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Four years ago when the Buhari government came into power, the greatest issue of the day was the delay in the appointment of ministers and the quality of people that eventually made the list. The general understanding was that PMB spent that long time searching for people with saintly dispositions who would perfectly fit into his incoming saintly/messianic administration. Not long after their appointments, the president himself referred to them as noisemakers. As the government winds down its activities (even if it would restart the car on 29/5/19), I intend to review the performance of these ministers with speciall emphasis on how saintly they operated and how well they actually performed. In the beginning, I had two interventions questioning their saint-ness and doubting if they would perform. Today and next week, I will represent these views and then see how far they had gone in the past four years. Kindly read on
The unnecessary drama and suspense is over. I can now settle down and lick my wounds. I had believed that as a saint, my name will be there ‘when the roll is called up yonder’. But my name was conspicuously missing in action; I was not even mentioned in the several fake lists! I have cancelled all my anticipatory appointments (like SSA on stomach iasnfrastructure) and discontinued with the ministerial carriage I had acquired. I have put the whole episode behind me while awaiting the next political season. I am now in a mood to examine the long wait, the list, and the entire confirmation process.
When someone dies in Igboukwu and the funeral is immediate, we ‘manage’ whatever ‘level’ at which the funeral is pitched. However, if the funeral is postponed, our expectations would rise and we would anticipate a higher ‘level’ affair. From that perspective, PMBs ministerial outing was disappointing; the list could have been unveiled on 29/5/15! In addition to the petroleum ministry, he should also have taken over the civil service, works, health and education, which are now all on life support. But the key question is: are these the saints who are to come or shall we wait for another (Mt,11:3)? If these are all saints, then who are the sinners?
The various justifications for the delayed constitution of his cabinet are neither here nor there. Obama was a teenager when PMB ruled Nigeria before and it should be unfortunate if he really decided to learn from Obama. In any case, the claim has been punctured. Secondly, for somebody who sought this presidency for 16 straight years, a handover note should not have adversely affected this process. Furthermore, this delay did not yield any better outcome; it signals unpreparedness, lack of political sagacity (remember Okadigbo?) and poor horse-trading skills. Also, the consultations were not fruitful because APC stakeholders protested loudly over the list. The delay may also be a part of his infamous body-language but I am amazed that whenever he is abroad, he speaks too much of the normal language.
As a Catholic, I believe that saints are people who lived extraordinarily righteous lives on earth. But, all have sinned (Rom,3:2) and whoever denies his sinfulness is a liar (1st John, 1:8). In effect, we are all sinners- those searching, those screening, those screened and those who walked out ! After all, there is not much difference between senators and sinators! So, it was a shadow-chasing Ultimate Search for saints! Anyway, let me not judge so as not to be judged. But how can we be talking about saints when one of the most decent among them was accused of ‘stealing more than the one they call a thief’ or when another paid a tax of N50000 on N60m income evidenced by questionable tax clearance certificates? Well, let’s leave the matter of sainthood to the anointer and the anointed. But if PMB had not announced that he was looking for saints, I would not have had problems with the list. This is another incident of communication what one cannot or will not to deliver, thereby raising public expectations unnecessarily.
The declaration that they are noisemakers shows his disdain for the ministers. But this appellation is less contentious because some of them are actually noise-makers. Lai Mohammed is a full-time noise-maker while Amaechi is an indirect noise-maker who generates noise anywhere he goes as evidenced by the noise emanating from his confirmation, his tenure at the NGF, or his war with the NJC or Rivers legislature. Will ministers add value? It depends on whether PMB wants them to add value. By the way, why should he appoint ministers if civil servants could do the job, and with less noise?
The ministerial fiasco has created avoidable reputational damage/brand erosion for PMB. I perceive PMB as disciplined and austere, but he is not a saint. He promised change and a clean break from the iniquitous past. His presidency is built on change and anti corruption. We have been told repeatedly that PDP ruined Nigeria. Why then is PMB hobnobbing with the shining lights of PDP, including one of its former chairmen?
