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On grounds of ill-health

By Bisi Lawrence
It is said that the Special Adviser on Information and Strategic to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Segun Ayobolu, voluntarily withdrew his services on grounds of  ill-health earlier this week. It warms the cockles of my heart that he is a kindred spirit, in the sense that he runs a backpage column every month in the Alausa Alert newspaper.

I am delighted that a man with strong media connections has done this, because it is the kind of high-spirited public conduct that we advocate all the time for others, howbeit with such little success.

The truth is that this standard of decency and propriety constantly eludes our civil society to the extent of  its almost being forgotten to exist.

Whoever heard of such a thing – a person willingly removing himself from a position of influence (and possibly affluence) and power simply because he says he is not feeling well? It was not even as though he was suffering from a terminal illness which would, in fact, have made no difference to most of us. What has become the principle is that you just do not quit office. But it is the wrong principle.

It is a principle that is not based, in the first place, on any code of sound public service; it cannot summon honesty and a sense of selflessness to its support; it therefore confronts propriety at each step of the way, as a move towards self-perpetuation in office. That went out with the “divine right of  kings”. It is an anachronism that is only tolerated, in enlightened climes, within the limits of culture as an ordinary ritual of  tradition.

And so when it is contravened so casually, one would have thought it would make a major news story. However, not many people seem to have been impressed. No matter Ayo Olubo’s peers in the Lagos State Cabinet, led by Governor Babatunde Fashola. poured encomiums on his commendable behaviour. So would we too on this page… in bucketfuls.

He was truly there to render worthwhile service, and left when he felt he no longer could, with respect to his good name and the welfare of the people he was called to serve.

The Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria, with a stifling majority in both arms of  the National Assembly, sometimes seems to forget its position with regard to its area of influence. Its accusation of the “opposition” as being responsible for heating up the polity is definitely misplaced.

The speculations arising from the repotted ill-health of  President Umaru Yar’Adua are, in themselves, mostly legitimate. The  members of  the public will not be held back from postulating on an issue that affects the welfare of the nation as closely as that. But while such speculations are by their nature, diffuse and of  little effect, the posturing and statements of men and women with a marked status in the public affairs of the nation are the cause of any heat on the political scene.

Most of them are in the National Assembly, or the periphery thereof. And the majority in that area is not the “opposition”. It is of  little effect to blame its raucous noise on a group that has been virtually rendered silent – or at the best, hoarse – by an overwhelming, overpowering, majority.

Why would the “opposition” be excited by the conjecture of a putative vacancy in Aso Rock? What could it possibly gain from it in political terms?

That can only activate those who feel they have a stake in such a state of affairs. The country once witnessed a similar absence of the President, purportedly on a religious excursion, when speculations of all sorts became rife. We can still remember that the heads that rolled for the inappropriate series of posturing at that period were not from within the “opposition’’.

In fact, the PDP National Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, one of  those who have pointedly accused the “opposition” of  bad faith in the co-existence of parties within the body politic, is on record as admitting that, “Some vested interest in our midst, working in tandem with the opposition are stoking these fires within the party.”

He went on to state that people in that group were operating “under the guise of names as ‘founding members, elders of the party, stakeholders and party leaders’”. “Those who can function ‘’under the guise” of such an identity surely cannot be “freshmen” within the party.

The truth is that there have been too many kinds of posturing in this matter. For instance, well-intentioned as all this series of “national calls to prayer’ may be, it leaves me rather cold. That is an exercise that is usually warranted, in normal times, only as an extreme measure. But then, maybe we should indeed pray, anyway.

A prayer-less people, is a powerless people, they say. We should pray to have people who would always put the welfare of the people above the interests of their political fortunes; people who would always consider the well-being of those whom they are called upon to serve before their own personal advantage; yes, and for the leadership of people like Segun Ayobolu.

In the approach of  deregulation

Is deregulation waiting for Christmas? I cannot see any other consideration delaying it. No matter what the experts and other knowing ones say, what it all boils down to is the increase in the pump price of petroleum products – that is, essentially, kerosene and petrol. Of particular concern, of course, is petrol which is the “motive”   fuel for the nation.

This matter has been kicked here and there, back and forth, and there is nothing really left to be said about it any further. It has been pointed out that a hike in petrol price at this time could ground many elements of our cottage industry, have a multiplier effect on the prices of domestic products including foodstuffs, and generally make the looming recession in our economy much harsher than it should be. Our “labour leaders have also made their own racket at an appropriate pitch, threatening thunderbolt and lightning in the dry season-a most unlikely proposition.

But, if you will pardon the trite expression, all to no avail.

Deregulation is gathering support more and more, day by day, especially from those who have a lot to gain from it.The latest are the industry chiefs, though they have never really been against it. But they find the situation ripe now for them to “come out of the closet”, and publicly pontificate on its merit and in its favour.

They feel they have seen the end of the “militancy” which had disrupted production to near-disaster level in recent terms, and can paper over existing and gaping cracks with bland promises of development of the areas that have been neglected for so long. And so, feeling quite at ease, they can now, in their callous manner, reach out over the welfare of the people for a few dollars more.

And why not? It is called business. After all, they claim that Nigeria has received a profit of over N1.8 trillion in the past four years from exploration only. And that was along with an investment of nearly 3 trillion naira. Their yearnings for good returns for the outlay could be understood if they are considered justifiable. And to do just that was the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry through the President,SolomonOnafuwokan. He made some statements in this regard that could not in themselves be justified, although they might be quite understandable, everything considered. Suffice it to say that the LCCI now also supports Deregulation.

So, who are left, but you and I?

We were all keyed to bear the onslaught of the price increase which we understood, some weeks ago, would go into three figures for the first time in Nigerian history. In fact, we experienced a few days of hardship just before the recent FIFA World U-19 Championships, and then the situation was somehow defused.. It was rumoured that the presence of our “visitors”: from all over the world advised that the change in fuel price be shelved until the football tournament was over.

But on the heels of the international football contest came the Eid-el-Beiram, and the Muslim festival also procured a deferment for the actualisation of the oncoming anguish The same consideration might be extended through the Christmas period, it is believed. That would be welcome.

We have been saying all this, of course, as residents in Lagos. There has been no let on in Abuja, the Federal Capital, since the crisis in fuel supply before the U-19 competition. A relief would now be welcome at any price That will come indeed to all of us after Deregulation when the new price is announced. And that will be soon, no matter what noises you, and I, and the NLC make

Echoes: (+) Sorry about your having to be harassed via “portable” phone. We human beings “get as we be”. But may I ask you what you think of a Minister of Sports wanting to be Head of the National Sports Commission and the Olympic Committee?

Well, you said it: we human beings “get as we be”.

(+) I read through your piece on Alhaji Sunny Badru. I believe that more still needs to be written about this man to draw the attention of government at all levels to the fact that this man is still alive.

Alhjaji Sunny Badru is a recipient of the national honour of MFR – Member of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is a modest man who finds fulfillment in excellence without excessive media hype.

(+) Do not pay any heed to my impudence in asking how old you are. My curiosity stems from your jaunts with ancients long interred.

Old enough, through the grace of God, to be a great-grandfather – or haven’t you heard?

Time out.


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