Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To our servants, ministers

The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. – Section 14 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution. A KEY challenge our new ministers have to tackle is remembering they are our servants. It is a long time ministers served anyone. Where they did, their numbers were so few and their service aborted too early for people to remember.

Ministers are our servants. Unfortunately, the people have no say in which ministers stay or go. Ministers therefore feel that their service is to the President, or in other cases to their god-fathers (there are god-mothers too).

The lengthening distance between the people and their servants is a source of concern. It is also at the centre of the miserly attempts at providing any meaningful service to the people. The President, who proclaims himself a servant leader and the various rungs of government demand service from the people.

A people already impoverished by years of policies that circumvent their interests have good reasons to wonder about the purpose of government. The 1999 Constitution is succinct on the matter.

Through its pronouncements and conducts, governments show that their primary purpose is the sustenance of the expansive interests of those who hold the reins of power. People are useful statistics to enhance importance of public office-holders.

Our servants, ministers, have become experts at explaining the problems. Some of them join us in mourning the worsening conditions of ordinary Nigerians. These conditions never reflect in the lifestyles of ministers, or prudence in application of public resources.

All the new ministers would move into new villas, which would be renovated to befit their tastes. The same mini places could have been renovated only last year. The strongest argument for throwing away the millions of Naira spent only months ago on the same items is that tastes of ministers vary.

Millions of Naira would be splurged on furniture for offices, residences, guest houses and vehicles fit enough for our new servants. These affairs are important enough to occupy our ministers for the next few months.

How do Nigerians benefit from these changes? Nigerians just live on hope. Government officials have substituted their own comfort for the welfare of the people. Hunger, poverty, diseases, injustice and concerted efforts at multiplying illiteracy show in government policies. These hurt the people, and make them mere watchers, without a future.

These ministers are coming in at a time of great economic uncertainties, but it is hardly a reason for non-performance. In the boom days, the people suffered the same deprivations.

Nothing would change until government's respect for the Constitution they lustfully pledge to obey.

We welcome the ministers to make a difference by improving the lives of long-suffering, ordinary Nigerians.