By Yinka Odumakin
DEAR Hon. Minister, Pardon me for boring you with this little story in a community in some corner of Nigeria a few years ago. Leaders of the said community had decided on a N20m fund-raising for some project so dear to them and fixed a day to invite their sons and daughters to do them proud .
The event started as planned and people started to donate in turns with applause here and there when a convoy of about 10 exotic jeeps screeched to a halt and dust covered the entire arena. When the palpitation settled, a young man in a pair of jeans and shirt came out from one of the cars followed by a retinue of aides. He made straight for the microphone and told the gathering that he is a native who came uninvited to the event.
He added that he just heard that his community was looking for money and he decided to come and be a blessing to the land of his birth. But that it saddened him to see his community erecting tents just because of N20m.He beckoned on his boys to offload the bags containing the N20m from the cars and the crowd went ecstatic chasing away the hitherto dignitaries on the high table for the young man and his entourage.
An elder of the community who narrated the story said the only thing that came to his mind where he sat was “how would the Yoruba have reacted to this? “That ethical lamentation raises the fundamental essence of the value-driven profile of the proper Yoruba person built on heritage of ethical standard across generations.
It erects some moral columns with a base below which an Omoluwabi is not expected to fall no matter the trappings of money, power and influence. This code of behaviour is well captured in that saying of our people that the craving for Suya should not lead any man to call a cow “Bros”.
This is the background to the consternation at your staying put in office after you were literally sacked last week with the recall by the President of the boss of National Health Insurance, NHIS, Professor Usman Yusuf whom you suspended last year July when President Buhari was on medical vacation in London to pave way for investigations of corruption allegations against him.
Yusuf had in a very contemptuous manner fired you a memorandum then that he did not know what you think of yourself or whatever leftover mandate you were hanging around when “Constituted Authority” was in some medical facility in London. Excerpts from his letter:
“By virtue of Section 47 of the NHIS Act, you are empowered to give directives of a general nature to the Governing Council of the Scheme and in the absence of the Council, you have presidential mandate to exercise the powers and functions of the council, but since the powers and functions of the Council do not include discipline, suspension or removal of the Executive Secretary of the Scheme from office, the directive in your letter under reference cannot find comfort under the said section or presidential mandate; and
“The letter of suspension is not in accordance with Public Service Rules as no prima facie case has been established against me in respect of the petition referred to in the letter.
“The mere fact that there are pending petitions against a public officer which is yet to be substantiated does not constitute a ground for suspension under the Public Service Rules. Otherwise, with over 18,000 petitions pending against public office holders before the EFCC and ICPC as at the end of June 2017, the total number of public officers who would have been on suspension by now including the Honourable Ministers is left to be imagined,”
It took practically shutting the doors by security agents for him to stop the defiance of your directive. His recall last week by the President without reference to your office is a vindication for his impunity and a dirty slap on your face as a Minister of the Federal Republic. Sorry, there is a reference to your office. You have been asked to work with him the way Benue was encouraged to find accommodation with killer herdsmen. What about the reports of the administrative panel you set up that found him guilty ? Well,you are free to use them in your “shithole”!
The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed added some comical dimension to the whole saga when he said that the recall will not stop Yusuf’s investigation even as he added that he was not aware that the EFCC is investigating him “but if that is the case I don’t think his reinstatement is a bar to any investigation.”
When asked why he claimed not to be aware that the NHIS ES is under investigation, the Information minister said, “I didn’t say I’m not aware of his investigation, I said EFCC. I was precise I said I am not aware that the EFCC is investigating him and that if it is true, that the fact that he has been reinstated does not mean a stop to it. That is what I said. I am not saying I’m not aware that he was suspended or any investigation is going on. The fact that he has been reinstated does not mean that the EFCC will not continue with its investigation, that is what I said.”
While the gullible ones are free to foam in the mouth about anti-corruption war, the worry here is that you still carry on in office as if you cannot process what has just happened to you with this sheer impunity. In plain language: you remain in office but stripped of authority. Like an attorney observed,you are no more than a subordinate to Yusuf at the moment. Since you seem to have taken the decision to swallow your pride to remain in office, life would be very comfortable if you learn fast how to say “ranka dede” to Oga Yusuf whenever you run into him in the corridors.
Your present humiliation in some way is an encore, though the earlier one was noble for you and you carried yourself with great dignity and admiration.
You were elected the President of the National Association of Resident Doctors,NARD, in 1984 at a time when the dreaded Buhari-Idiagbon military junta held sway in Nigeria.The culture of fear imposed on the country then did not stop you from leading doctors on a major confrontation with that administration to press for better working conditions .The regime wielded the big stick by sacking you and your colleagues. The repression was capped with the decision to declare you wanted.
Realising the crude force at play, you had a rapid dialogue with your feet (apology to WS) and spent the next fifteen months in exile with the junta’s goons on your trail.
In an interview you granted The News magazine to mark your 60th birthday you recalled those days thus :
“Let me say clearly, I have been a victim of interactions with so many adventures. At various levels, those adventures largely contributed to who and what I am today. I joined medical politics by sheer accident. I was encouraged by Dr. Kayode Obembe, who just came to me and said, “Dr. Adewole, I want you to be the secretary.” And I said, Why not? And I became the secretary of the association of the resident doctors at the University College Hospital, UCH, at that early level and rose to the position of national president, led a nationwide strike and we were dismissed. That was a turning point. Everything appeared bleak and blank at that point because we were sad. That was during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime.
We were not only sacked, we were asked to be picked dead or alive and some of us went into exile. I was away for about 15 months. But the experience I had at a research laboratory in London also influenced what I am today and helped me when I returned because while I was there, I wrote four papers. The then president, Ibrahim Babangida, gave us pardon. He said he was granting pardon to all the dismissed doctors so that they could participate in the national political discourse.”
By some twist of fate it would appear that the knock you ran away from in 1984 is now descending on your skull. Unfortunately and understandably , the head is no longer as hot as it was in 1984. It can absorb just anything now.
Mr. Ifedayo Adedipe(SAN) speaking with a Sunday Newspaper could not conceal his disgust at your ordeal when he declared “If I were the Minister of Health, I would resign and give them back their useless position. The President has undermined his so-called war on corruption for whatever reason, and it does him no credit that he is doing this.
“A man under his watch is accused of corruption and is being probed, and you reinstated him? He has undermined that minister. And this professor (Yusuf) was so boastful, saying only the President could query him. That he (Buhari) would do this kind of thing no longer shocks me.”
“Is the Presidency the court? When they dragged people all over the pages of newspapers — people accused of crimes — did they say they needed to be proved? They called everybody a looter. The people they were calling looters, have they been found guilty?
“The reason this man (Buhari) is doing this is because that man (Yusuf) is his fellow tribesman. That’s all! This country belongs to all of us; you can’t do this kind of thing to people…”
I smell it so strongly that this land is crying for some real man or woman who will stand up and say a ‘NO” that will resound and prove we are not bereft of heroes.You have missed it but that person won’t with the full digestion of Maya Angelou’s words “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”
Extend my courtesies to maigida Yusuf.
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I AM Dr. Iwuagwu progress, a dentist by profession and a proud Igbo man. I make sure I read your write ups and view points on contemporary issues in Nigeria. I want to commend you for your sagacity, brilliance and consistency of views. Your advice to our dear Vice president in candid notes (Vanguard) of 6th February deserves Nobel prize for literature. We will never forget you when the battle for freedom from the current misrule is won and Nigeria restructured. More grease to your elbow. Jisi ke- Dr. Iwuagwu Progress .