by Olalekan Adetayo
Presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, had last year, in a widely-published piece titled, “The hypocrisy of yesterday’s men” described some Nigerian politicians as yesterday’s men and women. He identified those under that category as politicians who “were privileged to have been in the corridors of power once upon a time in their lives.”
Abati’s principal, President Goodluck Jonathan, during the week increased the population of what I will call the Association of Yesterday’s Men and Women, AYMW for short, when he showed five senior members of his administration the way out.
Jonathan’s (unsolicited) membership drive for the AYMW started on Monday when his all-powerful Chief of Staff, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, left the seat of power (for good?). Mr. President had said Oghiadomhe resigned in order to pursue his political ambition but Nigerians know better that no politician, after being called to come and chop (apology to the late Chief Sunday Afolabi), will throw in the towel except he gets his fingers burnt while eating.
Less than 48 hours later, the President again wielded the big stick and this time, he flashed four ministers his red card. Those who were asked to go and search for other things to lay their hands on were Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godsday Orubebe; Minister of Police Affairs, Navy-Cpt. Caleb Olubolade (retd.) and the Minister of State, Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama.
For the first time, the eloquent Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, struggled hard to get the right words while announcing the exit of his hitherto colleagues to State House correspondents after the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting. It was obvious the minister desperately avoided the use of the word “sacked.” He also was not ready to use the word “resigned.” Despite his difficulty, that task must be done.
Incoherently, Maku said, “Today, the President announced further changes in the Federal Executive Council. He said a number of ministers have been asked to step out of the council to further their own interest, some in politics, others in their own private focus. Clearly, what the President did today (Wednesday) was to allow ministers who have indicated interest in pursuing further goals in the polity, in the economy and in the life of the country to go.”
It was at that point that it became clear that the minister was only playing on words. He could have spared himself the stress of saying “a number of ministers have been asked to step out of the council…” by simply saying they were sacked.
Olubolade will make a good living as a prophet. When he entered the Council Chambers for what later turned out to be his last FEC meeting, at least for now, he spent a few minutes cracking jokes with journalists. He had been doing this dutifully since he started nursing his ambition to contest the forthcoming governorship election in Ekiti State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party.
During that last encounter with journalists, the former minister had massaged their egos when he declared, “These (the journalists) are the real council members. We can sit there and be approving but it is only those you allow to remain in the council that will remain.” The journalists faulted his claim and they all laughed over it before he left to join his colleagues.
Before the commencement of the council meeting, Jonathan had inaugurated the chairman and two members of the National Population Commission; a member of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission and two special advisers. But instead of starting the meeting immediately after the inauguration, the President announced that he would be taking 30 minutes off. “Honourable ministers, please give me 30 minutes. You can be taking tea,” he announced. The fate of the affected ministers was sealed during that unusual break.
Oduah was not at the meeting. Olubolade and Orubebe left before the news of their sack became public knowledge. Ngama came out of the venue of the meeting into the waiting hands of journalists who were already aware of the development. Surprisingly, he insisted that he would only grant interview to Hausa correspondents. He had claimed during the interview that lasted a few minutes that he resigned. Maybe resignation does not mean the same thing in English and Hausa languages.
Power is indeed transient
Jonathan’s tsunami that swept away top government officials during the week further confirmed the fact that power, just like life itself, is transient. The only difference between yesterday’s men and women and today’s men and women is the four-letter word, time.
While it lasted, some of the affected officials carried on as if there was nobody but them. It was so bad that some of them even found it difficult to acknowledge greetings. I will resist the temptation of mentioning names in order not to sound vindictive. But the truth must be told so that all of us can learn.
One of these men, while holding the ace, would not walk inside the well-fortified Villa without at least four armed security men escorting him. One would run far ahead of him to clear his path of people who must not be seen walking side-by-side with the big man. Another one, armed with office files and other documents, would be moving a few metres ahead of him while at least two others would be warding off intruders from behind. He would clinch his mobile telephone to his ears while he walked garrulously. There were times I wondered if he was really engaging in telephone discussions or he was only doing so to avoid acknowledging greetings.
Once his official car was parked, his security details would quickly jump down from his escort vehicles and take strategic positions around him. Most times, he would remain inside the car for another 10 to 20 minutes either making telephone calls or reading newspapers or some documents as if those could not be done inside his office. His sack elicited jubilations in many quarters. Before I am accused of going too personal, I rest my case on him.
The SAGE champions dazzle the President
Indications that it is not all about gloom for Nigeria emerged on Tuesday during the presidential launch of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan and the National Enterprise Development Programme inside the Villa.
Students of a public school located in one of the outskirts of the FCT, Jikwoyi, dazzled the President, Vice President Namadi Sambo and other dignitaries who attended the event with a multimedia presentation of their pet project which won them the Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurs World Cup and other national awards.
The group known as the Jikwoyi SAGE Team has Ami Okorie as its President. Other members of the team are Daniel Ogbu, Joy Alfa and Marvelous Godwin. They are all students of Junior Secondary School, Jikwoyi.
At the end of the presentation, the President and other dignitaries could not but give them a standing ovation. The President described them this way, “In fact listening to our children from Junior Secondary School, Jikwoyi, that are on the SAGE programme, it shows clearly that we have young men and women that can always make this country proud.”
– This Best Outside opinion was written by Olalekan Adetayo/Punch