Leaders, especially in Nigeria, have the penchant for using men of high moral standards to shore up their waning popularity. Likely, that is what the current federal government led by President Goodluck Jonathan is attempting to do with Dr Christopher Kolade, the chairman of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) Committee.
On its face value, government's purpose of establishing SURE-P -- to channel the savings from the partial removal of petroleum subsidy to a programme that would, hopefully, generate employment for Nigerian youths and help in fixing infrastructure -- is laudable. But, like every issue in the country, the temptation to politicise this initiative is too attractive. Will Kolade be able to weather the storm even in his old age? His visit to the National Assembly last week ought to be an eye opener.
Already, some lawmakers are beginning to throw spanner in the works by describing the committee as a "redundant duplication by government to carry out the duties of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs)". Dr Kolade's understanding of the mindset of the average politician seems inadequate, judging by his response. It was simplistic: "...that is their opinion; any Nigerian can have opinion about this (SURE-P)."
Reports indicate that Kolade's committee is now worth several billions of naira. Politicians are attracted to money the way ants are attracted to sugar. So, with all his integrity, he may not successfully resist the pressure that will soon begin to mount. Politicians must necessarily want a piece of the action. And if they didn't get it, a crisis could erupt.
After his encounter with the lawmakers, he reeled out projects already executed and those in the offing. Kolade should be reminded that the crowds he will have to deal with will not be interested in his report card. They would want something for their pockets. They would ask for all the contracts even when they did not intend to execute them.
They would insist that their wards or political associates get all the goodies the programme has to offer. The Kolade we know would insist on doing the right thing. And that is when they could set in motion their machinery of intrigues, blackmail, name-calling and even character assassination.
Dr Kolade is an icon not just in the media but also in the larger Nigerian society. He has built a reputation over the years and has earned the image of an elder statesman. That is why we are concerned about his fate after he has mingled with politicians.
It could be like one playing in the mud with a pig; only the pig would enjoy the game. We enjoin him to keep an eye on what his name stands for in the society and bow out of that committee gracefully before the unexpected begins to happen.