by Stanley Azuakola
President Goodluck Jonathan has finally warmed up to the idea of an amnesty committee for radical sect, Boko Haram, and has taken a crucial step with the announcement of an amnesty committee.
Already the process has seen some hiccups as both Shehu Sanni and Datti Ahmed have turned down the invitation by the federal government to be a part of the committee. One questions the seriousness of a government which does not realise that the first thing to do in situations like this is to reach out to the nominees first and get their acceptance before announcing their names to the world. But this government does not know how not to blunder. That’s story for another day.
At the head of the committee is a government minister Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, who is the minister in charge of special duties and inter-governmental affairs. His appointment hasn’t raised many hopes as Nigerians would have generally preferred someone not in the government to head the committee.
Anyway, the announcement has been made, but here are five things and positions to note about Kabiru Tanimu Turaki (KTT).
KTT is a native of Kebbi state, born on January 1, 1958 (55 years old). Kebbi has been one of the few northern states which has been relatively untroubled by the Boko Haram menace. He is a trained lawyer with 25 years experience since his graduation with a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Lagos. He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
KTT was sworn in as the minister of special duties and inter-governmental affairs on 4th February, 2013. Most Nigerians had thought that he would be given the Defence portfolio, and the line of questioning by senators during his ministerial clearance toed that path. Also, the former minister of defence, Haliru Mohammed was also a Kebbi indigene. However, the president decided to hold on to the defence portfolio.
Before this, in 2011, he contested to be governor of Kebbi state on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He cross-carpeted immediately after.
2. Stone that the builders rejected
There’s a general feeling that the minister of special duties portfolio isn’t a much coveted one; simply not juicy enough. When President Jonathan was made acting president in 2010, one of his first actions was to redeploy the then attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, the unscrupulous Michael Aondoakaa to the ministry of special duties. It was like a demotion; the point was clear – all ministries are not equal.
But KTT does not agree with that point of view. Here’s what he had to say about his appointment into that ministry in a March interview when told that some of his kinsmen from Kebbi were displeased with the president for posting him to the unwanted ministry:
I have been posted by Mr. President to the ministry of special duties and inter-governmental affairs and in addition, the president has brought up by far, one of the greatest projects of this government, which hitherto have been spread across the MDAs under this office. This project has the potential of not only smoothening the relationship between the executive and the legislature, but also has the potency of leap jumping or leap starting the transformation agenda of Mr. President. These are projects with direct bearing on the lives of Nigerians. So, if the president singled me out among all ministers charged with responsibility of carrying out projects that would impact on the livelihood of Nigerians, and saddled me from Kebbi with that responsibility, this is a mark of confidence.
Beyond this, I am a minister in the presidency, meaning that I have close access to the president, I have the president’s ears, I have the president’s attention more than most other ministers. For the president to make me so close to him, I think it’s something that people of Kebbi state should be proud of. Look at the mandate of the ministry, look at the mandate of inter-governmental affairs, it’s something that you give to somebody you are proud of. Ministry of special duties is a ministry without border, it’s a ministry that can make intervention in virtually other sectors. No other minister in Nigeria has that responsibility, and so you need to have a person you have confidence in that will be able to carry out such responsibilities. So, the fact that the president has seen in me qualities that would carry out these key and arduous functions is something that people of Kebbi state should be very happy about. I am satisfied with the assignment given to me by Mr, president and Inshallah, I will make a success of it.
And I want to call upon these people (critics) to be grateful to Mr. President. They will come to understand in the fullness of time that the ministry that has been given to us is not less important than any other ministry. In any case, it is not the ministry that makes the individual minister, it is the minister that makes the ministry thick.
3. On the question that choked Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Remember how the minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweal choked when asked about her views on the Alams pardon on Christiane Amanpour’s CNN show?
Our new amnesty committee boss had no such issues when asked the same question in a Blueprint Newspaper interview. He gave a full-throated response which Doyin Okupe would have been very proud of. Hear him:
Well, let us say that the pardon is something that is statutory, it is something that is allowed by law. Number two, this is not the first time, that ex-convicts or those serving their term were being pardoned. We have seen situations where even people that were tried and convicted for capital offences involving death, have been given pardon by government. Again, Nigerians need to appreciate that this is something that the president has done in council. It is not the president that says, (even though that power is his,) that ‘I want to pardon this, I want to pardon that individually’. It’s a matter that has gone to council of states which comprises former presidents and heads of states, former chief justices, the 36 state governors including FCT minister, as well as key individuals as enshrined in the constitution. The council sat down and took this decision. Rightly or wrongly, it’s a decision taken in council and not that taken singlehandedly by Mr. President. I think, it’s a decision that Nigerians in the long run will begin to appreciate. The fact that a person you don’t like is a beneficiary of government’s major decision, does not make that decision bad. The fact that a person that you think ought not to be given pardon is given pardon does not make that pardon illegal or unconstitutional.
I have always said, are entitled to their opinions.
I don’t see it as being an incentive for corruption. Would one say that a grant of pardon to a person accused and convicted of murder is an incentive for other people to start killing Nigerians? Not at all. The fact is that offences will continue to be made whether you grant pardon or not and then pardon will continue to be granted whether offences are committed or not. The thing here is that each case must be looked at individually on its merit. I think that is what the National Council of States had done.
4. Backslider or Born again
It depends on who you ask. KTT who ran for governor in Kebbi state on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria in 2011, suddenly switched sides shortly afterwards to the PDP and has now become cabinet minister, and soon would be charged with midwifing one of the most delicate surgeries in Nigeria’s history – the talks with Boko Haram. On his own, KTT certainly does not have the clout to do much. He is virtually an unknown figure.
Anyway as a former opposition man who only two years ago also believed that the PDP was the worst thing to happen to Nigeria, he was recently asked about the opposition and their merger plans. Well, we can announce to you that his conversion is complete. Here’s what he said:
If you look at the people coming together to form this so-called mega party, they are strange bedfellows whose ideas are at variance, showing that when they eventually coalesce, they will have greater problem than that of PDP family. These are people with opinions and ideas diametrically opposed to each other, and these are people that would never reconcile, change their positions and opinions. So, how would they now move together to pose any serious challenge to the PDP on the nation’s political landscape? We will try, like we have always done, to ensure we listen to all members of PDP, we understand them and address whatever grievances they have. Let me also add too that those grievances, as enlarged as the opposition makes it to look will not be such to give the opposition mega party to rout the PDP in any election.
5. On the ghosts called Boko Haram
It’s interesting that it is KTT who is being handed the responsibility of reaching out to Boko Haram. In January when he was nominated to be minister, everyone thought he would be the one to head the Defence ministry that would lead a renewed onslaught on the radical sect.
He was asked then by senators about the insecurity in the country and about Boko Haram, to which he said that “the facelessness of the insurgents has made the fight against terror more difficult in Nigeria than it is in other nations.”
Ironically, he’ll now be in charge of unmasking them.
Good luck to him.