Months after extolling El-Rufai, Kaduna governor blames him for state debts

IT is becoming clearer that all is not going well between Kaduna State’s former Governor Nasir el-Rufai and his successor, the incumbent Governor Uba Sani.

Months after extolling his predecessor, Sani has come hard on the past administration, blaming it for the state’s debt and his government’s inability to pay salaries.

Whereas Sani helped the state to secure part of the loans that contributed to the debt while representing the state at the Senate.

In his inaugural address to the state on May 29, 2023, Sani extolled el-Rufai, describing him as a leader who left a legacy of transformational leadership in the state.

“Before I end this inaugural address, I must not fail to pay tribute to my boss, mentor and long-standing ally, the pace-setting, innovative and resourceful immediate past Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has changed the face of Kaduna State and made it the envy of all. His transformational leadership and developmental drive have redefined and raised the bar of governance.

“The high standards he has set are both a source of pride and a challenge to us his associates and loyalists. Sir, we shall constantly feed off your huge wealth of experience in our journey to consolidate the good works you have already started in Kaduna State,” he had said.

He went on to rename a 15km road after the former governor.

Sani described renaming the road, formerly Rabah Road, as a gesture of appreciation for El-Rufai’s hard work and dedication to good governance.

The close relationship between both men preceded Sani’s election as governor.

In 2020, while he served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Sani had spoken in favour of a $350 million loan, which the Kaduna state government, then under the leadership of El-Rufai, sought.

He went further to assume responsibility for what he considered the unlikely possibility that El-Rufai would fail in the utilisation of the loan.

“I even insist that I, Senator Uba Sani be held liable if the Governor fails or disappoints. But of course, I know Mallam Nasir el-Rufai will never fail the people of Kaduna State. I am extremely happy and proud of the role some of us played in securing this loan for Kaduna State.

“Like most Nigerians are already well aware, Mallam Nasir El Rufai has totally reworked Kaduna State. The State now boasts of top-notch infrastructures. This loan, once accessed, will enhance the efforts of the Governor in the on-going upgrade of infrastructures in the State. With the approval of the National Assembly for the loan from the World Bank, better times are coming for Kaduna State,” Sani had said.

However, less than a year into his tenure, Sani announced that his government would not be able to pay workers their salaries and blamed this development on the debts he inherited from the previous administration.

“Despite the huge debt burden of $587 million, N85 billion, and 115 contractual liabilities sadly inherited from the previous administration, we remain resolute in steering Kaduna State towards progress and sustainable development. We have conducted a thorough assessment of our situation and are sharpening our focus accordingly,” Sani said on Saturday, March 30.

Sani also said the devaluation of the naira was making it more difficult to pay back the debt, and a huge chunk of the federal allocation was being channelled towards debt servicing, leaving the state with inadequate funds to pay salaries.

This statement has sparked several reactions from Nigerians, especially on social media. Some have accused Sani of being incapable and dug up old reports where he declared support for El-Rufai’s government.

However, one of the most significant reactions came from the former governor’s son, Bashir El-Rufai, who accused Sani of being a key player in the previous government, contributing to the debt.

You are not ready to work – El-Rufai’s son tells governor

Bashir El-Rufai took to his official X handle on Saturday and, reacting to Sani’s comments, said he was only making excuses.

“The current administration in Kaduna is building a banquet hall for seven billion naira and is lamenting about debt left by the previous administration,” he noted in a post.

“He was the Senator from Kaduna who lobbied and approved the loans,” Bashir said in another of his posts on Saturday.

He also reposted some other posts condemning Sani’s statements and was reported as describing the governor as incompetent.



    “These guys have realised that they are wholly incompetent, and the only way to mask the nonsense is to deflect. From a Governor that is always sleeping in Abuja to a litany of incompetent aides that were only rewarded for foolish political reasons,” he was reported as posting.

    The recent development between Sani and his predecessor further fuels reports of a rift between both men, which began circulating in 2023 during El-Rufai’s ministerial nomination.

    The former governor had been nominated for a ministerial appointment by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, but after the National Assembly withheld his clearance for the position, El-Rufai announced that he was no longer interested in it.

    There were reports that El-Rufai suggested a replacement for his position, and his choice was opposed by the current governor, leading to friction between both men.

    Ijeoma Opara is a journalist with The ICIR. Reach her via [email protected] or @ije_le on Twitter.

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