The accidental Public Servant, and accident of history
A summary presentation of The Accidental Public Servant, written by a former minister of the FCT, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, the publishers, Safari Books Ltd, describes it as a story of the author’s almost one decade as a public servant and the successes, disappointments and frustrations that el-Rufai encountered in the process. But the book goes beyond that; it also has a lot to say about the author’s early life and his rise to limelight. The book will be a delightful read to the few Nigerians who may not have known or heard of el-Rufai , like President Goodluck Jonathan who claimed he did not did not have the privilege of owning a pair of shoes until much later in life. This may not be unusual given the poverty and deprivations that characterized his upbringing, more so having lost his father at the very tender age of eight.
But somehow, el-Rufai was able to scale the challenges of life.
He went to the elite schools of those days like the still famous Barewa College in Zaria. His childhood dream was to become a policeman, a dream that vanished as he eventually ended up as a quantity surveyor, a chartered one at that, and rising to the exalted position of a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In fact, at a time, according to his account, el-Rufai became Nigeria’s de facto Vice President, “replacing” the then Vice President Atiku Abubakar, towards the end of the Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo.
El-Rufai devotes a large chunk of the 627-page book to an account of the alleged third term presidential ambition of Obasanjo and how late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua on the scene after Obasanjo failed in his tenure extension bid. After his tenure as minister the FCT, a period that was enmeshed in much controversy, The Accidental Public Servant may not have come as a surprise as a veritable opportunity for el-Rufai to defend himself and at the end of the day, the reader may be forced to pronounce a verdict of “not guilty” on El-Rufai However, he may have gone beyond the realm of non-fiction as the author appears to employ certain elements of drama and, in the process, certain presentations become questionable. In recounting his father’s last moments, the young el-Rufai still remembers word for word what the old man said – word for word – and later as he recalls again, word for word, the encounters with his teacher and a certain bully in the primary school he attended and then his guardian. Paraphrasing the encounters would have rendered the accounts perhaps more credible.
When later as an adult and minister, el-Rufai relates a number of his experiences with Obasanjo and others in and out of government, using the conversation mode of presentation, he does not say say,
however, whether he had a recording device, unknown to others.
For whatever reasons, el-Rufai fails (deliberately?) to mention certain names in the book and but in some cases names other individuals. He refuses to disclose the name of a certain individual who Obasanjo had used to approach him “because you do not talk about the dead.
” But he devotes a large chunk of the book to raining invectives on the late Yar’adua.
The intentions may be clear to a discerning reader and in spite of spirited efforts to always play the “saint” el-Rufai refuses to tell the reader why a mutual friend of his would undertake to fund the Ya’adua campaign to the tune of two million Pounds Sterling (free?).
But he names all those allegedly involved in giving and receiving N50 million each for the botched Obasanjo third term bid fund, along with other expenditures.
And when eventually his romance with the late Yar’adua apparently hit the rocks, el-Rufai attributes serious matters of national interest to rumour and “sources.”
El-Rufai claims he declined to acquire shares in Transcorp
based on ethical considerations but such ethical considerations did not come to play when he decided to buy Federal Government houses in the FCT.
It is possible that Pastor Tunde Bakare who wrote a forward to The Accidental Public Servant could not have actually read the entire book which should not have indeed gone to press. El-Rufai and the publishers will do gullible Nigerians a world of good by withdrawing it from circulation for indeed, it is an accident of history.
All said, warts and all, The Accidental Public Servant makes interesting read