Nseobong Okon-Ekong holds a conversation with Naymarie Francesca Musa, Special Assistant to Governor Nasir El-Rufai on Political Matters on how the governor’s disposition to gender equity and inclusion of women in political processes has improved fiscal transparency, access to information and all areas of governance in the state
As an aide on Political affairs to the Governor of Kaduna State, what would you say about the governor’s inclusion of women in governance of the state?
His Excellency Governor Nasir El-Rufai has raised the bar in Gender Equity and women inclusion in governance compared to his predecessors and other states of the federation. The percentage of women in key executive positions has risen to 33% – a major policy departure from most Nigerian politicians. As we all know that the state government has adopted Open Government Partnership (OGP)- women inclusion is one of the key ingredients that is helping this OGP achieve numerous successes in the areas of promoting fiscal transparency, access to information, citizen engagement and empowerment. The government should be commended for the bold vision and implementation of this policy.
One of the strident criticisms of Governor El-Rufai is that he has exploited the religious and ethnic diversity in the state to his advantage, do you agree?
In politics, there are people that will support you and there will be notable oppositions and regardless of your achievements, your opponents will never acknowledge your success. It is public knowledge that this insinuation is not true.
Moreover, in Nigeria politics, most opposition have dedicated resources to always conduct negative research and mill out propaganda to discredit the government in power. There is no doubt that every government has its challenges, religious crisis and ethnic diversity is not peculiar to Kaduna state, it is a national phenomenon. At that, the Kaduna state government shortly before the inauguration of its second term, restructured the state governance platform to address religious & security concerns by creation of a new ministry and feedback mechanism to report security concern and suspicious activities in various neighborhoods and communities of Kaduna State. In terms of ethnic diversity, all major residents and indigenes of Kaduna states are represented in the governance structure. There is no doubt that governance in Kaduna is more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens based on the numerous efforts of the governor.
The Kaduna governor has been accused of playing to the gallery by taking one of his sons to a public school, where are his other children?
It is easier said than done. I saw a similar comment credited to a notable opposition in Kaduna, knowing-fully-well that all three children of this opposition figure are currently studying in a UK university and two are in a British secondary school – where they pay millions of Naira in tuition per term in Abuja. His Excellency is the only Nigerian high-ranking politician that has fulfilled his promise in this regard. The most fascinating part was when the press interviewed the little boy, the response was so organic, he said, “Yes, I will miss my former school, my friends and my teacher, but I like this school as well and I want to support my parents to fulfill their promises.” Call it whatever you like, the little boy is a hero, he has the options to decline and insist that he wants the former school. We have read about similar examples in the holy books. Therefore, to have justification against this, let the critics too enroll their children in public schools. If the school system is not good enough, I know that the governor has many alternatives. But I see this as a bold statement of confidence in the state educational sub-sector.
Managing the Moslem-Moslem ticket in Kaduna must have been very challenging to you, how were you able to ride the tide?
One of the major problems facing our country is religious and identity bias. Instead of putting a round peg in a round hole, most of the time we have prioritize religious sentiments above competencies. I think the arguments should have been focused on whether the running mate has requisite qualification, experience and track records to deliver in such capacity. As we can see, even going by the fist 100days in office, the Deputy Governor has exceeded expectations in all areas.
Does El-Rufai have presidential ambition?
I cannot speak for the governor, but I believe with his level of his political maturity and experience in both public and private sectors he is not only well- qualified but also popular in all geopolitical zones. Nevertheless, Mallam’s focus at the moment is realizing his transformation vision for Kaduna state. Kaduna is witnessing unprecedented transformation. 2023 is almost four years away. The task at hand now is building and leaving a lasting legacy that will benefit generations to come. Political talks about 2023 is an unnecessary distraction for now. When we get there, we shall cross the bridge.
The Kaduna governor’s sister is the Finance Minister, is this of any political advantage to Kaduna State?
It is an irrelevant issue whether they are related. Is she qualified to be Finance Minister? Undoubtedly yes. The Minister of Finance I believe is representing the northwest geographical zone. She is a minister of the federal government and not Kaduna state. The President of the federal republic has an established vetting system and standard for selecting his ministers. The qualified candidates went through a rigorous screening process and security clearance for them to be considered. Nepotism cannot work in this scenario. I believe the minister is well qualified and she can deliver on mandate given to her; and so far, so good.
Governor El-Rufai is one of the few governors who constituted his cabinet early, what does this say about the capacity of the governor to embark on wide consultation of and get the buy-in of different stakeholders in the polity?
The Governor has passion for policy reform, we have seen the result from various development activities in the FCT when he was a minister. The policies he established has kept FCT focused on development agenda till date. I don’t think you have to wait till after the elections to know who you want on your team. This should be part of pre-election political process. As I mentioned earlier, with the embrace of OGP – which requires consultative process between government and civil society, the government is now running on a platform that ensures more effective citizens participation across all sectors and dialogue mechanism through technology-based citizen feedback on all initiatives and programmes.
As the recognized political capital of northern Nigeria, does your job as SA Political to the Kaduna State governor include reaching out to other governors and opinion leaders in the region?
Every office has its own charter and mandate, we also have expectations and performance review process. So far, I have been able to live up to and exceeded those expectations
What has been your most difficult assignment so far and how do you cope with politics and family?
Political challenges are not peculiar to me, especially. Women in politics are constantly faced with carbon-dated problems of political complexes. Some school of thought believe women are not supposed to be part of the political process and governance -with this fact in mind and based on my personal experiences- I always underscore assignments and daily task with success above and beyond. My family is very supportive of my career and I cannot thank them enough.
In terms of ethnic diversity, all major residents and indigenes of Kaduna states are represented in the governance structure. There is no doubt that governance in Kaduna is more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens based on the numerous efforts of the governor