BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN
How Labran Maku would rank in a performance appraisal of Nigeria’s Information Ministers remains a fiercely debatable issue.
Given the disrepute that trailed some of his more controversial predecessors, judgment on what Mr. Maku makes of his time in office understandably would unlikely be delivered until his exit.
Among his predecessors were Prof. Jerry Gana who Comrade Adams Oshiomhole mocked for parroting jerry can of lies, Comrade Uche Chukwumerije who in the opinion of some had an overriding design to force the descendants of Oduduwa out of Nigeria, and off course, the sometimes comical Alex Akinyele, whose laborious efforts in dressing and make-up produced minuscule results in burnishing the image of the Ibrahim Babangida regime.
There was also Dr. Walter Ofonagoro who served Gen. Sanni Abacha, lacing intellectual fervour into the brutish instincts of that regime.
But how does one place Mr. Maku, one of few professional journalists to have occupied the position of Minister of Information? His journalism background is also spiked with a history of activism which Mr. Maku obviously would now want to be forgotten.
A former official of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Maku reportedly led campaigns against the increase in petroleum product prices during the Ibrahim Babangida regime. Mr. Maku’s position on issues dealing with the welfare of the people is now an issue.
His rabid defence of the administration despite gapping holes on the issue of the multi-trillion naira subsidy fraud was a defining point in the redefinition of the once socialist inclined Comrade Labran Maku.
For whatever effort he has made, no one had expected Mr. Maku with his new outlook to life and the masses, to take head on, one of the more credible officials of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili.
Mrs. Ezekwesili, a chartered accountant who helped in founding the global anti-corruption body, Transparency International, was also the pioneer head of the Price Monitoring Unit of the Obasanjo administration, a unit that brought into our lexicon, the concept of due process in the procurement programmes of government.
It was her staunch inclination to due process and undoubtedly her incorruptibility that led to the sobriquet, ‘Madam Due Process’ and the agitation among many contractor-legislators for her sack on account of her hard opposition to reducing the bar for the legislators.
Mrs. Ezekwesili was also pivotal to the enactment of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, a programme that was conceived to enhance transparency in the petroleum and other extractive sectors.
Mrs. Ezekwesili is also known to be a forthright person who does not suffer fools gladly despite her acclaimed Christian faith and marriage to a pastor.
For such a woman, one would need to prepare a damning dossier to confront her. So, when Mrs. Ezekwesili last Thursday gave a convocation speech at the graduation of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and detailed the failures of Nigeria as a nation state, it was remarkable that the newspapers focused on the aspect of the speech where she lamented the squandering of $67 billion left by the Obasanjo administration by the successor Umaru Yar‘adua and Jonathan administrations. But beyond that observation was the intellectual lushness of a speech this correspondent would class among the best to have been presented in these shores in recent times.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Maku returned to his riotous past to engage Mrs. Ezekwesili by lampooning her character and her stewardship of the Ministry of Education.
By resorting to mob mentality to engage Mrs. Ezekwesili, Mr. Maku has only helped to strengthen the arguments canvassed by Mrs. Ezekwesili. He has also done the administration no favour, chasing shadows rather than substance on the issues of development raised in the speech.
Many on twitter and other online media are even canvassing that the Ezekwesili speech be circulated and made a compulsory text for civic education in our schools.
I no less agree.