MINISTRY OF NOTHING AFFAIRS
POLITICIANS patronise tokenism. They have easy solutions for challenges, no matter how deeply rooted they may be. The attitude is to get obstacles out of the way, even if they re-surface.
Suggestions about how to tackle the insurgence in the North have ricocheted through the tendency of the politician to feather his prospects. The loudest voices are asking for a Ministry of Northern Affairs. The request is based on 'equity', they say. If there is a Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, there is need for Ministry of Northern Affairs.
Logic can be distended in situations like this. The Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs has not proven the success its proponents expected. It is sheer duplication of bureaucracy, which is further slowing down urgent redeeming works that the region requires.
If the short experience of the Niger Delta is the standard, the agitators of the Ministry of Northern Affairs should search further for solutions to the troubles from the area, which have assumed dimensions few expected and confounded everyone.
Chairman of Northern States Governors' Forum and Niger State Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, made that point more succinctly in Osogbo.
'If the government was to create special ministry each time there was problem in any part of the country, at the long run it would not achieve any desired results. If people are making a point because Ministry of Niger Delta was created because of the militancy in the Niger Delta region, I do not think we need any special ministry for the North. All we need do is to articulate our position so that each government should know how to alleviate poverty of its people.'
Most blame the violence on poverty. What part did the National Poverty Eradication Programme, NAPEP, play in this? In more than 10 years of its existence, billions of Naira expended battling poverty made no scratch. Its adoption of tricycles as national transport icon and pivot of its confrontation with poverty advanced poverty, by drawing youth away from acquiring skills and leaving thousands maimed from accidents.
NAPEP did more. It joined ministries and agencies that drained public funds through their bureaucracy. The 2012 budget shows NAPEP has more than N2.1 billion stated under ambiguous headings like 'poverty alleviation scheme in central senatorial district'.
Different senatorial districts in different States got approvals of N222, 266,667 each without details of the programme as if the locations have the same populations and needs.
A new ministry will increase waste. Office accommodation, furniture, staff, Ministers and their retinue of aides will consume scarce resources our people need. Challenges in the North are obvious, but the solutions are not as obvious as they seem.