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October 21, 2023

Uju Kennedy: Tinubu’s Action Minister, By Ugoji Egbujo

Uju Kennedy: Tinubu’s Action Minister, By Ugoji Egbujo

Women Affairs Minister, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye

Tinubu touts his eye for talent. So, Uju Kennedy must be a genius. But strolling from controversy to gaffe has made her look like a joke. She seems energetic and innocent. It appears she wants to create change. But like a new driver, she seems fascinated by the throttle rather than the brakes.

Power they say intoxicates. So it’s difficult to ascertain how much Uju Kennedy’s ministerial intoxication has overshadowed her genius. The good thing is that she is restless and daring. The bad thing is that her critics now say she reminds them of Barkin Zuwo.

A few weeks ago, the female law students of the University of Calabar rose in unison with accusing fingers pointed at one Professor Ndifon. The professor had been suspended in 2015 when a student accused him of sexual molestation. That case is still pending in the ICPC and court. Now, there are new allegations.

The female law students of that university have been washing the man’s linen in public. They said their professor of Trusts Law had broken trust. They said he had become too lecherous for their comfort. The university has begun yet another probe. The ICPC has waded in again. But while the investigations were ongoing, the minister of women’s affairs threw herself into it.

She issued threats and warnings to all liars and false accusers. She said she would jail them. Women groups heard the minister and went berserk. The threats seemed directed at the students. A minister of Women’s Affairs should be allergic to sexual molestation. Once the uproar became deafening, Uju Kennedy tendered an apology. She said her comments were regrettable. 

Uju Kennedy likes to speak like the military governors of 1984. The woman sounds patriotic, but some say she needs sense. She might do better with a little tact and decorum. Rookies are often possessed with a zeal to shine. So they overdo things. Therefore, we must cut the minister some slack. In a country where many politicians come to high office and go without making any impact, Uju Kennedy could be a breath of fresh air.

She likes to be in the news talking about suing and jailing people. That’s uncouth, but it might not be her fault. She is perhaps possessed by a sense of righteousness that isn’t submissive to due process. The country has too many sleepy politicians. So, it might even be better to have a few who are awake and disorderly.

A few weeks after she tendered that apology, a woman died at the Maitama General Hospital, Abuja. The deceased’s relatives said she wasn’t given prompt medical attention. The hospital said she was brought in dead. An inquiry was instituted. But Uju Kennedy wouldn’t wait for the internal and external medical review processes. This is common with rights crusaders in banana republics. This time she wasn’t ambiguous.

The patient was a woman, so the minister of Women’s Affairs had to jump in, right? She assembled her camera and descended on the hospital. In a video that has gone viral, she accused doctors and hospitals of causing many deaths around the country. Such sweeping accusations should come from agberos and okada riders, but she was in a crusader mode. She asked the medical staff how they knew the patient was dead. She contested the evidence they presented.

Undeterred by ignorance, she went on rambling about pulses and arteries and what she saw and didn’t see on social media. She allowed the medical staff whom she was trying to bully to assume the temperament and dignity of a minister while she hyperventilated like an ill-mannered, poorly-educated, petty Union leader. In the past, some bereaved relatives and mobs have come to hospitals to beat up doctors and nurses.

The drama Uju Kennedy, naively, enacted at the Maitama General Hospital will only encourage such barbaric behaviour in the future. When Uju Kennedy ended the inquisition at the hospital, she rushed to the venue of the panel investigating the case. Only a passionate public officer would do that. She could have gone home to play Ludo. But she chose to confront the panel. There, she was seen shouting and howling.

She isn’t the minister of health. Politicians are adept at rousing the rabble but Uju could have been more subtle. She insisted that she must be part of the panel. After disrupting the panel for the camera, she left some for the media. She said she had come to collect the list of all medical and nursing staff on duty at the hospital the day the woman died so she could sue them.

She wanted to sue before the investigations were concluded. Then she wanted to be part of the inquiry whose outcome she had prejudged. No coordination with the minister of health. Newcomers to high office like one-man shows. It has to be passion. But an unprincipled passion that lacks education and moral guardrails is ‘tigbuo zogbuo’.  

Since a minister speaks for the government, she must chew her words before spewing them out. A few days ago, Uju Kennedy turned on the United Nations. She said the agencies of the UN lacked transparency. She said they collected donor funds on behalf of the country and didn’t render accounts to the country. She threatened to sue. She gave the UN one month to submit all accounts to her or she would sue them. 

I detest the Barkin Zuwo comparison. But I understand the concern of her critics. She is dropping too many memes. The UN cannot be sued. The UN charter and case law are clear about that. Uju Kennedy’s CV says she is a lawyer who manages a mall. So that might explain her apparent lack of awareness of the immunity of the UN.

But what’s troubling is that she doesn’t understand that there is a Foreign Affairs minister who should interact with the UN on such issues. And if there were any need for a judicial contest, assuming the UN waived its immunity, then it would fall on the Justice minister.

Again, nobody can blame, Uju Kennedy. She is an exceptionally zealous minister doing everything she can to earn credit for the master strategist who employed her. The blame must rest on the office of the SGF and the presidency. Ministers ought to go through an orientation process before assuming office. Had this been done, Uju Kennedy would have been using her energy more wisel