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Will Wike rejig Abuja? (I)

Olanrewaju Osho

BY Olanrewaju Osho

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Like Nigeria, the sleeping giant of Africa, Abuja, an evolving global city with a vacillating and detouring pace of development, is also a sleeping giant in need of urgent and concerted awakening.

Abuja’s unsteady and sleepy strides into global significance are occasioned by the dearth of conscious and transformational leaders who are hungry, determined, bold and strategic enough to build a city that is the envy of her peers and the pride of her residents.

On purpose, Abuja wasn’t designed to have a governor who would drive its development. Its fate is deposited in the hands of the minister who is an unelected appointee of the president. Abuja also lacks a law-making body that could promptly help address her issues with effective legislative oversight. Her law-making functions are domiciled in the national assembly which is too busy to spare adequate time and energy to address her urgent and burning issues with the alacrity they deserve. The pace of development of Abuja is therefore significantly dependent on the capacity and qualities of the man chosen by the president as FCT minister. If the minister is good, developments in the territory progress faster. If he or she is someone with an average leadership mentality, development becomes arrested and the city falls asleep.

Since Mobolaji Ajose-Adeogun began the pioneering job of midwifing FCT’s evolution in 1976 till the end of Brigadier-General Mamman Kontagora’s one year at the saddle, the development of the city has been slow but steady. Those twenty years of development accommodated the foundational and adolescent stages of FCT’s evolution. One of the most influential ministers of that era was Gen. Jeremiah Useni who had the opportunity of piloting the affairs of FCT from 1993 to 1998 when the death of General Sani Abacha ended his reign.

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The growth and expansion of the FCT since the return to democracy in 1999 has been progressive in a humdrum style. That era began with the combo of Ibrahim Bunu and Muhammed Abba Gana as the successive pilots of affairs. The shining star of that 1999 to 2023 era was Nasir El-Rufai who in four years showed all and sundry how a leadership mandate should be managed with purpose and power. The lack of continuity in quality leadership in the administration of the city resulted in Abuja becoming a city with sluggish progress, littered with slums, lacking in functionality and limited in opportunities. The state of the satellite towns and communities of the FCT is so deplorable that a drive-through exercise will make you wonder whether they are part of the federal capital territory.

The job of steering Abuja to the path of rapid development, a smart and functional city full of opportunities for all, a city capable of global competitiveness, intelligent and compassionate slum renewal régime, creative satellite towns development and security architecture transformation are the major huddles the new minister for FCT, Nyesom Wike, must cross to write his name in gold.

The huge task before the new FCT minister was hugely compounded by the poor scorecard of his immediate predecessor Mallam Muhammed Bello who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 11, 2015. Bello’s eight years in office will remain in the history books as some of the most backward years of the FCT. The city literally went from sleeping flux into a coma. Dark streets, oozing stench from sewage points, dead government public transport infrastructure and sluggishly progressing projects were parts of his leadership signature in the FCT.

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Unlike Nasir El-Rufai who performed well to the admiration of many Abujaites in his four years, Muhammed Bello came, saw, but failed to conquer. In his eight years in office, he couldn’t add any significant colour or value to most of the projects Senator Bala Muhammed of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration initiated or inherited. Under him, President Muhammadu Buhari who became nationwide projects commissioner-in-chief in the last days of his government had no project to commission in the FCT. The major success of Bello as the longest serving minister of FCT (for eight years) was the poorly designed, poorly situated and poorly built 300 public toilets project that have since become homes for uneducated urchins from the north who came to Abuja in search of survival.

From his maiden address to the residents of FCT on his assumption of office on Monday, August 21, 2023, Nyesom Wike left no one in doubt that he is conversant with the challenges of the territory and is ready to face them with courage and boldness.

“People who are distorting the master plan of Abuja, too bad… Refuse everywhere. Those being paid for refuse collection, what are they doing? So, we must also sit down to look at different ways of waste disposal. It is very key. All those people distorting the master plan of Abuja, too bad. If you know you have built where you are not supposed to build, it will go down, be you a minister or an ambassador,” he declared.

“If you know you have developed where you are not supposed to develop, your house must go down. Those who have taken over the green area to build, sorry the green area must come back. So, If you know you have anybody who is involved, anyone that has taken over the green areas and the parks to restaurants, we won’t accept that. Sorry, if your father or your mother has done that, there is nothing I can do,” he said.

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The minister decried the lack of a government public transport system in the territory and expressed disappointment in the way Okada and Keke have taken over the city. He also read riot acts to those involved in land racketeering in the FCT affirming that any land owner with C of O who refuses to develop the plot stands the chance of losing it to the government. He promised to light up the city streets and improve cleanliness across the city within six months.

Though the minister’s speech said a lot about the challenges of the federal capital territory, a lot was left unsaid on how to renew the hope of the citizens most of whom can’t afford the rent of a decent one-room accommodation. What is needed to rejig FCT and transform it into a fully functional city is more than restoring a master plan and providing standard leadership that will address all the issues Wike pointed out in his speech. Abuja needs exceptional leadership that will end the reckless abuse of the master plan, commence accelerated implementation of the authentic master plan, improve socio-economic opportunities for residents and administer the territory with uncommon innovativeness that will help Abuja become a global destination of choice.

To achieve these lofty targets, the new FCT administration under Nyesom Wike must be deliberate, intentional, purposeful, radical, creative and outstanding.

The FCT public service must be reengineered and transformed to become the engine room of progress and not partners in crime through active or passive collaboration with the enemies of orderly development of the territory..


Osho is a passionate advocate of Nigeria’s emergence as the pride of Africa through quality and innovative leadership. He is a global road safety advocate and co-founder of Safety Beyond Borders & Inspire Nigeria Initiative. He was the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for Senate in FCT during the 2023 elections.

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