Thus a rumour filtered into a diplomat’s ears may soon acquire the toga of fact as it forms the staple of reports back to the home government. And sadly, because these fiction writers enjoy diplomatic immunity under the Geneva Convention, they cannot be held accountable for their defamatory statements.
Mallam El Rufai refutes all the falsehood about his status prior to his entry into public service, and his record as BPE DG and FCT Minister. He acquired his first house in 1988, in Kaduna where he had been in professional practice as a quantity surveyor since 1982. He never had any contact with any US embassy official until he applied for an American visa in 1988. There is no official, named or un-named, in the US embassy who knew El-Rufai personally eight years prior to appointment as minister in 2003. He has had no need to seek any loans or to consider importing a taxi ever from anywhere, let alone from the United Kingdom which has a different driving system.
Regarding the claim that he possesses seven upscale properties in Abuja, he requests the talebearers at the American embassy to show him their location so that he can repossess them. The same reliance on malicious and unfounded rumours leads the American embassy to false reporting on the clean-up of Kubwa to avert flooding disasters . On Chika, one of the 49 villages along the airport road that are meant to be relocated, the FCT authorities acted to remove illegal settlements after the unauthorised settlement refused enumeration for future relocation. There were demolitions, but certainly not on two square miles – the whole of Chika then was less than that in area. No plots were allocated in Chika under his watch, as it had not been mapped and surveyed for any legal land allocation by the FCT administration.
Mallam El Rufai is also baffled by the claim that he influenced the award of Ministry of Finance contracts worth $50 million to the brother of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. He was not in charge of that ministry, but he was aware that the entire capital budget of the Finance minister was not near that amount.
As regards other reports that the said contract was for waste collection in the FCT administration, none of Okonjo-Iweala’s siblings or their company was amongst the dozen companies selected via advertised competitive bidding to handle waste collection in Abuja. The records of these companies are still in the FCT administration for anyone wishing to check. And the FCT spent much less than a fraction of the stated amount for all the cleaning contracts! El Rufai did not award or steer any contract to Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s siblings.
El Rufai categorically denies having any interest in an oil block with or without Andy Uba, a man with whom he had nothing in common, and was barely on speaking terms when they were both in government. Those with oil blocks like General TY Danjuma of happily engage in philanthropy, and El-Rufai would wish to do the same with the ownership of oil blocks, but the fact is that El Rufai has no oil well.
Those that attach the same weight to all these leaked cables should note that there is a world of difference between the embellished statements made by specific officials to American embassy staffers, which are not wholly deniable, and a collection of rumours, fairy tales and speculation being passed off as an American set of facts. The allegations against El-Rufai were not attributed to a named, near-reliable source. They are all malicious conjecture aimed at showing that the leading lights in the Obasanjo administration were not clean even though Nigeria’s TI ranking had improved, something the US officials did not want to come to terms with!
It is therefore advisable to approach some of the leaked cables as the product of tittle-tattles rather than as gospel truths. That diplomats have chosen to impress their governments by dressing up loose chatter and fabrications as facts should not escape the notice of the vigilant. These fictions may delight those who have chosen to believe the worst about every public officer, but it hardly changes the fact that Mallam Nasir El Rufai successfully served his country after a sterling professional career.