By Dele Sobowale
“Show me your friends; and I will tell you who you are.” Old adage.
As the Buhari administration draws us and itself to a dreary close this month, one is simply amazed at the increasing demonstration of contempt for the Nigerian people by government officials – Ministers and Special Advisers alike. Fish naturally rots from the top. But, one hopes that the President has not been infected by his appointees to high office some of who are right now exhibiting all the characteristics which those in the corridors of power in any respectable government on earth should not be associated with.
Permit me to be lazy and start with the low hanging fruit. Most people would recollect that during the campaigns for this year’s general elections, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo repeatedly asked Nigerians to vote for the All Progressives Congress, APC, “because we don’t have corrupt people in our midst.” It would have been better if the VP had modified that statement to avoid telling an outright whopper. But, like most politicians who stretch statements to their breaking point, he was categorical because that served his purpose more than the truth – which will be presently and indisputably laid before the public.
The main event was in President Obasanjo’s office. The main characters are still alive today. They are former President Obasanjo, Chief Audu Ogbeh then Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, former and illegitimate Governor of Anambra State and Mr Uba, the “godfather” and financier of Ngige’s campaign for the governorship election in 2003. The meeting took place after the courts had decided that Ngige and his party, the PDP, had rigged the election in 2003. They all got together in the presence of the nation’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer, Obasanjo, after Mr Uba had ordered “Governor” Ngige kidnapped and taken to the cultic Okija shrine for daring to stop the illegal monthly allocations of funds from the state’s coffers to Uba.
Any discerning reader would have noticed two acts of deliberate corruption revealed to the whole world by Ngige. But, just in case Professor Osinbajo does not know, permit me to spell them out. Ngige was proved to have participated in rigging an election and for diverting state funds into private pockets. Two questions naturally beg for answers. First, was Osinbajo aware of the Ngige-Peter Obi case and the judgment of the courts? If so, how on earth can Ngige ever again qualify to be regarded as someone not corrupt given the fact that a stolen mandate is far worse than “mere stealing” (apologies to President Jonathan). Has the VP forgotten that well celebrated case?
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Second, Ngige himself did not deny rigging the election. In that Aso Rock encounter, with ever self-righteous Obasanjo, Uba, as we recall, said to Ngige “You know you did not win the election. That it was rigged”. At that point Obasanjo, instead of upholding the constitution and asking the arrest of the two self-confessed electoral miscreants, reportedly asked them to “Get out of my office.” That prompted Chief Audu Ogbeh to write to the President asking “what happened to honour?” or words to that effect. Ogbeh got sacked for his efforts. That is Obasanjo for you.
What was not often underlined during the trial was the relentless denial of wrong-doing by Ngige and his lawyers. The man held on to the Governor’s office fraudulently acquired, spent millions of his state’s funds fighting to hang on to it; collected salaries and emoluments to which he was not entitled until he was tossed out by the courts. He is a member of the APC. Buhari and Osinbajo claim they head a government of honest people. Where does Ngige fit into the league of “Just Men” – unless there are more dishonest people in that cabinet than we know? Thus, I was not surprised that he finally showed himself in his true colours on two matters recently.
“NSITF Inauguration: Ngige Lied To Nigerians – NLC.”—DAILY INDEPENDENT, April 29, 2019.
Every Minister should ordinarily be judged by the perception his primary constituency have of him. Labour is Ngige’s own. In the last month of Buhari’s first term, the Labour Minister is branded a liar. To some extent, that should not be too startling. A fellow who illegally pocketed Governor’s salary without qualms cannot be expected to shy away from dissembling once in a while. It requires a heart of stone to pick the pockets of a whole state. Labour leaders, generally slow learners, are now just discovering the truth about Ngige.
To prove that all those documented cases were not exceptional, Buhari’s Minister announced the “mother of all untruths” to the world. According to him, Nigeria has a “surplus” of doctors”. One can only hope that the man is no longer practising as a doctor. The last thing patients need is a physician who cannot distinguish the truth from falsehood. Or, worse still one who needs examination himself – as this one obviously does. However, Ngige is not alone.
“Economy bleeds as power system collapses.”—VANGUARD, April 29, 2019.
Once upon a time, Babatunde Fashola was the toast of Nigerians. He was generally regarded as the best Governor; although some of us had the feeling that the comparison was silly. A Governor whose revenue dwarfs those of the next three or four put together cannot be compared with Nasarawa or Ebonyi or Ekiti. Those who inherit a great deal of money usually appear wiser than those who have to struggle for a living. His name was the one on everybody’s lips for appointment as Minister. We (and that includes me) all forgot the warning about being careful what we pray for – because we might just get it. Well, we prayed for and got Fashola. Three and a half years after, few will be unhappy if he goes.
