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Minister Fashola’s (Un)diplomatic writing


Martins OlojaBefore we are carried away by the profound article the Minister of Works, Housing & Power, Babatunde Raji Fashola wrote in most serious newspapers this week on “Buhari is building a global network of friendships for Nigeria”, it is pertinent to draw the super minister’s attention to an ancient saying that all things that are lawful and possible are not expedient, after all. In fact, a particular ancient guru, a prolific one for that matter had written in this context: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any”. The essence of this saying is that some conditions or practices are actually permissible but not all the issues are in public interest in the end.

In other words, the article by Minister Fashola is very well researched and has threatened to answer some questions concerning the president’s frequent trips whose answers have been blowing in the wind. But the flip side is that there is no relationship between the minister’s omnibus schedules and the content of the article on the president’s controversial diplomatic shuttles. I mean the former governor of Lagos state has been unequally yoked with some inter-ministerial issues that his colleagues should have been allowed to handle. What this means in effect is that the officers who have had the responsibility of gathering the huge data for the journal article should be queried by their principal for sleeping on duty or for showing gross operational inefficiency.

Thus, Fashola who has responsibility for three sensitive ministries, Power, Works, Housing & Urban Development has also shirked his responsibility to the nation. He too should be queried by his principal for using the time he needed for planning on the multi-farious challenges of the three ministries to research an article on other colleagues’ issues. I am aware that at the cabinet level, any minister can, in fact, contribute to Council Memoranda whenever they are slated for discussion. But the article has gone far beyond a cabinet session debate on presidential trips.

There are at least four ministries and three agencies and extra-ministerial departments that can speak to the points at issue (diplomacy, foreign debt, foreign direct investment, trade imbalance, import, globalization, etc) instead of the prolific Fashola. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Federal Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Budget & Planning are more relevant. The Central Bank of Nigeria CBN), the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), are also relevant to the points at issue in the article. All told, there are enough experts in the Foreign Affairs Ministry who can cover the beats combined here for Nigeria even during presidential visits.

That is why they have relevant officers in various missions abroad to cover these issues. Most times, the Nigeria’s entourage for foreign tours has been unduly over-bloated. What are governors doing on presidential trips abroad? The governors have since 1999 been travelling abroad in pursuit of foreign investors. But Nigerians are yet to see viable foreign investments in most of the states of the federation.

Apart from the ministers and heads of agencies who could have reported these issues to Nigerians, there is a Federal Ministry of Information & Culture that has a direct responsibility to report and analyze these issues. What is more, there are two former editors, former managing directors and former presidents of Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) who are spokespersons to the president and they are always on the president’s entourage. They always write. But then, in modern governance within the context of reputation management, news media reporters that cover the state house or the presidency should have been allowed to cover these issues independently. This will enhance some credibility. There are critics already who insist that the spokesmen to chief executives should not be writing constantly about their principals. Articles that reputation managers write about their principals may not enjoy good reading as they (articles) will have some credibility issues. How many readers will believe the reports of spokespersons about their masters?

More important is the issue of Fashola’s omnibus portfolio: Power, Works & Housing. The article that triggered this was written at a time, the power sector had become one of the most frequently discussed concerns in the country. Most of the electricity distribution companies can’t distribute any megawatts. There has been unprecedented power outage all over the country. The week the super minister wrote this article, the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo had to respond to national outcry about power outage. He had asked electricity consumers to wait till next month when some vandalized facilities would be repaired. That is why the article that the powerful minister of power should have written this week should have been on the efforts the ministry of power has been making to increase capacities in generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the country. In those days before civilization kicked us in the face (apology to David Diop), a fugitive from somewhere in the Middle East who was reportedly spotted in Ethiopia was also said to have asked someone reading part of a scripture if he understood what he was reading. It is written that an appropriate answer was instantly given to the fugitive: “How can I understand when no one has taught me?” In the same vein, how do the people, the electricity consumers who should be treated as customers in modern business, understand when the prolific Fashola has not explained the reasons for the parlous state of the power sector? Why should it take the vice president or even the president to be explaining issues in the power sector while the minister is allowed to be speaking to issues in the diplomatic sector? This is undiplomatic. Two weeks ago in this column, this same Fashola was mentioned in an article on representative democracy entitled, “Do you know your representatives?”. This is how his name cropped up in that article on Saturday April 9, 2016:
“…It is shameful that our representatives continue to fly over these important roads that we the people use. It is an insult to the people that at a critical time such as this, the power minister, Mr Babatunde Fashola, for instance, who represents a state in the federal cabinet has not considered it expedient to talk to Nigerians regularly about the terrible state of electricity supply in the country. Therefore, I think it is time to look beyond the president’s and the governors’ offices for solution and explanations…”

In the article under reference, the Ondo South Senatorial District that has been in darkness since 2014 was a case in point.

