By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa
I have read, with much concern, the statement of the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in response to the call by the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, for the President, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, to resign, given the economic recession that Nigeria is currently facing.
In his said response, which is being celebrated by his admirers as ‘taking PDP to the cleaners’, Alhaji Mohammed described the entire PDP members as “shameless irritants’, and proceeded to sermonize and indeed terrorize the opposition, with his pen and tongue. First, I have no sympathy for the PDP or any past government official, that is now the subject of public opprobrium, given the mindless revelations of some horrendous embezzlement of public funds, during that inglorious era. In this regard, no word can be too harsh to describe the lawlessness of the past regime, in relation to the distasteful management of our common patrimony. My concern however, is whether the Honourable Minister of Information, should be the appropriate channel for this exercise.
In the days leading to the 2015 general elections, Alhaji Lai Mohammed held sway as the bride of the media, given his characteristic bombardments of the ruling PDP government then. And it was through those gallant efforts, that Nigerians were daily assessing the Jonathan regime. But the campaigns are now over and Alhaji Lai Mohammed has now been elevated to reap the fruits of his ‘labour’, with his appointment as the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture.
Legally speaking, the scope of the responsibilities of the Minister of Information and Culture can be gleaned from the agencies and parastatals under the Ministry, such as the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria and indeed the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission. These agencies regulate the activities of the media generally. In their guidelines, media owners are to avoid employing any language that may communicate abuse, vulgarism, nudity, obscenity, violence, religious fanaticism or indeed ethnic divide.
In its proper definition, a ‘shameless’ person is one who is insensible to disgrace, who is so crudely raw, as to absorb all rubbish. An ‘irritant’ is an annoying and unpleasant fellow, who causes undue excitement or aggro, constituting a headache and thus, a total nuisance. All members of the PDP cannot be deserving of these excoriating epithets.
By the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed is a public officer, presently paid and sustained in office, with the tax payers’ money, including those of the PDP, that he has wantonly descended upon. The machinery of the dissemination of his abusive statement, was through the public purse, and that, in a time of recession.
It is totally undesirable and manifestly uncharitable, for a public officer, to employ state resources, to engage in abuses and official indecency. Indeed, Nigeria cannot afford public officers, who lord it over the very people that they are paid to serve. Yes, it was within the province of the All Progressive Congress, to take on the PDP, word for word and language for language, in respect of any political verbiage. However, we cannot have Alhaji Lai Mohammed as a propagandist in the opposition and now an abuser in government. That should not happen.
If the minister who is at the head of promoting decency in the public space, is himself engaged in the use of foul and indecent languages, then what should the media do? What should the civil servants under him do? And to think that the Honourable Minister has just launched a national programme of national orientation, in which he is advocating for ‘change’ and he himself has not seen the need to change from the vituperous spokesperson of the APC, into temperate and modest federal minister, thus reflecting the sober mood of our national economy, than to be regaling us daily with bogus and outlandish Babanrigas and ministerial life of luxury and then turn around to ask the people for patience, to endure poverty and suffering.
What Nigerians should be hearing from the Honourable Minister, is programmes of the government aimed at prospering the economy, the mode in which the money recovered through the anti-corruption campaign is being utilized, why electricity supply is now dwindling in the wake of the coming dry season and expected heat, why airlines are closing shops and throwing the transport sector into huge crisis, why citizens are dying daily on most of our roads which have been largely abandoned, why the government has not been able to fulfil most of its campaign promises upon its ascension into power since 2015, several other questions begging for answers.
Alhaji Mohammed has carved a peculiar niche for himself in the course of his national assignments in his days as the opposition spokesperson. He should leverage on that to create an enduring legacy of tolerance, that would reflect his new role as a federal minister and a public officer and allow his party, the APC, to appoint his replacement, that will carry on the business of propaganda, if still that will still be necessary, in our time now.