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.