By Bolanle BOLAWOLE
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With the verdict, last Thursday, of the Supreme Court of Nigeria confirming the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as the winner of the Saturday, 25 February, 2023 presidential election and the duly elected President of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of its Armed Forces as declared by INEC, those challenging the outcome of the said election came to the end of the road. As the apex court poignantly declared, there must be an end to litigation.
For PDP’s Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party’s Peter Obi, that end came last Thursday as their appeal, declared frivolous and vexatious, was dismissed in its totality. The court echoed what many commentators have said of Atiku’s foray at Chicago, that it was a fishing expedition – and a fruitless one for that matter, like biblical Peter’s who fished all night but caught nothing. It also took the court just one sentence and less than five minutes to dismiss Obi’s appeal. For a serial presidential contender – and loser – like Atiku, this may not be the end of the road since 2027 is just around the corner!
There is no age barrier or limit to presidential contests but the dent already made in Atiku’s armour as regards the inconsistency of names on his secondary school certificate and of a Master’s degree that rests on no first degree, will dog his feet in the next Election cycle should he decide to throw his hat in the ring one more time. For Obi, his best chances may already have been behind him as a phenomenon mismanaged has now turned into a phantom phenomenon.
Now that the distractions of Chicago et al are behind him, Tinubu has to, with single-mindedness of purpose, address the Nigerian conundrum and bring succour very fast to the people. Time is of the essence. The expectations of the people must not be cut short. Delay, as they say, can be dangerous.
Critics have pointed attention to Tinubu’s bloated Cabinet at a time when the cry is that the cost of governance be pruned, more so with the parlous state of our finances. That is well said. The other side of the coin, however, is that if every appointee adds value, it may in the end result in money well spent. I think it is to ensure this, that the President has given his Ministers six months to prove their mettle or be thrown under the bus. The idea behind this is fine but I think one year should be given to the appointees to study their environment, settle in and begin to perform. This is not to say that we cannot have some of them who will – or who actually have – hit the ground running.
One such Minister is that of the Interior, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo. The backlog of international passports that he has cleared in a few months has endeared him to Nigerians. If marks are to be awarded to the Ministers in their first four months in office, I will not be surprised if this Minister comes first. Kudos, too, to the Acting Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mrs. Adepoju Carol Wura-Ola.
The Minister that will come second will be none other than the immediate past governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike. Nigerians have not forgotten the theatrics of Wike as governor of the oil-rich state and the role he played in frustrating Atiku’s presidential ambition. What of his song: As e dey pain them/E dey sweet us/As e dey sweet us/E dey pain dem? No ministerial office would have fittingly suited Wike as that of the FCT where he hit the ground running. He has vowed to revisit the FCT’s master plan. He sure will have a mountain to climb there. Already, opponents have started wielding one of Nigeria’s most potent weapons – religion – to unhinge Wike. My advice to him is to stay focused.
One Minister that brings up the rear, for now, is Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the Minister for Women Affairs. In September, she was accused of threatening a female student of the University of Calabar who, together with others, was protesting sextual harassment by the institution’s Dean of the Faculty of Law. Very embarrassing! A woman (and mother?) for that matter! And a Minister of the Federal Republic! Well, she has apologized and the said Dean has reportedly been investigated, found guilty and axed.
As if that was not enough, the said Minister reportedly demonstrated unpardonable ignorance and lack of tact when she threatened to deal with an agency of the United Nations! A professor of Political Science and International Relations, Babafemi Badejo, of Chrisland University, Abeokuta, lays the facts bare. Titled
“The promised Nigerian suit against the United Nations: A case for the proper socialization of Cabinet members”, it reads:
“On October 17, 2023, it was widely reported in the media that Ms. Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs… in an unexpected, haphazard manner gave the United Nations (UN) a one-month ultimatum from October 16, 2023 to November 15, 2023 to render published account on all the monies received in the name of Nigeria from donors. The Minister promised to proceed to file a suit on November 16, 2023 against the UN if the accounts are not rendered. But can an international organization like the UN be dealt with in such a cavalier manner?
“Asking for accountability and transparency is very proper. The spirit of seeking answers to lighten up grey areas that may be indicative of corruption is a great idea. Experience shows that some UN officials were corrupt, and some have accordingly been jailed. However, there are laid down procedures for such requests by a sovereign nation. Not following the laid down procedure and embarking on media grandstanding can only portray Nigeria in bad light. In so doing, Nigeria is telling the world that it lacks the requisite leadership and structures for appropriate operation in the community of nations.
