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Considerable Consternation By Sonala Olumhense

DM: Hello? Who is this?

RA: It is me, Honourable.  The Special Adviser. 

DM: Hello? Who is this?

RA: It is me, Honourable.  The Special Adviser. 

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DM: Ah, Special Adviser!  Are you putting on weight already?  I did not recognize your voice.  I trust you are enjoying this side of the fence, hahaha!

RA:  I am fine here, sir, no problems.

DM:  What can I do for you, then? 

RA: Sir, we are worried about what you said about NITEL and NIPOST, sir. 

DM: I said something?

RA: Yes sir, last week at the inauguration of the Senate Committee on Communication.  You threw sand in our eyes sir.  You called on the government to prosecute those responsible for the collapse of NITEL and NIPOST.  There is considerable consternation here sir.

DM: Considerable consternation?  What is that?

RA: Why?

DM: I did not say why, I said what.  What is considerable consternation?

RA: Sir, you said it was “mind boggling that those who wrecked NITEL and NIPOST are allowed to continue to walk the streets.  You said, quote, "that people cannot just afford to run down a government organization and walk away as if they have done nothing at all,” and that “those responsible for the sorry state of NITEL and NIPOST must be brought to book and made to account for their actions or inactions."

DM: Yes, now that you mention those words, I seem to remember speaking at the event.

RA:  But I am not finished sir.  You apparently said, quote, "NITEL has just simply died and nobody is saying anything about it…That is tax payers' money that has gone down the drain and nobody is doing anything and we will just fold our hands and people will still talk nonsense.”

DM: I did read some prepared remarks during…

RA: One moment sir.  According to our briefs, you went on to say, quote, "Those who buried NITEL and M-TEL are walking free as if they have not done anything and if anything else, they expect that we should be clapping for them and paying them that they buried an organization that should be yielding billions into the economy.”

DM: I am a busy man, Reuben.  And because of the nature of my job, I say a lot of things.  If I were to remember everything I said…

RA: But sir, these particular remarks were about the government, and so far, you have not denied any of them.  In fact, you also questioned the wisdom of the government budgeting N3 billion for the registration of SIM cards.  "Why is government putting money in the budget for the service providers to register people?” you asked.  You said, “The service providers must go about and register those who have bought SIM cards from them without recourse to government purse.”

DM: What is this all about?  I run the legislative arm of the government.  In every direction of the compass that anyone chooses to turn, I have speaking rights.

RA:  So you do not disown any of these infernal remarks, sir?

DM:  Infernal?  Did you say, infernal?

RA:  Well, sir, they are quite provocative.  After all, you are a part of this government.  We belong to the same part and party.  We play for the same team.  It is Us versus Them, sir, not Us versus Us. We are at the same buffet. You are a part of the government you are calling names.

DM: Names? 

RA: Yes, sir.  You sounded like a journalist, a columnist or someone from SaharaReporters sir.  In effect, you were calling this government weak, at best, or corrupt.  That is like Samson Siasia’s defender trying to cripple Samson Siasia’s striker in a match.

DM:  First of all, Reuben, I have not seen your team list.  If you have one, and it includes my name, please fax a copy to me.  Second, do you have it?

RA: The team list, sir?

DM:  No, the N3billion budget for the registration of SIM cards. 

RA:  Why would I have it, sir? 

DM:  If you had it, you would know that N3b is a lot of money.  Not easy to carry around.  But easy enough for a government to spend on government work.  Why would the telecoms companies be doing the registration and the government is spending the money?

RA: But your legislature approved the budget sir.

DM: Did you see it in the budget?

RA: There have been a lot of things in the budget over the years, sir, like constituency allowances.

DM: Are you accusing the federal legislature of mago-mago? 

RA:  No sir.  I am just saying that we belong to the same team.  Your branch of the government is known for creating overnight multiple multi-millionaires, just like a lottery.  The executive has not meddled in that, and it does not call you names.

DM:  What the legislature does is none of your business.  Samson Siasia’s goalkeeper does not tell Samson Siasia’s striker how to shoot his penalty.

RA: What if Samson Siasia’s goalkeeper is Samson Siasia’s penalty-taker?

DM: I beg your pardon?

RA: I am merely saying it is not right to put the President on the spot.  When you make some of these remarks it is as if there is internal warfare or worse still, as if the President does not know what he is doing.

DM: Do you know what happened to NITEL and NIPOST?

RA:  I do not know, sir.  I do not speak for NITEL OR NIPOST, but for the President, who is a wonderful man.  He just came back from the United Nations, where he made a big speech.  President Obama praised him.  UN Secretary-General called him “Excellency.”

DM:  Obviously you did not spend enough time at the UN?

RA: Meaning?

DM:  Everyone at the United Nations is called “Excellency,” just like we say, “Honourable.”  It is the soft underbelly of diplomacy; dignitaries and diplomats flattering each other so they do not expose each other.  What does it mean if you are praised abroad, only to return home and flee from Eagle Square on National Day?  How excellent is that?

RA: It was going to rain, sir?

DM: Rain?

RA: Yes sir.  Bombs.  Some idiots were promising bombs and bullets.

DM:  You were running away from idiots?  This is my point.  If idiots show up in front of your father’s house, you do not run inside to hide.  You come out and chase them away.  If thieves steal your property, you do not let them walk free.  You humiliate them in the market place. 

RA: But the president is a gentleman, sir, and you could have offered your wise counsel in private.

DM:  Mr. Adviser, you people say you want to build strong institutions, not strong leaders.  Now let me ask you: Do you know how many women die daily in this country at childbirth?  I spoke of NITEL and MTEL, but I could have been speaking of health or poverty-eradication.  Do you know how many children are on the streets, hungry?  I could have been talking about agriculture or education.  You hold a Ph.D in something or another, Reuben, because the opportunity was there; you might have wound up an armed robber or a kidnapper if you were jobless for six years after your first degree.

RA: But none of this is the President’s making.  He has only just got the job.

DM: “Only,” perhaps, but NITEL and MTEL were strong institutions.

RA:  So are Halliburton, Siemens and Wilbros, sir, and crooked governors and two-faced legislators.

DM: And lacklustre leaders, serpentine special advisers and complicit concubines.

RA: You sound like a columnist sir, like someone out of The Guardian or SaharaReporters.

DM: And you sound like a trapped chameleon.  Now get off my phone before it starts to rain!

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