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Author Name: Ajayi O.OLOWO
Number of articles: 9
As hands of the clock tickle and scheduled date for the governorship primaries of the ruling Peoples... (1) Comment


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Nigeria - RE: “Dealing with El-Rufai Nuisance” by Moses Ochonu – A Rejoinder
Author: Ajayi O.OLOWO | August 26, 2011



It would have been unnecessary to write a rejoinder to the above stated article published in various online media save for the need to correct the erroneous views of the writer â Moses Ochonu, which is capable of misleading unsuspecting readers who may be unaware of the critical details of issues raised. It is also important to situate the remote and immediate dispositions which must have propelled the writer. From the palpable anger Ochonu displays and vitriolic attack hurled with less than modest choice of words, it is clear the Nigerian Associate Professor of modern history at Vanderbilt University has a motive beyond mere public commentary. I shall come to that later in this rejoinder. The bedrock of Ochonuâs is his attack against the person of Nasir el-Rufai at the ongoing public hearing of a committee of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the implementation of the privatisation programme from 1999 to date. Nasir el-Rufai served as Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises between November 1999 and June 2003 before he was appointed the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory. Moses started his article by insinuating that el-Rufai âknows how to get the nationâs attention and use damning moments of scrutiny to his advantageâ¦.â One wonders what sense he labours to make. Like everyone else specifically invited by the Senate Committee, Nasir el-Rufai had, during a session under live television coverage on Thursday â 11th August 2011, restated his roles and the robust implementation of the privatisation programme under his tenure with zero tolerance for political interference from the topmost echelon of government at the time and abhorrence for corrupt inducement from any quarter. These details have not been controverted in any sense. In the second paragraph of the article, the writer had described as sensational the revelation that Nasir el-Rufai rejected a bribe routed through a subordinate by the Chairman of Globacom- Mike Adenuga in 2003. It is not clear what is sensational about the fact, which is now in the public domain. It is important to note that two days after el-Rufai appeared before the Senate Committee, the culprit and accessory in the bribery attempt saga â Jean Charles Osuji appeared before the same committee and publicly confessed to the crime. He clearly stated that el-Rufai refused the bribe. This is a rebuttal of the presumption by Ochonu that the story was made up as a self-serving image laundering as he tended to proffer in the third paragraph of his write-up. Ochonu deliberately misconstrued issues and made assertions at variance with the reality in the Public Hearing. He attempted to twist the facts publicly presented before the Senate Committee by el-Rufai for whatever reasons known to him. El-Rufai had clarified that only one of the 33 enterprises privatised during his tenure did not do well â Electric Meter Company of Nigeria (EMCON) in Zaria due to a change in government policy from the traditional meter to pre-paid meter system. But how did Ochonu put this in his article? He imputed that the company under reference is NITEL whereas it is not. Considering all that he wrote about the NITEL privatisation, why and how the attempted privatisation of the National Telecom monopoly and the Management Contract with Pentascope were not consummated, it is obvious he has a very shallow and incongruous knowledge of what he was trying to critically review. The undisputable fact is that the attempted privatisation of NITEL in 2001 was inconclusive because the winning bidder, Investment International London Limited (IILL), could not fulfil the payment terms under the bidding rules. And when the Federal Government decided on a Management Contract for an interim refocusing of NITEL, the selection process was thoroughly carried out and PENTASCOPE BV of Netherland emerged through a transparent process diligently conducted by the el-Rufai-led BPE. Why and how the Pentascope Management Contract of NITEL was bungled is a duty the immediate successor of el-Rufai in the BPE â Dr. Julius Bala owes the Nigerian public because it was under his tenure that the implementation of the Management Contract took place. Details of how the privatisation of NITEL went and why the Pentascope Management contract was aborted after el-Rufai left BPE in 2003 are put in perspective in Chapters 4 & 5 of a book authored by my humble self in 2007, titled âNasir Ahmad El-Rufai, An Embodiment of Pragmatismâ with ISNB: 978-978-080-350-6. It is obvious the writer lacks knowledge of what transpired at the Public Hearing, as his writing portends an ulterior motive devoid of any objective public commentary. This is evident from his attempt to reconstruct historical facts as if they were theoretical paradigm capable of subjective academic debate in an ivory tower. For instance, apart from the on-going public hearing, he falsely stated that el-Rufai apologised to Senators Mantu and Zwingina on the popular âbribe-for-Senate-Clearance sagaâ of 2003. The fact is in the public domain that el-Rufai never apologised to the bribe-demanding senators, rather he re-affirmed the circumstance in which the Senators made the demand when he appeared before the Senate Ethics Committee then headed by Senator Olorunimbe Mamora. Although the Senate Committee treated the issue as an in-house matter, that did not obliterate the facts in issue â that the affected Senators made a demand for bribe from Nasir el-Rufai, an event which turned el-Rufai into a momentary whistle blower. In another breadth, the writer raised the issue of a purported âfemale youth corperâ el-Rufai was allegedly paying millions of naira. The issue further confirms the shallow knowledge of Ochonu. The lady being referred to, an American citizen (of Nigerian descent) happened to be my colleague at the BPE during the tenure of el-Rufai. She was not a Youth Corps member as insinuated. Rather she was a World Bank Consultant attached to the BPE and later worked at the FCT for a short while during el-Rufaiâs tenure. It is important to note that consultants of the status of the lady in question â whether Nigerian or foreigner while working on programmes anchored by the Nigerian Government were not employees of the Federal Government. Their emoluments were drawn from the multilateral funding support provided by international development agencies. If Ochonu or anyone else has any information to the contrary, such should be made public.In another paragraph, the writer indicated in one breadth that el-Rufai was on a self-exile, but at another breadth he stated that he (el-Rufai) was allowed to return home by Jonathan. That sounds oxymoronic. If el-Rufai was on self exile, then he would not have needed anybodyâs permission when he returned to Nigeria on the 5th of May 2010. This cast serious doubt on the objectivity of the judgment of the writer. This professor of history has his history muddled up. Considering the allusions, assertions innuendoes and conclusions in the article which reeks with prejudice, there is a need to unveil the personality of Moses Ochonu and deconstruct why he has chosen to be vituperative in his public commentary on the personality of el-Rufai while hiding under the cloak of the on-going Public Hearing. His anger appears predicated on personal and ethnocentric biases. Moses Ochonu, as an Associate Professor of History works on a project that focuses on ânon-Muslim consciousness to counter perceived Anglo Fulani hegemonyâ. His focus and project fit into todayâs Nigeria that is terribly divided along ethnocentric and religious lines following the April 2011 political gerrymandering that has inflicted unprecedented damage on the fragile unity among the diverse ethnic nationalities of Nigeria. It might not be out of place therefore to place Ochonu in the realm of the foot soldiers already being recruited to diminish the profile of personalities considered threats to future stake of some ambitious Nigerian politicians, especially from the middle-belt geopolitical zone. This inference is rife when one considers the phrases adopted by the writer such as: ââ¦some of usâ; ââ¦we watch him do itâ; ââ¦our national proclivity to forgetâ etc. Such expressions are clear indications that Ochonu is not alone in the âhack him downâ project. On personal bias, it is important to know that Ochonu once asked el-Rufai for a job and got turned down. Ochonu has been unable to put behind him that incident, but the truth is that at that time, el-Rufai could not provide him a job because only candidates with technical and numeracy skills were required. Available facts indicate that el-Rufai informed Ochonu and others with non-numerate and or science based degrees that they did not meet the criteria. Though Ochonu left for the US where he has done rather well, he has been unable to hide his disdain for el-Rufai mainly because of the latterâs inability to bend the rules to suit primordial personal interests. And when next our dear Moses Ochonu chooses to jump into the public arena to make comments, he should endeavour to get his facts right and be modest and courteous in his choice of words. Ajayi Olatunji Olowo, is a Human Rights Activist and an Abuja based Legal Practitioner.

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