In that report by VANGUARD, we learnt about “a huge drop of power supply from 4000MW to 2039MW.” Neither 4000MW nor 2039MW, for a country with population approaching 200 million, is not only disgraceful but each reflects how little progress had been made since October 2015 when Fashola took over. He reminds me of Chief Bola Ige’s misadventure into the same Ministry under Obasanjo. Osinbajo was there as usual to offer excuses regarding constraints which have proved intractable for more than four years.
Granted, the fault was not entirely Fashola’s own. He was put in charge of three Ministries which had ruined the reputations of all previous holders of the portfolios – power, housing and works. Few Nigerians alive can remember with fondness any Minister who held any of those offices. He was in trouble with only one as his brief; he was doomed with all three. He should have asked Buhari to be appointed Ambassador to Afghanistan or Syria instead. Power is always the “killer” Ministry; nobody’s reputation has survived it. It was tough before Jonathan handed it over to private sector operators. It is a lot worse now with DISCOs.
“But, what we have now is that we have technically bankrupt companies that cannot stand on their own and government is supporting them, which does not make sense. If we don’t fix the power sector, Nigeria will continue to be in poverty; we will continue to have insecurity.” Mr Usman Mohammed, Managing Director, Transmission Company of Nigeria.
Instead of fixing the power sector, Mr Fashola recently launched a book, undoubtedly designed to “prove” to us that things are not as bad as we think; that we should be grateful for the stewardship. Speaking as someone who keeps a meticulous record of fuel consumption, I can authoritatively declare that, what is supplied on the average today is not in any way an improvement on 2015. The timing of the book could not have been more unfortunate for the authors and the Minister. It arrived when the nation was experiencing another one of the series of system collapses which force over-use of generators. There is a serious credibility gap involved here.
Like all the other out-going Ministers, Fashola is entitled to his self-defence. He is free to lay claims to achievements, real or imagined, made during his tenure. But, he should not expect the consumers of power to believe them. As late Senator (Prof) Patrick Moynihan once said: “You are entitled to your opinions; you are not entitled to your facts.” Fashola seeks to impress Nigerians with the purported increase in power supply since he resumed as Minister. He got people to visit various sites and to write about the claims made. Fine. What those recruited, and well-compensated for their “visits” have not and cannot prove to fellow Nigerians is what matters most – improvement in power supply to consumers.
Obviously, the Minister, his Special Adviser and the “august visitors” to the sites have not heard of the difference between the bird in the hand and the bird in the bush. Even if their claims are true, and that is not certain, they are still telling us about the fuel generated at the power stations and not the power supplied to the consumers. That is what counts for us; and judged by that yardstick, very little has changed since 2015. The supply figure on April 29, 2019 was an absolute disgrace. Why waste funds publishing a book?
NIGERIA’S POPULATION AND THE NEEDLESS CONTROVERSY
“FG faults UN agency over Nigeria’s population figures.”
VANGUARD, April 30, 2019.
According to the report, the United Nations Population Fund Agency, UNPFA, announced that Nigeria’s population is now 201 million. The Nigerian Population Commission, NPC, disagreed. One Mr Usman Kolapo called the Director in charge of Census, obviously, someone not acquainted with handling huge statistical data, reacted as if that was an attack on the Buhari administration. It was a silly reaction for two reasons.
One, even the best-conducted census results is a figure with varying degrees of accuracy. Nobody bets his life on any specific figure. Thus, 200 million, rendered with two and half (2.5) per cent decree of variation implies that the actual, which could never be known could run as low as 195 million or as high as 205. Both the UNPFA, 201 and the NPC (198) estimates fall within that range. So, only an idle or incompetent NPC official or one wanting to just impress the President will start a needless controversy on account of that estimate. That is not all. Below is a report posted on the NPC’s website in 2018.
“The NPC’s Chairman, Eze Duruiheoma, who stated this in Abuja on Thursday July 9, 2015 at a press conference, said the review had become imperative to accommodate current realities.
“The National Population Commission (NPC) has put Nigeria’s current population at 198 million people with urban population growing at an average annual growth rate of about 6.5 per cent.
“Chairman of NPC, Mr Eze Duruiheoma, stated this in New York while delivering Nigeria’s statement on Sustainable Cities, Human Mobility and International Migration at the 51st Session of Commission on Population and Development.”
If the Chairman of the NPC announced 198m as the estimate for Nigeria’s population, even last year, not to talk of 2015, how can anybody in his right senses still argue against 201 as estimate for 2019? Buhari’s officials are just pathetic.