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Abuja: From Go-Slow To Traffic Jam

sonala olumhensi 178x109Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s “new” President, is looking for The Best Cabinet PDP Can Buy.  I think he is going about it all wrong. 

He promised a new cabinet in two weeks, but it is almost four weeks since he took his old office— 15 months since he took the baton as Acting President, over one year since he first became President—and he has still not been able to send a single nomination to the Senate.

Perhaps he is working too hard scouring the forest he cannot see the trees, but the trees—from baobab to Iroko—are all around him.  In no particular order then, here are 10 nominees he could send to the Senate by lunchtime and have its assent in time for dinner. 

First, the Senior Minister for Finance, Defence, Agriculture, Economic Planning and Petroleum Resources: Olusegun Obasanjo.  Think about it: there are about 140 million Nigerians.  But who is more qualified than the man who has done it all before, the man responsible for almost everything, the man to whom Jonathan confesses he owes it all? 

This is the man who knows where the keys are kept and where the votes are counted; where the printers are in China and where the publishers are in America.  He knows more than any Minister, and he is more of a Minister than any Nigerian can be. 

Think about it: without this man there would be no Umaru Yar’Adua, and without Yar’Adua…you know the rest.  Obasanjo is the only Nigerian who needs no preparation for the cabinet because on two occasions in our lifetime he was the cabinet.  He can finish the work of the Ministry of Finance before breakfast; eat Defence, Agriculture and Economic Planning for lunch, and sort out Petroleum Resources before he goes out to play with the girls.

Obasanjo has just returned from a conference in Switzerland where he hung both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission out to dry, condemning them for their poor efforts since he left office.  “…The people involved in corruption [in Nigeria] are strongly entrenched,” he lamented, and you could sense he was going to shed some really patriotic tears.  This is proof he has not lost his form; he is ready as always to serve his country, and he would be Jonathan’s mightiest asset.

Minister of Works: Chief Anthony Anenih: This man returned from the wilderness to help Jonathan to win last April’s election “resoundingly.”  Nigerians saw him at the finish line in the presidential palace celebrating with the new President.  That is proof he is in the inner loop.  Actually, he always has been: in June 2004, he was the one who first told that Obasanjo would pick his successor in 2007.  Obasanjo tried hard to succeed himself but he did eventually pick his successor in 2007, which is how we got here. 

Anenih would be of particular importance because Jonathan has just announced he will spend N2.2 trillion on transport between 2011 and 2013.  This plan is in a document called "Federal Government's Investment Plan for the Development of the Transport Sector.”  Now, N2.2 trillion ais not Monopoly money.  Why look beyond a man who has been there before, a man who can be trusted with real funds?  In the early Obasanjo years, “Mr. Fix It” successfully emptied N300 billion into fixing our roads. Successfully. That is why our federal roads are so solid and safe and lighted.  He is tested and he delivers, which must be why Jonathan invited him to get him elected.  Jonathan should let him work the Ministry of Works again.

Minister of Information: Professor Dora Akunyili.  This lady’s true place is in Information, which she made a monumental mistake of leaving in order to join a political party and run for the Senate.  She should get back her old job where Mr. Jonathan would remember she was doing an amazing job Rebranding Nigeria to the world.  Looking for someone else for Information when there is this ready-made material is like trying to reinvent corruption in Nigeria; it is already an established brand.

For Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, the obvious choice would have to be Mr. Michael Aondoakaa.  I am sure that Mr. Jonathan has had plenty of time in the past year and a half to realize that he made a mistake firing this man.  Owing to that action, Mr. Aondoakaa was barred from the shores of the United States, alleging acts of corruption and obstruction of justice; barred from running for public office by a Nigerian court; and suspended as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.  But even Jonathan has never found any reason to have him prosecuted, which suggests that Jonathan feels sorry for Mr. Aondoakaa.  Last April, the former AGF hailed Jonathan’s election.  He would be an excellent return to the halls and byways of Nigerian justice. 

