I have harboured a thought since my primary school days that Egyptians are the only truthful people in the world. Let me tell you why.
In October 1973, a day after the start of that year’s Arab-Israeli war [what Egyptians call Tenth of Ramadan and what Israelis call Yom Kippur War], I saw a picture in the New Nigerian newspaper that my father brought home from work. A group of men in military uniform were walking hurriedly down a hallway.
The caption under the photo stated, “Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visits the Ministry of War in Cairo at the start of the war, yesterday.”
Ministry of War! It was a culture shock to me because in all the newspapers, magazines and books that I read, the ministry in charge of military forces all over the world, including in Nigeria, is called Ministry of Defence. During my primary school days I once sat down and thought, “If every army in the world is for defence, why are there so many wars all over the world? Who is doing the attacking, since everybody’s army is for defence?”
Later in life I came to the conclusion that this misnaming of ministries often has practical consequences. For example, I think it is because of this name Ministry of Defence that Nigerian Army battalions deployed in the North East sit in super camps waiting for Boko Haram insurgents to attack them, before they repel the attack. If only we can rename their parent ministry to Ministry of War, our soldiers will quit their defensive posture and take the battle to Boko Haram.
In the same vein, Ministry of Works should henceforth be renamed Ministry of Roads, Potholes and Bridges. The name “Ministry of Works” confuses Nigerians because most of the time, this ministry is not working. Ministry of Transport should also be renamed Ministry of Vehicles, Trains and Ships. This is because right now, the ministry is not doing anything about some of the most important means of transportation in Nigeria. It has no Department of Horses, Mules and Donkeys even though these beasts of burden carry more Nigerians around than trains.
Ministry of Aviation should be urgently renamed Ministry of Aeroplanes and Airports. Many Nigerians do not know what aviation means. Smart primary school pupils only know that aviary is a cage where birds are kept but this ministry has no hand in the navigation of birds that fly all over Nigeria’s airspace. It is very important to rename Ministry of Agriculture to Ministry of Farms, Pastures and Fish Ponds. Right now, it is hiding behind the compound name “agriculture” and it largely leaves our subsistence farmers to their own devices. Even the debate over RUGA will disappear once every Nigerian knows that pasture is part of the ministry’s mandate. Fishermen will also feel a sense of belonging because right now they are treated as the poor cousins of farmers.
Ministry of Health, whose mandate is also confusing, should be renamed Ministry of Hospitals, Pharmacies and Herbalists. In Nigeria, you see small children manning patent medicine stores and prescribing drugs to patients in absentia. This ministry must be made responsible for all the eloquent salesmen who go to village markets in panel vans and shout themselves hoarse trying to sell aphrodisiacs to us. Some experts say that by sending our children to school and they often come back without learning anything, what we are doing is schooling, not education. It is better therefore if Ministry of Education is renamed Ministry of Schools, so that we should call a spade a spade.
The best name for Ministry of Finance will be Ministry of Tax and Spend. Right now, Nigerians are perplexed because this ministry is running around trying to gather every kobo it can find for the Federation Account, from stamp duty to charges for depositing money. Budget and National Planning, which was recently incorporated into Finance, should be detached again and renamed Ministry of Hopes, Aspirations and Wishful Thinking.
This is because, since 1980 when the Third National Development Plan ended, every other plan in this country including Vision 2010, Vision 20:20, NEEDS, SEEDS, MDGs and Sustainable Development Goals turned out to be a pipe dream.
The very important Ministry of Petroleum Resources should be renamed Ministry of Petrol, Kerosene, Diesel and Subsidy. There is no need to hide behind a strange name like petroleum resources and strange terms such as upstream, downstream, midstream, PMS, AGO and DPK. We also don’t want to hear about under recovery again; the word subsidy is much more transparent despite the round tripping of papers by fuel marketers and politicians.
Ministry of Commerce should be renamed Ministry of Shops, Stalls and Kiosks. Its mandate should be to ensure that our shops and kiosks are well stocked and they sell provisions at affordable prices. The ministry should stop wasting its time with WTO agreements, ECOWAS protocols and ACFTA.
Its partner, Ministry of Industry, should henceforth be renamed Ministry of Factories and Workshops. Nigerians are now confused about the meaning of industry. Only last week, I overheard a man in Kaduna asking a Kannywood film actress, “How is the industry?”
Ministry of Interior should be correctly renamed to Ministry of Holidays, Migrants and Custodial Services. We mostly hear of this ministry when it declares a public holiday. Its agents called Immigration are good at stopping people from coming into Nigeria, but they have not stopped thousands of our young men and women from perishing of thirst in the Sahara and drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. It also holds too many people in its Custodial Services.
Instead of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we should transparently rename it Ministry of Neighbours, Friends and Enemies. All foreign nations fall into one of these three categories.
The recent adding of Digital Economy to the name of Ministry of Communications was a mistake. The correct name should be Ministry of Letters, GSM and Internet. What is digital economy? Is it not Yahoo boys, which EFCC is busy rounding up from one city to another? Our dear Ministry of Information is also misnamed.
It should be called Ministry of Propaganda, Fake News and Hate Speech. These days its preoccupation is hiding instead of spreading information to citizens and fighting the social media.
Ministry of Justice is not true, to be frank. As a nation of very religious people who like the truth, we should rename it Ministry of Courts and Lawyers. Too many people come out of our courts and election tribunals saying they did not get justice. It is better for litigants to know that they are going to the court for law, not justice. A litigant should also know that the duty of a lawyer is not to get justice; it is to win the case for his client through the astute manipulation of legal technicality.
Ministry of Police Affairs should better be renamed Ministry of Charge Office and Checkpoints. The old charge office that we knew as kids should come back because it was better than the police stations of today.
The meaning of Ministry of Labour is also confusing. We should rename it Ministry of Labourers who are well known in every community. If we rename Ministry of Water Resources to Ministry of Dams and Boreholes, it will stop beating about the bush, literally, and ensure that we all have water to drink.
The new Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Relief and Social Development’s name is too long and confusing. Hiding behind big grammar will enable it to escape proper scrutiny from Nigerians. Let us call it Ministry of IDPs, Destitute and Beggars.
Finally, we should rename the National Security Adviser, NSA. For transparency he should be renamed Adviser to the President on Boko Haram, IPOB, Shi’ites and Sowore.