By Obiora Orji
Since 1999 till date, the Nigerian political landscape has presented a more greed-driven struggle for wealth and power against the popular expectations of the people for good governance. Aspiration to position of authority from councillor to President is such a painstaking one with varying degrees of intrigues and ruthlessness. It has been fraught with pathetic stories of over-ambitious men who were driven by cravings for wealth and power against responsible leadership. The same agitators for democracy that cried and vehemently opposed the military interregnums turned out to become serial oppressors, conspired and murdered their way into power, and then became drunk with power, leaving behind trails of death and destruction. More so, there are other incidences where politicians and some miscreants were elevated or paid back from their actions before and during electioneering campaigns through juicy positions.
Unfortunately, our 16-year-old democracy has been characterised by an upsurge of self-styled change-agents who after winning elections or upon securing appointments turned brutal democrats and ended up enslaving the entire populations that elected them. These negates the oath office as they engage in fast-track personal luxuries, adventures, fortunes and primitive acquisition of wealth thereby diverting public funds meant for the development of infrastructure and other socio-economic safety nets.
The ordinary Nigerians are the worst hit as they are left to starve to death or live in penury leaving the environment overwhelmed with huge infrastructural deficit. In like manner, the same experience plays out in political appointments especially the ministerial appointments where its past records presented scenarios as if whistle was blown for intense grab-grab tendency before the watch of the anti-corruption agencies.
History has shown that a hand full of politicians rose to power in several political dispensations either by election or appointments and had good intentions initially but soon became infected by this hydra-headed monster. They used their position to enrich themselves, their families and cronies to the detriment of over 170 million Nigerians. Consequent upon these were what we just heard recently that Nigeria is broke, TSA, heading to recession and the corruption brouhaha.
Apparently these were to a large extent the reasons that promoted the clamour for change during the last general election under our democratic journey. Part of the reason is to save our economy, curb the growing cancer of many who were either voted or appointed in setting position of authority driven by blind ambition to plunder the wealth of the country. Power and wealth became entrenched in their families but the speed at which such fortunes deplete is another issue entirely. The irony of all these could be envisioned that God is not taken unawares by these political interests.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”70560″]
Seneca was a Roman dramatist, philosopher, & politician who lived (5 BC – 65 AD), he reminded us that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Change has linkage with opportunity. The arrow of God may have been pointed through the current government for a paradigm shift. It has become a holistic one with the style of appointment, the time set for the appointment and complexion of people appointed. The much anticipated constitution of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet which has evoked tremendous conjecture is obvious.
One outstanding example is Geoffrey Oneyama’s nomination which rationally is not unusual but a result of presidential farewell to the prevailing conquest by few forces that hitherto befell lists of ministerial appointments. Even as it may have sparked some tinge of surprises to many discerning and biased politicians in his home state, Enugu, which he has since been confirmed awaiting portfolio, one thing is very clear. That is, that accessing the position of a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria across states which before now enjoyed its notoriety with long affinity to monopoly of influential political powers that be, is over.
Against the barrage of several name-dropping of possible candidates in the state, penultimate week, it was more or less another reenactment of same names and perceived political stereotypes that only exist in the political psyche and orientation of the people. Such has dominated the inkling of many and has become resident in their perception of getting to some top political positions in the state. Over the past decade, I have been following a cohort of ministerial nominees from the state making their ways through what could be described as exclusive, recycling and domineering attitude of nomination. It is sacrificed solely on the altar of appreciating political god-fathers against the letter and spirit of merit or equity, an inflection point that has predisposed these groups of desperadoes to career politicians who surreptitiously lobby for its juicy perks like their personal businesses. Unfortunately, the deluge of protests does not even challenge the conscience of our leaders to rethink and keep the lines open for inclusive participation and equity, but the trend is over. Experience has shown that such group of internationally revered technocrats hired in the past like the Okonjo-Iwealas, the Olusegun Agangas, the Adewunmi Adesinas have eminently performed beyond our expectations
Penultimate week, the social media went viral with first that Enugu State was not named in the list submitted by the Presidency. Apparently coming from a group that had already in their mind penciled a preferred local candidate for the ministerial position. On the other hand, Geoffrey Onyeama’s nomination has sparked off several prevarications alleging his friendship with the Presidency which even beyond common sense, the exercise remains 100 percent a presidential prerogative.
Also, it was in line with Mr. President’s decision to keep the candidates to his hearts and sole control against several interests, perhaps due to experiences in the past. It is also an indication that even the pedigrees of many Nigerians in the Diaspora are under watch and can be appreciated as seen in Geoffrey’s nomination. Interestingly, one may also deduce that networking and creating a fabric of responsible personal contacts which most of us either neglect out of frustration or under-tilise due to nonchalance can also pay, in our clime. And essentially that the era of state or party influencing a ministerial candidate is crucified.
Very little progress was recorded from the army of ministers that made their way into the position in over 16 years of our democratic experiment in terms of corresponding productivity because actors were hired to play scripts and follow unpopular customs and self-centered traditions that had been wrongly smuggled down from time to time, a dangerous norm at that. With the saying that heaven knows how to put a proper price tag on its goods, the era of ’true game changer’ beckoned with the current ministerial list which especially found expression precisely in a character of that of Enugu State nominee.
It is also wisely said that life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans. Geoffrey Onyeama is an incontrovertible example of preparation meeting opportunity because beyond his passion for a good Nigeria which genealogically runs like blood in him through his legendary great father Onyeama n’Eke the icon of Wawa, Geoffrey remains one of the Nigerians in the Diaspora whose think-home philosophy remains ever green. Although he has growing apathy and strong antithesis to the style of politics in Nigeria but this time he could not refuse this patriotic invite when spotted out like an Oak tree in a forest. His acceptance to serve is driven by the same passion for change and development that correspond with the vision of the new government, a development which his fellow multinational contemporaries from hindsight may have considered as a distraction to Onyeama’s international assignments alleging past experiences of foreign based Nigerian in such hiring.
His quintessential credentials which remain a clock-work asset to the western word are more than enough to keep him busy throughout his life time abroad. He joined on March 1, 1985 as Assistant Program Officer, Development Cooperation and External Relations, Bureau for Africa and Western Asia. The Bureau was renamed the Development Cooperation and External Relations Bureau for Africa at the end of 1985. He assumed various functions in that Bureau, namely Programme Officer, Senior Programme Officer, Senior Counsellor, then Deputy Director. The Bureau was renamed the Cooperation for Development Bureau for Africa at the end of 1997 and, at the end of 1998 he became Acting Director of that Bureau and was appointed Director following the advice of the 43rd session of the Coordination Committee in March 1999. Following the re classification of his post, Mr. Onyeama was promoted to grade D 2, effective June 1, 2003. Geoffrey Onyeama (Nigeria); chair of the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Before joining WIPO, Mr.Onyeama worked as research officer in the Nigerian Law Reform Commission from 1983 to 1984, after which he practiced law as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Mr. Onyeama’s academic and professional qualifications are in political science and law. He graduated from Columbia University, New York, in 1977 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He also holds a Bachelor and a Master of Arts Degree in Law from Cambridge University (1980) and a Master of Laws degree from London University (1982). He was called to the bar in the United Kingdom in 1981, and qualified as a solicitor and advocate in Nigeria in 1983.
*Obiora Orji is a senior Media Executive and writes from Abuja.