Monday, November 22, 2021

OPINION: Abuja: Let Nasir El-Rufai Return, By Eddie Mbadiwe

When Military President Ibrahim Babangida celebrated his 80th birthday, Channels TV graciously granted him two hours of live interview. I listened to those two hours basically to try and understand the workings of IBB’s mind when he was in charge. My view is that those two hours were well spent as they were also illuminating.

IBB made a number of pronouncements. On Nigeria’s unity, he said the matter had been settled. No Sir, there are glaring cases of injustice and lack of transparency in appointments. As long as these inequalities persist, so long will agitations continue. When asked what he would like his legacy to be, his response is that like Churchill; he will be part of those writing his history. Of course IBB is not Churchill. Mr. Military President, history does not work that way.

IBB had an uncommon courage such as disarming Dimka and Orkar unarmed. That was in fact brazen effrontery. The legacy which will endure for generations after IBB was his founding of Abuja; the current capital of Nigeria. His current palace on the hills in Minna will eventually become a victim of climate change. It is in the direction of Abuja that I wish to make a few remarks.

IBB’s SAP programme, which he executed with his friend, Dr. SP Okongwu, was a colossal failure. Okongwu believed rabidly in IBB, who also treated his friends very kindly. Just one example; Late Okongwu was also my friend. IBB authorized the building of two houses for him; one in Enugu and the other in Nnewi. I recollect on one Saturday when I accompanied Okongwu on site inspection of his Enugu house, I asked him who was paying. He said the Military President asked him to send verified contractors certificates to Lagos and they were all paid.

Abuja was chosen by the Aguda committee after an extensive tour of world major cities. One understands the committee zeroed in on Milton Keyenes a fine English fresh city. Milton Keyenes is a new town and its founders have tried to maintain its originality and beauty.

A number of Nigerians made contributions to the planning and design of Abuja and one of those unsung heroes was late Dr. Felix Obinani. Dr. Obinani had a very lucrative position in the city of New York. I recollect my late uncle Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe put a lot of pressure on Felix to come home and help with the virgin capital city Abuja. Felix lived and slept in his Abuja office. This has to be highlighted because there were so many unsung heroes. Meanwhile, a number of charlatans and smart Alecks by some devious means have had streets named after them.

The beauty of a modern vibrant live city Abuja is gradually being eroded away. When Nasir el Rufai was Minister of Federal Capital Territory after a distinguished performance at the Bureau of Public Privatization, nobody could erect buildings on flood plains nor water track nor sewage lines. He mobilised his bulldozers and demolished them. He spared nobody including the Former President, Chief Obasanjo nor senior military officers like Jerry Useni. Recently, Games Village one of the legacies of Chief Obasanjo is under attack from land speculators and grabbers. This has to be stopped urgently. Shanty towns, mechanics workshops have sprung up all over Abuja. One is not insensitive to the plight of these workers who are struggling to keep their heads above water. The truth is that without regulation, everybody loses.

Travelling after 7pm in Abuja is a dangerous hazard because Keke drivers and their Okada brothers do not obey any traffic regulations and squeeze into any available space causing unimaginable gridlock. This has increased stress coupled with high blood pressure among the population. El Rufai another courageous Nigerian has a difficult assignment as Governor of a Multi religious, multi tribal, multi ethnic state Kaduna but he is coping admirably. I had in the past written and disagreed with some of the actions of El Rufai.

Can he take a one year’s sabbatical to sort out Abuja the dream capital before the city is lost to land speculators and their official accomplices? I hope a lot more people will add their voice to this plea so that the vision of Abuja is not gradually eroded and eventually destroyed by intense attrition. I have no doubt that with a foundation of truth, across the political divide Nigeria will still paddle out from this cesspit of mis-governance in which we are currently enmeshed. So help us God.

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