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Making progress: Ghost workers to ghost president

By Dele Sobowale
“But history sometimes indulges in jokes of questionable taste”. Joseph S. Schumpeter, 1942. We gained international disrepute by having the largest pool of ghost workers in public service in the world.

Now we have added to that –a Ghost President. We are really making progress. We have had ghost members of the National Assembly since 1999; most of our elected “honourables” don’t show up unless there is something to share or on pay day. One Senator from Enugu State is notorious for this.

For 11 years we have been cursed with a lot of Ghost Ministers and States Commissioners. If you don’t believe me ask anyone you meet to name 20 of the current Ministers; and if you really want to be shocked asked for their portfolios. I tried it with over 500 people; none could get past nine names. It just goes to show you how much impact they are making.

The same goes for state commissioners. The truth is, Nigerians are annually swindled by the Executive branch through the appointments of Ghost Ministers and Commissioners who only raid the treasury for their own benefits. For all intents and purposes they don’t really exist. We tolerated these rascals in the National Assembly, EXCON, at State levels and the civil service, so, why can’t we have a Ghost President for once? Now we have one.

He is there, but we can’t see him. He spoke only once, assuming he was the speaker, to us through BBC Hausa broadcast –very neat! Now some of the “Ghost Ministers” are going in search of our Ghost President. Very curious!! I suspect a scam to rob the estacode account. Who on earth would want to spend top dollar to go in search of a ghost? Area Boys are watching. This is Nigerian history in the making and it might be questionable.

As I write this some of the “Honourables” who went to Saudi, on the same mission, had not returned to Nigeria to sign their worthless report. One reportedly veered off to Dubai. Now you know why they were fighting to be in the delegation; don’t you? It was all about Dubai and Spain and getting the tax payer to pay for the trip.

By the time you read this, the Executive Council of the Federation, EXCON would have sent six of its members to Saudi. Those to proceed on this ECF’S equivalent of “fools’ errand”, such as the fruitless one embarked upon by the Honourables, include Professor Osotimehin, Mr Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, Dr Sayyadi Abba-Ruma, Chief Ojo Madueke, Dr Rilwan Lukman and Secretary to the Federal Government, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed.

They will undoubtedly call on Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Saudi Kingdom, who might tell them, for the umpteenth time, that “President will soon be discharged and return home”. The man simply cannot stop lying. Then they will proceed to prostrate in front of the Saudi Monarch to be allowed to go near the hallowed wing of the hospital where the Saudi security hold our “Commander In Chief” hostage, with or without his consent.

Even then, they are not assured of seeing the ailing president. Standing between them and the object of their visit would be the almighty Mrs Turai Yar’Adua, who had sent mightier people back since her husband disappeared into a limbo –like a ghost – three months ago. The tourists, because that is what they remain unless they can persuade Turai to open the doors, might find that like others before them, they have laboured in vain.

It is easier for a hundred camels tied, side to side to pass through the eye of a needle than to convince “woman mountain” to allow anyone into the ward where our captive is held. Mrs Turai Yar’Adua has no interest, whatsoever, in people wanting to know the truth about her husband’s condition. She would rather have us deal with a ghost president rather than a life one.

I wish them luck. But, even if they eventually get to see the president, what could they discover that is not already known or guessed? One thing they will not find is a Yar’Adua challenging anyone to a game of squash as he did after recovering from a breakdown during the presidential campaigns of 2007.

Instead, what they will probably find is someone who can barely recognize them and who most probably cannot sit up and chat with them for one hour straight. That is the truth that Mrs Yar’Adua wants to hide at all costs –until she can no longer conceal it – because revelation means she would have to return to Katsina sooner than she planned. I wish them luck; one of them should please bring back the latest Blueberry for me.

This is likely to be another jamboree –at the nation’s expense. And I want my share of the national cake; otherwise there will be trouble. P.S. This piece was written three days before the President was rumoured to have arrived in Abuja in the dead of night – leaving the ECF delegation clutching at empty air at Saudi. Yeye dey smell. WANT TO BE PRESIDENT IN 2011? THINK FIRST –1. “But far more numerous [is] the herd of such; who think too little and who talk too much”. John Dryden, 1631-1700.

The 2011 presidential race is still wide open; and there is a great chance that for once, the presidential election could be rescued from the clutches of the godfathers. There is both opportunity and danger in that.For the populace, if it happens, the opportunity is there to make our votes count –at least more than in the past.

Later, I will present some ideas about how we can maximize our potential chance for change. Let me for now address those who might want to vie for the office of president. In an earlier series, I had urged them to start early and the reasons have been partially articulated. Now, I will urge them to think. The two, early start and deep thinking, are not by any means mutually exclusive.

And, I hope every candidate realizes that. As a general observation, let me start with a generic piece of advice. First piece of advice goes thus. SPEND TIME AND A LITTLE AMOUNT BEFORE COMMITTING HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF NAIRA TO THE VENTURE. Running for president is capital intensive –even if all of it is not your money e.g Obasanjo in 1998/9 and Yar’Adua in 2006/7.

Thinking becomes indispensable if most of the campaign is to be funded by you. Then consider these. None of the major presidential candidates of the PDP, ANPP and AC spent less than N500 million of their own or other people’s money. One PDP candidate, who lost, spent at least N2 billion in the vain effort. Even if the money was stolen, must it be wasted this way? Another candidate in the same PDP spent roughly N750 million; and he lost every kobo of it.

Incidentally, I came across two of the candidates in the 2007 election –one in Yola; the other in Kano months before the election. After brief introductions, I requested for appointments to see them. They promised to arrange the interviews, after making it quite clear that they were “too busy” campaigning. It was, however, clear to me that they were not campaigning; they were throwing away money because they did not think enough. I just wanted to tell the two to go home.

But, they would not listen until each lost at least N200 million of their own money and almost as much of other people’s money…. File-ds February 25, 2010


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