By Tunde Ajaja
More facts have emerged on how the pact between President Bola Tinubu and a former governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, for the latter to become a minister in the yet-to-be-formed Federal Executive Council crumbled.
Saturday PUNCH investigation revealed that El-Rufai had been promised to man the proposed Ministry of Power and Gas based on his numerous discussions with the President on how the country would have uninterrupted power supply in a few years.
Findings by one of our correspondents showed that the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory had told Tinubu during the presidential campaign that he would prefer to travel out of the country to live a quiet life, but he changed his mind after what a source described as “intensive discussions with the President after winning the election.”
It was gathered that El-Rufai told the President that the ministry of power should be made to include gas after telling the President that gas was a must-have product if the country was to have regular power supply.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the secret meetings, added that El-Rufai had started assembling egg-heads who had been briefing the President on how to achieve his major electioneering promise of providing uninterrupted power supply.
Members of the group of egg-heads, findings revealed, included Jimi Lawal; the Special Adviser to the President on Energy Matters, Olu Verheijen; Eyo Ekpo and Tolu Oyekan, among others.
The El-Rufai group believed that a combination of factors might have made the President to dilly-dally on his confirmation.
A source close to the group, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Certain elements in the Villa might have felt threatened by El-Rufai. They don’t want him because they are already planning for the next election as the case may be and they see him as a potential threat to their aspirations.
“Some political foes like Senator Shehu Sani and some elements in the Christian Association of Nigeria and even some Muslim clerics are all part of the gang-up.
“Recall that during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, El-Rufai had issues with federal lawmakers when he alleged that some of them were demanding bribes from him. Obasanjo intervened and the matter was resolved and the Senate cleared him. So, if President Tinubu wanted El-Rufai, he would have insisted that the former governor be cleared.”
A source had earlier told our correspondent, “El-Rufai had met with the President on many occasions concerning how to build the new ministry. The President was told by El-Rufai that the Ministry of Power should also have gas added to it and President Tinubu agreed to that.
“He also asked that the National Energy Council be established to discuss and take positions on issues affecting power. The proposed energy council is to comprise ministers in charge of finance, environment, energy, justice and the office of the National Security Adviser.
“I think the President bought the ideas and had been listening to the former minister, who had also been visiting Aso Rock to brief the commander-in-chief on his findings and how to make progress.
“The President was assured that uninterrupted or partial interruption of power is possible in the next five to seven years.”
However, it was gathered that the bond between the President and El-Rufai based on the position taken by the former governor of Kaduna State during the crisis preceding the conduct of the All Progressives Congress presidential primary was what initially made Tinubu overlook the security report against the former minister.
Apart from this, it was also learnt that some influential members of the Tinubu kitchen cabinet were of the opinion that El-Rufai should not be allowed to wield enormous power in the government, alleging that it would be difficult to completely trust him. “So, his enemies won when the second security report on him was sent to the offices of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), President of the Senate and the National Security Adviser detailing the numerous reasons why El-Rufai should not be cleared for a ministerial position,” the source added.
In a covering letter signed by one Aminu Yusuf on behalf of the Director-General, Department of State Services, dated August 4, 2023, with reference number SV.8/1430 titled, ‘Re: Security Vetting’ and addressed to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), which was exclusively obtained by Saturday PUNCH, the secret police wrote, “Further to this Service letter S.V.8/1426 dated 1st of August, 2023, giving provisional security clearance to three (3) ministerial nominees, including Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, pending conclusion of vetting. (Appendix ‘A’ instructive).
“This Service wishes to state that further vetting and background checks conducted revealed some underlined issues which have negatively affected the nominee and as such, it is recommended that El-Rufai’s clearance by the Senate of the National Assembly be stepped down until the issues are cleared as investigation continues.
“Summary of the issues under investigation are (sic) attached as Appendix ‘B’ for ease of reference.
“Accept the assurances and esteemed regards of the DGSS please.”
However, Saturday PUNCH could not obtain the appendixes ‘A’ and ‘B’ attached to the letter detailing the issues for which El-Rufai’s clearance was put on hold.
Unconfirmed reports had emerged on Friday that the former Kaduna State governor had informed the President that he was no longer interested in being a minister following the request by the DSS that his clearance by the Senate should be put on hold pending further investigation.
El-Rufai was said to have informed Tinubu of his withdrawal on Tuesday when he and a former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, visited the President at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He was said to have informed Tinubu that he needed time to focus on his doctorate programme at a university in The Netherlands and reportedly suggested that Jafaru Ibrahim Sani, who served as a commissioner under El-Rufai in Kaduna State, be appointed as a minister in his place.
Saturday PUNCH gathered that El-Rufai travelled out of the country after the meeting with the President, but his destination could not be confirmed.