Twist in govs’ victory dance as world leaders decry rot in states
The euphoric mood of victory among 18 newly elected governors turned sombre gloomy in Abuja last Monday during an induction for governors-elect, following the revelation by world leaders that they are going to inherit ruined state infrastructure.
The leaders, who made the revelation, also condemned the mismanagement of developmental projects in those states. The implication is that these incoming Chief Executive Officers are “no longer at ease”, borrowing from the title of the popular novel written by legendary Chinua Achebe, on realising that the future looks grimmer, unless they are able to go extra miles to fix the rots.
In what served also as a knock for the other set of 18 outgoing and serving governors, the event provided the right opportunities for an unbiased presentation of the picture of a nation terribly enmeshed and submerged in unfortunate leadership failures in terms of socio-economic and political development realities.
The induction programme for governor-elect was initiated three years ago by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), an equivalent of the Association of Governors in America, offers a window for the incoming new state executives to view the stark leadership responsibilities and governance realities.
From across the world, leaders who had been waiting for an opportunity to speak their minds on the precarious situation in which Nigeria and Nigerians had been sunk by successive leadership failures took turns and drew attention to the mess in all sectors, which needed immediate remedies and reversal.
Coincidentally, the Aso Rock presidential Villa where the event is taking place had its landlord, President Muhammadu Buhari absent as he was treating toothache in faraway Britain. It was another proof that health, one of Nigeria’s essential sectors, is unhealthy!
But in an address delivered by his Chief of staff, Ibrahim Gambari, Buhari admitted that a key obstacle to Nigeria’s development is the failure by political leaders to actualise their campaign promises. He, therefore, charged governors-elect to immediately develop policies to help them fulfill their campaign promises.
He said: “With the elections now over, it is time for us to deliver the promises we made during the campaigns. I have always maintained that democracy is not an end nor is it a static event. It is an evolutionary process that takes its participants on a journey of self-actualisation. The process forces us to hold a mirror to ourselves, and by doing so we are made to constantly review and improve its critical elements to ensure that we have an inclusive democratic practice that gives faith to voters.”
Buhari reminded the governors that from May 29, 2023, “you will be called upon to steer the affairs of your states for the next four years. From this day you become wholly responsible for the state as an enterprise. You as the governor or state chief executive inherit all its assets and liabilities. The assumption of office is a constitutional process that we must take with utmost dedication, in the light of the trust bestowed on you by those who elected you into office.”
On hand to lead in the unveiling of the consequences of mis-governance in Africa’s most populous country were the United Nations’ Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed; the Director General of World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the American government, represented by David Greene, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who joined her Embassy in Abuja, as Deputy Chief of Mission in August 2022.
Others include the founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu; Mayor of New York, Eric Adams; the World Bank and others.
, who served as Nigeria’s minister of finance opened the first can of worms by declaring that as a result of loss of hope, well-educated and skilled Nigerians have continued to flee the country, a situation she said could only be reversed by serious trust and confidence building.
The WTO DG reviewed the damage done to nation building in Nigeria by increasing mistrust between governors and the governed and submitted that a lot of work must be done to reverse the trend.
“Nation building is impossible in the absence of trust – perhaps especially so in Nigeria. Even before independence, the generation of leaders that led us to freedom identified how important trust would be to our nation’s success.
“In his first speech as Prime Minister in 1957, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa said, and I quote “the peoples of Nigeria must be united to enable this country to play a full part in shaping the destiny of mankind… It is the duty of all of us to work for unity and encourage members of all our communities to live together in peace and harmony. The way to do this is to create understanding, mutual respect and trust.”
On the havoc done to peoples’ trust by the last elections, Okonja-Iweala said: “Honourable governors, let us be candid: trust in Nigeria has always been fragile but following the election, a lot of trust has been broken.
“Nigeria is a country with no social contract, meaning that Nigerian political leaders have never been able to agree with each other to stick to a common set of principles, values, and policies that consistently deliver for their citizens regardless of ethnic group or political persuasion.”
She advised that a lot of internal healing should be done.
