With ministers like Wike and El-Rufai…, By Casmir Igbokwe

From all indications, Nigeria appears to be cursed. Since independence in 1960, the country has been dining with misfortunes. And Since Bola Tinubu was sworn in as President on May 29, 2023, Nigerians have suffered greatly from his cancerous policies. On Thursday, July 27, 2023, almost two months after his inauguration, Tinubu came out with a list of 28 ministerial nominees that is at best, uninspiring, unexciting and depressing.


Take one of the nominees, Mr Nyesom Wike, for example. This man started his major political career as Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. He has been hovering around the corridors of power afterwards. He was Minister of State for Education. And he is the immediate past governor of Rivers State. But, being old in politics and governance has not made Wike to taste better like old wine. He is cantankerous, quarrelsome and untrustworthy.


There is a trending video where he vowed never to be a minister. There is another one where he likened the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to malaria and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to cancer. He said he would rather remain and fight his battles in the malaria called the PDP than joining the deadly cancer known as the APC. But, because he lost the bid to be the Presidential candidate of the PDP, he started working against his party without resigning. He led a group of disgruntled elements called the G5 Governors. Out of the so-called G5, only Seyi Makinde of Oyo State retained his position as governor. The rest – former governors Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and Samuel Ortom of Benue State – have been blown into political irrelevance. Their tenure as governors had expired and they could not win the senatorial seats they contested for.


Wike has been surreptitiously working for the APC. Initially, during the campaign for the presidential election, he appeared to be discreetly supporting the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi. But when it looked like Obi was not forthcoming with promises of some rewards, Wike started speaking from both sides of the mouth. He said he would announce his presidential candidate and openly campaign for him. He never did. Rather, he started working underground for Tinubu. The February 25 presidential election in Rivers State was the most contentious in the country. Thuggery, mutilation of election result sheets and all manner of criminality reigned supreme. To the utmost dismay of most observers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced Tinubu winner in Rivers State. Wike was to come out later to say, cheekily though, that Obi was the hero of the election. That is the character Tinubu has nominated as a minister. Talk of a fine reward for a job well done! Crooked politicians!


Nasir el-Rufai is even worse. He is the immediate past governor of Kaduna State. He was also a Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between 2003 and 2007. His stints both as minister and governor were highly contentious. Under him as governor, Kaduna sank deeper into ethno-religious crisis. Fulani militia murdered thousands of innocent citizens of Southern Kaduna with impunity and rendered many others homeless.


As a religious bigot, el-Rufai went against the tradition in his state and picked a fellow Muslim as deputy without caring about the feelings of Christians. He also gave major appointments to Muslims. In a viral video last June, he told some Islamic clerics in the presence of his successor, Uba Sani, that the Muslim-Muslim ticket in Kaduna State governorship election would be sustained for over 20 years. According to him, the same Muslim-Muslim ticket has been replicated at the national level and that Tinubu’s victory has silenced the Christian Association of Nigeria. He had also said, in an old trending video, that he was a minister at 43 and thus, it would be unfair for him to return as minister 20 years after.


In his book, “My Watch”, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said his vivid recollection of el-Rufai “is penchant for lying, for unfair embellishment of stories and his inability to sustain loyalty for long.” He added that he had little or no regard for integrity. No doubt, el-Rufai does not deserve to be a minister, or get close to the corridors of power anymore. But here we are, faced with the prospect of having him again as minister.


The immediate past governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, is another case study in political doublespeak. He started romancing the APC while he was still in the PDP. A number of people described him at some point as having a PDP body and an APC soul. He vehemently denied this epithet. As he put it in July 2018, “I have always insisted in character. People that jump from one party to the other should examine their characters, except if there is any problem within your party. As for today, till tomorrow until Christ comes, there is no crisis in PDP. Even if there is a need for me to leave PDP, I can never leave PDP to the kind of APC in Ebonyi State because with the kind of leaders in Ebonyi APC, leaders that have failed Ebonyi State, I can never be on the same political platform with them.”


In 2020, Umahi finally dumped the opposition party for the ruling party. He apparently switched camp to achieve his ambition of being President. When he didn’t get that, he contested for the senate and won. Now that he has been nominated a minister, he has to relinquish his senatorial position.


As for the other nominees, this space will not be enough to dissect them one by one. One of the female nominees, Stella Okotete, is even said to be under investigation for alleged fraud. Another nominee, Senator Sani Danladi, is reported to have been barred in 2019 by the Supreme Court from holding office for 10 years over certificate forgery and age falsification. He has denied this though.


Obviously, a President hardly succeeds without a quality cabinet. Such quality cabinet should comprise a mixture of technocrats, brilliant minds and sound politicians. Obasanjo came close to having such cabinet during his tenure. Many of the present ministerial nominees do not have the wherewithal to fight corruption in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with the seriousness it deserves. I don’t see them effectively tackling the high rate of unemployment, poverty and hunger in the land. They may not also proffer lasting solutions to the spate of insecurity ravaging the country. Nor do I see them salvaging our vital sectors like education and health. With ministers like Wike, el-Rufai et al, Nigerians don’t need any soothsayer to tell them that the country is headed for Golgotha.


It is becoming increasingly clear that Tinubu only fought to acquire power. He is not ready for serious governance. My prayer and that of many Nigerians is that the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) should hasten up its work so Nigerians know who their legitimate leaders are. They need to put this traumatic period behind them.


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