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Comment & Analysis

THE NATION ON SUNDAY DECEMBER 30, 2012

17

I insist, Sambo must have his N13bn palace! Tunji

Adegboyega tunjade@yahoo.co.uk 08054503906 (sms only)

M

ANY people were angry with me when, on December 16, I made a passionate appeal in support of the N14billion palace that our vice president is about to be denied (God forbid) and which has been a subject of all kinds of debates by all kinds of people, including the ordinary Nigerian on the street. As at that time, we had not even been told the full details of why the cost of the structure must go up. Today, however, we know better. We have to pray that God should open the understanding of those criticising the idea so that they can give their unconditional blessing to it. The story: In 2009, a contract was awarded at a cost of N7billion for the building of a residence for our Number Two Citizen. Suddenly, we were told that we would need an additional N9billion to provide infrastructure at the place. Mercifully, the Bureau for Public Procurement advised that we would not need more than N6billion more. This plus the initial N7billion would have brought the cost to about N13billion. But the Senate committee in charge would not take any of that. Then, the brouhaha started. When an important decision is about to be taken on an equally important personality like the country’s Number Two Citizen, one expects those taking the decision to advance

Postscript, Unlimited! By

Oyinkan Medubi 07057012862 (SMS only) puchuckles7@gmail.com

I

DO not consider myself to be very adventurous. No sir/ma; most days, I just love to pack myself in my favourite chair, have some nice pillows to support my poor ol’ back, a footstool to support my tired legs, some fresh air accompanied by chirpings of birds to flutter in through the window, and then proceed to listen to silence. Reader, it is from these deep reveries into silence that some rhapsodies of postscript issue forth. So, most days, I say ‘no, thanks’ to invitations to visit Governor XYZ (yet to get one though); ‘no, thanks’ to invitations to paint the town red (got that one); and definitely ‘no, thanks’ to an invite to visit the moon. Someday, I will be compelled to visit the moon, but not just yet. There is a journey we are all compelled to make sometimes. Noooo, you!; I rebuke your morbid mind!; I’m not talking about death. Hopefully, that will still be a long way off for you and me. I am talking about the journey we are all compelled to make each year, and that is to move from one year to another, even if you do not leave your armchair. Now it even has a name – The Crossover, which makes it sound more like ‘The Red Bridge of Courage’! Without that element of compulsion, I’m sure many of us would rather go, ‘Do I have to?’ Of course the Almighty will go, ‘Yes, you have to; otherwise time will

To reflect his religion and culture

impeccable reasons why they want to do something, or why they would not. So, what is the reason advanced by the Senate committee? Hear Senator Smart Adeyemi who led members of the committee to the project site: “The National Assembly is not going to appropriate additional N9bn for the project, especially at a period in this country when people cannot get a square meal. The N9bn is far more than the original cost of the project”. Smart is talking as if he does not know that contract variations have become part and parcel of us and we hardly review contract cost down here. Imagine a ‘learned’ legislator like Smart talking about people not able to ‘get a square meal’ and the abject poverty in the land. He should tell us when last a government provided Nigerians that square meal a day. I left the university in the mid‘80s and I know that people had been going on all kinds of formulae to reduce their food bills, even since then. We had things like ‘0-1-1’ (minus breakfast, plus lunch and dinner) and ‘1-0-1’ (plus breakfast minus lunch plus dinner). This is the way it has been for years such that these days, most parents merely ask whether

their children have eaten. They would have taken off before the children start complaining that the food is not enough! And what does Smart know about ‘abject poverty’? Is he now pretending not to know that is what governments have been spreading in the country for decades? Pray, how do we deny our respectable vice president a palace simply on account of these flimsy excuses! Is it his fault that things are the way they are? I guess that people like Smart are advancing all these reasons because President Goodluck Jonathan and his team are largely democrats with human kindness flowing in their veins. Imagine if it had been in the Second Republic, Smart and his colleagues would have been put where they belong by some outspoken public officials of the time, who would have asked them whether they have seen any Nigerian eat from the dustbin yet. It was the then President Shehu Shagari who was quiet; but he had ministers and other subordinates that were garrulous. As a matter of fact, one of them was so loathed that they organised for him to be ‘crated’ home from Britain, but for the eagle-eyed British police who

“But Vice President Sambo should forgive the senators and others who think he does not deserve such a palace. What they fail to realise is that many of our leaders are not like the president who did not have shoes when he was young. Most of our other leaders had been drinking Irish Cream since the time they were in the womb. So, we are the ones who should be grateful to them for offering to lead the nation”

aborted the plan. What is particularly annoying is the fact that the senators ignored all the explanations of the executive secretary of the FCDA, Adamu Ismail, who tried all he could to make them see sense in the idea. The man said the place needed furniture, fencing, two protocol guest louses, a banquet hall and security gadgets. According to Ismail, these were omitted by those who conceived the project. Now, tell me, which of these is our vice president not entitled to? Is it the furniture that you want to disagree with? Or you want to say the man should not be protected with a fence as thick and strong as the wall of Jericho in these days of high profile kidnappings and bombings? Are two protocol guest houses too many for the vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Are the senators also saying the banquet hall is unnecessary? We should realise that those who prepared the initial estimate are human beings likely to forget that these items were not included in the original project. Or, they must be some other Smarts who believe in Spartan lifestyle for our vice president. In view of all these points, we should show understanding for why the supplementary budget for the project is higher than the original estimate. All these could not have been provided for in the original estimate of just N7billion! Moreover, what if technology has changed between when the contract was awarded and now; would we want our vice president’s palace to be fitted with yesterday’s technology today? What is more? We have been given fresh insight that the project must gulp the billions more because our vice president is a Muslim, a de-

