“Don’t allow anybody define you. Most of the people who attack me don’t know me. They’ve never had the opportunity to come close to me in their lives” — H.E Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai told Fellows during his last official engagement as Governor.
Before the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship, all I knew about Governor El-Rufai was what the media reported and what people said about him online. KIF, however, gave me the opportunity to not only meet, but also interact with him.
Having had the opportunity to sit in the same room as Mallam and got my questions directly answered by him, I decided to write this short piece as he passes the baton of leadership in a few hours.
Your view of Mallam may be different, but it doesn’t change what I have seen and learnt about the outgoing Governor of Kaduna state in the last nine months as a Kashim Ibrahim Fellow.
Let me reiterate what I always say about him: “People may not like him or the decisions he makes, but it is impossible not to respect his courage and achievements.”
So, here’s the Mallam I experienced:
Mallam is deeply invested in young people
One would easily point to the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship as an example, but have you seen/met the number of young people in Mallam’s government? One of them is Khalil Nur Khalil, the Executive Secretary of the Kaduna Investment Promotion Agency, a 28-year-old at the time of his appointment in 2021.
These young people, many of whom are below the age of 40, are heads of Agencies and Local Government Councils who take important decisions that shape the present and future of Kaduna State.
Through KIF, my colleagues and I have had the opportunity to engage with these young leaders and whenever questions about the quality of their work come up, they attribute it to Mallam.
“He has so much confidence in us and does not believe in micromanaging us. When we make mistakes and it is reported to him, he asks whoever makes the report how they expect us to learn and be better. And when we do the reporting ourselves, rather than bash us, he helps us to see how we can do better.”
Mallam believes that young people have something to offer, hence, his hope that one day, they would take over the reins of Nigeria’s leadership.
An Inclusive government
Last year, Kaduna was selected as one of the two pilot states selected by UN Women to implement the 3-year Affirmative Procurement project. The selection was because of the state’s gender-inclusive government. Mallam’s administration had 53% female commissioners and boasted of the first female deputy governor in northern Nigeria.
Mallam also had people from other tribes in his cabinet. According to him, it is not about where a person comes from, the language they speak, or the God they worship, but their capacity, capability, and contribution to society is what matters.
A voracious reader
I remember a colleague announcing to us on WhatsApp that we had some gifts from the Governor. “Go to the lounge and pick yours,” she instructed.
Although I didn’t know what the gifts were, I was excited. On getting to the lounge, I saw copies of different books. I was sincerely taken by surprise because it was far from what I expected.
Over the next few months when such announcements were made, I knew the governor had sent us more books. So far, my colleagues and I have a collection of about 15 books with topics that range from Leadership to Governance and Economics.
Mallam never fails to tell us to read as much as we can. Every time we engage him, it is one of his advice to us.
A brilliant teacher and storyteller
You: I hate history. Economics is not interesting.
Me: Have you been taught by Mallam on those subjects?
Mallam is passionate about Nigeria, Governance, and Economics. Hence, when he talks about these three, there’s no way you would make such a statement.
On October 1st, 2022, my colleagues and I sat for five hours listening to Mallam talk about Nigeria’s journey pre-independence; where we went wrong, where we are headed, and what must be done to salvage our country.
27 days later, Mallam moderated a nine-hour workshop! The Governor took Fellows through a detailed discourse on McKinsey’s 7-S Framework, introduced us to the concept of the State, and guided us through the framework of Country Analysis.
He was also one of our moderators during our quarterly Aspen-styled Seminar 3 and I enjoyed listening to him teach.
Outside the aforementioned, I was privileged to see Mallam without the Governor title. The Mallam that laughed deeply. The Mallam that teased his friends and got teased in return. The Mallam that joined the queue for food and served himself. The Mallam that sang his favourite Bob Marley song, and spoke glowingly about his kids, among other scenarios I can’t remember now.
KIF gave me the opportunity to closely experience a Nigerian Governor that is called Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and I am grateful. May posterity be kind to you, sir!