When President Goodluck Jonathan swore in some of his Special Advisers last July, he cracked a joke about someone telling him, not to appoint Special Advisers that he would end up advising. It is an open secret that any government would be judged based on its decisions as well as the calibre and character of the people that make up such government.
In the course of the electioneering campaign, the Jonathan/Sambo campaign organisation promised Nigerians “fresh air”. In some quarters, it is still being said that the President never promised anything, as fresh air could just mean the natural air we all breathe.
Looking through the list of Ministers and Special Advisers appointed by the President, analysts had opined that much should not be expected from the Goodluck Jonathan administration. With the appointment of Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed as a Minister, it became clear to Nigerians that the Government might not really be ready to wage a war against corruption. Dr. Bello Mohammed, the Minister of Defence was one of the Nigerian former Minsters indicted during the much reported Siemens scandal. Street Journal had reported then that in his time as Communications Minister, Dr. Mohammed collected a total of € 700,000 in bribes from the communications company. Though the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission investigated, till date, no culprit has been brought to book for taking bribe.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala too has come under a lot of criticism as a Minister. In the days of the Obasanjo administration, her salary was much more than what the other Ministers collected. The then President ensured that she was also paid in dollars. The argument then was that if she actually had service for her fatherland in her mind, she wouldn’t have requested for jumbo pay, in dollars, in an economy such as Nigeria’s.
Street Journal also found out that one of the terms she gave when she was reappointed was that the Finance Ministry should be merged with the Ministry of National Planning for her.
The Petroleum Minister, Diezani Allison-Madueke on the other hand has been variously criticised as being incompetent since she took charge of the Ministry. One of the first things she did was to start building her own structure in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other agencies. Not so long after, allegations started trailing her activities. As the 2011 elections approached, it was alleged that bribes had to be paid before the invoice for any transaction could be obtained. Then the officials claimed they were “raising funds for Madam”. It was later found out that the funds were meant to support the electioneering campaign in one way or the other. Though the elections have come and gone, investigations have revealed that bribes are still being taken.
Under Allison-Madueke’s supervision, the fraud in the Petroleum sector gained more ground. At a point, Kerosene went out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians who use it as cooking fuel. It was found out that Kerosene allocation as at that time was being issued to friends and cronies of the government. They in turn sell to retailers at a much higher rate. For instance, where they get 5,000 MT of Kerosene at N250 million, they sell such at N400 million. Street Journal also reported then that most of the kerosene sold eventually found its way to airline operators.
Her utterances while trying to defend the removal of the subsidy have also gone a long way to show Nigerians what she is made of. Speaking recently, the Minister said it was impossible to sell fuel at N65 in Nigeria while Niger and Chad sell at N 209 and 109 respectively “and think our fuel will not find its way to those places. We don’t have borders; we live next door to our neighbours”. The government’s incompetence further gets exposed with almost every statement from members of the Federal Executive Council and it clearly shows the kind of advice the President gets.
Most Nigerians are unanimous in their thinking that Princess Stella Oduah would not have been in the present executive cabinet if not for her “exploits” with her Neighbour to Neighbour campaign during the last general elections when her organisation “raised” funds and campaigned for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Incidentally, Princess Oduah did not just work for the President’s election, she had her terms too. One of them was that she would replace her erstwhile husband on the Federal Executive cabinet. Until she reverted to her maiden name recently, Princess Odua was the third wife of Chris Ogiemwonyi, the former Minister of State for Works. Before her appointment, the Anambra princess ran Sea Petroleum & Gas, a company affiliated with Zakhern International, a Lebanese Company that operates in a number of African countries. For a long time, Sea Petroleum & Gas was on the debtors list of Union Bank and some other banks.
The Minister for Information, Labaran Maku too is similarly inclined. Many tales have been told of how he led protests against fuel subsidy removal as a student in his days as a Students’ Union leader at the University of Jos. Speaking against the removal of the fuel subsidy by the Babangida administration then; Maku described the removal as “a crime against the Nigerian masses and a war against the poor”. Maku has however changed gear. Now that he is Minister for Information, Maku has repeatedly told over 167 million Nigerians that the removal of fuel subsidy is “long overdue”. The Minister has claimed that he led the protest then out of ignorance. How sure are Nigerians that he would not come back in the next few years to say he supported the removal out of ignorance?
Another indication that Maku who has been saddled with the responsibility of keeping Nigerians informed might not be well informed himself was a statement credited to him sometime ago in which he appreciated President Goodluck Jonathan “for bringing Facebook to Nigeria.”
With the likes of Professor Bath Nnaji in the power sector, ordinarily, the country should not have problems with power. The opposite has however proved to be the case. Prof was once the President’s Special Adviser on Power. Funny enough, his appointment as Minister was greeted by protests from workers in the Power Ministry, an indication of a frosty relationship between him and the people who are meant to work with him directly.
Another factor that the President apparently failed to consider was the ownership of a power plant, Geometric Power Limited by the Minister. Apart from conflict of interest that might arise, it has been found out that with about seven years of operation, the company situated in Aba does not have much on ground to show as achievement. That speaks volumes about the competence of the Minister who can barely manage his own power plant well.
The list of scarred reputations on the Executive list seems to be endless. How does one explain that the Attorney General, Mohammed Bello Adoke stalled the investigation into a N 1.6 billion fraud at the National Judicial Institute? Dr. Uriah Angulu, the then Acting Chairman of the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the agency investigating the issue was suddenly sent on terminal leave several months before he was due for it. The letter came from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
The list of the Special Advisers is not so different, being made up of the likes of Dr. Reuben Abati, the well respected former Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Guardian. Before his appointment, he was one of the respected journalists whose articles made those in government shiver.
His status as the Presidential Spokesman has however changed things. Gone are those days when he would state things as they were. He now sees things from the other side of the divide. Some have described Dr. Abati’s new viewpoint as a good example of the fact that ‘everyone has a price’.
Another Special Adviser from whom much should not be expected is Senator Ben Obi. Politically, one might be tempted to say he is inconsistent. In the 2007 elections, he was Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s running mate. By 2011, he had become the Director General of the Campaign Organisation of the same man. How does one expect a man who could not offer qualitative advice based on political calculations to Atiku to offer advice to the President? A man who does not know on which party’s platform his candidate can win elections was made a Special Adviser on Inter Party Affairs.
One of the most surprising appointments was that of Dr. Maryam Alli, wife of the former PDP National Chairman, Dr. Ahmadu Alli. One thing almost every Nigerian knows is Mrs. Ali’s propensity to resort to violence. During the PDP senatorial primaries in her district, Mrs Alli stormed the venue with a few policemen and held the party and members to ransom for more than an hour, insisting that the primaries would not hold. She found herself in the news again when she prevented officials of the Federal Capital Territory from demolishing her fence sometime ago. After organising maximum beating for the field officers, she went to their office where she gave their boss a number of slaps. While that was going on, her husband was in the office of the Minister of the FCT reporting that some people had gone to his house to make trouble. The criticism that followed did not yield much as she was appointed as a Special Adviser not very long after. That is the woman advising President Jonathan on Inter-Governmental Affairs.
Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, the “all powerful” Chief of Staff to the President too has been at the centre of various controversies. He has been the President’s friend since their days as Deputy Governors. Oghiadohme is still hated by some communities in Edo, his home state. It has been alleged that with the use of the political powers at his disposal, he took over hectares of communal land and when the farmers protested, they were given the beating of their lives by armed soldiers.
With advisers like these, one should hardly be surprised at the quality of decisions being taken on behalf of Nigerians by their government.