One enduring trouble with Senator Bala Mohammed-led FCT is the no-going-back stance on its policies and projects, even when they are absurd and controversial. The proposed new Abuja City Gate is another project that is stirring massive outrage. But the Minister, as usual, does not understand what the hullaballoo is all about. Abuja, the capital of Africa’s most populous country must build another gate to replace the current one, which he now sees as unbefitting of the world’s 7th largest exporter of oil. To realize this fantasy, taxpayers must make available a whopping N64bn.
This is the amount a sane government wants to spend on building a city gate in a country where people go to bed on empty stomach. Mohammed sees nothing absurd that in a Federal Capital City, where the ordinary people live in shackles, such massive money, which could be judiciously used in providing mass housing, would be spent on building a gate for the kingdom of Abuja. Let us get it right, both the proposal and cost are shocking. Is it a golden gate that the FCT wants to build? Still a golden gate would not cost that much.
The FCT Minister has been rightly accused by his critics of running an anti-people government. The clampdown on hawkers and street vendors and demolition of the shanty towns in the FCT, without making alternative arrangement for those Nigerians who lived there, is the acme of insensitivity and trademark of a government which is run only for the interest of the elite.
I am tired of telling Nigerian leaders that it is needless to be ashamed of the poverty they created, as a result of their greed and lack of love for their fellow country men and women. I have said on this platform before that a city can never develop ahead of the people. This can never be possible. It is sheer waste of time. Cities reflect the station in the life of the citizens.
Abuja or Lagos for example cannot become New York overnight so long as majority of Nigerians have not been lifted out of poverty. There is always a talk of “Abuja master-plan”, what kind of a nonsense master plan is that, which has no provision for public toilets. Seeing people urinate and defecate openly on the streets of Abuja is a common sight. What rubbish master plan is that, which overlooks the need for sport parks, where people, especially children would go and recreate themselves swimming, playing football, basketball etc? Has Mohammed ever wondered where Abuja’s children go to play?
Does he think that it is proper to lock up children in flats and rooms once they are not in school? Half of this money that is outrageously earmarked to build a new gate for Abuja could go a long way in giving the FCT the human face it lacks. The money could tar all the roads in the satellite towns for instance. Or does Mohammed think that those who live in such places are not part of us?
Senator Bala Mohammed comes from Bauchi. Whenever he is in town, like in his residence in Garki 2 Abuja (we were once neighbours), his people come to him with plates in hand for alms. In the face of such humbling poverty and deprivation in the midst of plenty, it surprises me that he is hard-skinned enough to even contemplate spending billions of Naira in building a city gate. In which century is he living in? Does he fancy Abuja as one of the kingdoms in the Middle East? Which modern city in the world has a gate? Honourable Minister, the city of Abuja is the capital of a secular country rich in diversity. It does not need a gate, more so a gate that costs N64bn. It is a case of misplaced priority. This money could be better spent in life-changing projects.
Nigeria is where it is today because we have had only governments that are detached from the people. Leadership for our leaders is a jamboree for self aggrandizement. The common man could go and perish for all they care. No government since the Biafran war has resolved to put an end to the artificial poverty that is dehumanizing Nigerians. Nigeria is the only country among the Top Ten oil exporters, whose citizens seek economic refuge abroad. This should be food for thought for those who parade themselves as leaders.
I was in the Andalucía region of Spain last week. I was shell-shocked to see Nigerians, citizens of a major oil producer, begging for food and alms on the streets of Spain. They were forced to flee their country and seek a better life abroad due to brutal corruption. It is a shame of a nation richly blessed by God but sucked dry and impoverished by the wickedness of men and women, who see themselves as leaders.
It is executive misbehaviour that the FCT administration could even contemplate such a project. And to have the effrontery to seek the approval for such from a legislature that represents people who earn less than an Euro a day is reckless hallucination and irresponsibility at the top. I expect the legislature to bring Mohammed and his team back to reality. They must be dreaming. A bad dream for that matter.
How could Nigeria, as a country spend billions of Naira in building a city gate when its citizens are begging for crumbs abroad? I don’t get it. It makes no sense to me, except that it supports the theory that the aim of the project is self enrichment. After all, 2015 is dangerously approaching.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters