Alhamdulillah El-Rufai Won’t Be Minister Again

Thank God El-Rufai’s failed to secure the Senate confirmation and is reported to have withdrawn his nomination as minister in the government of Federal Republic of Nigeria. Make no mistake, I love El-Rufai but loathe his neoliberal policies.

When El-Rufai, the diminutive former governor of Kaduna State spoke in the Senate during his confirmation hearing, his words sent chills down my spine. And the man can be annoyingly haughty, not only to people like me but also to the big guys. He told anyone that cared to listen that Tinubu begged him to come and solve Nigeria’s electricity problem. A problem, like Trump, he alone can solve!

El-Rufai’s neoliberal medicine is worse than the disease afflicting the power sector. Here I’m struggling with energy bills – I’m not alone, many Nigerians are in the same boat with me – only to hear the short man crowing bloodcurdling solutions to Nigeria’s electricity problems: privatisation, subsisdy removal and murdering electricity stealers.

Instead of proposing to reverse the ill-conceived and failed power privatisation policy implemented by the past PDP government, El-Rufai is proposing more privatisation. If privatisation can’t solve the power problems more privatisation can! 

It’s instructive to note that poll after poll by YouGov in the UK showed “most Britons” would like to see the nationalisation of the energy sector. This includes majority of the Tories the Party of Margret Thatcher! Why? Because privatisation of the power sector isn’t working for them and won’t work for Nigerians.

El-Rufai derided payment of power subsisdy. He called the little subsidy, if any, now supposedly enjoyed by Nigerians “unacceptable” and “unsustainable.” Nigerians must buy electricity at free market prices he thinks. But Biden has provided hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy and green technologies under his Inflation Reduction Act, according to Anne O Krueger, ex World Bank Chief Economist and Professor of Int’l Economics. Isn’t El-Rufai trying to be more Catholic than the Pope? 

At best, El-Rufai’s policy proposals may ensure steady power supply and light to the few rich guys like him. But certainly the rest, the over 130 million Nigerians battling “multi dimensional poverty” will endure in darkness. Energy poverty will affect more than two-thirds of Nigerians. Even the distinguished senators and their colleagues at the Green Chambers don’t want to see their electricity bills balloon. They recently asked NERC not to allow electricity tariff increase. 

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Understandably, El-Rufai described himself as a libertarian – in the mold of Herbert Spencer, the English philosopher, I suppose. He believes government is the problem. Free market is the solution. Thus, the government has no business in providing electricity to the Nigerian people or subsidising it. Government should leave the power sector to the private corporations to rule it tyrannically for maximization of profit and exploitation of the people.

But that’s not what APC is. APC is a progressive party. The welfare of Nigerians is and should be central to its policies. APC government should provide direct services and benefits to Nigerians. That’s my kind of new liberalism advocated by TH Green and others.

APC Constitution says it aims to “develop and promote economic policies that guarantee public participation in and, where necessary, control of the major means of production, distribution and exchange.” Hence the public should control the power sector and the energy sector too amongst other critical sectors of the economy.

I think President Tinubu should abide by the APC Constitution and reverse the privatisation of the power sector. It has failed anyway. And was corruptly done in the first place. Power should be in the public sector. It’s too critical to our national development.This will serve Nigeria’s common good.

Saad, a lawyer is the Acting Chairman of APC Publicity Committee, Bauchi State and former Director-General of BASEPA.

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