Defending the Indefensible: The case of Ex-Works Minister Onolememen
"You can't defend the indefensible - anything you say sounds self-serving and hypocritical." - Diane Abbott
It all first sound like a joke but the group of ex-political appointees of former President Goodluck Jonathan who had promised a robust defense of their time in office have started their responses to the numerous allegations of impropriety and corruption being levied daily against them by President Muhammad Buhari's administration. Some of the stuff they are trotting out as defenses would be a script on Baba Sala or Zebrudiah comedy shows but for the fact that we are actually talking about a country made poor not by lack of resources but bad leadership and corruption.
First out of the gate is the immediate past Works Minister, Arc. Mike Onolememen, who responded to an exclusive report by Vanguard in which he was accused of smuggling four unnamed officials into the delegation that represented Nigeria at an international infrastructure summit in Paris, France, in 2011. If you thought his defense will be grounded in financial prudence and robust statutory riposte, you don't know Nigerian politician.
According to Vanguard, "the former minister said the four unnamed persons referred to as “ghost representatives” by the newspaper were members of the Senate and House of Representatives committees on Works, who decided to accompany the ministry’s delegation to Paris after the necessary arrangements had been concluded." He stated that the total sum of 20.6 million Naira was earmarked for legislators who were added to the delegation hurriedly. For those familiar with Nigeria "double dipping legis-looters", you can bet the same expense was again paid for by National Assembly oversight budget! He also refused to tell us why it took 5 years to correct the books and who left it too late?
But the minister is not done with his "comical Alli" defense of his time as works minister, he went on to defend the inclusion of his wife and sister on the ministry’s list for a trip to Dubai in 2011 on the ground that the trip "was actually for ministers’ wives and top female ministry officials. Onolememen stated that his wife was specially nominated to lead the team from Nigeria to Dubai and she in turn picked three female officials to accompany her to the event, which lasted five days." What in the world is wrong with this picture?
An unconstitutional and illegal "office of minister's wife" now exist where the wife of a sitting minister can pick 3 other officials to go on junkets or is it shopping at Dubai? All of which are generously funded by Nigeria state money! Ever wonder why federal roads in Africa's most populous nation remains a debt trap? How can any sane mind given the level of squalor and poverty in today's Nigeria justify such expense? What is wrong with our so called leaders? And they wonder why the people of southwest where the Lagos-Ibadan expressway remains like a precolonial rain forest voted them out of office. In saner climes, folks like Onolememen will voluntarily return the money expended on his wife and be ban from holding any political office. But don't expect that in these climes, he will soon run as governor of Edo state or senator using the stupendous wealth he got from from his disastrous era as minister.