BY ONE-EYE SUNDAY
When people criticize President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration they do so without specifying that their actual grouse is not with him but with lieutenants that have performed below expectation. However, the reality is that we must begin to call out the specific appointees of Mr. President that have failed in their duties with the certainty that they would be booted out of the government to make room for competent Nigerians that would replace them.
Our obsession is currently around security and the economy without the realization that agriculture – food security and the capacity to generate employment – is where our focus should be in a post capitalist world. Sadly, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr. Henieken Lopkpobiri, has failed in this regard as he has repeatedly demonstrated that he is not only out of his depth in the current assignment but also has a destructive streak that would cost the administration greatly if not drastically addressed.
The excuse that Lokpobiri is but a minister of state with Chief Audu Ogbe as the substantive minister of agriculture does not hold water in this instance. Those who think Lokpobiri is exempted from responsibility are not awake to the reality that the minister of state in this instance should have, on account of age, been the digital component to Audu Ogbe’s senior experience. Yet it is Audu Ogbe, even with his advanced age, that is seen all over the country and across the globe canvassing investment and patronage for Nigeria’s agricultural sector while the minister of state at best makes himself into excess baggage and a toxic one at that.
The travesty of the situation is that Lokpopbiri came into the cabinet with airs of a man that was prepared for the job with a lot to offer. His resume as a former Senator portrayed him as one that was in a hurry to make a difference only for Nigerians to be saddled with the kind of glaring incompetence that is only possible in climes where senators confirm ministerial nominees with the nauseous chant of “bow and go”.
The minister of state, unfortunately, turned out to be a minus and a major mistake of the Buhari Government. His lethargic handling of the responsibility entrusted to him has not only rubbished the government in which he serves but has also shortchanged the people of his home state, Bayelsa and the entire Niger-Delta people for whom he has failed to revive the agriculture that was once the mainstay of local economies.
As the younger of the two people entrusted with turning around the ministry, Lokpobiri has amply demonstrated that he knows next to nothing. The agriculture sector is still begging for survival and Lokpobiri seems to be a helpless bench warmer. For instance, a report by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, revealed in its 2017 wet season National Agricultural performance survey report that the overall farm yield is still below global and African average for all the agricultural sector. It is no surprise that food prices are still way beyond the reach of Nigerians.
Lokpobiri’s response to his serial failings is to provoke crisis in Bayelsa state under the pretext of fighting for the interest of the All Progressives Congress (APC). His activities have yielded the ugly fruits of mayhem in some parts of the state and some riverine communities in the neighboring Delta state. The concern here is how long before the militants being armed by the minister of state turn on the country and grow into full blown terrorists that would again have to be managed.
Earlier in the year, the situation degenerated to a point where stakeholders have to call on Mr. President to arrest the minister of state because they are afraid he is a threat to the peace and security in the area. What President Buhari has to appreciate is that Lokpobiri poses even greater threat to the entire country through dereliction of duty.
Time is running out to diffuse the timed bomb that Lokpobiri is to the government. A first step is for Mr. President to admit that a mistake has been made in appointing an infested deadwood into the cabinet. The next step is to help the failed minister of state return home and look after his children, assuming he has the capacity to achieve that. It is important that sorry excuses like Lokpobiri are not allowed to give wailers the justifications to unfairly attack the government and the way to do that is to correct the mistake called the Minister of State for Agriculture in the person of Heineken Lokpobiri.
Sunday writes for TheNigerian.