New ministers, VIPs and our lost manhood

Casmir Igbokwe

First published Jan 18, 2009


Someone close to me called from Minna last week with a laughable message. According to her, I should be wary of how I receive phone calls these days. Her explanation was that about four people lost their penises recently in the Niger State capital and the cause was a mysterious phone call they allegedly received from some unknown people. She warned me not to dismiss her message as one of those superstitious nonsense prevalent in Nigeria. 


If Nigeria were an animate being, one could safely say that he has lost his own manhood. Like a castrated he-goat, the nation looks big and intimidating. But when it comes to the real test of its virility; when it comes to showing that which differentiates a male from a female, it buckles and looks pitiable.


Last Wednesday, President Umaru Yar’Adua charged his ministers to literally prove their manhood. It was at the first Federal Executive Council meeting for the New Year and the first outing for his new ministers. According to the President, “We are saddled with the twin task of maintaining macro-economic stability in an environment of global economic meltdown, thus delivering shared prosperity to our citizens in the face of dwindling national revenues…The challenges of  the moment come with opportunity to prove ourselves, dig deep into ourselves for the best we can offer and give full vent to our creative energies to lay a lasting foundation for the transformation of our country and for the well-being of the generality of our people.”


The President had similarly made some inspiring statements in his New Year message to Nigerians. He had promised that this year would be a year of abundant blessings, a year he would engage the speed gear in his efforts to transform Nigeria.


These promises and renewed mandate to ministers, perhaps, stemmed from the perception among many Nigerians that this administration is weak. Since inception in May 2007, it has done little to improve the lives of the people who witness more of untimely deaths, soaring unemployment, abject poverty, decaying infrastructure and so on.


Besides, not a few Nigerians see some of the new ministers appointed by Yar’Adua as uninspiring, old, tired and recycled beings. Some see some of them as round pegs in square holes who lack the pedigree to achieve what is expected of them.


Whichever way you see the new ministers, it will be too early in the day to assess them. Some of them like the Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. Dora Akunyili, are already making some pronouncements, which tend to indicate that they mean business. In this country, however, people have lost faith in the polity. And this is because of the widening gap between promises and reality.


Nevertheless, Nigerians are not difficult people to govern. Once you show them that you care, they will give you their full support. For a few roads he constructed and the civil servants salaries he paid while in office, Anambra people have not forgotten former governor Chris Ngige. Chief Obafemi Awolowo is an idol in the South-West because of the legacies he left behind. People are praising Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos State today because of the visible things they see him doing in Lagos.


For the present government to win the confidence of the people, the new ministers, and indeed every government official, should do what is necessary to salvage Nigeria. President Yar’Adua should take the lead. Beyond pursuing his seven-point agenda, he should try as much as possible to curtail the arrogance and dictatorial tendencies that characterised the immediate past administration.


One instance will suffice here. Yesterday, THE NATION  reported that a Bellview Airlines aircraft was held up for about two hours after it departed the Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos last Friday. This created panic among the relatives of the 100 passengers of the Abuja-bound plane. The pilot of the aircraft reportedly said that the movement of very important persons otherwise called presidential movement caused the delay.


What if the aircraft had run out of fuel in this circumstance? What if the aircraft had developed some other problems while waiting in the air? It is good that our very important persons enjoy some comfort and privilege. But it will be better if they reserve some modicum of respect for the not-so-important persons. In this era of high cost of aviation fuel; in this period of bad radar and high cost of operation, the least airline operators want is artificial delays that make their operations more expensive.



No doubt, if the President and other important persons live by example, others will emulate them. If his salaries and allowances and those of other political office holders could increase courtesy of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, equity demands that the salaries of other not-so-important persons be increased a little. If those in the bedroom of power could siphon about $16bn without providing us electricity, justice demands that the price of petrol and kerosene be reduced so that the not-so-important persons could use either their lanterns or toy-like generators whose fumes have continued to kill people.


If those in authority could fly abroad for tummy tuck, ankle injury or skin infections treatment; or go anywhere in Nigeria (they fly to remote areas in helicopters), at least common sense demands that they should fix the roads to prevent unnecessary deaths of the commoners. If some ministries could return about N350bn as unspent funds from 2008 budget, wisdom demands that such funds should be ploughed back into whatever they were meant for.


I remember some years back when the issue of missing genitals first surfaced in Nigeria. What the angry mob did then was to close in on the suspects, lynch them or force them to “restore” the thing back to the original owner. As mundane as this phenomenon sounds, I cannot but figuratively use it to warn our very important persons in the corridors of power to beware of the Nigerian mob. No rich man sleeps well when the majority of the people are suffering.


It is either they restore our manhood by providing dividends of democracy or risk some mob attacks when they least expect.          


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