] Olaoye] Wole Obanikoro: New Min­is­ter of

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

Wa ith char­ac­ter like Musiliu Obanikoro as min­is­ter of state for De­fence, it is not dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why Nigeria is so de­fense­less in the face of un­prece­dented ter­ror. I would be the first per­son to con­cede that the job of gov­ern­ing a com­plex coun­try like Nigeria is not an easy one, but the least one would ex­pect of the pres­i­dent is to sur­round him­self with com­pe­tent people who would add value to good gov­er­nance and there­fore make the job of the pres­i­dent eas­ier. But what we have are hexag­o­nal pegs in square holes.

Since he was un­leashed on the na­tion as min­is­ter af­ter a lack­lus­ter ten­ure as

Nigeria’s am­bas­sador to Ghana, Obanikoro has dug deep into the book of in­famy to ter­ror­ize per­ceived op­po­nents in­stead of set­tling down to un­der­stand his brief in the sen­si­tive De­fence min­istry. His first ma­jor out­ing in his new po­si­tion was to storm a hous­ing project be­ing un­der­taken by the La­gos State govern­ment at Ilu­birin on La­gos Is­land. Us­ing soldiers of the Nige­rian Army as po­lit­i­cal thugs, he dis­rupted work on the site claim­ing that the land was the property of the Federal Govern­ment and that the La­gos State govern­ment had no right to site a project there.

Aside from Ilu­birin he also in­vaded the project at Oy­ingbo. Gover­nor Fashola alerted cit­i­zens of the state on the un­sa­vory de­vel­op­ment say­ing “the con­trac­tor at Oy­ingbo has stopped work be­cause some agents of the federal govern­ment moved soldiers there, claim­ing that they own the land.

As far as I can re­call, that land was ac­quired by Bri­gadier Mobo­laji

John­son dur­ing his ten­ure when Al­haji Femi Okunnu was the federal Com­mis­sioner for Works.

Ac­cord­ing to the gover­nor, “in the documents handed over to our govern­ment, Al­haji Femi Okunnu clearly in­di­cated that that land be­longed to the La­gos State Govern­ment. It has been un­used for many years. It was when we started this La­gos HOMS ini­tia­tive that we de­cided to build 48 flats there. We started build­ing and then people came with soldiers claim­ing it be­longs to the federal govern­ment. They in­structed the soldiers to stop the con­struc­tion.”

Fashola fur­ther ex­plained that the con­tract to re­claim the land was is­sued by the La­gos State govern­ment to Julius Berger un­der the last ad­min­is­tra­tion. There had been no prob­lem un­til Obanikoro was made min­is­ter.

What is baf­fling is that Obanikoro is not the min­is­ter of works. He is not the Min­is­ter of Wa­ter re­sources. He has no busi­ness re­claim­ing federal land any­where if he un­der­stands his brief prop­erly. He has taken it upon him­self to outdo Nye­som Wike who un­til now was the cer­ti­fied Min­is­ter of Of­fence.

Now if I may re­fer to my def­i­ni­tion of that port­fo­lio in my ear­lier piece of that ti­tle, a

Min­is­ter of Of­fence is one who sees as his pri­mary duty the amass­ing of real and imag­ined en­e­mies for Pres­i­dent Jonathan.

And be­fore you could say M-u-s-i-l-i-u, vir­u­lent protest also rang out from

Ek­iti State where the Con­fer­ence of Nige­rian Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties (CNPP), Ek­iti State Chap­ter, called on Pres­i­dent Jonathan to sack Obanikoro, for his al­leged role in the yet to be con­cluded bye-elec­tion in Ilaje/Ese Odo lo­cal coun­cil of Ondo State. CNPP said it be­lieved the Ondo State Res­i­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sioner (REC), Mr. Akin Ore­biyi that Obanikoro ac­tu­ally dis­rupted the Ilaje bye-elec­tion with the aid of soldiers say­ing Obanikoro has no busi­ness in the federal ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil.

The last thing a pres­i­dent de­sirous of pop­u­lar votes in a sec­tion of the coun­try noted for po­lit­i­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion should be per­ceived as do­ing is us­ing the in­stru­ments of state to op­press the people. It may be un­kind to sug­gest that the pres­i­dent handed this ten­den­tious brief to Obanikoro. In all like­li­hood he did not. But what people in­ter­pret and re­act to is what they see. If Obanikoro is us­ing Nige­rian soldiers to desta­bilise his state and his boss has not called him to or­der, then what are the people of La­gos sup­posed to think.

The dan­ger of cor­ralling the mil­i­tary into the murky wa­ters of pol­i­tics is all too clear. So is the dan­ger in at­tempt­ing to use brute force to score po­lit­i­cal points. Sev­eral years ago, Ade­s­eye Ogun­lewe as federal min­is­ter tried to use thugs to dis­rupt pub­lic works be­ing un­der­taken by the govern­ment of La­gos State. Things got so bad that there were run­ning bat­tles on La­gos streets with the min­is­ter’s thugs in­sist­ing that La­gos State of­fi­cials had no right to even con­trol traf­fic on federal high­ways!

As could be imag­ined, the com­port­ment of the min­is­ter and his acolytes turned many road users against his party, the PDP.

Some people have al­ready de­scribed Obanikoro’s gang­ster­ism as a throw-back to the First Repub­lic when un­pop­u­lar politi­cians, in a bid to jus­tify their high rat­ing by their party, re­sorted to the use of thugs and law en­force­ment agents to per­vert the cause of democ­racy. It all came to grief.

This one will, too. In that part of Nigeria - which is a mini-Nigeria in its own right, the people have been so­cialised not to tol­er­ate im­po­si­tion.

They want their votes to count and they in­sist that their elected lead­ers live up to their elec­toral prom­ises. If any­one tries to de­prive them of that right, they will fight to the last man - and their def­i­ni­tion of fight is not a one-off bat­tle; it could go on for years - un­til the ob­ject of their spite is neu­tral­ized or ex­tir­pated.

At this point in time the most po­tent threat to the sur­vival of Nigeria as a na­tion is the Boko Haram ter­ror­ism. As I write, 84 sec­ondary school girls out of the 129 ab­ducted by Boko Haram ter­ror­ists are yet to be ac­counted for in Borno State. This is the time for a bi­par­ti­san ap­proach to solv­ing our prob­lems be­cause what threat­ens one cor­ner of Nigeria threat­ens us all.

In­stead of con­cen­trat­ing ef­forts on how to stem the ter­ror­ist tide, our new Min­is­ter of Of­fence is busy ter­ror­iz­ing his own people.

I must, like Alexan­dra Kate­hakis, now ask Obanikoro, “If your ac­tions were to boomerang back on you in­stantly, would you still act the same?”


May peace, har­mony and fil­ial love re­turn to this land that God has em­bar­rassed with so much wealth. Happy Easter!

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