Nasir El-Rufai took umbrage at President Bola Tinubu to his face during a pugnacious meeting at the State House earlier this week, Peoples Gazette can report per multiple sources briefed on the matter.
The former Kaduna governor decried Mr Tinubu’s failure to be upfront about any reservations the president might have held against his ministerial appointment as indicative of a suppressed animosity, as the controversy over his nomination continued to drive ripples across
Mr El-Rufai specifically said it appeared Mr Tinubu had “reservations about me because you can’t claim not to be aware of the petitions,” according to the account of one of our sources which was subsequently corroborated by another State House official with first-hand knowledge of what transpired at the meeting.
Mr El-Rufai’s brutal candour before the president startled people around the Presidential Villa, The Gazette heard, with many fearing the political fallout.
“We know of his high level of competence,” an Aso Rock aide said of Mr El-Rufai, “and the president would rather have him as an ally rather than even a cursory enemy.”
At issue have been the machinations of national security adviser Nuhu Ribadu, who boosted the severity of a string of complaints against Mr El-Rufai’s viability for a seat on the federal executive council to oppose his security clearance, our sources said.
Mr El-Rufai met with the president shortly after The Gazette broke the news on Wednesday that he had decided to step aside from Mr Tinubu’s cabinet because his nomination was withheld amid a cloud of security concerns. He specifically blamed the president for allowing Mr Ribadu and other zealous security aides to withhold his security clearance and consequently allow rumours to proliferate about his status.
Mr El-Rufai was one of only three ministerial nominations that were withheld when the list of 48 nominees was considered last week. The two others, Abubakar Danladi of Taraba and Stella Okotete of Delta, have not made relentless headlines because they are not as controversial as Mr El-Rufai. The senators, however, cleared 45 candidates, including Nyesom Wike and Abubakar Bagudu, both of whom are widely adjudged among the most violent, corrupt politicians the country has ever seen.
Mr Ribadu and other aides were said to have fervently pushed the president to pay attention to the cornucopia of damaging petitions submitted against Mr El-Rufai from different parts of the country, which ranged from allegations of fomenting ethnic clashes in Kaduna to cornering public funds.
Before finally removing himself as a potential minister, Mr El-Rufai rejected entreaties from allies to make peace with Mr Ribadu to enable the national security adviser to reconsider any opposition against his nomination. Mr Ribadu did not return a request seeking comments.
Mr El-Rufai has not publicly commented on either his withdrawal from ministerial consideration or the specific allegations against him in public petitions, but he has previously pushed against allegations of violence or corruption generally. He had initially planned to play along until his confirmation before publicly announcing his intention to quit before his inauguration, but that strategy became difficult to follow through after The Gazette reported on it.
Notwithstanding his decision to turn down Mr Tinubu’s appointment, Mr El-Rufai, who was being considered for power minister, told the president he would not hesitate to offer support should it be required by the administration. Consequently, he mentioned Jafaru Sani, one of his former commissioners in Kaduna, as his replacement, our sources said.
The governor also said he had informed Governor Uba Sani of his intention to nominate a potential minister from Kaduna, and both had agreed on the choice. Mr Sani did not immediately return a request seeking comments.
Mr El-Rufai backed Mr Tinubu for president earlier this year, an endorsement largely seen as crucial to the campaign’s success in the electorally-lucrative northwestern region, and the fear of losing that support has gripped presidential aides. A presidential spokesman did not immediately return a request seeking comment.
Mr El-Rufai departed Abuja for Egypt on Thursday night, The Gazette was told, although it was unclear when he would be back in the country or how his future plans would unfold.