NGGT: Why is Labaran Maku Junketing?

We have seen the worst abnormalities happen in Nigeria, but what I can't fathom is a Minister for Information completely “abandoning” his ministerial responsibilities to junket around the country all in the name of the National Good Governance Tour (NGGT). In retrospect, I recall before the surreptitious appointment of Dr. Doyin Okupe as the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, some of us who've been following the governments with keen interest have bemoaned how weak the information apparatus of the present government is; only for the President to proactively beef up his media and propaganda aides with the arrival of Dr. Okupe.

The concept of the NGGT is on one hand sagacious and stupendous, but what on earth is a minister who is supposed to be primarily pre-occupied with “selling ice to Eskimo” doing all in the name of project monitoring and inspection around the country? To worsen the whole classical charade, this is happening when the social media is going on rampage about the government of the day. This government has had the worst of criticisms not because it is incompetent or not working but because the majority of the populace are grossly under-informed and rather than all the media apparatus rise up to the challenging occasions, our dear Hon. Minister for Information – with due respect – opted to gallivant around the country with a tour team – while orchestrating another lacuna. What can be more incongruous! Whatever happened to the legislative duties of our Lawmakers also known as the oversight functions, and the monitoring team of every contract awarded by the Federal Government is a question only the minister can attempt appropriately.

Throughout my experience, I have never seen anywhere in the world where a minister for information is saddled with the responsibilities of project inspection and monitoring. A friend once opined rhetorically that 'even the presence of the minister in office hasn't changed anything, so how would his absence be felt?' This further portrays how “effective” the Minister and his ministry have been. The NGGT is a nice concept but for the Minister for Information leading the delegation is utterly ridiculous, to put it mildly. “You can't consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself” – Franklin Adams

While I agree with Governors Adams Oshiomole and Babatunde Fashola of Edo and Lagos states, respectively, that they don't need the National Good Governance Tour team to tell the people their achievements, I'm also of the informed opinion that such visits have to some degree improved infrastructural facilities in some states visited so far by the team. Example is my state, Ebonyi state. I recall that in preparation to receive the team to the state, the government had embarked on an abracadabra move to put some finishing touches to various projects in that clime. The motive notwithstanding, the people of the state are better off.

Plausibly, if we had strong opposition parties in the state that would play the watch dog to the government in power, there may not necessary have been need for the NGGT. But because the so-called opposition parties often retire to slumber-land soon after each election, plus the media's inability to live up to its constitutional responsibilities, such tour became imperative. Also, methinks the 120 Maku team is excessive if we consider the huge cost of maintaining each of them multiplied by 120 (that's if the statistics from Sahara Reporters is anything to go by). Having a 120 man team to inspect projects will merely obstruct their smooth movement from one state to the other thereby helping to 'waste' more precious time: While further draining the account of state governments who are not buoyant enough to sustain the N18, 000 minimum wages, but are compelled by the unanimous decision of the Nigeria Governors Forum to provide logistics, majorly, accommodation and feeding to effectively facilitate the project tour of their respective states.

With keen interest, I followed the NGGT team on television when they stormed Akwa Ibom (the home for my most performing PDP governor) and at the TownHall Meeting, both the Governor and the Minister admitted that two or three days is never enough to inspect states like Akwa Ibom; implying that some states would require more days to genuinely discharge the essence of the NGGT team. Hence, the longer the days, the more absent Maku would be from office.

Without equivocation, it is convenient to submit that Maku's absence from office for over two months has created a vacuum and left more jobs for Doyin Okupe and Reuben Abati. And with the media houses like Sahara Reporters not giving the government of the day a breathing space, coupled with the political missiles coming from the opposition parties and the ever vibrant social media crusades, the leading of the National Good Governance Team by the minister for information is grossly preposterous and the worst decision I've seen in recent times. It is not enough to argue that he has given instruction to his 'boys' in the office before embarking on the tour, Maku is like the mother of a new born baby who should be available at all times to give breast milk to her sucking child.

It was obvious that even a month would not be enough to properly inspect all the projects being handled in a state, i.e. Akwa Ibom. So that alone already negates the unnecessary junketing of the minister who was appointed for the sole aim of image laundering of this government and should be providing Nigerians with credible and timely information on government policies, activities and decisions; and to create the technological environment for Nigeria's socio-economic development. But here we are with our Minister for Information junketing around the country. The inclusion of Minister for Works Architect Mike Onolememen accompanied by the members of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, members of the Ministry of Information and some other stakeholders, should suffice. Furthermore, the mere reason that the tour is a non-partisan further makes the Minister for Information's inclusion a puerile joke. What an irony! It is important to remind the Hon. Minister that a man whose house is on fire doesn't chase rats. Come back home, the house is burning! Come back home Maku! The baby you left at home is crying.

Ex Editor-In-Chief
Psychology Press Organization,
University of Ibadan
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Articles by Simeon Christian Chukwu