The Illogic Of A Lai
By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu
Those who recommended, screened, approved and appointed Alhaji Lai Mohammed to become information minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not do him a favour. I believe they conspired to rubbish him. I also believe that those who allegedly worked against his appointment for the office, actually wanted to save Nigeria some embarrassment. They obviously knew him better. I had thought that since his ambition was to transmute from a state level player to a player at the centre of leadership in the country, and having achieved same, he should have realized the difference between being Information Minister of a government and being chief antagonist or propagandist of a political party. In the later, he is expected to be blindly partisan, and also, lie, if need be, to promote party cause(s), irrespective of the damage to his image. In the former, as minister, he is expected to be a little bit nobler in his statements and response to issues and developments.
Sadly, he disappoints. The same guy who, soon after the general elections of 2015, told Nigerians that elections were over and that it was time for governance, still hasn’t been able to wean himself of those ingredients that has made some Nigerians begin to detest the party, APC. As the days go by, more conscious and rational Nigerians see through the lies that attended the 2015 election campaigns. Some believed them as truths. Now, they know better. And the more the minister talks, the more irritated some Nigerians are.
To many, it is indeed true that the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Alhaji Mohammed has tasted the high office he looked forward to. But he has refused to see the difference between that office and where he left. He speaks no longer for APC but for the Federal government. Therefore, the media will always attribute comments, or statements, by him, to the Federal Government. In essence, his office is to educate and manage information on policy direction of the administration as it affects all aspects of governance. Part of his office is also the task of re-orientating Nigerians on the change that the administration intends to drive. Sadly, he is nowhere near these.
His recent statement, to the effect, that the past administration purchased “substandard” weapons for the military to tackle the insurgency, came with it the comment that combat helicopters were purchased without “rotor”, and that “soldiers were transported by water tankers”. He also stated that guns given to soldiers malfunctioned and killed the soldiers instead.
While we may not have every detail of weapons purchased for the military –and it is not the task of the public to ascertain- the minister does a disservice to the integrity of government with the statement. Recall that he had earlier spoken for FG, and publicly too, that the same administration did not buy any weapons, but rather “stole” every money meant to purchase same.
Our Information minister refused to realise that the world is watching and taking notes. He refused also to realise that he succeeded only in creating bigger image problems for the administration; at least, that is the best his latest comment on the weapons purchase issue achieved. Observers are worried! And they have reasons to be. First, the minister is not known to have been part of any military organisation. He is not known to be part of the panel constituted to examine, or ascertain, the quality, quantity and functionality of weapons supplied to the military. As information minister, he is not party to any contract for the supply of weapons to the military. Also, the panel on weapons purchase does not report to the minister. None of the service chiefs reports to him. There are no soldiers, officers and other ranks, known to report to the minister. There is also no evidence of him being briefed by any authority, even the President, on the state of Nigeria’s military armoury. Therefore, whatever information available to him, as minister, on the state of military armoury in Nigeria, like it is to most of the emergency military weapons ‘experts’ and ‘analysts’, is, at best, hearsay.
Secondly, the 13-man panel set up by the Federal government to probe purchase of military hardware from 2007 to 2015, has only just begun a tour of military formations, Available reports indicate that the panel just started a tour to undertake a physical examination of weapons and equipment supplied. This is very instructive.
This is coming after there had been allegation of mismanagement of $2.1billion allegedly set aside for weapons purchase by the Office of the National Security Adviser. In other words, the government, which official information Lai Mohammed manages, put the cart before the horse. It means the government started the chase of a certain $2.1 billion before even undertaking a physical examination to find out what weapons were supplied and used. This is a terrible mistake to make. Was the government in a hurry to make mistakes? This should be a source of concern to discerning minds.
Interestingly, the Minister had engaged different sections of the media, traditional and new, conservative and reactionary, in his effort to seek support for the administration. At such meeting, he always asked for support for government’s anti-corruption war. Those who had been at such meets may have noticed that he always came with the disposition of the accuser, investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and jailer. Within that mindset, the minister believes that constantly engaging Nigerians with fiction and twisted facts, will make his job of national re-orientation easier. No way! He compounds problems for himself and for the administration rather. I imagine the morality he would preach at re-orientation campaigns.
When he hit Nigeria with his last allegations on substandard weapons, a friend made a joke to ask if the minister would be willing to volunteer to have one of the weapons tested on him? But that goes beyond the real issues that we must now deal with.
Essentially, what Lai Mohammed has successfully done was to inform Boko Haram, and any other armed group that may rise against the federation, that they are free to engage the military because it is equipped with “substandard” and “defective” weapons that will backfire and kill the soldiers instead. Whichever way we look at it, it is a disservice to Nigeria and the military. Nigeria’s military has done marvelously well in pushing back the terrorists and tactically over-power the terrorists though it has been inconclusive. But it is doubtful the feat could be achieved with “substandard” and “defective” weapons that always “backfired”, in an environment where superior and super-standard weapons have neither been ordered or taken delivery of by the incumbent.
If however, Nigeria’s military affirms that indeed it was able to ‘defeat’ Boko Haram with such weapons, then, the world better looks at the way of Nigeria for some deeper lessons on defeating terrorists with substandard and defective weapons.
For now, I think that Minister Lai Mohammed becomes a lot more circumspect in his public statements on the state of the country’s armoury. It would serve him no good to play the spy for those working to decimate our military. Some government institutions need protection, not careless expose by politicians.