NPC Crisis: Confront Issues, Not Odimegwu

(By Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal)

Clearly there is no gainsaying that this kind of mindset is one that is tied to the malady of window dressing which is not only the bane of governance in Nigeria but to a large extent a vindication of Chinua Achebe’s timeless submission that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership”. In the same vein, this can hardly be divorced from “the tendency to self-centred pedestrianism” (ibid: Achebe) which in part appears to be the unpleasant driving force behind the incessant verbal attacks emanating from the Kwankwasos. Otherwise, they ought to have remembered that the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was arguably the first to take a mordant swipe at his predecessor’s legacies and the very process that brought him to power in 2007. 

THE increasing vituperative reactions, comments, articles and/or polemics emanating mostly from far-northern leaders against Mr. Festus Odimegwu, former chairman of National Population Commission (NPC), over the statement reportedly credited to him have been misdirected. He was reported to have said that all the census exercises held in Nigeria so far had been riddled with irregularities of an immense proportion. That, according to him, ultimately undermined their credibility.

  The reactions are not only misdirected but also risible – especially considering the sheer emptiness of some of these criticisms that clearly underscore the spiteful sole intent of those behind them. One would have thought that given the circumstances of the revelation by Odimegwu and his well registered unwillingness to embrace the typically Nigerian administrative culture of window dressing inherent in our public service, he would have been saluted for his courage. These cavilers would have done well in picking holes on the actual issues Odimegwu raised rather than going personal about it and recommending his head for the guillotine.

  Truth is bitter, but we all must not allow ourselves to be amenable to amnesia as it concerns the comment made by Festus Odimegwu on previous census exercises in the country. I believe his statement was not only meant for the consumption of all Nigerians but also aimed at unearthing for our collective reflection the fundamental malaise associated with demographics in Nigeria from the colonial era to 2006, when the last census was conducted. It therefore boggles the mind why our compatriots from the far North were yelling as if they were the only people that heard or understood the statement credited Odimegwu.

  Unfortunately, instead of addressing any of the issues Odimegwu raised, Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso reportedly resorted to throwing tantrums and insults at the person of the NPC boss. Mr. Kwankwaso was quoted to have said: “We are not happy about that appointment and think it was a mistake. Festus shouldn’t be there in the first place. Why? Because, you see, unfortunately, somebody read his CV, he had only been in the alcohol industry, all his life. And my guess is that he is taking a lot of his products and that is the mistake because he cannot be the chairman of NPC and at the same time be attacking what his predecessor had done.” Funny enough, the same alcohol industry where Odimegwu had creditably delivered and distinguished himself with verifiable stellar track record is generating substantial revenue for the country which the same Kwankwaso and his people are always eager and delighted to share through Value Added Tax (VAT). One wonders whether this queer posturing of Kwankwaso and his people falls short of the antics of the chichidodo (courtesy of Kwei Arman — a Ghanaian novelist – in his novel The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born). Chichidodo is a bird that dislikes faeces but likes eating maggot.

  It is understandable that for Kwankwaso and his people it would have made sense if the “man” in Odimegwu had died (thanks to Prof. Wole Soyinka) in the face of the myriads of institutional fraud of several decades. The Kwankwasos are now peeved and want us to believe that the choice of Odimegwu is a “mistake because he cannot be the chairman of NPC and at the same time be attacking what his predecessor had done” – even when these legacies are awful.

  Clearly there is no gainsaying that this kind of mindset is one that is tied to the malady of window dressing which is not only the bane of governance in Nigeria but to a large extent a vindication of Chinua Achebe’s timeless submission that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership”. In the same vein, this can hardly be divorced from “the tendency to self-centred pedestrianism” (ibid: Achebe) which in part appears to be the unpleasant driving force behind the incessant verbal attacks emanating from the Kwankwasos. Otherwise, they ought to have remembered that the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was arguably the first to take a mordant swipe at his predecessor’s legacies and the very process that brought him to power in 2007.

  It is a trite fact that the electoral reforms that were eventually brought to fruition preparatory to the 2011 elections and which we operate today are all but the corollaries of President Yar ‘Adua’s timely attack on what his predecessor – President Olusegun Obasanjo – bequeathed to him. One, therefore, wonders what the Kwankwasos have to say about this commendable but clearly antagonistic disposition of President Umar Musa Yar ‘Adua over the farcical electoral process that brought him to power in 2007 vis-à-vis the current scenario which the stance of Odimegwu epitomises.

  Nevertheless, it is high time we – Nigerians – learnt to confront issues and not individuals. Indeed Odimegwu has passed his message, willy-nilly, and the onus is now on those who disagree with him to rebut his message with issue-based arguments and cogent reasons, not by attacking his person.

 Odimegwu resigned yesterday.

• Paschal is a journalist, lives in Abuja.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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