Driving through some streets of Abuja central area some three weeks or so ago, I came across some squat posters done in assaulting colours. These posters had the picture of Rotimi Amaechi prominent on them. The gentleman could be seen holding his chin and starring off into the distance with a half smile. The owners of those posters identified themselves as Patriotic Nigerians something group or the other. Their message? Rotimi Amaechi must become a Minister in this here Nigeria.
You might feel put off by this rather unnecessary hard-press tactic but it is not novel. It is reminiscent of the Nigerian Senate leadership tussle. About six months ago, way before Bukola Saraki had that one man night vigil at the National Assembly’s car park, his posters and those of Senator George Akume littered the pale yellow walls of Abuja. They took to reminding passersby, bus users, and other petty traders that they were the only fit persons to lead the Senate. Two months later, Saraki ambushed his colleagues and his Party and the rest is now on-going history.
The common thread here is these were Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) boys who later became new-PDP men before their latest incarnation as All Progressives Congress (APC) honchos.
So about a week ago, playing true to type, Amaechi showed up at the National Assembly in his splendid attire with a couple of bus-load of supporters holding aloft those same garish posters, screaming, and whipping themselves into near delirium. It was a quintessential PDP style turn out. In fact, I was expecting Goodluck Jonathan to emerge from the crowd with his young Transformators. But all I thought was, oh, is this not what we are trying to get away from?
The Senate had since done the needful because...well...that is what the Senate does. Rotimi Amaechi is now an Honourable Minister of the Federal Republic. Heck, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is a Minister too. The Senate confirms anyone who is put in front of them regardless of anything at all. In fact, it appeared to me that the challenge the Senators felt they faced was to ensure that not one hair on any nominee’s head came to harm. Also, the disinterest exhibited by some of the Senators during the screening sessions was quite something else; some of their questions were worse. To add the cherry on the farcical cake, when the Senators managed to rouse themselves long enough to cry “Nay” against a particular nominee, Saraki bangs his short gavel and says “the Ayes have it.” In all honesty, we could have saved ourselves all the trouble by simply allowing Buhari to straight up appoint his Ministers and be done with it.
But why must a ministerial nominee go the route Rotimi Amaechi went? Is it really that important to be a Minister? Why invade the languid premises of the National Assembly with Agberos and other hungry miscreants? Why campaign to be made a Minister? Why do you need to print posters and have them plastered all over town? You’d have to ask what the motivation of such a nominee truly is.
I chuckle when I hear a Nigerian say they have not, or they do not partake in bribery. I laugh even harder when I hear a Nigerian politician utter those words. Yeah, a lot of us have not received or given bribes directly with our own hands, but that does not mean we are not corrupt. We all certainly facilitate and benefit from corruption one way or the other in this country, don’t we? How many of us pay or want to pay the correct tax? The folks down at the Tax Office don’t even want you to do so because if you do, they won’t make their money.
When you shell out a large portion of your personal and/or State’s endowment for a political cause and then move very determinedly and gracelessly to benefit from that same cause; is that bribery?
Posters are not cheap. Renting large crowds is not cheap either. In fact, nothing is cheap in Abuja. A job seeker who goes to all that trouble, who goes to damn near the end of the earth to secure a particular appointment should worry all of us. Beside leaving a bad taste in the mouth and reminding us of the hardly Halcyon days of the PDP, it smacks of too much desperation.
What is in it for Amaechi? Is it all about power and prestige, or just to save face? I don’t want to be tacky but it is not a huge leap to imagine that such a desperate nominee might even have attempted to ‘reach’ some Senators to secure confirmation. Besides, what should be said for a Party or an administration that puts up such a nominee? And if this is how we get ministerial appointments in Nigeria then it is no change at all.
Who is next and what is next? The whole thing became a humdrum, an unsophisticated farce. Having watched a few of those ministerial screenings on TV, in my view, the real losers are Saraki and the Nigerian Senate.