Amid the jubilation over the return of President Muhammadu Buhari to the country –103 days after he flew to London for a medical vacation, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State says the President has significant changes to make.
With less than two years to the next general elections, and after spending months away for health reasons, Mr El-Rufai, a close ally of the President, believes he must change the way he operates.
The governor spoke about his expectations in a phone interview during Channels Television’s special coverage of the President’s return to the country on Saturday.
Like many Nigerians who were thrilled to have the President back, governor El-Rufai was excited – personally and politically.
“Personally, I am very excited and very relieved that Mr President is back. Politically, of course, it raises Nigeria’s stability significantly and I’m sure (that) from Monday, you will see even how the markets will respond,” he said.
“For us in the APC and for many of us that are beneficiaries of Buhari’s political ascendance, this is a time of great happiness and gratitude to almighty God for bringing him back safely and well as well.”
Excitement aside, the governor believes this is a time for the President to be more cautious and restrategize to deliver on his campaign promises.
Asked what he expects of the President going forward, Governor El-Rufai said, “I still believe that the President needs to be measured in his work hours. I would not want him to work between 12-18 hours a day as he used to. I think the traffic into his office and residence needs to be curtailed so that he would have more time to reflect.
“We have less than two years to deliver on most of our promises so I expect the President to refocus, make some administrative adjustments, (and) prioritise the three areas that he has always promised Nigerians.”
The three areas, according to the governor are the war on corruption, the diversification of the economy and the war against the Boko Haram insurgency and insecurity.
With regard to the war against corruption, Governor El-Rufai does not think things have gone according to plan and there is the need to “refocus the war against corruption”.
“We’ve been losing lots of cases in the courts. I think there is need to refocus work on that and bring back the anti-corruption war on track fully,” he said.
In diversifying the economy in earnest, state governments have to be given bigger roles to play.
“The efforts to diversify the economy should continue in earnest – and, here, I believe the 36 state governments have a major role to play because Nigeria consists of 36 states and any improvement in the business environment must begin from the 36 states, not just Abuja,” the governor said.
After an upsurge in attacks by Boko Haram in recent months, Governor El-Rufai believes more attention is needed to finally defeat the terrorists.
He said, “Boko Haram has resurged in the absence of the President. Now that he is back, I expect more focus on the war against Boko Haram – to finish them off, whatever is left of them and to make Nigeria safer.”
Now that President Buhari is back in the country, the Kaduna State governor is confident that he will move quickly to address the issues and fulfil his promises.
“We are very optimistic that these issues will be the ones Mr President will look at among other things, and bring back our country on track towards progress and as we prepare towards 2019 beginning from next year,” he said.
President Buhari is expected to address the nation at 7 am on Monday morning.