Minister as servant, to revive Nigeria
THE state of Nigeria today could be described as one in the process of rediscovery, re-vamping and actualising the Nigerian Dream, which is in harmony with the millennium development goals that all nations have been charged with at the beginning of this millennium. The level of development Nigeria should naturally have arrived at is truncated, leaving the majority of the well-meaning, honest, and hardworking Nigerians in various states of disillusionment. The consequence is a rising level of uncertainty in the majority of citizens who are struggling to survive in the face of serious deprivation. For, how do you explain the presence of so many inadequacies in a nation so richly blessed, that attempts to recount some of her natural and human endowment leave one in a state of ‘wow!’and ‘what a blessed nation.’
In this light of working towards the progress of Nigeria, the role of the Federal Minister, as collaborator with the President and his Vice President, becomes very relevant. However, caution is called for, not to replace priorities that lead to the realisation of the Nigerian dream with mere and sometimes seemingly toothless ruminations. The vital issue now, ought to be, finding out the role the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, places on the Ministers; to work out whether the ministers are the best possible choices. In addition, each minister is also invited to ask him/herself vital questions as to what it means to be a Minister in Nigeria and whether he/she is able to successfully carry out the task incumbent on the holder of the office. The ‘soul searching’ reflection needs to begin with efforts at understanding what the word ‘Minister’ itself means from its origin, as well as trying to discover what it has progressively come to mean, to be referred to as a ‘Minister’ of whatever capacity or place. The federal minister is called to work in obedience to the Creator of the world, in dedicated service to the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the leadership of General Muhammadu Buhari, in total submission to the guidance of the official pronouncements of the legislative arms of government as directed by the Constitution, and in unflinching determination to take care of the needs of each and every Nigerian as presented in the demands of the common good. The watchword of a minister is service to fatherland for the realisation of the will of God for His people. In other words, the minister is one called to serve his people in the various aspects of life in the nation in order that lasting and fruitful progress may be brought about for the benefit of all fellow Nigerians, rich and poor, young and old, learned and illiterate, healthy and sick, alike.
The next step in understanding the vital role of the Minister is a study of the Constitution of Nigeria. It stipulates, in its Seventh Schedule, the oath of Office that should be taken by the Federal Minister before assumption of office. Interestingly, the Vice President, Deputy Governor, Commissioner and Special Advisers take same oath of office as the Minister. In it the minister solemnly affirms/swears to be faithful, bear true allegiance to Nigeria; discharge the duties of office in accordance with the Constitution of Nigeria for the sake of the overall good of the nation and her people. It continues by promising not to allow personal interest influence official decisions, to courageously take decisions that accord with the common good as against those only in favour of sectional or individual good, and more. The ability to observe these obligations becomes a yardstick for evaluating a person’s readiness and qualification for ministerial duties.
This implies that it is a sad thing and a misunderstanding of the word ‘minister’ when one sees and acts in such office as ‘lord and master’, arrogantly, dictatorially, self-seeking, and unapproachable to all one is called to serve. Above all, each Minister and all Nigerians need to realise that whoever becomes minister is called by God to cooperate with Him for the continuous creation and recreation of Nigeria and her people. This means, a minister is not only to be held accountable by the various arms of government and Nigerians in general, but most importantly by the Almighty Creator.
Therefore, ministers are encouraged to strive determinedly to glorify the Creator of all the world, who has been very good and faithful to Nigeria and us all. They are to constantly remind themselves individually and collectively that they are ‘servants’ called to serve God, Allah, the Absolute Being, and their fatherland, our blessed nation.
In the same light, all Nigerians need to commit themselves to the revival of our nation, by avoiding every temptation that wants to make one an obstacle and a distraction, to the fellow countrymen and women chosen to lead the way to greater height, by serving the nation on our behalf, as chief servants in the various ministries the nation deems necessary to classify as such. Instead, let us join hands together to make an honest and committed effort in the various offices, businesses, or jobs we do, to bring lasting and genuine progress that will bring to fruition the Nigerian Dream of becoming a true ‘Giant of Africa’ not only in size, growth in economy and other aspects of nationhood, but most importantly, to become a giant whose citizens are made ‘gigantic’ by experiencing and tasting what greatness means in the situation where nothing is lacking, and the basic necessities of life are within the reach of all. A nation where hunger, disease, homelessness, insecurity, unstable electricity, lack of educational opportunities, and other popular ills have become history, with equality of each citizen a pleasant reality.
To facilitate this service role of federal ministers, therefore, l suggest that the next time the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is amended, the word ‘Minister’ should be replaced with ‘Servant’, so that it becomes ‘Servant to the proper development of Petroleum Resources’ , ‘Servant of Labour and Productivity’, ‘Servant of Health’, and so on.
• Fr Igbaoyinbo, PhD, is a priest of the Missionary Society of St. Paul of Nigeria and author of books and articles.
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