By Mustapha Abu-bakar
There are power political ‘masquerades’ that bought up the power sector and that could explain why we are still in darkness; this was simply the summation of a recent presentation by former Minister of National Planning Commission, Dr Shamsuddeen Usman.
The former minister is already notorious for being a vocal critic whenever he is out of power and his recent lamentation did not come to many by surprise. He nevertheless got some attention for striking on the chord that has become the bane of Nigeria’s economic development. Poor power supply is a topic that easily arrest the attention of most Nigerians as majority of the over 180 million citizens grapple with power cuts on daily basis.
But why has Dr Usman waited this long to activate his new found patriotism. His efforts at joining the league of “blame Jonathan” is coinciding with President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to expand the present cabinet. The former minister may be eyeing a return to the scheme of things by exonerating himself from the decision of a council that he served as prominent member. There are talks of appointments for new ministers, couple with rumors that Dr Usman’s Kano State was being considered for an additional minister.
For the benefit of hindsight, the former minister was actively involved in the entire privatization process under the Jonathan administration. Shamsudeen chaired the monitoring committee charged with the responsibility of outlining indicators that favored selling off government assets in the power sector. Yet he never raised any alarm against the process then.
Until now, there was no record of any point when the former minister cautioned the past administration against handing off the power sector. Since criticizing Jonathan is now the new sure way to appease the new sheriff in town, one must excuse the former minister, while conscious efforts must be made at putting the records straight.
Therefore, Dr Usman should recall that the power sector privatization process was not without it’s own casualties. He may have forgotten, but some key officials of the programme had to relinquish their positions over conflict of interest.
To begin with, perhaps the former minister has forgotten so soon how his former colleague in the power ministry, Prof Barth Nnaji was forced to resign over conflict of interest. As minister of power, Nnaji was made to resign after allegations of conflict of interest in the privatisation of the Afam power plant was confirmed. It was reported that the former president initially decided to sack the former minister, but later decided to grant him soft landing by accepting resignation.
The sin of the then minister of power was that he used his privileged position to influence the emergence of one of the firms in pole position to be selected winner of the Afam power plant. Dr Usman failed to acknowledge this display of transparency in the bidding process for the power assets.
Aside Nnaji, there were other members of the privatization team that relinquished their positions after declaring interest in some of the firms that acquired the power assets. This may not be relevant to Dr. Usman, especially now that his major interest is how to emerge as minister in the APC led administration of President Buhari.
Furthermore, the Shamsudeen Usman also failed to reveal to Nigerians how he unilaterally served as Chairman of the National Planning Commission. The commissioning by law is made up of a chairman and permanent commissioners, but Dr Usman served for five years as minister and chairman without allowing constitution of the board of the NPC. While he may want to return to his familiar trade of arm chair criticism, the minister should not forget that he once said a critic is like a passenger in the back seat, but when you come to the front seat you see why the driver is swerving to dodge some potholes.
In trying to get to the front seat again, Dr Usman is clearly making frantic efforts at either taking the job of the minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau or becoming the extra minister from the Northwest. Either of the two can however be achieved without trying to rewrite history. If the former minister is sincere and patriotic in his recent revelation, then he should do the country the service of naming those ‘political masquerades’ that hijacked the power sector privatization. This should come with facts, like names of companies where those that actively participated in the privatization presently hold stakes. This will not only do the country good but also place the former minister on a new high and on the pole position of a deserved minister in the change administration of President Buhari.
Otherwise, Nigerians should dismiss the former minister’s claims as the antics of a man seeking an undeserved job. He has become like a man that goes to eat in another man’s house, certainly most of his words are influenced by the urge to satisfy the stomach.
Abubakar is a freelance reporter with over a decade experience in the power sector
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