By Dele Sobowale
What does corrupting time not diminish? â€”Horace, 65-8 B.C, Vanguard Book of Quotations, p.247)
I METÂ Azu, my favourite columnist, of The Punch by accident at the bank last week. And what can two pen-pushers talk about but current events.
The first topic was Professor Akunyili, Madam Re-branding, with whom Azu has been having a running battle about an N8.2 billion contract which most writers feel are totally unnecessary but which Akunyili is defending as if her life depended on it.
Perhaps it does. The second was Governor Ohakimâ€™s defection to the PDP – which was just as astonishing and painful as the transformation of Akunyili from the ranks of â€œsaintsâ€ in public service to â€œGod-knows-whatâ€ these days.
Many people who knew and loved Dora for her sterling performance as the director general of the NAFDAC had expressed concern when she was given the Ministry of Information portfolio. My own attitude at the time was â€œwait and see.â€
Miracles can still happen – even in Nigeria. Even then, I was worried for two reasons. First, Madam had assured her admirers that she would always speak the truth even as minister of information. Second, I knew from historical experience, that the Federal Government and all the state governments of Nigeria have never established one single Ministry of Information.
What we have always had were Propaganda units masquerading as the Ministries of Information. Obviously, at least it was obvious to me, Madam would soon discover that her credibility will become increasingly impaired as time goes on or she might have to resign. Truth telling and the portfolio she holds are incompatible in Nigeria of today.
Since then she has been embroiled in one controversy after another. Re-branding, which was the ill-conceived kite she first flew, was eventually brought down by the Federal Executive Council which slashed the budget from N1.2 billion to a pittance by asking her to go and feed on the left-over of Frank Nweke, Jnr, her predecessor in the re-branding scam.
This was soon followed by another palaver with the director general of the NCC, Engineer Ndukwe and that wahala is still hanging.
From information reaching us, she is at daggers drawn with her Minister of State. She joined the â€œHonourableâ€ Minister ofÂ Education to dance the night away while all Nigerian universities closed down and now she is proposing to spend N8.2 billion to retool where less than N6 billion will do to purchase â€œtear rubberâ€ equipment. Madam has suddenly become the spokeswoman for people of questionable characters.
Now I know what Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, meant when he wrote: If you work with glue, sooner or later, youâ€™re bound to get stuck (Vanguard Book of Quotations, p. 76). Almost everywhere I go these days, the name that was once pronounced with awe, is now dismissed with a derisive wave of the hand – accompanied by expletives unmentionable.
Someone is getting re-branded very fast!! Just as I was getting depressed with the transformation of Akunyili, rumours started flying that Governor Ohakim was about to de-camp to the PDP. I thought it was a foolâ€™s joke. It turned out to be a fact.
Azu again asked me what I thought of it. He did not stop there. He mentioned that Ohakim had quoted me in the books he launched. That revelation would have made me proud two months ago. Not any more.
While Ohakim was still trying to deceive Nigerians with â€œcleverâ€ words about his motives, Obasanjo, who had never been a diplomat told the unvarnished truth. Ohakim was posted to the PPA by the PDP and was supported to win the election with the clear understanding that he would defect later.
That electoral fraud is unbecoming of anyone who wrote those lofty words Ohakim presented in his books. Anyone who deceives the electorate to collect their votes on one partyâ€™s platform and turns around to sell the mandate to another party can never again earn my respect irrespective of what else he does afterwards. Machiavellism, the idea that the end justifies the means, belongs to devilâ€™s angels; not great leaders of decent people.
Ghandi, 1869-1948, the father of modern India had warned us about the things that would destroy us as a nation: Politics without principles, knowledge without character (Vanguard Book of Quotations p.245). Apparently the beautiful ones among Nigerian politicians are not yet born.
During the period under review, government has implemented the following educational policies and programmes: Declaration of free and compulsory education in public primary and secondary schools in the State â€”Governor Godswill Akpabio, Nigerian Tribune, June 10, 2009, p. 21.
Distribution of revenue to states for month of May 2009
1.Â Â Akwa IbomÂ Â Â Â N8.75 billion
2.Â Â RiversÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â N8.22 billion
3.Â Â DeltaÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â N7.83 billion
4.Â LagosÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â N2.35 billion
Average monthly distribution of revenue 1999 -2005
1.Â DeltaÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â N5.3Â billion
2. RiversÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â N4.9Â billion
3. Akwa IbomÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â N4.3Â billion
4. LagosÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â N3.1Â billion
At the core of the conflict between Attah and Akpabio, at least from Attahâ€™s point of view, is the attempt, deliberate or inadvertent, to rubbish his tenure of office and to create the impression that everything is being done anew in Akwa Ibom by the incumbent governor.
Perhaps, it still boils down to Akpabioâ€™s script writers whose choice of language conveys that impression. And 90 per cent of the problem can easily be solved if a correction is made in that direction.
Last week, I pointed out how the issue of 17 dialysis units donated to the Uyo Teaching Hospital was a great mistake.
This week, the focus of attention is on one of the claims under education. This is of particular interest to me because my focus started right from 1999 shortly after Attah became governor. He made the claim that â€œAkwa Ibom had become the nationâ€™s largest supplier of stewards and cooksâ€ and his administration was going to put a stop to it. It was then that free primary and secondary education was first launched – not two years ago.
I recollect writing a column to thank Attah for this foresight and followed the gesture by going at my own expense to Uyo two months after to find out if the government had taken a step to actualize the policy. I was surprised that it was already being implemented.
That was when I became a fan of Attah because to me education is the most important social element in development. Later the government paid the fees of secondary school students up to JSS 3 as well as NECO examination fees. I know because one of my cousins lives at Eket and his three kids enjoyed these facilities.
So declaration of free education was made when Akpabio was a commissioner in Attahâ€™s government. All he has done is to extend it to SS3. That by itself is a great achievement which should not be diminished by exaggerations.
Meanwhile, I provide the figures above for the benefit of those who might not know how immensely richer Akwa Ibom has got in the last two years. Why, then is it that the governor everyone talks about is Fashola who receives only a quarter of what Akpabio takes home?