A Minister's Arrogance

by Bolaji Aregbeshola

Chief Ojo Maduekwe, the present Minster of Foreign Affairs, is not new in the Nigerian political arena. He (Maduekwe) has been in politics since the early 1980’s and has also been a member of the Federal Executive Council since the return of democracy in 1999. The lawyer turned politician was appointed a Federal Minister of Culture and Tourism between 1999 and 2000; a Federal Minister of Transport between 2000 and 2003; Legal and Constitutional Adviser to the President between 2003 and 2005 and most recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Chief Maduekwe no doubt has a strong influence in Nigerian politics. Another Nigerian who has served under different governments like the University of Nigeria, Nsukka law graduate, is Professor Jerry Gana. He (Gana) has also served in several capacities since 1985 until he lost out in his bid to becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Recently, the Minster of Foreign Affairs has been making headlines and this is due to his non-appearance before the House committee on Foreign Affairs to explain the level of last year’s budget and defend the 2009 estimates. Unlike the President and other Ministers, Chief Ojo Maduekwe sent the Minister of State and other senior officers in the ministry for the defence. These men during the defence session were reported to have apologized for the absence of Chief Maduekwe whom they said had accompanied President Yar’ Adua to the swearing-in of the newly elected President of Ghana. But President Yar’ Adua who the Minster of Foreign Affairs accompanied to Ghana appeared before the House of Representatives to present the 2009 budget. This shows that Chief Maduekwe is unserious about his duties as a minister.

It is not surprising that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Chief Maduekwe was accused of profligacy by members of the House of Representatives committee on Foreign Affairs. So many inconsistencies were revealed during the defence of the ministry’s proposal before the committee members. According to a newspaper report “there was no breakdown for many of the monies spent by the ministry.” Worse, the ministry’s estimate for the 2009 budget was astronomical. The inability of the Minister of State (1) to defend the 2009 budget in the absence of Chief Ojo Maduekwe led to the committee’s insistence that the Minster of Foreign Affairs must appear before it.

It seemed Chief Ojo Maduekwe deliberately avoided the defence of his ministry’s budget proposal with the House of Representatives. He (Maduekwe) neither responded to the House Committee’s invitation letter nor feared their threats to order his arrest.

The committee Chairman, Umar Bature said “Chief Maduekwe was in the habit of shunning invitations extended to him by the House committee.” This was also confirmed by a report that the Foreign Affairs Minister failed to turn up for defence last year. But is Chief Ojo Maduekwe above the law? He feels so big to appear before the House of Representatives committee for his ministry’s budget defence.

One would have expected that the threats to order his arrest and his ministry’s risk of having no budget in the 2009 fiscal year according to Umar Bature was enough to make the Foreign Affairs Minister appear but he (Maduekwe) remained unperturbed. Perhaps Chief Maduekwe’s position in the PDP was responsible for this arrogance and disrespect. A lawyer of his calibre should have known better that the law is no repecter of persons.

Funnily enough, Chief Maduekwe made a remarkable achievement as the Minister of Culture and Tourism as well as the Minister of Transport but his performance so far as the Minster of Foreign Affairs is nothing to write home about. The missions abroad are said to be in a dilapidated state, embasies complain of lack of funds, the ministry’s headquarters is yet to be completed despite the huge allocation it got for the construction.

If truly an assessment of every minister’s performance was carried out by President Yar’ Adua before the sack of 20 ministers sometime last year, I am sure that Chief Ojo Maduekwe would have ceased to be a Federal Minister. But unfortunately, the reasons for the 20 minister’s sack was mainly political and this explains why Chief Maduekwe remains the Minster of Foreign Affairs.

Such lackadaisical attitude should not be tolerated by the leadership of this country regardless of a person’s status. It is high time Chief Maduekwe was called to order if the Foreign Affair Ministry must move forward. He (Maduekwe) must be told that his appointment as a minister meant service to the people and not tyranny.

If the Foreign Affairs Minister does not want to be answerable to anyone, then, he (Maduekwe) can retire to his chambers and exercise absolute authority. But as long as he wants to be a part of government, he must submit himself to necessary authorities and institutions whenever the need arises.

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