Mixed Metaphors: Hypertension In High Places By Sonala Olumhense

Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, last week disclosed she suffers from high blood pressure.

Also hypertensive, according to her: Bashir Yuguda, the Minister of State for Finance, and Anastasia Daniel-Nwaobia, the Permanent Secretary.

This health condition is blamed on the stress of managing the economy. “The amount of stress in the Ministry is unbelievable,” Dr. Okonjo-Iweala declared. “Many times we are in the office until [one o’clock in the morning], looking for ways…to make payment.”

The Minister went further to disclose that an alarming 70% of the staff of her Ministry has the same condition.

Mercifully, she was speaking at the commissioning of a clinic belonging to the Ministry where, she said, “people can go and check quickly up when they start having headache before someone collapses.”

I think it is a mistake to blame the hypertension level in Finance on the mountainous challenge of counting money in an economy she has always declared to be in wonderful shape, and in which President Goodluck Jonathan lavished so much money on his re-election effort. The more important question is whether the same level of illness is true of the nation’s work force and its population in general.

For decades, including the past one in which Madame Minister has twice been part of arrogant, preachy governments, it is common knowledge that privileged government and party officials and their families have seen little wisdom in developing our healthcare system. Nigerians simply suffer and die.

Speaking of hypertension, the acrimony and shouting in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over its loss of the presidency continues. President Jonathan’s aides are at war with members of the National Working Committee; Jonathan is blaming governors and other party members, some of whom are blaming him for a variety of shortcomings.

Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, has labeled party chairman Adamu Mu’azu a saboteur, and threatened to expose his collusion with the party that has pushed the PDP to the edge of suicide.

Meanwhile, Senate President David Mark has described the PDP as being in a coma, and hemorrhaging, pleading that the squabbling by party leaders could see to its end.

“Unless we halt the bleeding and find the necessary therapy, we may be heading for the final burial of the party,” he told the party’s post-election assessment committee last week.

He asked the committee to “unearth the remote and immediate causes of our misfortune and make recommendations that will enhance the future of the party.”

I find it amusing that the PDP claims it is looking for the causes of its collapse beyond its condemnable irresponsibility and kleptomania superintended by key men such as Mark himself. There is nothing to diagnose or recommend.

This is the point where I agree with Governor Fayose: the party’s chairman and NWC ought to accept responsibility for the mess, and resign.

Under the PDP constitution, however, Mr. Jonathan will now replace “Mr. Fix-It” Tony Anenih as chairman of the Board of Trustees. But that is the same Jonathan—who retains Fayose’s support—and who ran the party aground. If the party wants recommendations, here is one: follow through with Fayose’s prescription and escort Mr. Jonathan out completely.

Second: amend the constitution again and let the best candidate for the job assume that office: Patience Jonathan. Now, there’s a tigress capable of remolding the PDP in the proper image: her own.

Some wounds must be treated. Unfortunately, other wounds must be licked.

Last week, worried about the fate of the Igbo in the forthcoming government, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Caretaker Committee headed for Abuja to face the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari.

There is no evidence they voted for Buhari. In fact, rather than vote for candidates of Buhari’s party, they enthroned characters of doubtful and dubious records. When the smoke cleared, it was clear something had to be done, and it appears some of the members advocated bowing and begging as a shameless new weapon.

And selling too, of course.

And so, the Caretaker Committee appeared before Buhari, and put President Jonathan up for sale. They told the incoming leader that the outgoing leader had deceived the Igbo about contracts for the Second Niger Bridge (SNB) and major federal roads in the South East, but that he had lied and tricked them for their votes.

For those who do not know, President Jonathan is a politician. But the way he handled the SNB issue, you might have thought he was the footballer JayJay Okocha as he dribbled his way to the Igbo vote time and again. He promised them the SNB in 2007 and again in 2011.

Even after the 2011 election, at a Town Hall meeting in Onitsha on August 30, 2012, he promised that if he failed to build the SNB before completing May 29, 2015, he would go on exile. In March 2014, he promised them the bridge…in 2019!

I thought the Igbo leaders who were licking their wounds in Abuja last week had gone to demand that exile.

But they were there to hawk blame and sell…somebody. In my view, they do not need Buhari for that. What they need are glasses. That is how you see a little more clearly when you are older, and spot fake or expired goods.

I turn to sport. Nigeria’s most successful contemporary Track and Field athlete, Blessing Okagbare, continues to combat the lame administrators of the sport in Nigeria.

Explaining how her team won the 4x200m gold medal at this month’s IAAF Relays in the Bahamas, she has said two critical things. The first: members of the team picked themselves, with no input from uncommitted coaches.

The second: she dismissed Nigeria’s refusal to nurture athletes domestically, preferring to recruit athletes abroad, and accusing administrators of “killing our grassroots section and home-based athletes”.

“What a show of shame the administration [of Nigerian athletics] has become!” she reportedly wrote on Facebook last week, carpeting them for seeking “short cuts to success”.

“They sit down, criticise the athletes back home that they are not improving or doing enough to be at the top yet they don’t do anything to support them.

“They rate their recruits above the great talents that the country have, paying money and rent to athletes, who have not even shown up to our Nigeria trials just to look good.”

Ms. Okagbare is correct, of course, and I commend her for continuing to speak out. She knows that successful athletes are trained on a continuous basis, not just ahead of competitions, and that quick-fix importations actually hurt the country.

Finally, military sources are now revealing that up to 1000 women, girls and young children have now been rescued from the clutches of Boko Haram. Some 140 of the women are pregnant.

Who are these people? Will the government make appropriate and sustained provisions for their medical and other needs?

It is not all about hypertension in high places.

Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense

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