For Internal Affairs, I think the best candidate would be Lucky Igbinedion, a governor who was so pathetic in office in his first term even his own father termed him a failure.  He “won” a second term and turned out to be even worse.  He is one of the few governors ever remotely embarrassed by the EFCC, but he remains the toast of Abuja.  On May 19, he was at the front row of the induction symposium for new governors in Abuja, and pictures showed a beaming Jonathan shaking hands with him.  At last year’s World Cup, the intercontinentally wealthy Igbinedion hosted the cream of Nigeria’s political crop in one of his mansions in South Africa.  His lavish Abuja mansion was one of the showpieces during the PDP primaries a few months ago, borrowed by Atiku Abubakar for his meeting with delegates.  Now that things are tricky in Nigeria and a lot of funds are going to be invested in Internal Affairs to correct them, Igbinedion’s connections, know-how and savvy will serve Aso Rock well. 

Ministry of Sports: Iyabo Obasanjo.  This woman, who was badly served by the voters of Ogun State in the last elections, needs the “soft landing” device that her father invented.  Named in a N300million scam in the Ministry of Health, Iyabo vigorously defended her freedom, reportedly scaling a fence in her nightgown as she fled EFCC officials seeking to put her in handcuffs.  Such athletic potential speaks for itself and ought to be recognized.  Besides, someone does owe her father a great debt of gratitude.  Equally important, two Obasanjos in the same cabinet would send a strong message to the Action Congress of Nigeria in Yorubaland.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Ojo Maduekwe.  Nigeria’s most creative Foreign Minister in years deserves a recall.  Mr. Maduekwe was so successful in office he manufactured foreign policy positions for Nigeria in his First Class aircraft seat.  The former cyclist-minister could hang around New York and Boston all week doing nothing and yet make it sound in the Nigerian media as though Nigeria owned the United Nations.  Even on his way out of office, he confessed that he had supervised a floundering mess of a Ministry and called for its probe.  He will return to the scene of the crime, conduct fierce hand-to-hand combat with SaharaReporters on the streets of New York, and get Jonathan’s foreign policy into Nollywood movies. 

Minister of Tourism: Andy Uba.  People laugh at Mr. Uba’s academic credentials, but Obasanjo knew him best.  This is a man who knows his way around.  He knows Aso Rock better than those who constructed it.  He ensured Obasanjo had a good time as President, and he can ensure that Jonathan has a good time while he is preaching hard. 

For the Ministry of Aviation, the best candidate is the Odidigborigbo of Africa, James Ibori.  And yes, this is when Abuja ought to be talking to the Court of St. James with an eye to ending Ibori’s nightmare in England.  Ibori knows more about aviation than Boeing, Cessna and Bombadier put together.  He will ensure that only the choicest aircraft are in Jonathan’s presidential fleet. 

Finally, the Ministry of Commerce.  That one should go to Dimeji Bankole.  The former Speaker of the House of Representatives proved a deft hand in selling the Lower House while Nigerians watched.  With that experience, he will sell Nigeria easily at Balogun Market. 

I do not think the Senate will have any problem clearing these Ministers in an hour.  They will not even need to show or bow; they will just go—from their homes. 

Deep-seated amnesia: this is the crisis we have.  Politicians forget.  Journalists forget.  Government officials forget.  Historians forget.  The people forget. 

The way I see it, if you have no memory, you are like a child.  You can laugh at anything when nothing is funny, and you can ignore everything no matter how injurious it really is.  Your expectations—that is, the future--are low, and your abilities to make critical connections are deliciously diminished, like a lunatic smiling to himself on the side of the road.  The world may look at you and describe you as the happiest man on earth.

But I do not think that any of this is random.  It was always pre-determined.  But now that we have moved from “Go-Slow” to Traffic Jam, I can only wish that there were public restrooms in the neighborhood.  We are going to be here for quite a while.




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