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States of ridicule


It is impossible not to be offended by the tragedy of Nigeria’s democracy and warped federal system which governance at the state level has become over the years.

With wanton constitutional breaches as the order of the day, the states are largely an embarrassment to the idea of democracy as impunity or the rule of man trumps the rule of law.

This travesty needs to be checked by the people who must rise in unison to demand better conduct from their governors and elected representatives in the state assemblies.

In most, the governors manage the affairs of government like mafia potentates, while elected legislators, political appointees and private citizens are mere toys in the hands of imperious masters. Most governors have virtually pocketed the State Houses of Assembly.

The truth therefore is that at the state level, democracy is imperiled and economic development truncated as a result of impunity.

The 1999 Constitution guarantees the separation of the powers of the three arms of government as the roles and functions of the Executive, the Legislative and Judicial arms are clearly spelt out. This is meant to safeguard the spirit and practice of democracy.

As a check on the Executive Arm of government, both the Legislature and the Judiciary ought to be independent. But such is the disgrace that governance at the state level has become that lawmakers answer to the governors by hook or crook.

This has not only been fertile ground for corruption, it has rendered the legislature impotent when dealing with the executive arm.

The result is that even when governors commit terrible, impeachable offences against the people who elected them into offices, their respective legislatures, so compromised and so subservient, are unable to provide any check. Indeed, most houses of assembly are no more than extensions of the governors’ offices.

One of the problems is the manner in which elected officials are produced from the different constituencies: many owe their election into the legislature to the governors and therefore become beholden to him, that all-powerful godfather.

The judicial arm is often not protected from the overbearing superintendence of the state chief executives as it gets subventions from the state governors and sometimes becomes equally subservient. Even capital projects in the form of building and maintaining courtrooms depend on the whims and caprices of the governors.

As this newspaper once noted, the mess in most of the states is a complete ridicule of the idea of responsible governance. Hardly is there due process or accountability. In the award of contracts, political considerations often outweigh other factors.

Construction works are done only to please local titans or party stalwarts with a view to strengthening them politically and not necessarily to deliver such projects to the people.

As a result, when the contracts are poorly executed, the executive arm is unable to take any serious actions against them and the result is that too many abandoned projects abound in many states.

Close friends and members of the family of state chief executives are known to enjoy undue patronage while governors’ wives run pet projects which serve more often than not as conduit for waste or outright pilfering of public funds.

It has been correctly observed that some states have not witnessed any major physical development since 1999 as huge sums of money which could have been used for development in the states are in the pockets of the leaders, past and present.

The result of this is that development is arrested. Roads are in a bad shape. Health facilities are not in good shape. Schools suffer from very terrible infrastructure deficit. And teachers, where they are available, are not paid.

Nigeria’s warped federal system in which state governments go to Abuja monthly to collect allocations from the Federation Account has encouraged indolence and corruption. The drive for internal sources of fund generation is weak in most states. Most cannot meet their financial obligations to their employees even as the same poor governance has created a bloated civil service with extremely low productivity.

In the hands of the state governors, the third tier, the local government has been castrated and fares much worse in service delivery to the people. With too many employees who have no work to do, they have become a castrated tier with little responsibility, bloated workforce and no productivity.

Teachers, in both primary and secondary schools do not feel motivated to carry out their functions anymore and the future of the country is technically in jeopardy.

Nigerians, of course, should begin a conscious process of holding their governors accountable and making them know that corrupt and inept governance will not be condoned.

The people should take their voting rights more seriously henceforth so they can send poor performers out of offices at the earliest possible time. The power of recall should also be taken seriously and routinely exercised over erring legislators. All citizens must, indeed, be watchdogs of democracy.

Certainly, some states are better governed than others but it is only when all the states are properly governed on the principles of fairness, equity and justice, that the anguish in Nigeria would be minimized and democracy would have a greater meaning to the people.

The situation now is such that governance in many of the 36 states is in a state of ridicule and the leaders in those states are nothing more than a dent on the armour of democracy.

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