It was shocking that the Minister of Works, Arc. Mike Onolememen who was named as Minister of the Year by a construction industry journal showed up for the award. Basking in the euphoria of the award given him, Onlemenmen was all smiles as he showed off his trophy to dignitaries.
As is the custom, the dignitaries at the award ceremony were largely friends of the minister, contractors and such who came to felicitate with him on what he and his associates would have considered a well deserved award.
Any doubt as to the glee of ministry officials on the award is erased by the conspicuous placement of the picture of the award on the ministry's web site.
The basis of the award was obviously not based on politics. After all, the minister, a protégée of the famed Peoples Democratic Party, PDP leader, Chief Anthony Anenih, and a major stakeholder in the Edo State chapter of the PDP in his own right, was on the losing side of the Edo State gubernatorial election few months ago. That was despite the last minute attempt by the minister to put up a show on road reconstructions in Benin.
According to one of the news reports on the award, the minister was recognized for his effort in introducing a new policy on prioritizing projects, strengthening capacity through recruitment of young graduates and such like. But certainly not on the delivering of good roads?
It was really befuddling that the basic yardstick considered by the majority of Nigerians in scrutinizing the achievements of the minister, to wit, the improvement of our federal highways was not an issue.
Off course, Arc Onolememen's qualifications and experience in the industry are unarguable. The Federal Ministry of Works website portrays him thus:
"A chartered Architect and professional construction manager of over 25 years cognate experience in the private and public sector in Nigeria, Arc. Mike Onolememen holds the Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture, the Master of science degree in Architecture, and the Master of science degree in Construction management. He is currently rounding up work on his Ph.D dissertation in Public Policy and Administration."
Besides, he served as the Head of Project Management in the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund. Given his experience and qualification, it is as such shocking that he allowed himself to be taken in by the false impression of success in an area where the clear majority of Nigerians believe that he and his team have clearly not delivered.
Your correspondent at one time believed that the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, the major road linking West Africa's most busy sea port and the sub-region's busiest airport was the worst urban federal highway. Certainly, the daily trauma of navigating round the potholes around the Berger roundabout and the heartaches navigating the wells on the road around Mile 2 bus-stop were heart wrenching enough.
Navigating around these bad portions would almost certainly not give the impression of an active minister as the award givers tried to portray.
But in fairness to the Honourable Minister, I stopped complaining about the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway few weeks ago after making a near traumatic journey through the Lagos - Badagry Expressway. If my lot on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway is bad, Lagosians travelling through the Lagos - Badagry highway must be going through a daily trip through hell.
It is even more ridiculous that the road is the major link into the country from the West-African sub-region. Is it not embarrassing that with such a sore that the Honourable Minister is recognized for his achievement? What about the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or the Benin-Lagos expressway?
Arc. Onolememen is certainly a well respected man in his profession and we should respect him for his accomplishments prior to his ministerial appointment.
This correspondent believes that it is particularly awkward for a minister, not just the minister of works, but any other minister to receive an award for doing the job he is delegated to do. But given the fact that nearly all the ministers are failing, awards are certainly out of the question.