Now, we are not asking questions about the parlous state of most federal roads in the country, let alone the failed promises about housing for all since the year 2000. There are too many issues in the super minister’s portfolio that should be attended to instead of the economic diplomacy he is now writing about.

So, on this score, BRF should note that to whom much is given, so much is expected, especially at this time when the nation has suffered terrible reverses in terms of critical infrastructure. If we resolve power sector, works and housing from critical infrastructure issues in Nigeria, we will see hope.

Therefore, BRF should begin to write short letters to Nigerians regularly about developments in the three ministries he coordinates. Even if he does not know, he is the coordinating minister for critical infrastructure (for national development). Our federal roads are part of the worst in Sub Saharan Africa. Nigeria’s electricity supply is the most shameful in the world’s emerging markets (formerly third world): Since 1999, electricity generation has been revolving around 4000 megawatts… for 170 million people. So, in these areas, BRF, what is the news? There are two experienced letter writers to the people Fashola can learn from: Prince Tony Momoh and Joe Igbokwe. Prince Momoh was writing to his fellow countrymen as Minister of Information (1986 -1990) while Igbokwe became prominent through his daily letters to the editors on June 12 Crisis in 1993. Coincidentally, they are big men in the governing party, the APC. Therefore, BRF, concentrate on your portfolio and talk or write to the people on your responsibility. It is on that basis we will assess you when the chips are down.

Inside Stuff Grammar School:

Mediocrity Vs Mediocre.
Use of ‘mediocre’ has become a huge challenge for us here. Please, note that the word ‘mediocre’ is used only as a qualifier, as an adjective. It is incorrect to describe someone as a ‘mediocre’. Note, anyone who puts up a mediocre performance is a ‘mediocrity’. Check your English dictionary for confirmation. Therefore, the word ‘mediocrity’ is used as an Abstract Noun and a Common Noun. Examples: There is too much mediocrity in this country; The technician that handles my handset is a mediocrity (not a mediocre). You can sustain ‘mediocre’ as a Noun if only you can add definite article “the” to it as in “the mediocre”: the mediocre in our workplace. Find out, please.

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  • Mizch

    Great work sir. Keep it up.

  • Emeka375

    Oga Martin, I did not expect less from you. This is well articulated. The challenge the current administration has is that they underestimated the volume of work to be done and concentrated their energy on attacking individuals rather than issues. They have also exposed their lack of a proper analysis of the Nigerian challenge. At one time I wondered why everyone on the team had suddenly become a spokesman. This has substantially affected their credibility because we don’t know who to believe. If I were BRF I will concentrate on the assignment because his CGPA will drop drastically if he fails to deliver.

  • dale bello

    Well said. Consumers in Nigeria are not being treated as consumers. What consumers should do is to hold big protests and shut down any business that takes their money with no commensurate service. If consumer protection agency is asleep, consumers should be wide awake.

  • dale bello

    If Mr. Buhari and his cohorts focus on their jobs, some things would get done. The problem is do they understand what needs to be done? Rather than thinking about how to put paid to erratic electricity, how to build affordable homes for low income Nigerians, minister fashola is defending the foreign ministry. The other day, mr lai Mohammed was talking about tourism in Nigeria and he wants to give money to people to make pottery and stuff like that! Build infrastructure, education and invest in well-trained and remunerated law enforcement plus reform business and financial practices, start-ups would be competing for space while businesses from outside would be falling over themselves to invest. Over 170 million population is a magnet for any business, c’mon folks

  • Theresa Ibietan

    More grace Sir! You have aired d minds & d questions on d lips of millions of Nigerians. Under a democratic govt d citizens shld be regularly informed of efforts being made by their govt (elected govt) to cushing d excruciating pains fr difficult periods like we have now. Sir you have said it all, bt hw do we get these our leaders to take off d Nigerian biz, rather than global- trotting? Prayer will definitely go a long way after all we prayed d peaceful election to reality so we may need to still pray more. God bless you Sir! God bless Nigerian!

  • Iskacountryman

    fashola is a mediacrity…