By Donu Kogbara
MY Governor, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, has – in his inimitable no-nonsense style – criticised the National Assembly for confirming hated former service chiefs as worthy of ambassadorial postings.
I recently, on this page, accused them of allowing Nigeria to be overwhelmed by security challenges and said that they (ex-Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai in particular) should hang their heads in shame for letting us down badly. So I really don’t blame Wike for complaining about this bizarre and morally indefensible development.
Talk about rewarding failure!
For the past couple of years, we have seen film clip after film clip on social media platforms in which brave, earnest young soldiers, who have been pushed to the brink of desperation, risk court martials and extra-judicial assassinations by highlighting the ways in which some of their military bosses have a) deprived them of weapons and basic welfare benefits that will make them more effective and b) just generally paralysed this country’s attempts to deal with the insurgency in the North East and other security calamities.
When the Chief of Naval Staff Ibok Ette’s removal was announced, a video of junior officers wildly celebrating went viral on the internet.
Long story short, these former service chiefs were often accused of incompetence and corruption and widely condemned by frustrated subordinates, journalists, public affairs commentators and National Assembly personnel (who demanded that they be sacked).
Yet, when Mr. President sent their names to the Senate for clearance that would enable them to represent us internationally, they scaled through the clearance exercise with ease.
The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, ignored, dismissed and silenced petitions and all who tried to raise objections in the chamber.
The Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, robustly pointed out that the Senate had passed resolutions in the past, calling for the removal of this set of service chiefs. To no avail.
Instead of firmly kicking these totally unsuitable diplomatic nominees into touch and overdue retirement on behalf of the Nigerian People, the Senate leadership retreated into Elite Cronyism Mode and dished out feeble excuses.
The Senate president pointed out that the Senate resolution demanding the removals of Buratai et al was in no way related to President Buhari’s request for the Senate to confirm them as ambassadors-designate, adding that: “These are two separate roles.
“Without prejudice to what the Executive will do, where we need to fight the Boko Haram insurgency and banditry, because of their experience in the field, they should be able to interact very closely…to advise and create the atmosphere for working together, for…cooperation between Nigeria and those countries.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa, said their appointments were made in line with section 171(40) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
According to Bulkachuwa: “Their experiences as Service Chiefs…have made them eminently qualified…”
I think that most Nigerians will laugh or fume when they hear Lawan and Bulkachuwa’s lame balderdash…and that most Nigerians will say “hear hear!” to Wike’s comment: “Most Nigerians are disappointed at the Senate for that decision…What kind of country are we in?…”
The Ogoni cleanup, Ogonis boss
PROFESSOR Phillip Shekwolo is from Kogi State. He is the Acting Coordinator of HYPREP (the Hyrdocarbon Pollution Remediation Project, which was formed to address environmental disasters in the Ogoniland segment of the oil-producing Niger Delta region).
Shekwolo worked for Shell for over 30 years and was a Shell employee when Ogoni anti-Shell agitations were at their peak. Shekwolo is currently the Acting Coordinator of HYPREP. And his fans are trying to ensure that he either continues in this role for the foreseeable future or becomes the substantive coordinator.
While all this lobbying is going on, I am putting my foot down, for the record, and saying “no, no, no, no, no, hell no!!!” I don’t know Shekwolo or have anything against him. I am willing to believe that he is a consummate professional and jolly good fellow.
And, in an ideal world, I would be the first to say that it doesn’t matter where a project leader comes from, as long as he or she is smart, ethical and good at managing stakeholder communications.
But I’m an Ogoni myself and closely involved in the issues at stake; and I can assure anyone who is interested that HYPREP is a highly sensitive project and potentially explosive political hot potato that needs to be handled with extreme caution by the authorities.
HYPREP’s formation was recommended by the United Nations because of the environmental calamities that have befallen Ogoniland as a result of oil exploration and production.
In some parts of Ogoniland, drinking water contains benzene levels that are 900 times higher than the amount the World Health Organisation regards as safe for human consumption.
The formation of HYPREP was also inspired by the tragic death of Ken Saro-Wiwa Senior, the Ogoni eco warrior who was hanged by the Abacha regime in 1995.
The cleanup exercise is now domiciled in a part of the troubled Niger Delta region that has been successfully specialising in domestic and international activism for more than a quarter of a century; and I can assure anyone who wants to impose a non-Ogoni boss on HYPREP that Ogonis will not tolerate a non-Ogoni boss.