We now come to the issue of people over-laden with baggage. The most prominent of these is Amaechi who had ‘never taken a bribe’ but whom the vengeful Nwike, had accused of monumental corruption. Why wouldn’t PMB allow him to be judicially sanctified before anointing him, especially when Amaechi had taken the matter to court? During Abacha’s era, one of his friends was alleged to be corrupt. Major Al-Mustapha, advised that ‘the Vila should severe all contacts with the Chief pending when he is cleared. We should not be seen dealing with a character of this nature’ (Kukah: Witness to justice; p164). If a military despot distanced himself from a friend over allegations of corruption, why is it difficult for a born again PMB?
Looking at the entire process, nothing has changed: same people, washy screening, horse-trading , and influence of godfathers (though to a less extent), as before. The recycling is not justifiable unless we agree with Tunde Bakare that he might have made do with what is available. Probably, we have now hired butchers because we couldn’t find surgeons! Indeed, there were no surprises both with list and the screening process in the’ hollowed chamber’. It is another come-and- chop affair and settlement of IOUs to political investors. The defense by APCians that PDP acted similarly, is asinine because they have come to change, not to sustain. And when one recalls the emergence of baggage ridden candidates in Bayelsa and Kogi states, this becomes more worrisome.
So what happened? I tend to agree Solana Olumense that PMB is mellowing down and with Femi Aribisala that PMB got his fingers burnt in his bid to dine with political ‘devils’ whom he had hitherto despised. PMB came on board on the basis of a given reputation. It will be unfortunate if this is destroyed at this stage and age. It is over for now, but both the president and the party will bear the consequential moral burden. Saraki, who is fighting for his life and his colleagues are guilty of sacrificing national interest on the alter of political expediency; they did not do the proper thing. But there is one good news. Our association, Academics Against Moral Impunity and Immunity(AAMII) has adopted the most outstanding of them, Saint Amaechi , to be its patron Saint.
Meanwhile, let the saints go to work; there is much to be done and they are already 6 months behind. Nigerians are very forgiving and have short attention span. The whole noise will soon ebb, especially, if the ministers perform or pretend to performance. Furthermore, a comprehensive reorientation programme should be arranged for Lai Mohammed before he talks us into trouble! It is well with Nigeria.
Other matters: The Ngige declaration!
About 20 years ago, I got tired of Dr A, Dr B and Chief Sir Dr X and decided to undertake a census of the types of Doctors in Nigeria. The article, Doctors; which type was published by most of the papers in existence then. The doctors included patent medicine dealers, those who were called doctors because they wore white and worked in hospitals, dog-doctors (veterinary doctors), medical doctors, academic doctors, professional doctors( DBA) and an assortment of honorary doctors, including those who were really honourable, those who bought the doctorate degrees and those doctorised by the churches, and the various genres of native doctors. I don’t know whether Asukwo of Business Day read that article as shown in his wicked cartoon. I recalled this article and the various classification of doctors when Dr Ngige (A medical doctor and the minister of labour) declared that Nigeria has enough doctors and that those who wished to leave could leave! This was despite the figures recently released by The Minister of Health, that there were about 45000 doctors ( nobody is sure of anything here) in Nigeria, a ratio of 1:4400 as against the WHO 1:600 benchmark. But even if we have enough, is the Ngige-Declaration the best way to go? What happens when the best leaves while the average and below average stay behind? Or when about 90% of our doctors are desperately seeking the exit route? Is it the government that is ‘exporting’ these doctors or are they hurriedly joining the exit route like others? How many of the Nigerian doctors are in the employ of the governments? How motivated are these doctors and how equipped are their hospitals? These are the kinds of ill-digested comments from the minister that complicated matters during the last ASUU-FGN tango. My advice to Ngige, just as I have given to another public servant in recent times is, mind your sef
Ik Muo, PhD.