So, when you talk in terms of Dialogue. What would you like to see happen that is not happening?
El-Rufai -
Look.. First, I think you are wrong. Boko Haram did not become violent until the June 2009 operations. The truth of that matter was that it was the Borno State Government that killed their followers when they went to bury them after being involved in a motorcycle accident and that’s a fact. That was the beginning of Boko Haram going violent. They were not violent before, they were a fringe group, they were doing their own thing, everyone ignored them until the Government attacked them and then unleashed the military on them in June 2009  when their leaders were extra-judicially killed. So it is not true that they were violent to start with – as far as I know.
Secondly, I feel that at this point in time there’s complete breakdown of trust between the communities in which Boko Haram operates, the Boko Haram leadership and the government, and for any meaningful dialogue to begin, I think you need to get community leaders that Boko Haram will trust to act as interlocutor and intermediaries between the Government and them. I think if they see people, if they see credible leaders that can assure them that the Government will fulfill its own promises to them. I think dialogue is possible. I honestly think so.
I do not think that the stories about Boko Haram saying that they want everyone to become a Muslim are completely true. They know that in the North, there’s nothing like 100% sharia in every state of the North. Even in the States where Sharia was applied, it was not applied to non-Muslim. This is how we have always lived and they know that.
They may make that as a demand just by way of brinkmanship, but I believe we are at point where if you get credible leaders, and I can mention some names – if you can get people like Gene Yakubu Gowon, Shettimu Ali Monguno, Gen Mohammadu Shuwa, General Muhammadu Buhari –  people like that that everyone respects and they know they are not on the payroll of any government to lead any effort to negotiate with BH and the government, I think it is possible to open a channel and that’s what I recommend very strongly.

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