By Ben Agande.
If you walk around the beautiful streets of Abuja and randomly ask ten residents the name of the present Minister of the Federal capital Territory, the odds are that maybe only one or two persons may be able to tell you who the Minister is. The present minister who was appointed into office about a year ago by President Muhammadu Buhari is so anonymous that only people who have direct dealings with his office know his name. But it has never always been like this.
By the very nature of their office, Ministers of the Federal Capital Territory have always been well known to the residents of the city either because of their popularity or notoriety. At the onset of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, President Olusegun brought in two ministers in quick succession; Ibrahim Bunu and Abba Gana, who though did not do any remarkable thing to change the face of the FCT, they were however prominent in their media outings. Their failure, more than their performance as ministers, was what made them popular.
When President Olusgun Obasanjo brought in petit but large-hearted Nasir El-Rufai as Minister of the FCT, it was at a time that both the office and the territory needed a complete turnaround to avert the very problem that informed the relocation of the Capital city from Lagos to Abuja.
With unparalleled presidential backing and a personal zest to excel, El-Rufai set about transforming and repositioning the Federal Capital territory in a way that his name did not only become a household name in the FCT but it became, nationally, a bye word for a performing government official.
He demolished illegal structures of both the high and the mighty as well as the low and struggling without batting an eyelid and restored the city to the beautiful city that its forefathers envisioned it to be. Even those who were victims of his demolition blitzkrieg knew that they became victims because they violated the laws.
By the time El Rufai left office as the Minister of the FCT, his name became not only a house hold name among the residents of the FCT but also assumed a certain level of popularity among residents who think he did the right thing by restoring the Abuja master plan in a way that the performances of subsequent ministers of the FCT were measured using the El Rufai standard of performance.
So, why is the first FCT minister under the change mantra of the Buhari administration so obscure? The reasons given by Abuja residents for this obscurity vary. According to Austin Elemue, a journalist in Abuja who has covered the activities of the FCT for over a decade, the FCT Minister, Mustapha Bello has remained largely unknown to most Abuja residents because he has failed in his first year in office to impress them.
In an open letter to the minister, Elemue said the ‘snail speed’ of development in the FCT since the present minister took over calls for serious concern.
“Mr Minister” he wrote in the widely circulated open letter, “I am deeply worried and concerned with the pace of development in the Federal Capital Territory under your watch as minister. I am worried because you have all it takes to move the city faster than the present snail pace of development. One of the greatest qualities of a good leader is integrity which I understand you possess in abundance. Mr Minister Sir, you must match integrity with capacity to develop the city because integrity without capacity amounts to zero”.
And Zero seems to be the verdict that most Abuja residents who responded to Saturday Vanguard enquiries returned. In the words of a legal practitioner, Abimbola Olajuyin, “the minister is not known because he is not known for anything. He has not done anything to make residents of the FCT know that such person exist.
“Unlike the era when you have performing ministers who were always doing things that would make their impact felt, since this minister came into office, there is hardly anything that he has done to make the people associate him with that high position. If you ask majority of Abuja residents now what is the name of the FCT minister, some will even tell you that it is El-Rufai” he said.
For Akachukwu Chinwendu, a trader in Lugbe, a suburb of the FCT, who claimed he had lived in Abuja for over five years, this is the first time that he would not know a minister of the FCT by name.
“I have never thought about it until you asked me. I honestly don’t know his name because he has not done anything that has impacted on our lives. Rather, his coming on board has brought greater trouble for FCT residents. It is during his tenure that cows openly graze in the city centre. It is during his tenure that Okadas are gradually making their way back into the capital city. In fact there is no positivity to his name so why should I even bother?” he queried.
With the renewed clamour by Nigerians that president Buhari should rejig his cabinet in order to inject new ideas that will bring about the desired change, it would appear that if a census is conducted among Abuja residents whether their minister should be retained in the cabinet or not, an overwhelming number would vote that he should leave. After all, not many of them know the name of the minister of FCT who is supposed to serve as the governor of the territory.