Ministers and advisers in time of crisis

The challenges of President Jonathan as a leader of a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society like Nigeria are enormous.  Overwhelmed by myriad of problems bedevilling the nation, he was forced to remind his tormentors how a lot easier it is to criticize than govern. I am sure Jonathan couldn’t have fought so hard for the presidency if he didn’t mean well for the country. I am sure many Nigerians shared his passion for the country as he bellowed during his inauguration “Today, our unity is firm, and our purpose is strong, our determination unshakable. Together, we will unite our nation and improve the living standards of all our peoples whether in the North or in the South; in the East or in the West. Our decade of development has begun”.

The fate of Jonathan is not different from those of his predecessors in office who had assumed power promising to change our country for the better but ended up leaving behind more problems than they inherited. Their failures have not been due to absence of passion or lack of trying, but in their character flaws effectively exploited by self-serving ministers and advisers. From Balewa to Obasanjo, all our past Nigerian leaders have been humbled by these men who operate without scruples.

Although  we have rightly placed the blame for our failures  on the door steps of our successive leaders because the buck stops on their desk,  this has only emboldened  many of our permanent men in government  to move  unscathed from the ruins of one administration to  emerge as key players  in the new one. In the first republic it was ministers and advisers that sold to Balewa government that stable and peace post-independent Nigeria could only be attained by cutting the wings of high flying Action Group, creating Mid West out of Western Region to spite the advocates of regions for restive ethnic nationalities. They emerged from the ashes of the collapsed first republic as key players in Ironsi regime. It was the same set of advisers who convinced ill-equipped Ironsi that the trouble with our nation was the regional framework of our federal structure and that what was required to remove the stranglehold of one region on the rest of the nation was the imposition of a unitary system on a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society. Ironsi’s self-serving advisers who plunged the nation into civil war outlived him to play prominent role as NPN members in the short-lived second republic.

Operating without principles outside the desire to serve self, they supported the reckless consumption of Shagari government which in three years erased the foreign reserve left behind by Obasanjo in 1979. They embarked on the battle over the control of the minds of the people through heavy propaganda on government-controlled NTA and the Daily Times to denounce those who had warned of the imminent collapse of the economy. They went ahead to supervise the rigging of the 1983 elections remorselessly and gleefully awarding ‘landslide and sea-slide’ victories on the NTA to NPN. In the end, they laid waste the Shagari administration and buried the second republic.

For eight years General Babangida took the nation for a ride.  His ministers and advisers told Nigerians there was no alternative to Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP); that political parties can be decreed and that democracy can be taught in classrooms. Babangida’s economic and political advisers who destroyed our economy and took us through eight years of fraudulent transition emerged as key players in the aborted third republic while others that fervently worked and schemed for him to remain in power later became foreign ministers and ambassadors under Abacha. Those ministers and advisers behind “Abacha today, Abacha tomorrow and Abacha forever” band became prominent actors in the politics of the forth republic. And of course Obasanjo’s recent admonition to President Jonathan to be wary of advisers was an indirect admission that his larger-than-life image was destroyed by advisers and ministers who fraudulently organized loans for him to buy Transcorp shares, secretly financed the collapsed third term agenda claiming without Obasanjo there will be no Nigeria only to turn up as Yar’Adua and Jonathan ministers, advisers and board chairmen.

In the last three and half years, Jonathan who came after a landslide victory, has been a captive of his  self-serving ministers and advisers made up of  repentant militants, elder statesmen as militants who once advised General Gowon against handing over power,  and others  imposed on him by PDP wheelers and dealers. Events and activities of these men in the run up to and after the abduction of our Chibok girls have clearly shown that they, like their predecessors, are neither loyal to Jonathan nor to Nigeria.  For weeks they unleashed their caustic tongues on critics who tried to link the relative ease with which insurgents overran military barracks, police stations and maximum security detention facilities to underhand practices by those in charge of procurement of needed weapons for our armed forces.

Now  the US and Britain after tongue-lashing the president  for presiding over a corrupt administration have  brought  in their  sophisticated planes, drones and other war-heads to aid intelligence-gathering for our ill-equipped soldiers blindly fighting insurgents without borders.  Ministers and advisers who have for months insisted our soldiers were well kitted have not told us why  a nation that spent 130 billion in four months on war against insurgents could not afford at least two  drones at a total cost of about a million dollars  from South Africa’s defence industry .

If the president needed the help of international community to come to terms with corruption in his government, the only evidence needed to validate the thesis of his political adversaries who had accused him of running kindergarten government were the recent embarrassing and disastrous outings  of some of his ministers.

If the tenure of the immediate past Minister of Police Affairs who spent most of the time politicking  instead of equipping police stations routinely sacked by Boko Haram insurgents was a disaster, the response  of  the  current one to the abduction of the Chibok girls was tragic. Asked by reporters about government’s plan to rescue the abducted girls when sighted at a birthday bash for the Olubadan of Ibadan a day after the kidnapping, the minister drew blank, first doubting the event took place before appealing to the insurgents to release the girls because such act was unislamic.

Last week’s confrontation between Olajumoke Akinjide’s and the weeping ‘Bring back our girls’ group led by Obiageli Ezekwesili, a smart, sharp, razor-tongued intellectual who will give Hillary Clinton a run for her money in a debate contest, and who like Obasanjo fights like a bull holding no hostages, was a total disaster for government which many believe indulges more in politicking than governance. First, Akinjide, whose father recently rated President Jonathan as one of the best Nigerian presidents, was ill-suited to confront impassioned protesters against Jonathan’s inept handling of the abduction of the Chibok girls.  Then the minister falsely claimed government acted from day one of the abduction when it was in fact government’s indifference and politics of buck-passing that sparked off demonstrations by Nigerian women and the international community to wake President Jonathan from his deep slumber.  And finally, as if to confirm people’s fears that the president and his ministers do not give a damn about governance,  Akinjide  asked those who traded their freedom and liberty for government protection  to direct the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ plea at those who abducted their daughters. It cannot be any more tragic. As it is in Police Affairs Ministry and Ministry of Abuja Territory, so it is in Defence, Aviation, and Petroleum and Education ministries. All we see is politicking by self-serving ministers

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