By Ogaga Ifowodo
YOU wish to Allah the Merciful that what you heard about the request for an additional N9 billion for the construction of a brand new mansion for the Vice President is not true, that you had just woken up from a nightmare when you heard lying voices in the dark seeking to “heat up” your head and “the polity” (apologies to President Jonathan’s spokesmen).
Alas, it is true. When N7.5 billion was originally approved, in 2009, for the construction of the same house, you had dismissed, with a holy oath, the father of lies who had been whispering such damnable falsehood in your ear. You were as incredulous as Adeyemi Smart, a senator, would be three years later when Adamu Ismail, executive secretary of the Federal Capital Development Authority defended the act of naked plunder before the FCT senate committee, and you screamed at the fleeing Satan:
“Is this house to be built on earth or in heaven? Will the sand, cement, iron rods, tiles, doors and every other material needed for it be made of gold? Will the builders and labourers be paid in gold weights? Tuffia! Get thee behind me, Satan,” you railed and went about your business.
Yet, it was true then as it is now. Ismail did not once mention “gold” as he explained the scope of Project VP’s Mansion. The additional N9 billion, a 120 percent increase to the original approved sum, is needed to “build a banquet hall, protocol guest house, two other guest houses and civil infrastructure, as well as to purchase furniture and install security gadgets.”
Apparently, there had been an unforgivable, even criminal, neglect in the original plan and design of the mansion. But it goes without saying that without these additional amenities, the resultant edifice would be unfit for purpose and an insult to the office and person of the vice president. Which is why Ismail was quick to inform the senate that the “additional scope to be done on the project” (sic) was “because of the personality of Mr. Vice President.”
Got it? A mansion befitting of the Vice President’s personality. Got the bit about civil infrastructure too? According to Ismail, the Bureau of Public Procurement “approved over N6 billion” after vetting the request but that “would not be enough,” given that “there are some other adjustments needed to be done,” the details of which he would disclose at a later date and time. But why trouble him to justify what every fool knows?
Take only one befitting amenity, the banquet hall, which is to gulp N2.2 billion. As General Obasanjo, who should know, told us, high public service is an invitation to “come and chop.” Where is the best place to chop? A banquet hall, of course! And what should the tables, chairs, chinaware, cutlery and the very walls of the hall itself be made of if the chopping is to be worth its salt (pun intended)?
Why, gold! As for the food, let’s just say that it is not what every Mukoro, Musa or Moriamo, with no personality, eats in a Mama-Put or buka far from banquet halls.
There was one almost plausible justification for Project VP’s Mansion. Since 1999 when the great new epoch of democracy dawned on us, the vice president has been, to our shame, homeless. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar squatted in the official residence of the Chief Justice throughout his tenure. Jonathan endured the added indignity of being relocated to Akinola Aguda House, the Presidential guest house, before blind luck elevated him to Aso Rock.
This unflattering image of a wandering,
homeless vice president of the oil-crazed Giant of Africa is what the government seeks to erase quickly before we become the laughing-stock of the world. Thankfully, we have petro-dollars to burn. What was it former military dictator General Yakubu Gowon is reputed to have said at the beginning of our oil-induced madness — that money is not our problem but how to spend it?
We have long solved that problem, with the cement armada that followed that utterance, appropriately enough, as a proof. So, let us build a N16 billion mansion to match the personality of our vice president. And let us remember to furnish it with furniture “bought from heaven,” as the bewildered Senator Adeyemi wondered aloud.
Only that after this, we must never again hear of government officials going to Germany, anywhere outside the borders of this rich country, for medical treatment. The president and all political office holders must be prohibited from sending their children to school abroad while they remain in office.
A country that can lavish so many billions on its vice president’s house is clearly not a beggar nation. Therefore, Jonathan must not attempt the inhuman act of levying another expropriation tax on citizens reeling from the monstrous blows of endemic joblessness and poverty by way of a further withdrawal of the bogus, so-called subsidy on refined oil products.
For just think what N16 billion could do to transform one of our teaching hospitals, making it unnecessary for Mrs. Jonathan to enrich Germany with the loads of hard currency she frittered away during her recent “vacation?” Or what that sum could do to rehabilitate primary schools across the country even if at a mere N500 million per state? Just think!