Governors, poor governance and consequences
The skewed framework of the federal system, which we practise deceives compatriots and others alike into focusing on the activities of the Federal Government and ignoring the patronage-politics, which characterises governance in the constituent parts of the federation – the states and to a greater degree in the local governments.
The chief executives at those levels are the governors and local government chairmen respectively who by all accounts have turned the states into a fiefdom of sorts. The governors rule by fiat, virtually solely determining what transpires in all three arms of government.
The local government chairmen are handpicked by the governors and are therefore beholden to the man who occupies Government House in the state capital. This negation of sound, established and accepted democratic principles has troubling implications for the future of our Republic and majesty of democracy.
Does the 1999 Federal Constitution invest the governors with too much power that has made them all too powerful and dictatorial? Why are the State Houses of Assembly always in cahoots with the governors in both good and bad deeds? Why are the Houses of Assembly unable to check the excesses as provided for in the Constitution? What can we do as a nation to compel administrators at the state and local government levels to be more accountable to the electorate?
The state governments are geographically closer to the people. In other words, the governors are elected by the people in the specified geographical area where the governor’s control ends and begins.
Sadly, in most of the states, education, agriculture, commerce, infrastructure development, and financial initiatives are in a state of coma. With the exception of one or two states, the states can be said to have failed the people in transformation and overall development even in the last 20 years of unbroken democracy.
Some ex-governors are currently standing trial for defrauding the government they were elected to head. A couple of ex-governors have been sentenced to jail terms. Indeed a past governor spent time in a British jail. Yet others have berthed in the Senate as legislators ostensibly to delay or avoid prosecution from the long arms of the law.
Governors, by established, convention ought to be honourable men, men of distinction who have risen beyond the mundane and pedestrian things of life. They ought to seek the common good and etch their names in the sands of time.
Sadly, the overriding image of men and women in governance at the state level is that of brigandage and common thievery. Nobody takes the governors seriously on the issue of security votes, which have become an avenue for frivolous and fraudulent expenditure. Some of the governors have also made frivolous appointments of aides and officials thereby skyrocketing overhead costs.
That is why we need to tell the newly-elected governors that they have a rendezvous with destiny. They should see their election as an opportunity to impact lives.
Life in the country is hazardous and treacherous to say the least. There is no social safety valve for citizens in terms of welfare programmes. Millions of youths need employment. They need to be guided by state programmes that could transform their lives. Education, a concurrent item on the legislative list, remains weak and uninspiring. The governors working with the legislature should develop people-oriented programmes that could make a difference.
The opulent life style of public office holders in the states contrasts sharply with the no-money refrain that the people are inundated with daily. Agriculture could transform the economy of states as we have witnessed in the joint effort between two states, which still produce LAKE RICE. More partnerships should be sought and consolidated among and between states in their areas of relative advantage.
Education is an investment in the future of the country. So far, we cannot beat our chests and assert that any state has totally got it right in education. State-owned primary and secondary schools are still not properly equipped with modern gadgets.
Scholarships for outstanding or indigent students are not firmly established, as they ought to be in a country that is in a hurry to catch up with the rest of the world. Our youths therefore seek for greener pastures on the other side often through illegal means. These young men and women should be given hope.
Nobody should get it twisted, education and acquisition of lifelong skills are solid investments that could make for a stable system. Higher education should also be strengthened to make make our youth more competitive in the global market. Drew Faust President of Harvard University says that, ‘Higher Education is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-economic mobility’. We need to invest more in education at all levels.
We urge on governments at the state level to invest in the youth who constitute over 70% of the nation’s population.
The genius, which some of our youth displayed in Internet fraud could be diverted to positive ends such as software and programme development. It is for lack of opportunities that a majority of them have taken to crime.
The suicide rate among them has increased in an alarming rate. The narrative is that the social environment is gloomy with elected officials who do not care for their wards. How do elected officials sleep at night when their citizens roam the streets without any hope for tomorrow? The years of official brigandage should end forthwith.
This newspaper would like to call on the State Houses of Assembly to rise to the occasion and chart a new course for the nation at the state level. They have not been elected to share the spoils of office. Their allegiance should be to the Constitution and the people; not to the governors. Legislators are the true representatives of the people. These days, we hardly read about any difference in position between the State Houses and the Executive arm.
Indeed the legislature has made itself subservient to the executive arm by seeking for undue patronage and contracts.
The general impression is that the governors have pocketed the legislative branch at the state level. This is partially due to how the legislators get their nominations within the political parties. It is detrimental to the overall survival and entrenchment of democracy in the most populous Black nation on earth.
The judiciary has not fared any better in the states. Bluntly put, the blind woman who dispenses justice without fear or favour has been given a new interpretation by judges and magistrates.
At the root of it all is the method of appointing judges. Patronage and other inconsequential and morally reprehensible criteria are employed to choose men and women to the bench.
As a result, state high court judges are not to be relied upon to give a proper interpretation of the law. This is tragic for the polity and our collective growth.
Strangely, corruption, which has been identified as the bane of our development is not given any attention at the state level. Politicians and civil servants help themselves from the state treasury. This is why we hardly read reports of a state government prosecuting any official for corruption. Civil servants are among the richest persons in the states because they have mastered the craft of shortchanging the system. Roads are poorly constructed by government often without meeting required specifications. Contracts are awarded to cronies and family members who in turn sell of these contracts. If the states must develop they must pay attention to and deal with cases of corruption.
Finally, we urge all stakeholders in the Project Nigeria should stand for the ideal and make a fresh commitment towards changing the narratives of despair and sadness, which emanate from the states. Men of honour whether in the executive, clergy or judiciary or the legislature should rise and save the country from bandits.
‘The beauty in this world,’ writes Maurice Levy ‘is that everyone can change it.’ Both the elected and the electorate should work together and change governance in the country. Specifically, state governors should work hard to add value to democracy and be brand ambassadors of federalism for development.