“The United Nations system’s counterpart in Nigeria is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Even, if the Minister of Foreign Affairs, after exhaustive dialogue within his Department of International Organizations, has decided on the need to request for transparency from the UN, it is expected that he would take the case to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) before articulating, if at all, such a weighty position (as court action) at a media show.
“President Bola Ahmed Tinubu addressed the UN General Assembly… and met with the UN Secretary-General. He was not reported to have indicated that Nigeria was experiencing a lack of accountability and transparency with the UN entities working in Nigeria. So, it is a shock that a Nigerian Minister is so amateurish in diplomatic relations. Our inadequacies from lacking the appropriate arrangements for the necessary training and socialization of new entrants into office are being shown to the world.
“In addition, one expects that a Minister of Nigeria would have been apprised of the importance of diplomatic and functional immunities that the UN and its officials enjoy. In which court is our Minister of Women Affairs intending to embark on her frolic? What would be the charges? What is the expected outcome of such a litigation process? Would a more organized, strategic follow-through reporting of officials through diplomatic channels against a media-inspired, arrogant, poorly thought-out litigation choice not yield a better outcome?
“President Tinubu needs to have his Ministers coordinated and appropriately socialized into their respective duties. The UN must readily support anti-corruption, including allegations against its own staff members, when evidence is adduced through appropriate mechanisms…”
Prof. Badejo said a lot more but I chose to edit those out. I have three reasons for publishing this part here today. One: Badejo is not just a university egg-head in the relevant field of political science and international relations, he also has had vast practical experience working at high levels within the United Nations system. Two: To alert the government that top political office-holders need on-the-job training and synchronization so they do not work at cross-purposes and or embarrass themselves as well as the country. Three: The Minister in question needs to learn useful lessons so she does not repeat this mistake.
Importantly, media reports should form part of the assessment of Ministers by Mr. President.
Calling out NIMC, Akure Office
An ardent reader of this column called last week to express his frustration with the Nigeria Identity Management Commission, NIMC Akure, Ondo State office over the National Identification Number (NIN) of his son. Below is the unfortunate experience of Dr. Bode Olagunju, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University:
“When the identity management service was introduced some years back, every Nigerian was mandated by the government to register and a large number of people did the registration. After the initial registration, a lot of changes were needed by previously registered people at one time or the other, especially in the names or some other particulars. Attempts to change the particulars are usually difficult in some centres across the country. I am particularly dissatisfied with the NIMC (NIN) centre in Akure, Ondo State.
“My son did the NIN registration a long time ago and needed to do some corrections on his particulars since May this year and that has been a problem. We have approached the NIMC office for this as expected but the office has not been very responsible in this regard. We encountered an obstacle each time we tried to do the change. We tried getting to know someone in the office to facilitate the change as Nigerians but despite getting to know the head of the office, nothing has been achieved as they keep complaining of no network for the past five months in the office to effect the change online!
“We went as far as providing all the information needed for the change via the WhatsApp number of the head of the office but nothing has been achieved. The funny thing is that there is usually no response to calls and messages to the head of the office. I want to ask if there is something the supervising Ministry can do to stem this rot in the NIMC like was done with the Passport Office!
“We are tired of calling and messaging people who consider us as distractions to their daily life…I want to plead with the government to look into this matter urgently so that people will not be denied opportunities, all due to failure of not having the required changes done on the NIN platform”
Years back when I, too, needed to complete my own NIN registration at the NIMC office at Alausa, Ikeja (opposite Ikeja Shopping Mall popularly called Shoprite) it was helluva of a battle. The very first day I got there with my family members, the crowd there was like that of three markets combined, as our people would say; so, I quickly beat a retreat and put a call through to my former colleague at the PUNCH newspapers, Mkpe Abang, who helped wonderfully. Even at that, it was still “coming and going these repeated times”, like Wole Soyinka’s “Abiku”. And when, eventually, I got my NIN number, I was told months later that it had issues! I had to start the process all over again!
Why is it that systems and technology that are meant to make administrative operations easier and faster and our lives more comfortable end up piling more misery on us? How come that technology and processes that work seamlessly elsewhere are nightmarish and hellish here? So, over to you, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo! This is another task that must be done!
- Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.
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