Jonathan, Mark and their whiz kid Ministers

Absence of governance in an election year is not unique to Nigeria. It is a feature of all participatory liberal democracies where elections are held periodically to determine the fate of political office holders, legitimise or delegitimize their authority. Our own Problem is that there has hardly been any form of governance since the coming of President Jonathan in 2011. This is largely due to Jonathan’s leadership style which can at best be described as ‘delegation by abdication’ which was not helped by the intra-party feuds which threw his ruling PDP into disarray. This has led to a situation where when the president is not setting up committees to escape taking difficult decisions, he allows his ministers to operate without restraint.

Thus we have a Ministry of Petroleum where an estimated 400,000 barrels of fuel are stolen daily in spite of amnesty programme and the empowerment of the leadership of the militant groups through multibillion dollar contracts and where unilateral action of its minister led to the nation’s loss of about N1.6 trillion. In the office of the Minister of Finance there has been evidence of gross abuse of government policy on import duty wavers. While the customs records for instance showed N1.4 trillion as the value of wavers granted over a period of three years the figure posted by the minister’s office was a paltry N171 billion. Similarly the minister of power insists power generation has improved despite the fact that we today generate 3,479.55MW after an injection of $8.26b. Four years on, the figure falls below the 4,747MW President Jonathan promised he would achieve by December 2011.

And because ministers are on their own, it took the return of long queues of motorists searching for fuel to power their homes and run their cars for the minister of finance to remember her ministry needed to pay fuel importers some N260b  following the devaluation of naira. The minister of works who also operates on his own claims 25,000 kilometer of roads have been constructed in the last four years, a wild claim that prompted the  governor of Lagos to remind PDP that the distance between Nigeria and London is 5000 kilometres. It is for the same reason the president and his wife were embarrassed by ministry of Internal Affairs government that was unable to confirm whether indeed close to 300 girls were abducted from their dormitories by insurgents. Ten months on, they still don’t know where the girls are.

Tragically the president instead of addressing the absence of governance, an issue raised even by the international community, he has often chosen to play on the intelligence of Nigerians by trying to equate the pursuit of his interest with the well being of Nigerians. Just some four weeks back, some elders statesmen and ethnic irredentist, behaving like Motor Park touts (apology to President Jonathan) at the behest of government facing a possible defeat at the poles threatened violence if the dates for the elections were not shifted forward. No sooner that was achieved than the president’s men erected new road blocks aimed at buying time for the president. Last week, precisely on the 16 February, the president, a master of political subterfuge, rushed the names of Patricia Akwashiki (Nasarawa), Nicholas Akise Ada (Benue), Augustine Okwudiri Akobundu, Fidelis Nwankwo (Ebonyi), Hauwa’u Lawan (Jigawa), Kenneth Kobani (Rivers) and Joel Danlami Ikenya (Taraba).and Musliu Obanikoro, a former junior minister in the ministry of the senate for confirmation as ministers.

Suddenly a government that was not in a hurry to fill the then vacant defence  portfolio for several months  despite the raging Boko Haram insurgency war, a Jonathan government that failed to appoint a substantive minister for the all important ministry of education despite the crisis that kept universities and polytechnics closed for about a year while the supervising junior minister Nyeson Wike  spent his time  fighting the president was back in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital where he swore to ensure governor Rotimi Amaechi, the presidents political rival did not sleep with his two eyes closed, now wants the senate to confirm 8 ministers  when the life of this administration technically ends in two weeks time. Many are bound to agree that the whole exercise is driven by the desire to serve self rather than Nigerians.

Obanikoro’s nomination  in fact tends to validate the thesis of critics who argue President Jonathan will hardly ‘invite anyone to come and chop’{ apology to late Sunday Afolabi, Obasanjo’s minister of internal affairs} if such a person will not enhance his hold on power. Obanikoro during his first tour of duty as a junior minister of defence served President Jonathan instead of serving Nigeria. He never for once visited the war ravaged north eastern Nigeria. He instead deployed all his talents towards the pacification of Yoruba land.  In Lagos state, Governor Fashola, a governor not known for frivolities publicly accused Musiliu Obanikoro of bringing soldiers to physically stop ongoing public housing projects.  In Ilaje ESE odo of Ondo state, he was similarly accused of bringing soldiers to intimidate his party’s opponents during a bi-election to fill a vacant house of assembly seat. His outing in Ekiti was no less scandalous. He was in the company of Jelli Adesiyan the police affairs minister, Iyiola Omisore, a controversial politician from Oshun, Ayo fayose, an impeached former governor who was then a PDP candidate and Andy Uba a self confessed election master rigger from Anambra {He had at the onset of the forth republic, kidnapped governor Ngige in a broad day light, locked him up like a common criminal, and demanded his resignation claiming it was he who rigged Ngide into office.}They jointly discussed how to rig the election before proceeding to arrest and detain leading opposition leaders on the eve of the election.

He played a similar despicable role during the Oshun election. Puffing and huffing, he told Journalist during a press conference organized by PDP that he was in Oshogbo to reenact the Ekiti experiment. He is perhaps now desperately needed in government to complete his unfinished work of pacification of Yoruba land. He will now be in good company of pa Olanihun Ajayis, the Okunrounmus, Ayo Adebanjos, Olu Falaes and their newly crowned “Yoruba Leaders”, Ayo Fayose and Olusegun Mimiko who now say there is no alternative to a president Jonathan, who has nothing but contempt for the Yoruba on whose back he rode to power in 2011

The response of the Senate which many Nigerians consider an extension of the executive and an ‘upper house of deals’ is no less scandalous. In spite of Obanikoro’s controversial past, a pending case against him the courts and two different petitions against his appointment, David Mark wanted him confirmed without questioning. But then what does one expects from a David Mark’s Senate whose members are said to be the highest paid in the world. In a nation where the minimum wage is N18,000 per month, our senators are said to earn about $2m compared to an annual senators pay of $174,000 in the US, $105,000 of Japan, $149,700 of Germany$74,000 of Kenya and $46,000 of Ghana. Although the senators have not been forthcoming on what they earn but the proposed budget for the next senate has finally settled that. It for instance makes provision for each senator to collect. N4, 052,800m for accommodation, N6, 079,200 for furniture, N8, 105,600 as car loan.etc. As The Nation Newspaper editorial put it last Sunday “In all, the 107 senators would get N433,649,600 for accommodation, N650,474,400 for furniture allowance and N867,299,200 as vehicle loans. It is annoying that the lawmakers’ proclivity for extravagance has continued unabated since the beginning of this dispensation”

Sadly Nigerians derive little joy from their world most expensive senators who draw wardrobe allowance from tax payers sweat while police men buy their own uniforms. A senate that is truly serving Nigeria would have asked president Jonathan to reserve his newly discovered whiz kid ministers until after the election that comes up in about two weeks.

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