It was straight from his heart. It was within. He boldly told it as he saw it and deemed fit. He meant every word he pronounced thereof with seriousness.
Dateline: Thursday, April 9, 2020, National Assembly (NASS), Abuja. Boss Mustapha had a date with the leadership of NASS. It had nothing to do with his exalted position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
But it had everything to do with his status as chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19. In other orderly climes, that post is sacred and held only by the head of government such as president, prime minister, chancellor, et al.
All the same, Mustapha, the boss of the PTF, was determined to make a public show of the appearance. The stage was set. He was to brief the NASS leadership on the activities of his task force. He was eager to do just that. He did not mince or mix words. He was not prepared for frivolities. He opted to be short on words but long on action.
He showcased his genuine concern when he furiously poured out: “I can tell you for sure, I never knew that our entire healthcare infrastructure was in the state in which it is until I was appointed to do this work.”
Interpretation: He never knew Nigeria’s healthcare system was in a very bad shape until the coronavirus pandemic exposed its inadequacies. Honest talk from the throne. It was an uncanny demonstration of his frankness and rare official honesty.
He did not just form his opinion from emptiness. He relied heavily on facts and figures. That is why he carefully picked his words. He was convinced of the data that stared him in the face. He went round some health facilities in the country. He was not alone; he did the task with his COVID-19 PTF members. What they saw was appalling and disgusting.
His chanced meeting with the NASS leadership provided the conducive avenue to share his experience. And he did it with all the strength in him. He could not stomach it. He could not hide his feelings.
Not even his SGF label could deter him from saying it as it is. He forgot, at least for that moment, that he was deeply involved. He cared less that he was part of the system that ruthlessly drove us to where we are today.
That did not matter to him. The truth must be told. Sadly enough, that courage could only carry him for barely 24 hours. His audacity collapsed like a house of cards. His bravery left him and the nerve in him evaporated.
To “right” his wrong, he hurriedly called a press conference the next day. He tried strenuously to renege in his words. In the process, he became more confused, controversial and convicted.
He tried hard to swallow his vomit: “Yesterday (Thursday), I mentioned at the National Assembly that I became fully aware of the state of our medical system during the execution of this task force assignment.
“It has become clear that this has been taken out of context. I must clarify that I am aware and have indeed been a champion for the reform and transformation of the healthcare system. However, this PTF assignment has afforded me the opportunity to dig deeper, interrogate and x-ray the system better.”
He had to run his “rural profile” to convince doubting Thomases: “I come from rural Nigeria. I was born in a village almost 64 years ago that didn’t even have a hospital, it had small missionary dispensary, probably with one midwife, no birth certificate was offered.”
His unsolicited self-confession: “I don’t even have birth certificate, I have declaration of age. From birth, I know the state of our medical, healthcare.
“I was born a rural Nigeria. I grew up in rural Nigeria. I went to school in rural Nigeria and I still live in rural Nigeria. Yola is my home, I’m just on a journey here in Abuja.”
He, however, insisted: “Most of the things you see around as specialist hospitals or clinics, you just see the buildings, you don’t know what is inside.
“But, being in this committee has given me opportunity of walking into these facilities, looking at what they have in relation to what they ought to have. My conclusion on that is that they don’t have what they ought to have.”
Tell your so-called rural life story to the marines. It is mere a tale. Is that why you attempted to deny yourself? We knew what you told us. Talking seriously, there is no seriousness in your denial.
We have turned it over and over again. The more we examine it, the more we are convinced. Boss, you actually spoke your innocent mind earlier. What a self-afflicted heavy burden! You will agonise on this anguish for some time to come. You asked for it.
Your belated defence was at best a triviality, a distraction, an after-thought. And we are certainly not cut for that. Your message is not lost on us.
We are already processing it. You dare not take that away from us. Thank heavens for COVID-19.
Stranger than fiction! It was Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Interior Affairs. Last Thursday, he told us President Muhammadu Buhari had pardoned Chief Anthony Enahoro and Prof. Ambrose Alli.
Enahoro was a First and Second Republic politician from the defunct Mid-West Region, Mid-West State and now Edo State. Alli was a Second Republic governor of the old Bendel State (Edo and Delta). Both are late now.
They were among the 2,600 inmates granted presidential pardon. Aregbesola said the action was to decongest our prisons littered all over the country. No qualms!
Enahoro was a perfect case study. It was a rude embarrassment. Of all our challenges, what could have informed this absurd pardon in these perilous times? Aregbesola’s response was full of gaps. It was neither here nor there. Daily Sun reported: “The minister said criteria for the release included inmates that were 60 years old and above, those suffering from ill health that are likely to terminate in death, convicts serving three years and above and have less than six months to serve, inmates with mental health issues and inmates with options of fines not exceeding N50,000 and have no pending case.”
Certainly, Enahoro did not fit into this bill. He did not even come near the picture painted by Aregbesola. This anonymous post (edited) trending on the social media confirmed this as much:
“In 1965, Enahoro was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He appealed against it, reduced. He was released in 1966, pardoned and made Federal Commissioner for Information and Labour by General Yakubu Gowon, same year. He was minister till 1975 when Gowon’s government was overthrown.
“Enahoro joined politics in 1979. He was a major player in the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN), with Alhaji Shehu Shagari as President.
“He died on December 15, 2010, at 87. He was given a state burial by the Jonathan administration in January 2011, at his hometown, Uromi, Edo State.
“If he was still having issues with the Nigerian state, why was he a federal minister for nine years after he won appeal against his sentence?
“Eight governors from South and North attended his funeral. Gowon was present, while Jonathan sent his then Minister of Labour and Productivity to represent his government.
“This was the man being granted posthumous pardon on April 9, 2020. Are you still asking for the definition of official idiocy?”
No, I dare not!