Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, has for the first time revealed why he ‘secretly’ withdrew his seven-year-old son, Abubakar Al-Sadiq El-Rufai, from Kaduna Capital school, one year after he dramatically enrolled him in one of northern Nigeria’s oldest public schools to make public education attractive in the state.
El-Rufai’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication had remained mum on why the governor suddenly withdrew his son from the school despite repeatedly being asked by Daily Trust.
However, in an interview with BBC Pidgin, El-Rufai said his son had been targeted by bandits because of the governor’s public stand against the payment of ransom to bandits.
In the interview, El-Rufai revealed that it was the first time he was addressing the issue but added that his daughter, Nesrin had also been enrolled in the school when she turned six.
He said even though there was no threat to Nesrin, both children had been removed from the school on the advice of security agencies so as not to jeopardize the safety of other children.
“My son and my daughter are registered in the school because his sister became six and we had to register her.
“But we have had to temporarily withdraw them for the security of the school because we got intercepts from at least two groups that are planning to attack the school to kidnap my son.
“I don’t think they will succeed because there will be enough security there to prevent it but other children may be placed in danger.
“We have no idea what weapons they will come with. I have taken a stand against paying bandits and at least three groups of bandits have been intercepted planning to go to Kaduna Capital school and kidnap my son and ‘see if they catch my son, I go say I no go pay ransom?’” the governor said.
He assured that his decision was purely based on the safety of other children in the school, adding that he had enrolled his son in the school to prove to the people of Kaduna State that he had enough confidence in the public-school system and stressed that he intends to keep the promise.
El-Rufai, who has come under fire by residents who accused him of enrolling his son in public school for political gain, said his action was not a political statement.
“We believe in leading by example, we believe in whatever policy we propose that will affect people negatively, we start imposing it on us,” he said.
The governor explained that his son, who is still registered with the school and goes to take his exams, is now being home-schooled and assured that as long as there is reasonable confidence that his attendance will not put the school at risk, both children will return to public school.
“It is my intention that my children will be in public school as long as I am governor here.
“Of course, when I finish my term, I will move out. I intend to leave Kaduna when I finish. I am not going to stay here. I may explore other options of putting them in other schools,” he said.
He said the young El-Rufai misses the school, adding that; “he keeps asking, ‘Baba, when will I go back to school, I miss my friends, I miss my teachers’ I told him not yet, you can’t tell a seven-year-old you are likely to be kidnapped.”
Daily Trust exclusively reported on Saturday that El-Rufai had secretly withdrawn his son from Kaduna Capital School after what many observers described as “political and media stunt” to give the impression that he is like any commoner.
Abubakar Al-Sadiq El-Rufai was seen mingling with friends in Kaduna Capital School.
While the enrolment of Al-Sadiq in the public school was greeted by a massive commendation from all walks of life, the removal of the son was not made public, a development seen by many as a “betrayal of public trust and confidence.”
It is not clear why the governor made a U-turn as some commentators said it could be due to the widespread abduction by kidnappers in public schools especially in Kaduna and neighbouring states, or pressure from family or lack or doubts on the capacity of the government school to groom his son as what obtains in private schools.
People living around the school said they were disappointed that the governor had withdrawn his son a few months after the child joined the children of poor and middle-class citizens in the state to learn under one roof.
Many thought that the enrolment of his son would be a turning point for the public schools in Kaduna State.