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El-Rufai’s Second Coming

In 2018, Hajiya Hafsat Mohammed Baba, as commissioner of women affairs, made a profound statement in Kaduna but surprisingly, it neither grabbed the headlines nor set social media on fire. In politics, she had lamented, women have been reduced to appendages, entertainers who merely sing and dance at campaign rallies for a token.

Afterwards, a single slot is tossed at them, when the government is formed by various administrations. However, in Kaduna state, Malam Nasir el-Rufai has turned the tables, shattered the glass ceiling and given a better life to rural women. Indeed, women empowerment, from 2015 to date, has become a cardinal government policy and not just a dormant lexicon or campaign rhetoric.

In fact, the El-Rufai administration, within eight years, had surpassed the National Gender Policy of 35% affirmative action. Indeed, there were more women commissioners, more women heading parastatals, and more women at the top echelon of government, than at any time in the history of Kaduna state. Specifically, there were six women commissioners in a 14-member cabinet, including the commissioner of justice and attorney-general. Likewise, the commissioners of housing and urban development, the Planning and Budget Commission, as well as the commissioner of human services and social development, were all women. Similarly, two women headed the ministry of education and the health ministry in the El-Rufai administration. Besides, a woman was the Head of Service and above all, Dr Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe was deputy governor, a pioneer in not just Kaduna state, the northwest geopolitical zone but the entire north.

Significantly, the most impactful poverty alleviation programme, in my humble opinion, remains the Kaduna State Women Empowerment Fund (KADSWEF). The fund, launched five years ago, targeted 1,262 individuals in the first instance where N200 million was disbursed to 123 women cooperatives, 10 women with disabilities clusters and over 1,000 women entrepreneurs, on November 14, 2018. Personally, El-Rufai and senior government officials, on that fateful day, gathered at the Umaru Musa Yar’adua Conference Centre to flag off KADSWEF amidst pomp and pageantry. Instantly, about 300 people benefited from the scheme and some of them even got credit alerts at the event’s venue. KADSWEF, in the last three years, has doled out N600 million to different women groups and people with disabilities.

However, beyond women empowerment, human capital development was also close to El-Rufai’s heart and he pursued it with gusto, believing that only a vibrant, skilled and knowledgeable population can move Kaduna state forward. In fact, he created the Human Capital Development Council out of the five policy councils, to collaborate with government agencies and the private sector, to improve citizens’ standard of living. Basically, the council engaged parents, community and religious leaders, as well as captains of industries, to drive the process through the Capacity Building, Advocacy and Sensitisation (CABAS) programme.

Consistently, his administration earmarked over 25%, for seven years, of its budgetary allocation to education and over 15% to the health sector. Besides, the government has built a primary healthcare centre in each of the 255 wards in the state, made education free and compulsory from primary to senior secondary school levels, and provided pupils with free books and uniforms.

Significantly, the Urban Renewal Project, an omnibus infrastructural upgrade is the jewel on the crown of El-Rufai’s stellar achievements. The project, launched in June 2019, has 14 components and it is the most comprehensive construction work in the history of Kaduna state. In the main, it comprises road construction, mass transit, housing and improved land use, street lights, parks and recreational centres, as well as markets, neighbourhood centres, and waste management. In summary, it covers Kaduna city and adjourning local governments, Zaria and Kafanchan towns.

So far, some roads have been commissioned and others will be due in the next few months. For example, WAFF road has been dualized from the NEPA roundabout to Essence Junction, and so has Yakubu Gowon Way. The Leventis roundabout has been replaced with an underpass and traffic congestion, a feature of that area, has somewhat disappeared as motorists enjoy a free ride even at peak hours. Similarly, Alkali Road has been dualized, likewise Tafawa Balewa Way and Swimming Pool Road. In addition, the road from Arewa House to Kinshasha roundabout has also been dualized and renamed Nasir El-Rufai Road by Senator Uba Sani, the present governor of Kaduna state.

However, the long stretch from Arewa House through Unguwar Kanawa, to the old NDA, linking the Western Bypass to the Rigasa train station is near completion and it is part of the new Nasir El-Rufai Road. In fact, the 14-kilometre road will have two bridges, one underpass and a flyover, a thoroughfare that will link the Western Bypass to Millenium City when completed. In addition, the road linking Kabala Costain directly to Barnawa, which will start from Police College Roundabout at Independence Way, and cross river Kaduna, will soon be completed, thus reducing pressure on Junction Road, Stadium Roundabout and Station Market general area.

Right now, Kaduna is wearing a new look and in January 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari gave kudos to El-Rufai during his state visit. Buhari, in a moment of candour, said that El-Rufai has been committed “to changing Kaduna and you have been very successful. People throughout the country are appreciating it. You are writing your history in letters of gold. I congratulate you for your achievements so far”.

Last Thursday, President Bola Tinubu sent names of ministerial nominees to the senate and on that list, El-Rufai’s name featured among the 28, to the applause of many Nigerians. El-Rufai, like other nominees, has been beckoned to serve and the man with the Midas Touch, in this second coming, will make a positive impact in whatever ministry he heads—as he has always had.