FCT’s Bala Muhammed, privileged access and consequential Abuja matters

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Last week, I spent almost five hours  in discussion with Bala Muhammed, Minister of the FCT. It was at that level of privileged access that every reporter worth his professional calling would have cherished. Let me confess that Bala Muhammed is my friend, but I have not seen him in months; a period during which a lot of accusations have accumulated against his performance as Minister of the FCT and at a point when the din of politics has risen many decibels higher than normal.

The FCT minister is a really “juicy” preferment of Nigerian political life and whoever has that privilege is the real gold fish in a bowl. But Bala Muhammed is a stubborn customer; he would rather shrug his shoulders at every accusation thrown at him, preferring to get on with the job and trusting in his own good intention.

Sit down to have a discussion with Bala Muhammed, if you get the opportunity, and you immediately feel that he genuinely has a sense of commitment to the difficult duty that he took up. But it is not altogether a wise attitude to lean only upon your own good intention, because even the road to hell, especially the hell of Nigerian political life, is paved with good intentions.

Bala Muhammed’s administration has received a lot of flak about the implementation of the new transportation policy which banned the ‘Araba’ buses from the central areas of the FCT and the inadequate number of buses to bring in people from the satellite areas. But it is also clear that while there are initial glitches, things are going to ease in the long run and movement will eventually be sanitized in Abuja.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the transport infrastructure is undergoing a massive development just as other municipal services are undergoing renewal. But I think the issue closest to his heart is the Land Swap programme which is a major paradigm shift, programmed to involve private sector operatives in a massive investment plan to open and develop new districts of the FCT.

Intentions of government

It remains largely misunderstood and at a point when Nigerians are even more cynical about government, the FCT minister is at the heart of that distrust in the intentions of government. For Bala Muhammed, the missiles come from all directions, including those aimed from his Bauchi homestead, where he is locked into the battle for positioning, as the 2015 elections rumble with raised dust, towards all of us.

When we sat down to discuss last
week, I learnt a bit more about how things work at the FCT administration. It is not altogether easy to run as complex an institution as the FCTA but a lot is being done to deliver on services to the people of the federal capital. The daytime population of the city is said to have reached over 6million and given the perceptions of availability of opportunities and the security, a lot of people relocate into the FCT everyday, further increasing the pressure on infrastructure and deepening the demand for opportunities.

Resources available to provide services are severely limited and the administration has to increasingly think out of the box, innovate and find ways to generate the resources to continue the development going on all around us.

It is the challenge of development that Bala Muhammed prefers to face and is most willing to discuss, if he can cut away from meeting with members of his staff; spending long hours consulting at the Aso Villa or balancing the needs of political denizens, businessmen of all descriptions and citizens who troop into his office that sees literally no moment of respite.

I left Bala Muhammed’s office last week wiser about the way things work in the city that has been my home since 2002, but still unable to understand how he balances the exacting demands of so many people and deal with the mountains of accusation that he navigates each passing day of his political life. Everybody has a story, but the glitters of office can often mask the personal pains people deal with in the silent moments of their lives.


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