These individuals once served in the same administration years back, but for a long while, no one seems to know much about them again. ELEOJO IDACHABA in this piece asks where they could be at the moment.
Dr. Imeh Okopido was the minister of state for environment during the first tenure of President Olusegun Obasanjot. His tenure as environment minister can be described as the golden moment of the ministry as he embarked on proactive measures to save the nation’s environment, especially the degradation brought about by desertification and gas flaring. For instance, in July 2001, he spoke at a forum of the Third World Colloquium on Environment organised by the African Maritime Limited in Lagos that all forms of gas flaring on Nigerian soil must stop by year 2004. He noted that any oil company that defaults risks forfeiting its operating licence thereby dashing the hopes by jittery oil companies of possible shift in government position on the issue. His blueprint for the conservation of the environment was for him a campaign that does not only end in Nigeria but outside the country.
Dr Okopido is someone who was passionate about the activities of gas flaring, for instance, in an address during the G77 conference in China in the year 2000, he made it clear to the international community that, “There is a significant impact of high-level gas flaring on the ecosystem, environmental health and the global climate. This bears on our national image viz a viz the global environmental agenda to which we are signatory. On our part as a responsible government and the conscience of the people, we commit all our efforts as flag bearers of the African environment to foster innovative partnership between the public and private sectors with a view to terminating gas flaring in Nigeria by 2014.” He was of the view that in Nigeria, the priority in combating desertification should centre on the implementation of preventive measures for lands that are not yet degraded. For the severely degraded areas, he said, consistent programmes for rehabilitation should be mapped out at local, national and regional levels.
He said, “It is important that in combating desertification and drought, the participation of local communities and rural areas should be the focal point towards achieving results.” Despite the outstanding performance of Okopido during Chief Obasanjo’s first tenure, his name did not feature in the list of cabinet members from 2003. Although he has been a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), not much has been heard about this Akwa Ibom-born former minister.
Mrs. Amina Ndalolo is the former minister of state for health in Chief Obasanjo’s administration from 1999 before she was replaced. It was while she was minister that the Obasanjo’s administration announced the commencement of its decision to bring health care delivery close to the people at the grassroots in which 44 redundant medical centres would be refurbished in order to bring health care delivery closer to the people. While delivering on one of the promises, Ndalolo as minister led the federal government team to deliver the refurbished Federal Medical Centre in Keffi to the government of Nasarawa state.
At the event, she said, “The health care needs of the people at the grass root remain a priority of this government. As we deliver this today, more will follow in other states when they are completed.” At another forum in Birnin Kebbi where she also went to commission the refurbished medical centre there, she assured the centre of what she called ‘preferential statutory grant’ in order to enable it to execute vital projects considering the poor status of medical facilities in the state. Since she left the cabinet, this woman whose ancestry is from Kwara state appears to have quietly retired into playing local politics within her state as nothing has been heard about her again.
Chief Lawrence Nwuruku is Nigeria’s former ambassador to Mexico during the regime of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. He was also a former federal commissioner in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from 1998 to 1999, before he retired and joined politics. Shortly after then, he was appointed as minister of state for industry.
Prior to this time, this Ebonyi state politician was also a local government chairman and commissioner in the old Enugu state during the military regime. In the present democratic dispensation, Nwuruku ran unsuccessfully for the governorship position on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples party (ANPP) in 2003 against Sam Egwu, the incumbent. Although he lost the election, he was able to square it up with Egwu in that election in which the former deputy governor of the state, Dr. Emma Isu, backed him for the position. Isu noted that Nwuruku, as a former minister, was capable of leading the state; hence the support for his candidacy.
He is someone described by his people as a philanthropist judging from the arrays of awards he got. When Nwuruku was, however, appointed as INEC commissioner, his nomination in 2013 was condemned by a civil society group, The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, which urged INEC to carefully scrutinise the credentials of its appointees, especially Nwuruku, because he was prior to that time a card-carrying member of a political party, despite that the electoral umpire went ahead and cleared him for the appointment. Nwurukum has for some time now been away from public space despite his credentials as someone who still has the capacity to serve the nation.