“"...they said that I had sold out and Uncle Tom. And I said well, they deserve to have that view. But I have my thoughts. And I think they're race-hustling poverty pimps."
Watts speaking on Hannity and Colmes about his refusal to join the Congressional Black Caucus
The news on the front page of This Day Newspapers on Friday October 5, 2007 reads as follows: “Yar’Adua engages American lobbyists.” This somehow innocuous news item might have passed unnoticed but for the second paragraphs of the story which reads
“It was learnt yesterday that the Federal Government signed a deal with a consultancy firm in the US in a bid to win global support for his administration in the face of allegations of irregularities trailing his election.”
My first reaction is to scream out loud, “not again!” The first question on my lips is why should we use our national treasuries to launder the image of this regime? Why can’t People’s Democratic Party pay for this service. This is apt given the fact that the public relations job sought is not in the national interest. It is entirely in the peculiar interest of the present regime that has a lot to explain to the international community on how they managed to rig themselves into government. Nigeria as a nation has no problem with the international community. We, as a nation, actually has more global support now than at anytime in the history of our country.
But that is not the end of my angst, according to this same news story, “Watts Consulting Group” quoting the United States Department of Justice online information, “had signed a preliminary contract with the new government of President Yar’Adua in the hopes of inking a longer-term deal.” My problem is not just with the contract signed but the manner of appointment. We were informed that Watts Consulting Group were themselves “flabber-whelmed” and “over-gasted”, to use a peculiar colloquial term common among Nigerians online community to refer to a surprise package you do not bargain for.
In the words of, Steve Pruitt, J.C. Watts senior partner: "The call just came out of the blue." No bid, not even an inquest into the capability of the new firm’s ability to perform the task set for it. So, how did J.C. Watts managed to get this no bid contract, the answer is amply provided for us by “The Hill” newsmagazine, it all comes down to “good ole nepotism.” Lets read This Day again:
“Pruitt was very familiar with Maduekwe. It was gathered that as a young government aide 15 years ago, the foreign minister allowed Pruitt to make international calls to his daughter in the U.S. while the lobbyist was in Africa. "I consider him an old and dear friend," Pruitt said. “
At first I could not believe that a minister of Nigeria in the year 2007 will make such an important decision in such a cavalier manner. I could not for the life of me believe that a minister of the federal republic of Nigeria will sign a contract with a foreign lobbying firm without an interview, without a competitive bidding, without even a single proof that the company he is binding Nigeria to exist in law!
Now, I have known Chief. Ojo Maduekwe since my law school days at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He is one of the best Nigerian lawyers of his era. He always opened his law office for Nigerians of all hue. I recalled walking to his law firm, as a law student, amazed at his gargatuan knowledge of Nigeria politics. I vividly recalled his diatribe against military rule and how to move our country forward.
So, you can imagine my horror and consternation at the first reading of this news item. A Nigerian foreign minister awards a no bid contract to an American public relations firm, because once obliged the senior partner of that firm with an opportunity to call his daughter in America on his cell phone!
I know many will say there is no “quid pro quo.” If anyone can’t see anything wrong with a no bid contract, reeking of nepotism, such individual needs help. But that was not the end of the story.
Anyone familiar with the politics of the founder of this PR firm will readily attest that J.C. Watts is the wrong person for the job. The Firm is founded by former congressman Julius Caesar "J.C." Watts (born November 18, 1957) an American conservative Republican politician, CNN political contributor, former Representative from Oklahoma in the U.S. Congress, and former professional Canadian football player.
According to Wikipedia, Congressman Watts “garnered attention soon after his election as the first black member of Congress to decline to join the Congressional Black Caucus, saying it was "infested" with "Democratic liberals who betray black people in America." And curiously according Mr. Pruitt the first task before the firm is to “introduce” Dr. Madueke to key members of the Congressional Black Caucus!
Incase you think that is the end of the stupidity in this appointment, Mr. Pruitt further enthused as follows: “"We will be positioning Nigeria to work with the next administration here in America." The question is how they can position Nigeria when they themselves are not positioned to have any influence in Washington DC? The chance of Democratic Party candidate winning the White House in 2008 is far higher than a Republican candidate. One can even questioned the influence of Congressman Watts influence in the present White House. It is widely reported that Mr. Watts publicly decided not to run for congress in 2002 because of his inability to get much needed “porks” for his constituency in Oklahoma, due to continued frustration with White House and the Republican Party.
Again the question Chief. Ojo Maduekwe has to answer Nigerian tax payers is how this Public Relations firm won this no bid contract and how he come to the conclusion that they are better positioned than others. The fact that previous administration used nepotism in appointing Ambassador Andrew Young’s “Goodworks International” firm does not make it right for Yar’adua’s administration to do likewise.
Let me reiterate again, that I do not have anything against Chief Ojo Maduekwe, he might even have acted with good intentions, but we all know many of the roads to hell are paved with good intentions.
Let me state here, that I do not work for any lobbying firm in DC, I am not a lobbyist and never will be. My thoughts above are premised largely in my patriotic zeal to see Nigeria do it right. And if we are going to get it right we need to make our government more and more accountable for the decisions they make daily on our behalf.
Sadly, as days and months pass, I seemingly see a replay of 1979-1983 disastrous Shagari’s regime in display before our very eyes. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua seems to be blundering from one appointment to the next. History will end up repeating itself if we do not speak out. The question is not how but when. When are we going to start eating from dust bin again? When are we going to have politicians celebrate their joining the billionaire’s club with a specially brewed Champaign from France? Mark my words, readers it will soon happen.
Our present minister of Justice sounds more and more like Chief Richard Akinjide. We already have ex-governors who are above the law. We have appointed a minister of justice who used to represent corrupt ex-governors and a minister of Justice who has vowed to do everything to shield and protect them from the long arms of the law. Alhaji Ahmadu Alli, the present Chairman of PDP sounds and act like Chief Akinloye. And now, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, even though he might not be as aloof and unconcerned as Professor Ishaya Audu in 1982, seems not to care much about “due process.” We are indeed in big trouble!