MANY were caught unawares by the President’s whistle-stop tour of palaces in the Southwest last weekend. I wasn’t. The only problem was the oversight – I don’t want to believe it is a deliberate slight – of leaving my beautiful town out of the presidential itinerary. Serene and seductive, Ada in the state of Osun offers a refreshing balm against the chaos of the city.
Dr Goodluck Jonathan said the visits were private. Not quite, many said. Some swore they were a prelude to his soon – to –be – announced plan to run in the 2015 election. The traditional rulers too have kept their discussions with the President as secret as possible. But, dear reader, today’s column is not about the presidential sorties to palaces. No. There are more urgent matters that are in no way secret but in all ways critical. Grave.
As Dr Jonathan sought royal endorsements in the politically savvy Southwest – its leading lights could sometimes be naive – the deadly Boko Haram sect was busy in Konduga, a hitherto unknown Borno State village that is now a testimony to the devastating blow that Boko Haram has dealt our military muscle, killing residents and razing homes. No fewer than 106 died. I don’t remember a presidential condemnation of the dastardly act. I guess the President is tired of issuing those statements of consolation- that our hearts are with those who lost their loved ones – and defiance – that we won’t surrender to the Boko Haram terror machine. The sect struck again yesterday in Bama, Borno State. Needless to say, it was bloody. Whichever way we look at it, it is sad that blood, human blood keeps flowing and we all are helpless. So sad.
Who are Boko Haram’s sponsors? Where are their weapons coming from? What are Nigeria’s neighbours doing to help? Are they collaborators in this long festival of horror? How effective has been the Air Force in this war? Can we in all sincerity claim that our soldiers are well equipped and well motivated? How did it happen that Boko Haram trampled on Konduga for five hours and no help came to the beleaguered village? The insurgents use unconventional tactics, but is that enough to justify the horrific harvest of deaths and broken limbs? We may never find answers to these questions.
But, it has not all been a bloody affair. Those pushing for the sack of Ms Stella Oduah as Aviation minister carried the day. She got the boot. Now, the woman of exquisite taste has the chance to lash her traducers, those censorious champions of morality who felt N255m was too much to spend on bulletproof cars for the protection of a woman who is not just a minister but a princess. Ms Oduah will now, a source who admires her monstrous but highly maligned airports transformation project said, ride in more expensive cars – to the shame of all those who called her a spendthrift.
Besides, our amiable lady will have time to think about her memoirs. The work, those who know her closely have said, will be an invaluable companion of first class managers, including those who must learn how to survive in a hopelessly stifling corporate environment that is immersed in both national and domestic politics. A likely title? Well, The odyssey of a Princess.
Now that President Jonathan has named Brig.-Gen Jones Oladehinde Arogbofa as his Chief of Staff, Chief E. K. Clark and Raypower proprietor Raymond Alegho Dokpesi can catch their breath. Just because some newspapers speculated that Dokpesi was among those being considered for the job, Clark launched into a rage, vowing to ensure that Dokpesi did not get it. Dokpesi fought back, pouring invectives on the old man. It was messy. But then, what else do you get when a high chief is battling to become a chief of staff and a chief is dying to stop him. So much for cheap chiefs.
The battle of chiefs isn’t the only show in Abuja. Until last week, many thought the national conference was a mere joke. Some, including the sagacious Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, saw it as pure subterfuge in the 2015 battle. To others, it was another chance to get on board the cruise ship for a jamboree. Then, the government announced the financial package for the talk shop –N7billion – and everybody is now struggling to be a delegate. No doubt this will rank among the world’s most expensive talk shows. Long after the delegates must have gone to celebrate their fortune –pot bellies, chubby cheeks and all – Nigerians and their friends will still be talking about the cash that got sunk into this revelry that is expected to resolve this country’s problems once and for all. But then, is talk –any talk – cheap? Ask the mobile telephone firms and their clients.
Unknown to many, also in Abuja, the centenary anniversary celebration has been on. Not much attention has been paid to this show, perhaps because delegates are not being selected and the per diem not announced as it was clearly proclaimed for national conference attendees. The cash, we have been told, will come from the private sector. Good. Nigerians love shows. A private sector struggling to create jobs and crying like a baby because of the huge cost of doing business – diesel, haulage, duties and others – has suddenly found the cash for Nigeria’s biggest party this year. Secretary to the Government of the Federation Anyim Pius Anyim announced gleefully yesterday that 28 world leaders would join the celebration. What a feat.
So much for jamborees. Some serious business. Is $20billion oil money missing? Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) should explain where the cash is gone. Besides, he alleges that NNPC has been hurling cash into kerosene subsidy when there is a presidential directive that it shouldn’t do so. Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – many wonder if she is actually ministering onto the economy – says forensic auditors should be called in. NNPC says because the presidential order was not in a gazette, it carried on subsidising kerosene, even as queues for the commodity lengthen at filling stations and prices keep soaring. If at the level of the Finance Ministry we can’t find somebody to do the arithmetic, then we are in real trouble. Besides, the kerosene thing smells like a scam, a highly combustible scam scrounged off the public till. Whichever way the matter goes, Sanusi doesn’t deserve the blows he is getting; he has raised issues of probity. We demand answers. Simple.
Poor David Mark. The Senate President seems to be confused on the matter of the senators who dumped the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). The PDP insists that he should declare the senators’ seats vacant. The senators demand that their letter to the Senate be read out, loud and clear, to seal their defection. Mark says the matter is sub judice. Clever guy. There is no way the PDP can force these fellows to stay with it. They are gone – body and soul. A man should be allowed to keep the company he likes. Isn’t this a basic principle of human right? Besides, what is democracy all about if not the right to have a choice and to exercise such a choice anywhere, anytime, so long as the exercise of such a choice does not impugn other people’s rights? A battered wife should get a divorce. More so as there is no demand for alimony.
It is just about two weeks since Police Commissioner Mbu Joseph Mbu left Rivers State. And the expeditious effect has been so soothing. Not a single shot has been fired at innocent people gathering for peaceful purposes. Projects are being commissioned and governance is back in full swing. Mbu, a garrulous officer who brooks no criticism, became part of the crises of power and suspicion in Rivers. The more he proclaimed his professionalism, the deeper he got immersed in the murky waters of politics.
Now that those who wanted him out have their prize, Mbu should spare a thought for his future. I assure him Abuja is easier to police. There is little politics. The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) will find Mbu useful in enforcing the much abused Abuja master plan. He will also be busy chasing vendors off the street in the day and laying ambush for women of easy virtue in the night.
From the Boko Haram madness, unnecessary revelries and hazardous economics to political complexities, one fact is clear: we are in interesting times.