Abuja: When the Masses Get in the Way…By Garba Shehu

Abuja Minister, Senator Bala Mohammed’s ban of buses from roads in the Federal Capital Territory is absolutely disgusting as it is a mark of the arrogance that is characteristic of some officials of this government. The minister had given January 14th as deadline to buses to operate only on feeder roads in the FCT, thereby excluding them from the city centre.

These types of action are not the best way of thanking the common people who in their millions “gave” a mandate to the government for a new four year term. Senator Mohammed’s action amounts to saying that now that we have been reelected for second and final term (?) the Jonathan Government can best serve the people by a safe distance from them so that government can concentrate on its business.

Does it matter to Minister Mohammed that his new policy, which he just suspended to allow for three weeks of consultation, has caused so much hardship that it could have lead to unforeseen consequences were it not so quickly reversed?

A report in the Thursday edition of Daily Trust said the new policy has forced workers living in satellite towns to trek several miles it to their offices.

Said the report: “Along Masaka – Mararraba – Nyaya road, it was observed that hundreds of commuters gathered by the road waiting for available vehicles for hours, which were not forthcoming. Few commercial vehicles and only private vehicles were seen yesterday plying the road.

“Some of the residents that spoke lamented the policy saying that they have to trek long distances to get to their work places. They said even the government–owned luxury buses meant to convey commuters were not to transport workers to the city centre.

“A civil servant, Ihuoma Nwosu, complained that she had waited at the Life Camp Junction several hours but could not get a vehicle to the Wuse market.”

This account is representative of several others published by the different media. It is perhaps based on the general outcry by Labour and Civil Society groups that the Minister announced a three-week suspension of the ban order to allow for consultation stakeholders.

In line that, he has set up a committee chaired by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, made up of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, the Trades Union Congress, TUC, the FCT Police Command, the Vehicle Inspection Office, VIO, the Federal Road Safety Corporation, FRSC and a member of a civil society organization to dialogue on the matter.

Now, where does it happen in the world that a government issues a drastic policy directive such as this one without talking to anyone, and that it is only when trouble starts that a meeting will be called stakeholders? Is this not irresponsible? Why would the Minister shut out commercial buses from the city roads without an alternative means ? Did they build those roads with money from his personal business?  Does it really matter to the Minister that the junior workers in nearly all government departments came late to work; get tired and exhausted after walking miles upon miles to get there because of his diktat? What did he hope to by doing this?

Could it be that an all-knowing Minister was just trying to show that he knows best, in a country where the people don’t know what is good for them?

Is it that they are tired of the poor people congesting the city centre and that the best way of stopping its contamination is by stopping commuter buses from the heart of the city?

Truth is that maybe, in his thinking, the city roads need to get sanitized and rid of commercial buses, so that VIPs like him would enjoy, not only a smoother ride on their SUVs but that there would prevail, an atmosphere serene and conducive for them to think well and govern well.

This was the type of arrogance that cost Mitt Romney the American Presidency when he was caught saying that the Obama-led administration was a government of the poor, which should not be allowed to have another term of office.

The German Playwright Bertolt Brecht thought for Senator Mohammed when he said, in the aftermath of the measures taken by the East German government against the uprising in 1953 that: “after the uprising of 17th June… the people have forfeited the confidence of the government… would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another one?”

Surely for the FCT administration, this is one of those times when governments think that the people are their problem.



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