The resignation of the Minister of Power, Barth Nnaji, has taken to the airwaves like the aliens have landed from Mars on Earth. Most commentators are praising His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan, herein as Mr. President, for taking a decisive and bold step to prevent the collapse of the ONLY legacy he hopes to achieve by the time he leaves office. This praise comes under the disguise of “conflict of Interest” sin committed by the Hon. Minister of Power.
I personally question the rational and behind the scenes complications of this matter. I remain a strong advocate of looking at all sides to a story logically and reasonably, especially more so where no facts exists. During my brief meeting with the Minister of Information in London, United Kingdom, a fortnight ago at the SAND's Nigeria Diaspora Youth Leadership Summit, participants challenged Alhaji Labaran-Maku on the lack of information from the gov’t. They further explained that they had to depend on information from social media. In response, the Honourable Minister threw back the challenge to the participants to help the gov’t fashion the best approach to reach out to Nigerians using social media.
First, I would like to use this medium, rather than make a direct contact with the Hon. Minister, to point out that Mr. President is not being helped by the numerous Public Relations Advisers or whatever title they are called. The resignation of a Minister of government is of great public interest without any shadow of doubt. What Nigerians and Nigeria press got from the President's Special Adviser on this issue was a sketchy press release. This is an insult to the integrity of the President and by large to the Nigerian people. If professional people with a great deal of experience, knowledge, skills and competences are around Mr. President this could have been avoided.
Yes, he has worked in Nigerian media but yet he doesn't know what is best. Not just President Jonathan but also previous Presidents and Head of States. If they did Nigeria would be far better off than it is today. Thanks to social media, Nigerians have become more exposed and knowledgeable. Their quest for information is like never before. They are like a drunk who desires more drink. The lack of information on the full story behind the resignation or sacking (as reported in some cases) of the Hon. Minister of Power is helping various commentators to have their day on the social media. Hon. Minister of Information, Alhaji Labaram Maku here is an opportunity to help put things right. Your office, as a matter of priority, needs to draw up government policies on how different type of information (depending on the content and the criteria of “public interest” etc.) is to be made available to different sections of government, the press, Nigerians and international communities.
For example, the resignation of a Minister in my view demands a public press conference from the Minister himself with a follow on with a press release from the Minister’s office. This will save Mr. President lots of embarrassment. Now to the main content of my write up, yes the Minister resigned or rather was sacked. Today, we have read that the President asked him to resign. That is a polite way to tell somebody he has been sacked in order to save their “left-over honour.” To me it doesn’t matter how it has been approached. I am more concerned about the ministerial code (if any) that demands all Ministers, Special Advisers and officials to the government must declare their interests before they assume office. Where are the appropriate checks carried out to prevent people like Dr. Okupe with a fraudulent past to assume high office? These are the reasons why we still have criminals and incompetent people running the affairs of our country.
Until, we as individuals expose people who have brought this country to her knees we will NEVER know or see progress. Having said this, I believe if the President had requested his Ministers, Advisers and other officials to declare their interests especially in regards to their appointment, then any conflict would have been addressed prior to their appointment.
In this case, Mr. President, I can conclude as follows:
- Was not aware of the conflict of interest of Prof. Bartholomew Nnaji prior to his appointment, hence his reason to demand for his immediate resignation. This scenario I would like to question because I understand that Prof. Nnaji was previously the Special Adviser on Power to Mr. President before his appointment as Minister of Power. And, before then, he held the position of Minister of Science and Technology.
Mr. President clearly needs to clarify what he was aware of and not aware of. I have read from good authority that Mr. President’s choice of Prof. Nnaji was based on his works in the power sector for some eastern states through his private company. If Prof. Nnaji has truly informed Mr. President of the conflict prior to his appointment as an adviser on power and subsequently as a Minister of Power, then Mr. President must have been forced to change his mind only because of the public outcry and other forces at work. If this is the case, I can ONLY conclude that our President is weak. I believe he must have accepted, prior to Prof. Nnaji’s appointment, that his conflict was of a lesser significance in contrast to the achievement of his vision on the transformation of the power sector.
I would like to use this opportunity to clarify that Mr. President and his Vice President have the power to make this call in the interest of the nation. If this was what he felt, he needed to do two things: a) Enlighten the rest of the cabinet and members of the National Assembly who I believe should have been aware of Prof. Nnaji’s conflict at the time of his vetting on the assembly floor. Mr. President should as a matter of necessity explained this position to the people/electorate. All this, if done, would have saved both Mr. President and Prof. Nnaji the embarrassment they have faced in the last few days. b) Mr. President should have taken the position that Prof. Nnaji will not and should not be involved or have a say in any matters where his conflict of interest may arise either directly or indirectly.
This agreement should have been firmed up prior to his confirmation as a Minister. Like in this case in question, which the Minister now feels, he had been caught with his pants down. In my views, if these were handled in a transparent and accountable manner, Prof. Nnaji could have been allowed to continue his position freely with this firm agreement in place. It would have been Mr. President’s call to take a position or stand when a situation of a conflict of interest arises. Prof. Nnaji would have had to carry out or implement that decision or call to his best of abilities. I would like to add that all serving political appointees had a life before their appointment. It is ONLY logical that they return to that life at the end of their public service.
The MOST important thing is that they SHOULD not be seen to have used public service to further their own interests or those of other “interested persons”. If Mr. President was not aware of the conflict of Interest caused by the appointment of Prof. Nnaji, then there are lots of questions for Mr. President to address. I leave my readers and political commentators to have a field day with their questions. For me, I simply ask Mr. President to tell the Nigerian public on what basis he makes his political appointments. Is it?
a) On party line
b) On man know man
d) Tribal/ Ethnic/State line
e) I don’t give a damn
f) Call a Friend to help with the answer.
Clearly, in the last 24 hours I have read the press release from Prof. Nnaji himself on SaharaReporters website. I hate to say that the powers that be that don’t mean well for Mr. President, Goodluck Jonathan, have yet again had their way by pushing out a person with a vision for the transformation of the power industry.
The true story will be told sooner than later. You will see Mr. True Nigerian said it first. Mr. President pushed out Prof. Nnaji because of the loud voices on the basis of “conflict of interest”. I believe Prof. Nnaji allowed himself to be holed into this mess because of his desire for power. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Prof. Nnaji with his level of experience could have avoided this mess by simply sitting out on all decision-making processes that conflict with his interest; irrespective of whether he has resigned from his private company. It is difficult for him to sell his resignation as a company director as sufficient grounds to be involved in a bidding panel process.
The lesson for all ministers is that they should learn to leave the civil servants in their respective ministry to do their job, rather than help their respective Permanent Secretary or Director General with the day to day operations of their ministry. Theirs is to come up with a vision based on electoral promise to the people. It is their Permanent Secretary or Director General’s responsibility to come up with a programme for implementation to help a sitting government achieve their electoral promise. Failure to achieve set goals, milestones and targets in the programme (provided that the government has kept her own side of the deal) means the Permanent Secretary or Director General can be shown the exit door. Until we start hiring competent people not on the basis of tribe, ethnicity, religion or quota basis, Nigeria will know no progress or see any progress as a nation.
OUR BEST HEADS must lead or captain our ship through the path of reform, transformation, growth and development. At the end of it, it is for the benefit of all as a nation and not a particular tribe, ethnic group or religion. I am a strong advocate for the abolishment of the principle of quota system at all levels. NIGERIA BELONGS TO ALL OF US COLLECTIVELY; NO SINGLE TRIBE OR ETHNIC GROUP OR STATE OR RELIGION CAN CLAIM OWNERSHIP OF THE NIGERIA NATION.
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