By Adamu Balarabe
I was jolted with the news that the honourable minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development is involved in an infraction in the North East Development Commission, an agency under her ministry. From the onset, I dismissed the report as arrant nonsense and a joke.
I took my time to scrutinize the allegations. I found out that there were not only spurious but a figment of the imagination of the group. As a start, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq is a very proud woman that protects her name and her heritage religiously. As a reporter that has covered some of the ministries interventions, I dare say that once you are noticed not to be professional in your assignment, there is always a reprimand from her.
I know that she took particular interest in us that are female reporters covering her ministry. On numerous occasions, she has lectured us on the need to be upright and focused on our various assignments. Her passion for the job is infectious and a source of inspiration to some of us that she has continued to mentor.
I won’t mince words. The report alleging that the minister is involved in an anomaly in the NEDC is balderdash. Maybe the group that made the allegations are referring to someone else and not the Honorable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. I dare say they didn’t think through their strategy before coming out in public.
As a first, the honourable minister would not entertain any form of favouritism in the discharge of her duties. Her belief in meritocracy is such that I have never seen before. I recall during a media parley; she stated that the task of providing succour to the vulnerable people in the society is a task from God and anyone, so privilege to carry out such task must realize that anything short of that would incur the wrath of God.
She stated that she knows that some people would not be comfortable with some of her actions and inactions, but her ultimate goal is peace of mind, blessings from God and protecting the trust reposed in her by President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the less privileged and the vulnerable group indeed benefits from the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Back to the allegations, it is indeed preposterous to link the minister to any form of fraudulent activities in the North East Development Commission. I also wondered if it’s the same North-East Development Commission that she is passionate about. I know for a fact that of all the agencies under the supervision of the ministry, the North East Development Commission is the most monitored by the ministry to ensure that it fulfils its mandate of the rapid reconstruction of the war-ravaged communities in North-East Nigeria.
This is nothing but a feeble attempt to tarnish her image and hard-earned reputation for daring to take the bulls by the horns to ensure that nothing short of accountability is implemented in the operations of the commission. It is my considered opinion that the sponsors of the story were in haste to give her a bad name and consequently missed the plot. I say this because the various allegations were contradictory. In one sentence it stated that the “Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq, in collaboration with the MD of the NEDC, illegally took about N5bn recently to purchase vehicles for the military against its scope of operation and board’s approval.”
I wondered if that was ever possible under a system that has multiple layers of check and balances. I also wondered if the group and their promoters are conversant with the mandate of the NEDC as well as its operations. If indeed they did their homework well, they would have realized that indeed they would be chasing shadows to make such reckless allegations in the public space.
This is most despicable and an affront to our sensibilities as a people. It is also most uncharitable to the people of North East whose lives are gradually returning to normal due to the tireless efforts of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development via the North East Development Commission.
I recall that on numerous occasions, reporters covering the ministry have embarked on a fact-finding mission to North-East Nigeria to run an independent assessment of the various interventions of the North East Development Commission. The minister I also recall has enlisted our support to be as objective as possible in our evaluation. She stated that the assessments would give her another perspective on the operations of the NEDC other than what her subordinates submit to her office periodically.
That alone was ingenious, and I can state for free that the minister is not the meddlesome type. She gives you a task and respects your judgment. This much we gathered from the ministry and the agencies under her supervision. I recall a director general of one of the agencies telling us that Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq is not one you would attempt to be clever by half with. You must be thorough and ensure that your books are clean before it gets to her. And if she notices any form of discrepancies, there is always a penalty because her stance has always been that of service to humanity and nothing more.
Yet this is the woman that a shadowy group wants members of the public to believe would condescend to encouraging and form of an anomaly in the sensitive North-East Development Commission. I am sure the promoters of the group are not aware that the plight of the displaced people in North-East Nigeria occupies a strategic place in her heart. As a matter of fact, from all the interactions we have had with her, it was evident that the task of rebuilding North-East Nigeria remains a top priority for her. In some quarters she is often referred to as Madam North East because of her commitment and passion for seeing that normalcy returns to the region. But again, ignorance is not an excuse as issues must be put in proper perspectives before the generality of Nigerians.
This is also part of a smear campaign against the indefatigable Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq. Make no mistakes; I am not saying of all these because I am of the same gender. But my postulations are first-hand experiences and one conversant with her strength of character and disposition to her job. This is not your everyday politician occupying government office.
The promoters of the plot to tarnish the image of the minister should rethink their strategy as this also is dead on arrival as others. Needless, I add that this is part of the price to pay in a country like ours when you stand on the side of truth and dispense invaluable services. Those that have benefited from the rot in the system would always go overboard to tarnish the image of those that have refused to play ball with them in their dishonourable acts.
Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq has been a tough shell to crack. For this, they have continued to throw all manners of shades at her to weaken her resolve to stand for the people and the peace and progress of the country. This is the stark reality before us. So long the Pull Down syndrome continues in this country, sustainable growth and development would continue to elude us.
Ordinarily, I should not have bothered penning this article. But again, we owe this country a great sense of patriotism to ensure that those that are passionate about the translation of our hopes and aspirations into tangible realities are not intimidated by a group of demonic and self-serving individuals and organizations that have contributed to the rot in the system. Nigeria belongs to us and not one.
Balarabe is an anti-corruption crusader and wrote this piece from Yola.