Opinion: Obanikoro, New Minister Of Offence

By Wole Olaoye

With a character like Musiliu Obanikoro as minister of state for Defence, it is not difficult to understand why Nigeria is so defenseless in the face of unprecedented terror.

I would be the first person to concede that the job of governing a complex country like Nigeria is not an easy one, but the least one would expect of the president is to surround himself with competent people who would add value to good governance and therefore make the job of the president easier. But what we have are hexagonal pegs in square holes.
Since he was unleashed on the nation as minister after a lackluster tenure as
Nigeria’s ambassador to Ghana, Obanikoro has dug deep into the book of infamy to terrorize perceived opponents instead of settling down to understand his brief in the sensitive Defence ministry. His first major outing in his new position was to storm a housing project being undertaken by the Lagos State government at Ilubirin on Lagos Island. Using soldiers of the Nigerian Army as political thugs, he disrupted work on the site claiming that the land was the property of the Federal Government and that the Lagos State government had no right to site a project there.
Aside from Ilubirin he also invaded the project at Oyingbo. Governor Fashola alerted citizens of the state on the unsavory development saying “the contractor at Oyingbo has stopped work because some agents of the federal government moved soldiers there, claiming that they own the land.
As far as I can recall, that land was acquired by Brigadier Mobolaji
Johnson during his tenure when Alhaji Femi Okunnu was the federal Commissioner for Works.
According to the governor, “in the documents handed over to our government, Alhaji Femi Okunnu clearly indicated that that land belonged to the Lagos State Government. It has been unused for many years. It was when we started this Lagos HOMS initiative that we decided to build 48 flats there. We started building and then people came with soldiers claiming it belongs to the federal government. They instructed the soldiers to stop the construction.”
Fashola further explained that the contract to reclaim the land was issued by the Lagos State government to Julius Berger under the last administration. There had been no problem until Obanikoro was made minister.
What is baffling is that Obanikoro is not the minister of works. He is not the Minister of Water resources. He has no business reclaiming federal land anywhere if he understands his brief properly. He has taken it upon himself to outdo Nyesom Wike who until now was the certified Minister of Offence.
Now if I may refer to my definition of that portfolio in my earlier piece of that title, a
Minister of Offence is one who sees as his primary duty the amassing of real and imagined enemies for President Jonathan.
And before you could say M-u-s-i-l-i-u, virulent protest also rang out from
Ekiti State where the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Ekiti State Chapter, called on President Jonathan to sack Obanikoro, for his alleged role in the yet to be concluded bye-election in Ilaje/Ese Odo local council of Ondo State. CNPP said it believed the Ondo State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Akin Orebiyi that Obanikoro actually disrupted the Ilaje bye-election with the aid of soldiers saying Obanikoro has no business in the federal executive council.
The last thing a president desirous of popular votes in a section of the country noted for political sophistication should be perceived as doing is using the instruments of state to oppress the people. It may be unkind to suggest that the president handed this tendentious brief to Obanikoro. In all likelihood he did not. But what people interpret and react to is what they see. If Obanikoro is using Nigerian soldiers to destabilise his state and his boss has not called him to order, then what are the people of Lagos supposed to think.
The danger of corralling the military into the murky waters of politics is all too clear. So is the danger in attempting to use brute force to score political points. Several years ago, Adeseye Ogunlewe as federal minister tried to use thugs to disrupt public works being undertaken by the government of Lagos State. Things got so bad that there were running battles on Lagos streets with the minister’s thugs insisting that Lagos State officials had no right to even control traffic on federal highways!
As could be imagined, the comportment of the minister and his acolytes turned many road users against his party, the PDP.
Some people have already described Obanikoro’s gangsterism as a throw-back to the First Republic when unpopular politicians, in a bid to justify their high rating by their party, resorted to the use of thugs and law enforcement agents to pervert the cause of democracy. It all came to grief.
This one will, too. In that part of Nigeria – which is a mini-Nigeria in its own right, the people have been socialised not to tolerate imposition.
They want their votes to count and they insist that their elected leaders live up to their electoral promises. If anyone tries to deprive them of that right, they will fight to the last man – and their definition of fight is not a one-off battle; it could go on for years – until the object of their spite is neutralized or extirpated.
At this point in time the most potent threat to the survival of Nigeria as a nation is the Boko Haram terrorism. As I write, 84 secondary school girls out of the 129 abducted by Boko Haram terrorists are yet to be accounted for in Borno State. This is the time for a bipartisan approach to solving our problems because what threatens one corner of Nigeria threatens us all.
Instead of concentrating efforts on how to stem the terrorist tide, our new Minister of Offence is busy terrorizing his own people.
I must, like Alexandra Katehakis, now ask Obanikoro, “If your actions were to boomerang back on you instantly, would you still act the same?”
Article written By Wole Olaoye, and read in DailyTrust Newspaper..

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