The ripples produced by Nasir el-Rufai’s leaked letter to President Muhammadu Buhari will not stop bubbling anytime soon. How many people will be thrown into the mix as time goes by? That is the issue of the moment.
Hadiza Bala Usman, the managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), may be the first person.
On Wednesday, the social media went into a frenzy with allegations that NPA was under probe for allegedly bankrolling the “ambition” of el-Rufai to be picked as vice-president to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo — in the event that Buhari does not last the distance.
The chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were allegedly given $25,000 each by NPA to make el-Rufai VP. The chieftains were not named.
In a strong response, Usman — who was el-Rufai’s chief of staff before her appointment in July 2016 — threatened legal action.
DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER
She said: “My attention has been drawn to malicious lies being bandied around by a Prince Henry Nwazuruahu on my person. I wish to CHALLENGE him to bring up evidence on any such meeting with any APC Chieftain and any monies being given.
“I wish to challenge him to provide the authorship to this report whom I shall file a suit against in the court of law for defamation of character.
“In the last few days, I have faced a barrage of false malicious lies against my person in the media and I know the sponsors of this. I will not budge on my position on compliance to Federal Government of Nigeria policies and I will not bow on my stance to rid the NPA of corrupt practices.
“I will not be cowed or intimidated into conforming to corrupt practices of cheating the Federal government of its revenues.
“I have been issued with death threats and veiled messages conveying that my life is at risk because of the stance I have taken.
“No false media attacks or threats to my life will stand in the way of my doing the right thing.
“Finally, we have not received any such notification by the presidency of an investigation into our financial books; and indeed we are open to any of such investigation as we have nothing to hide.”
Although the story has been retracted with apology by one of the websites that ran it, it is already out there and will continue to generate reactions and analyses in the coming days and weeks. The “damage” has been done, and given the political intrigues going on as 2019 draws near, more conspiracy theories will be flying up and down.
An online publisher familiar with the NPA bribe rumour told TheCable that he got the story “directly” from Aso Rock, the seat of power.
“A big insider forwarded it to me. APC is about to implode. Serious power struggle is on. If I told you the source, you would freeze. It’s the power tussle unravelling,” he said.
It is an open secret that Buhari is running one of the most divided governments Nigeria has ever had — the civil war was very evident in el-Rufai’s letter.
“The fear that Buhari may not last the distance has created a lot of power struggle, in-fighting, people taking strategic positions in anticipation, embarking on media wars and rumour peddling,” a senior official of APC told TheCable on Thursday, saying the party is powerless to address its internal divisions the way things stand.
At NPA, the belief is that those who have lost out at the ports since Usman became the chief executive are behind the rumours.
She as much as alluded to this in her rejoinder, saying “I will not bow on my stance to rid the NPA of corrupt practices”.
From every indication, however, she may be looking in the wrong direction. She may just be a pawn on the 2019 chessboard. If that is the case, then the rumours have only just started. It promises to be a very turbulent race.