vout one at that; so, the structure should reflect that fact. This is important too because prayers are not likely to ascend to Allah if the vice president is living in a structure that does not reflect his religion. Those who are not close to God may not know what we are talking about here. The same way those who are asking what would happen should a Christian take over the office tomorrow;. Can’t they let that tomorrow come first? Would contract awards have ended by then? We award fresh billion contracts to also reflect the change. I wonder why Nigerians love to worry over little things when there are bigger issues to worry about. We should understand too that all the items to be bought have to be transported to site, so, we should expect the estimate for that and miscellaneous expenses should also be expected. So far, we have not been told these had been taken care of. Now, the critics have made our vice president to be unhappy with the issues becoming a beer parlour one. But Vice President Sambo should forgive the senators and others who think he does not deserve such a palace. What they fail to realise is that many of our leaders are not like the president who did not have shoes when he was young. Most of our other leaders had been drinking Irish Cream since the time they were in the womb. So, we are the ones who should be grateful to them for offering to lead the nation. And the way we can do that is to spoil them, not a little, but big time. •You asked for it, you got it! You are the reason the piece was updated. And this is the ‘Gospel of Transformation’, according to the Jonathan administration . Happy New Year in advance!

What a year it has been! I can hear the bells tolling for the old year, as it limps towards its close like an exhausted Olympic athlete, and ringing in the New Year as it jaunts in; I hope the year meets us well stand still, swallowing itself with a yawn’. So, just to save father time from swallowing itself, we are compelled to move from one old year to a new one. Sir Lancelot could not do better. I think the truth is that if we don’t move, time will move us. Have you taken a good look at your neck lately? I bet you did not know that the crows there have somewhat increased over the past year. That, sir/ ma, is time moving you relentlessly, and who knows where it will end. After the neck goes up in crows, you raise your arms and people cannot tell whether or not you are waving the national flag, and then your legs begin to do the shuffle. So now, I don’t argue about moving from the old year to a new one. The only thing I do is look back a bit to see how the year fared. To start with, 2012 was the Year of the Big Bang. Oh no, that has nothing to do with the evolutionary theory; rather, the big bang signifies the year the people of Nigeria gave the government a very big heart attack that actually exploded in a bang. It was when the people reacted violently against the government’s attempt to remove fuel subsidy. Of course, following the bang, the government has since been nursing its wounds and the people have since been contending with dry pumps or alternately giving the pumps some frustrated banging to register their hopelessness. For me, my Year of the Big Bang

came in the form of a discovery. I finally accepted that just as you cannot separate a tree from its bark, so also you cannot separate a man and the money he does not want to part with. Whenever we women have tried to get an increase in the housekeeping money, there have been unbelievable arguments which go like ‘my salary has not been increased; why should I increase the housekeeping money just because things are more expensive in the market?’ Or ‘You want to buy beans? Go sell one or two of your trinkets’, or ‘You want me to steal?’ Worse, when we remind our husbands that there are women who go to the market in jets, they go bananas. ‘Perhaps, if you sell one of my thighs ...’; yea, as if that could fetch anything. Yep, 2012 was also the Year of the Jets. No, we are not talking about that football club, for sincerely, I don’t know how they fared this year. But I know how the sellers of private jets fared in Nigeria: extremely proudly. No one quite knew what was going on beneath the surface ripples until a state governor decided to play both governor and pilot and promptly fell from the sky. In quick succession, a church leader was given a jet as a birthday present. (Since then I have been trying to understand what kind of birthday it was). But for now, I understand that the jets within the country are in their hundreds (including those in the presidency) and many

more have been ordered by individuals, most of who are living on government money. So yes, it was the year of the jets: hopefully, every Nigerian will soon get to own one and we can all abandon the bad roads to the goats, chickens and birds. Well yes, when we all take to the sky, the birds will now have to walk. Sadly, it is also the year of the fear of heights. Those who know me know how much height I can endure: the height of the steps that lead into my house. Anything beyond that incites a great deal of horror, sweats and falls comparable to air crashes. So, when the year began to record all those crashes, I just thought, oh my, what did they go all the way up for? I had come to the truth of the matter earlier, that the fear of height indeed is the beginning of wisdom! And the year’s floods have almost been worse than Noah’s day. Even though the floods made their entries very quietly enough, their effects have been so devastating many people have been tempted to purchase canoes alongside their cars. Some did. Naturally, material and human tolls have been beyond the pale but many of us have taken consolation in God and the hope that the government would have learnt a thing or two from the experience. But since you and I know that they never do, our only consolation is God. Now let’s see if and what we as a nation have learnt from our various

experiences during this year. I think the fuel subsidy experience has taught us that if we are ever going to move forward as a nation, we must put aside petty grievances and petty divisions such as the colour of our skin, turban or hat. The nation spoke successfully with one voice on the issue of fuel subsidy then because of the pain we felt. Other issues require such a unity of purpose: a modern mass transportation system, potable water, reliable energy sources, etc. I also don’t think we have learnt much from the lesson nature tried to teach us about private jets. There have been no reports telling us for instance that those who had ordered their private jets have cancelled their orders. We have also not been told that the state governors who own private jets have been asked politely to explain how they came about such possessions considering that they did not go into their respective government houses with one. On the matter, mum has been the word from the various Houses of Assembly, the National Assembly or the national government. I can hear the bells tolling for the old year, as it limps towards its close like an exhausted Olympic athlete coming in long after the officials have packed their gears and gone home. I can also hear, albeit faintly, the bells ringing in the New Year, as it jaunts in with a hat balanced on its head in a rakish angle and with high hopes. I hope it meets us well.

The Nation December 30, 2012  

The Nation December 30, 2012

The Nation December 30, 2012  

The Nation December 30, 2012

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