Uche Madu John
The return of democracy in 1999 delighted virtually all Nigerians. There were undisguised and exceptional display of optimism for a bright future and a better nation. The euphoria was premised on the assumption that representative governance would pursue and promote popular masses-orientated initiatives.
The now opposition PDP, which controlled power in the country for 16 years became more of locusts and vermins. They officially endorsed corruption, squandered national resources, foreign reserves, ignored security threats to the coherence and peace of the nation, neglected the development of critical infrastructure in power, roads, healthcare and so forth, even when crude was sold at princely prices.
The ousting of PDP and the enthronement of the APC national government led by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 renewed hopes of a better future and prosperity for Nigeria. The euphoria, evident in the bizarre things some elated Nigerians exhibited, like trekking hundreds of kilometers or nights of bonfires which trailed the declaration of Buhari as President –elect amply verified the determination of Nigerians for freedom from oppressively bad governance.
President Buhari lucidly outlined the focus and priorities of the APC led Federal Government in his first interface with Nigerians.
It was a passionate plea with governors and all stakeholders to replicate same at the state and local levels. Disappointingly though, the four-year life span of the present administration would soon run into two spent years. Despite the odds, further inflamed by economic recession, Buhari is making steady progress in certain keys areas of affliction of the Nigerian state. He is confronting insecurity in all its ramifications from the Northeast to the Niger Delta creeks and the results are manifest.
The milestones his administration has recorded in curbing the subsisting and pervasive corruption has been applauded even by his ardent critics. The ending of profligacy in public governance is legendary and stabilized fuel supply. The Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the clearing of arrears of salaries owed federal and state civil servants are positive signs of his commitment to meet the leadership expectations of Nigerians.
Buhari’s struggle to stabilize the economy through its diversification, the retention of Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa and the attraction of foreign investors especially from China willing to do business in Nigeria are the good tidings.
Regrettably, State Governors have refused to complement the efforts of “change” agenda at the state and local government levels. They are yet to purge themselves of the mentality of governance as lip service to the people.
Mention of names of specific Governors or states would be avoided, not because they are dreaded. But the piece is meant to silently prick the conscience of these state chief executives caught up in the web of deceit of the people to have a changed heart.
It’s not in doubt that the anti-corruption campaign resonates more at the national level, with little or virtually no similar action in the states or local councils. In a few states where there are traces of the exposure of corruption, the incumbent Governors have an axe to grind with their predecessors and so, it’s more of political vindictiveness than genuine commitment.
Many appointees of the changed government still enmesh in corrupt acts before the nose of their bosses unchallenged, creating the indisputable impression of acting with the approval of the governors. The Governors alongside with the aides have leaped in personal wealth, while the states stagnate.
It explains why some state governors still owe backlog of inherited workers’ salaries, despite Buhari’s sumptuous bail-out funds; have erected fresh pyramids of workers salary debts, in spite of increased federal allocation to states in the last few months. None of these governors is interested in truthfully discussing Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) figures. But emphasis is usually placed on federal allocation and its insufficiency to pay mere salaries.
State Governors have shunned the implementation of TSA which ensures transparent and accountable government revenues for public scrutiny.
Despite monthly security votes, governors allow insecurity in their domains to deteriorate before any action is initiated. And when it eventually blows out uncontrollably, it is the President who takes the blame for failing to secure the lives and property of Nigerians in clear abuse of his oath of office.
The health sector is in absolute ruins in most states and some governors do not consider it a necessity to reinvigorate. Primary health care centres have only ramshackle structures, with no doctors, drugs or health personnel to administer Medicare. The secondary level of healthcare delivery suffers the same dislocation.
Some Governors have chosen to be global-trots. They have travelled out of their states too numerous times to recount, in the guise of sourcing for foreign investors. They come back home each time with fantastic stories about the benefits such foreign trips would bring to their states.
Except that the people are yet to feel the impact of such deceitful trips nearly two years now. Such is the extent issues of governance have been trivialized, against the spirit of APC’s change agenda.
But these governors forget easily that the endemic problem of poor electricity supply cannot attract foreign investors. Northern states can invest in solar energy for power generation, which is a technology in vogue in countries with high sunlight energy. But they are waiting for power supply from the national grid.
While Buhari has trimmed down public wasteful spending, the convoys of some governors are still heavy and their cabinets very bulky, with a retinue of dozens of unrecognizable personal aides. One Governor in the North has nearly 30 commissioners in his cabinet, with some ministries duplicated by name. All these combine to weigh down on public coffers in a recessed economy.
These acts have grounded governance at the state and local government levels and with no such supportive efforts; the much Buhari is doing at the federal level has piled into insignificance.
State Governors have turned local governments, whether headed by elected councils or sole administrators’ into their cash cows; hence they handpick leaders of the councils. The allegiance of those fortunate to climb the ladder is not to the people or service delivery, but to nourish the limitless financial appetite of political godfathers who planted them.
The balance of funds accruing to the councils after servicing these interests is equally cornered by those vested with leadership at the third tier of government as their part of the booty. So, the 744 local councils in Nigeria have been recklessly raped of their resources by Governors and abandoned.
But these Governors and local council bosses should not forget that much as Buhari intends to positively touch every segment or community in Nigeria, he cannot assume their official positions and run government on their behalf. It necessitates the need to stop gazing in the sky to wait for Buhari, but be propelled by the zeal for selflessness and service as priority in their psyche.
John contributed this piece from Good Governance Initiative, Badagry, Lagos State.