by Stanley Azuakola
Alhaji Bala Mohammed used to be a senator in the National Assembly, one of those who cross-carpeted from the ANPP to the ruling party. Remember that uncertain period when the absence of former president Umaru Yaradua threatened the unity of the country? Bala Mohammed was one of the few senators who quickly pitched tents in the Goodluck Jonathan corner, forcefully calling for the handover of power to the then Vice-president. His gamble paid off.
Shortly after the president assumed office, he offered Mohammed appointment as minister. The minister quickly resigned his elected position and became “honourable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.”
It was while functioning in that role that he took the decision which drew the ire of former first lady, Hajiya Turai Yaradua, and led to a court case which has cast the Goodluck Jonathan administration in bad light.
The minister revoked the plot of land allocated to the former First Lady’s Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Women and Youth Empowerment Foundation (WAYEP) and gave it to the African First Ladies Peace Mission presently chaired by current first lady Patience Jonathan.
The criticisms which followed, including one from the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), have been harsh and unsparing. In response to the unceasing condemnations, the minister has released a statement of defence.
Speaking through his Special Assistant on Media, Nosike Ogbuenyi, the minister described criticisms against his actions as blackmail against Patience Jonathan and the FCT administration. According to him, the land originally belonged to the African First Ladies Peace Mission and his revocation of same from Turai’s NGO was only an “altruistic corrective measure.”
He wondered how such a gesture could be called a “scandal.” In his opinion, what the FCT administration deserves right now is not umbrage, but kudos, after all they did a great service in “retrieving the land from a private NGO and returning same to its original owner, the African First Ladies Peace Mission for the development of its continental secretariat in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.”
To put things in context and in defence of Patience Jonathan, the minister pointed out that the African First Ladies Peace Mission was neither owned nor sponsored by the current First Lady as wrongly claimed by the ACN publicity secretary, Lai Mohammed. According to the statement, she only inherited the project from her predecessor and would definitely handover same to her successor as First Lady.