Ministers, advisers and President’s private battles

Last week’s vicious attack by the duo of Labaran Maku and Jelili Adesiyan, ministers of information and police affairs respectively on Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso on  what now appears a federal government contrived crisis  over the selection of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi by Kano kingmakers and ratification by the state government has once again raised the question of whether the nation needs a motley of 40 mostly unproductive ministers many of whom serve as the president’s attack dogs in a situation where the most advanced economies of the world such as Germany, Britain and USA have just about 20.

For instance, with the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education all over the country paralysed for almost one year, what exactly is Nyesom Wike the supervising minister of education doing in government beyond waging the president and his wife’s private wars?

Long after the president dropped a number of ministers purportedly because of their interest in 2015 elections, Wike, already publicly endorsed by the president’s wife as Rivers PDP governorship candidate for 2015 is in Port Harcourt every weekend mobilizing youths and ex-militants, according to him, “to prevent the president from being disgraced in 2015”. In the wake of the abduction of the Chibok girls, the minister spent the first two weeks conducting an inquisition with officials of his ministry and WAEC officials providing evidence to prove that it was Shettima, the governor of Borno State who should be held responsible for the abduction of the girls and not President Jonathan.

Minister Olajumoke Akinjide was on hand to assail Nigerians with the tales of how President Jonathan promptly reacted to the abduction of the Chibok girls contrary to what Nigerians and the international community observed as government sloppy reaction to the abduction during the first two weeks of the tragedy. And shamelessly trying to outdo others in the defence of the president, she asked the grieving parents to direct their demand for the release of their children at Boko Haram and not the president and commander-in-chief. Before then Dr Doyin Okupe another adviser had assailed the nation with tales of how well equipped and highly motivated the soldiers were.  With the international community now coming to our aid, Nigerians can see beyond Okupe’s hot air. But the heroic exploits. of these ministers as combatants in President Jonathan’s personal wars paled in significance to the outing of the duo of Maku and Adesiyan who set aside the function assigned to their ministries and went all out as the president attack dogs.

The Kano governor’s thesis was that the Kano crisis was contrived by the president who is at war with the governor over his defection to APC and the suspended CBN former governor Sanusi who had raised what government dismissed as false alarm about unremitted US$20billion by NNPC to the federation account. First, the president’s PDP point-man in Kano mischievously sent a congratulatory message to the Ciroma of Kano, the first son of the departed emir and one of the contesting Kano princes. Kano State government believed this was what prepared the ground for the riot which followed the official announcement which contrary to federal government expectations favoured the embattled Sanusi. While the federal government followed up by ordering the police to lay a siege on the emir’s palace ostensibly to prevent potential arsonists, it curiously, allegedly ordered the reduction in the number of security personnel attached to the governor at a period he actually needed more men by virtue of being the chief host of new emir who needed protection since he, according to the federal government, was not the popular choice of the people. Putting all the drama together Rabiu Kwankwaso alleged he could feel the hand of Esau while hearing the voice of Jacob. He therefore asked Nigerians to hold the president responsible should something untoward happen to him and his family.

Then ministers as prosecutors of the president private wars waded in. Maku says to blame President Jonathan or the Federal Government for the crisis is ‘the height of delusion and irresponsibility’ on the part of Kwankwaso  He wants Kwankwaso to explain to  the people of Kano the role he and APC leaders played in the selection of Sanusi as the new emir. He then veered off, accusing   the governor ‘of one man rule in Kano’ and of ‘denial of freedom of choice for the people of Kano by imposing local government chairmen and councilors on them’. I think by bringing up these extraneous matters, Maku rather than exonerate the president and PDP has only confirmed the reasons for the federal government’s subtle interference in a purely local politics of Kano.

The heartache of Adesiyan, his counterpart in Police Affairs was that ‘Kwankwaso was abusing Mr. President’. He questioned ‘the governor’s audacity to abuse the president’. For him it was ‘rather unfathomable that Kwankwaso could insult the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the way he likes’. He says ‘It is only in Nigeria that those who lack patriotism like Kwankwaso can insult the President at will’. And like Maku, he alleged without evidence that ’Kwankwaso’s outburst against Mr. President was an indication of a failed governor who acts against the will of the people’. And as if he lives in another planet, the minister asked rhetorically, “Have you ever seen the opposition party insulting the President of the United States of America, or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, or Chancellor in Germany”?

The above is the picture of ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…Unfortunately; many of the other ministers and advisers are not any better. For instance, Obasanjo was quoted to have said on a BBC Hausa service  last Thursday, that he could help reach out to the insurgents for the release of the girls, but regretted that the federal government had not yet given him the green light to act. Instead of Mike Omeri, chairman, National Information Centre, encouraging the president to take up Obasanjo’s challenge in spite of his well known mischief, he says Obasanjo has unfettered access to the president. But from the exchange of letters between the godfather and godson, we know this is not true. In any case, Nigerians now know that Obasanjo once secured conditionality for cessation of hostility by the insurgents which government found not implementable. Government loses nothing by engaging Obasanjo to open another window of discussion with Boko Haram except adviser’s relevance.

If the president and his advisers saw mischief in Obasanjo’s offer of help, we cannot say the same of the claim by Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop who insisted her country had made an offer to help in the search for the abducted girls since May, 20, through its High Commissioner Jon Richardson in Abuja. According to her, “They have thanked us for our willingness to be involved in trying to rescue the girls but we haven’t had any specific acceptance of the offers that we made.” Even if “There was no specific offer from the Australian government, but an informal offer of a general kind” as Mike Omeri had claimed, what do we have to lose if one of those ministers trying to outdo each other on who best fights the president personal wars or those of his wife followed up the lead?.

We now also know while these ministers were trying to outdo each other as to who best prosecutes the president’s private wars, none of them had the presence of mind to prevail on the president to consider an American offer of help shortly after the abduction of about 300 girls by insurgents. Infuriated Senator McCain recently told his colleagues in the American Senate that America ought not to have waited for permission from a non-existent government or government where little governance takes place before embarking on humanitarian effort to rescue the abducted girls.

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