It is quite obvious that not many people have taken their time to consider the fact that governing a state in Nigeria has been unduly reduced to one of the most simplified jobs which does not necessarily require an average intelligence, or any special qualities to perform. Or, put another way: the overly simplistic interpretation most Nigerian governors have given their jobs has so much reduced it to such a very unchallenging assignment that it no longer requires any special preparation or endowment to execute. In fact, any God damn fellow can just walk in there and encumber the ground for another four years, and that would be all.
But my hope is that those who will emerge as governors in 2019 will hasten to realize that a growing number of Nigerians are beginning to develop a high critical taste and greater degree of discernment in their assessment of governance, and have lost significant patience for the old, perfunctory and uncreative way of doing things. Every indicator shows that more and more Nigerians are no longer content to merely watch their rulers grope and wallow in confusion and directionlessness in the face of humongous problems requiring urgent intervention, and indeed, may go a step further with proactive actions to demand accountability from them. This realization ought to motivate our future governors to hasten to excuse themselves from any post election bacchanals, and devote quality time to fully appreciate the enormity of the very high office they are about to occupy and the high cost, this time around, of dismal outing.
Now, let’s look at what it presently means to be a state governor in Nigeria. Indeed, shorn of all the glamour, pomp and noisy convoys, what can we really say is the difference between what house wives do for their families and what state governors do for their respective states in Nigeria? The answer, if I am asked, should be obvious; but I am very reluctant to answer it with just one word: None! Certainly, I do not want to start my day with placard-wielding house wives thronging the frontage of my small house, protesting the grave insult of an unfair comparison. And so, I’ll be fair. But first, let’s look at one clear similarity: a husband labours, earns some money, invites his wife and gives her the “monthly house keep allocations” for the family. Nigeria also takes its God-given oil, markets it, and then State Governors are invited to Abuja, to cart away their own “Federation monthly allocations” for the upkeep of their respective states. So, is there any difference?
Yes, I think there still is. At least, we now have wives who are no longer comfortable with being just housewives, but go out to work hard to help diversify the sources of income for their families, unlike the governors whose only understanding of governance is to sit at home and eagerly await the monthly allocation from the federation account, a fraction of which they spend to make some impressions here and there, and then call a press conference or buy spaces in national newspapers to showcase their “wonderful performances.” They execute N2,000.00 work and advertise it for deceit at N1million! It is really a great tragedy. Now, tell me, why should any governor with any brains in his skull and the slightest hint of self-esteem, expect a serious person to clap or cheer him for just renovating (or even, in most cases, merely repainting) few school buildings and filling a couple of potholes on few roads? Even if he builds brand new roads, new schools and hospitals, has he done anything extraordinary for cheering? Shouldn’t all those form part of his routine duty? What special intelligence or endowment is required to do that?
By the way, what is he supposed to do with the monthly billions he carts away from Abuja? Hide them in his bedroom, and then begin to use them to gallivant about town, to increase his number of girlfriends and leisure spots? Now, what extraordinary talent is required to pay salaries to workers (out of the money duly packaged and given to a full grown adult) or clean up a few streets? Even a kindergarten pupil can do better than that! Please, let’s stop turning ourselves into objects of derision before sensible and civilized people over there.
Now, assuming oil was not flowing beneath us, and so no monthly allocations or “excess crude earnings” to share, what then would be the work of a state governor in a federal state like Nigeria? Or, are we to take it that no one would have agreed to become a governor if such a situation existed? Whatever happened to great ideas and insights, and inspiring well thought-out policies for the creation of job opportunities and wealth with which talented administrators are distinguished? Why has Nigeria reduced governance to mere routine assignments like provision of power, portable water, roads, fertilizers, medicines and exercise books for pupils? So, if one pays his children’s school fees or fuels his car or feeds his family, he should be applauded for ‘great achievements’. Do our so called leaders ever bother to listen to the vision statements of their colleagues in other climes outside Nigeria?
Well, what more can I say? I was making some points the other day and somebody I consider an illiterate sycophant looked at me straight in the face and bellowed: “You should be grateful that there are some governors who are even willing to spend some bits of the monthly federation allocation to fill potholes and repair school buildings. What about those who don’t bother to do anything, though they also receive the monthly federation allocation? What are you going to do about that? So, just praise those who agree to do something.” Can you beat that? Does anyone see what our country has become?
Maybe Nigeria would become better if the governors are immediately replaced with housewives (even the uneducated, rustic ones). Indeed, most husbands have little or nothing to complain about how their wives manage the “monthly up-keep allocations” in their homes. They return virtually every day grateful that their homes are in good hands, and that virtually everything that ought to be done had been done. The housewives not only buy into their husbands’ visions and aspirations for the prosperity of the homes, they also generate their own ideas (which any husband spurns to his own hurt), and would readily contribute their own lot to ensure the realization of those ideas. But what the majority of our governors do is to sabotage our hopes and aspirations with their boundless greed and callousness. They can be likened to irresponsible housewives who alienate themselves from their husbands’ good dreams and ensure they never come to fruition. Instead of investing the “monthly allocations” to move the home forward, irresponsible housewives stash them away to prosecute their selfish agendas. This is the situation in many states in Nigeria today.
It is sad that most Nigerians do not think too highly of their governors but regularly dismiss them as wayward fellows who are incapable of thinking beyond how to secure their personal comforts and leisure. Some of them appear so blank and unprepared that one is left wondering whether they were just woken up from sleep and told to become governors. One searches in vain for the slightest hint that many of those governors ever lose any sleep because of the enormous problems plaguing their states; men without the presence of mind to appreciate the enormity and even sacredness of the high responsibility placed on their shoulders. Honestly, majority of them were wretched and poor but now successful merchants.
All these must change this time around. Incoming governors should see the building of roads, provision of portable water, electricity, hospitals and schools as mere routine duties, just like somebody waking up from sleep to brush his mouth. From 2019, any governor that supplies fertilizers or tractors or houses to motivate the people and goes to buy newspaper pages to advertize as great achievements must be compelled to pay for the advertorial from his personal saving! The intellectual bankruptcy and mediocrity that classifies such routine efforts as “great achievements” to be applauded should be hastily consigned to our inglorious past.
Governors should be thinking of how to grow the economy of their respective domains by judiciously husbanding the natural and human resources available to create wealth and jobs. They should hasten to identify the mineral deposits in their domains, create enabling environments and the right policies, and engage the relevant agencies, corporations and investors in constructive and beneficial deliberations to see how the deposits and opportunities can be exploited to drive the economy of their states to create prosperity, mass employment and better life for the people.
We must do away with the old retrogressive style and adopt a more creative approach to governance for the good of all, not unnecessary overseas tours under the guise of shopping for foreign investors or signing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that has changed nothing. In Bauchi state, since 1999, not a single foreign investment was witnessed, but the governors had several overseas trips for that ‘purpose’.
By Sanusi Muhammad