By Gerald Adewole
With the swearing-in of the new Ministers, the business of governance of President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration has fully commenced. The Ministers have since assumed duty and are unveiling the policy agenda of their respective Ministries. His Excellency, Nyesom Wike, the Honourable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), like other Ministers, has hit the ground-running, with the firm promise to sanitize the Capital city, restore the city to its original master plan, clean up the infrastructural decay in the city and make the city a place all Nigerians can be proud of.
The Wike agenda to make Abuja a model city of international standard is indeed, heart-warming. With a man of his stature as the Honourable Minister of the FCT, we are sure to witness a revolutionary turn around in the administration of the Federal Capital Territory and in the socio-economic affairs of this fastest growing capital city in West Africa. This is to be expected because Wike is a man known for his doggedness, tenacity and capacity to achieve positive results.
As a Local Government chairman, he won award as the best Chief Executive Officer at the third tier of government during his time. As the immediate past Governor of Rivers State, his achievements were monumental. So committed was he to the infrastructural transformation of Rivers State that former President Muhammadu Buhari nicknamed him “Mr Projects”, even as a governor in the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party.
While to many, the coming of Wike as FCT Minister is a welcome relief, to others, it is heart-breaking. As the capital of Nigeria, the most populous nation in Black Africa, Abuja is expected to be Nigeria’s flagship city; a model city par excellence and the vista through which the entire world perceives Nigeria. As the seat of power, Abuja plays host to the high and the mighty, all those saddled with the responsibilities of governance at the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary tiers. It is also the primary abode for members of the Diplomatic Community who are on foreign missions to Nigeria. As a cosmopolitan city, Abuja is a melting pot for Nigerians from all works of life.
It is in the light of the above that we must ensure that the city truly reflects the best of Nigeria’s image, in aesthetics, architectural design and sanitation, as well as in decency and orderliness. Those who conceived and designed the master plan of Abuja had in mind the vision of a model Nigerian city where all responsible citizens of Nigeria would be proud to call their capital city; and a city that foreigners would visit and affirm with sincere satisfaction that indeed, we are a decent, orderly, organized and responsible people.
Today, that vision is far from being realized. Abuja has become a city where anything goes; a city whose beauty has been marred by illegal structures and shanties. It has become a breeding ground for cattle with its streets invaded by beggars, hawkers, homeless lunatics, “portfolio swindlers” and miscreants constituting security threat and environmental hazards. Heaps of decaying garbages dot the streets of the city oozing stench to the repulsive air.
Night life in Abuja has become a theatre of the absurd, with the red streets flooded by half-naked young ladies openly soliciting for sexual patronage. From “Woman Boku” in Kubwa through Chris Garden area of Jabi to Mabushi, Wuse Zone 4, the Globacom area of Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse 2, to Rita Lori hotel axis in Garki 2, sex workers are on rampage in Abuja, like the historic invasion of the city of Morocco! And nobody appeared to have been concerned about it.
It is for this reason that the appointment of Ezenwo Nyesom Wike as the new Minister of the FCT is highly soul lifting. The FCT Minister has indicated his burning desire to sanitize the city and bring down any structure erected on unauthorized areas or not built according to specification. While this is necessary to make owners of such structures pay for their sin of desperation and conspiracy to willfully distort Abuja master plan, the Minister should take a step further to bring to justice, the officers of the Ministry who turned their faces the other side while these rots were going on.
There are relevant Departments in the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory (MFCT) and the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) saddled with the responsibility of approving building plans for structures and supervising to ensure that the buildings are constructed to specifications. It is arguable that the Development Control arm of the Ministry has been in deep slumber or in active connivance to this colossal crime. The Minister’s stern warning that Directors in the Ministry should either sit up to perform or quit is therefore apt and timely.
It is also noteworthy that development in the FCT has greatly slowed down because of the activities of cabals in the system who hold property owners and developers to ransom. Today, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to secure building plan approval from the FCT Ministry. The system has been greatly riddled by all forms of irregularities and perversions. This apparent violation of due process has greatly promoted a culture of land racketeering, profiteering and pervasive recklessness.
The Honourable Minister has also vowed to recover all lands long allocated but not developed from the original allotees. While this is in order, the Honourable Minister should exercise caution in implementing this because many of these lands remain undeveloped because of some bottlenecks placed on the land owners by officials of the Ministry. For example, since the past six years or so, the FCT authority has placed embargo on building plan approval for all lands in all the Area Councils. Land allotees in the Area Councils cannot even open files to process their building plans, which is the first step towards securing approval to build. The legitimate land owners are left with no option but to wait until the embargo is lifted or risk their hard earned resources to mobilize to site with the connivance of some Ministry officials. This accounts for why we have explosive population within the city centre, with heavy consequences on its carrying capacity. The Honourable Minister may do well to lift the embargo on the building plan approval for Area Council lands to enable property owners commence development promptly. Afterall, the essence of allocating plots to people is to enable them build and occupy their properties and not for fun or fancy.
Finally, the task to sanitize Abuja is not an easy one. The Minister should be aware that he is going to meet with intense resistance, and stiff opposition from high quarters, and even among some of his colleagues, friends and associates. However, as long as he is on the right path, God Almighty, through the prayers of well-meaning Nigerians, shall see him through.
The hallmark of good leadership is the ability to do the right things and not the nice things. So many things that are nice are not necessarily right. To be right in the sight of God and in the sight of men in his decision, he has to be fair, firm and forthright. At the end, we shall all be accountable to God on the extent of equity and fairness we displayed in discharging the responsibilities of the offices he gave to us in trust towards our service to humanity.
As President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has stressed, this administration is committed to delivering the greatest good to the greatest number of people possible.
Dr Adewole, a Public Affairs Analyst writes from Abuja.