IT is dangerous to be overzealous and to run too far ahead of the pack when there is social tension. In a democracy, it pays for government officials to consult thoroughly, think carefully through policies and apply circumspection in their execution to carry the public along. True democrats are always mindful of conducting public affairs in a manner as to maintain legitimacy and public approval.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, who is privileged to be appointed Minister for the second time, is repeating a mistake he made over 30 years ago when he was the Minister of Communications under President Shehu Shagari. At that time he had threatened to shut down the Radio Lagos FM station for reaching other states with its broadcasts.
Meanwhile, he ignored the Radio Rivers FM which could also be picked up in Imo, Anambra and Cross River States. But, Lagos State was under the opposition Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, while Rivers State was governed by the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, to which Ogbeh belonged. The legal battle which was brewing was only aborted when the military returned in 1983.
Recently, Ogbeh announced the Federal Government’s intention to create cattle colonies which he claimed would be established in every state of Nigeria. Ogbeh ignored the fact that the state governors have constitutional powers over land matters in their states. He made it appear as if the states had no choice over the matter. His enthusiasm was buoyed by the response of the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who quickly volunteered to make land available for the project, though several interest groups across Kogi State angrily kicked against it.
It was the same Minister Ogbeh who jumped into the fray as soon as he was appointed Minister of Agriculture, and promised that Nigeria would import grass from Brazil to feed our livestock without consulting stakeholders who would have told him that Nigerian researchers had already developed suitable improved grass varieties for the same purpose.
On Saturday, February 10, 2018, President Buhari put the nail on the coffin of Ogbeh’s idea of establishing cattle colonies by declaring that he had no powers to create them. From all indications, the Minister acts alone on most of these knee-jerk plans. The result is always that he is forced to backtrack, and that is not a dignified way of exercising public authority.
Minister Ogbeh is advised to be more sensitive to public opinion. This is what comes of effective consultation. It is the height of insensitivity for him to even propose the cattle colony idea without caring about the way his people of Benue State and other Nigerians would feel about it, especially for someone who claims to be a seasoned democrat.
It pays to tread with caution.