Do we need to make a law compelling anyone elected to any office in Nigeria to name his cabinet within two weeks of being sworn in? I had thought that if you were seeking to be elected to some office, you would have identified most of the people you intend to work with to deliver the promises you are making.
Across the nation, the appointment of ministers and commissioners seems to have become rocket science, a very big deal! The president can’t name his ministers, the governors can’t name their commissioners and the nation is in suspended animation or if you prefer, in limbo. I am not sure that anyone is calculating the huge price that Nigeria is paying because not much is getting done. The horse trading, consultations and considerations required to pick a few good men to head our government departments appear to be beyond the capabilities of the men we have elected.
That is understandable because of the winner takes all kind of politics we practice. Holding office in our land is not considered to be about service. It is the password to unimaginable riches and comfort. Our politicians believe that if you do not have a pipe to government allocation, you are in very big trouble. You are indeed a dead man walking. So, everybody is involved in the intense haggling for who controls which ministry. If your guy becomes minister in an area of interest to you, you are made. If on the other hand, your adversary makes it to the ministry you depend on for your bread and butter, hunger and possibly death will be staring you in the face. So, you think you are smart and became governor due to your skills? Woe betide you if you do not take care of your political godfathers. Ask Akinwunmi Ambode what happened to him.
Last week, in this column, I cried over the agony a lot of us living in Lagos have had to go through in recent weeks because no one appears to be dealing with the mad traffic situation in Lagos. Lagos, like many states, has no commissioners. In the last several weeks what we have seen in Lagos is not the infamous traffic jam. It has been anarchy. It has been mayhem.
Last week, I gave a specific example of what I personally have had to undergo. And I wrote, “I live in the part of Lagos that to get to work in Ikeja, I have to pass through a place called ‘First Bridge’ along the Lagos – Abeokuta Express way. Two months ago, the journey between ‘First Bridge’ and the ramp by the domestic airport in Ikeja took an average of ten minutes.
“Every day now, it takes anywhere between two hours and three hours to get from
First Bridge to the airport. That is about the time it should take you to travel from Lagos to Benin City! After the stress, the pollution, the breakdowns, the cursing and the quarrelling, you are of no use to anyone, not yourself, not your job and most certainly, not the economy. If you have a flight to catch, you will be watching the plane in the air from the window of your car. If you have a meeting, better do it on the phone.
“To get back home, I have to do the U turn between the Airport Bus Stop and PWD. What happens at that U Turn every evening is absolute commotion. No one and no system is in charge. Your patience is tested beyond breaking point and if you survive it without your car being bashed up, you wriggle to Ikeja “Along” where you see a sea of Nigerians in peace time trekking to get to where ever, some with heavy loads on their heads. Believe me, it is like a scene from a theatre of war. This is happening every day. To be candid, I am frightened to leave home these days”.
I woke up yesterday wondering what to do. Two days before, I had called the great Arts journalist, Shaibu Husseini to thank him for the tireless personal sacrifice he had made to celebrate Eddie Ugbomah, Nigeria’s frontline film maker, while he was ill and since his passing on. I had assured Shaibu that I would attend Eddie’s funeral service at the National Theatre yesterday. Eddie was good to me. I attend funeral events of people in the Arts because I believe that the way we honour people in death can inspire our young people to seek greatness. Did you see the funeral ceremony of Michael Jackson, Muhammed Ali or Aretha Franklin? That is why I was involved in the organization of the iconic funeral ceremonies of late Christy Essien Igbokwe and Ras Kimono.
So, how do I get to the National Theatre without a helicopter? I set out saying to myself that if I do not get there before the end of the event, I would at least console myself that I tried. To worsen matters, it had rained the night before and there was sure to be flood water at ‘Along’.
Lo and behold, the journey from ‘First Bridge’ to the airport ramp which last week was taking between 2 and 3 hours every day took all of 8 minutes! I had to close my eyes and open them to be sure that I was not dreaming. Someone had performed a miracle! There was no flood water and the potholes at ‘Ikeja Along’ had been patched. Suddenly, I had time on my hands and decided to first go to the office, treat some documents before going on to the National Theatre.
Just think of the little effort it took to relieve the burden off the thousands who had been suffering on that road. Some of my friends who read Saturday Breakfast last week called on the phone in fear that I may have stepped on big toes. They were not sure that I was not asking for trouble from Governor Babjide Sanwo Olu. I wrote last Saturday’s piece because I love my country and I want Governor Sanwo Olu to succeed. I verily believe that the true object of leadership is to reduce the burden of the led. Those of us, the led, must help our leaders to reduce our burden.
Did my piece last week awaken someone to perform the miracle at “Ikeja Along”? I do not know. What I know is that by doing what they did, Governor Sanwo Olu and his team scored a goal for the people who elected him. It was in the same week that one young man called Samuel Chukwueze scored that unforgettable goal for the Nigerian nation that warned South Africa not to mess with Nigeria.
By the way, on my way home, it was a smooth drive all the way. The commotion at ‘U – Turn’ between the airport and PWD had completely disappeared. Abey, my young driver, just cruised on. Thank you Babajide Sanwo Olu.
See you next week.
– Okoroji is the Chairman of COSON