“Excellencies, you have a lot of healing to do – within your states, and between them. Through your words, deeds, and policies, you need to demonstrate to Nigerians that they are equally loved, that they can settle and do business in any part of the country without fear. I love Nigeria deeply and I want to feel welcome in any part of this country.”
United Nations’ Amina Mohammed, who was also a one-time minister in Nigeria, agreed with Okonja-Iweala on the absence of trust between leaders and citizens.
She outlined the factors responsible for the growing resentment being displayed by Nigerians towards their leaders.
“When we fail to deliver for people on their rights and their future, we erode their faith in power and politics in the state. And that results in a loss of trust, in resentment between generations and towards elites; and in greater tensions between groups, cultures, ethnicities, and religions.”
Amina said the only way to build a more cohesive nation and a more harmonious world is to deliver better for people.
“Better services, better opportunities, better safety, better government, and a healthier environment. And despite all the challenges, I believe we have what we need to make a great leap forward in these areas in the next few years,” she stressed.
Joining the discussion from America, Eric Adams cautioned that without strong investment in education and economy, no other development efforts would achieve success.
But Okonja-Iweala has not finished with her tale of woes on Nigeria’s situation as she frankly made a submission on how the country lost 50,000 skilled Nigerians to Canada within the last four years.
She said: “Over 15,000 Nigerians emigrated to Canada in 2021, joining 19,000 who had moved there in the previous two years. Estimates for 2022 are 20,000, which is over 50,000 skilled Nigerians in the space of four years.
On the issue of Nigeria’s debt profile, she said: “We have challenges on the fiscal, debt, and monetary policy fronts.
“Nigeria’s gross debt level has climbed from N19.3 trillion in 2015 to N91.6 trillion in 2023. The debt-to-GDP ratio has almost doubled from 20 per cent to 39 per cent over that time period.
On the revenue side, the WTO DG noted that the internally generated revenue being raised by states are not significant.
She said: “According to analysis of data from the National Bureau of Statistics and State Audited Financial Statements by the civic-tech group BudgIT, 33 states relied on federal transfers for the majority of their revenue. For 13 of these states, monthly FAAC allocations accounted for over 70 per cent of revenue.
“Aggregated IGR from the 36 states did rise from N1.2 trillion in 2020 to N1.61 trillion in 2021 – but this pales in comparison to FAAC allocations to states of N2.23 trillion in 2020, N2.42 trillion in 2021 (and N3.16 trillion in 2022).
She advised the governors on what to do when she said:
“Excellencies, please watch your debt profiles, and keep careful control of expenditures, even as you invest in infrastructure, education, and basic health systems. Please endeavour to pay teachers, health workers, and others their salaries, and retirees their pensions.”
She implored governors to pay attention to doing those things that would attract investment.
“I must be clear that external factors in the global environment are partly to blame, but we need to recognise that our own domestic management of the economy needs to improve. We need better understanding and coordination of monetary and fiscal policy.
“In 2021, FDI inflows were worth $3.3 billion, according to the World Bank – much better than in 2018, when they dipped below $1 billion, but still less than half the level from a decade before. Excellencies, some states that used to attract foreign direct investment did not receive a cent last year. While private domestic investment is extremely important and we must work hard to attract this, FDI is also much needed and is a good bellwether of external perceptions of the economic and political progress of our country. Let me say this, if you govern well, are open and transparent, manage your state well, you will attract private investment and multilateral support will come your way.
“This is an area state governments should take a careful look at. Diaspora remittances are helpful to shore up household consumption but they can also be incentivised to support states with critical investment.
Also speaking, American representative, David Greene, disclosed that, “through USAID, in fiscal year 2021, the country invested $855 million in Nigeria. We are the largest bilateral contributor of humanitarian and development assistance in the country. None of this would be possible, or would have the tremendous impact that it does, without your collaboration and partnership at the state level.
“Health programmes are a major part of our portfolio and a key way we partner with governors across the country. Through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Walter Reed, and USAID, the American government works with you and your states to implement them,” he added.
In his own remarks, Elumelu drew attention to the need for governors to partner with private sectors by creating the right environment to grow business and increase the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Citing the example of happenings in more developed countries, he said: “Look at Singapore, a country with six million people. In 1965, the country’s GDP per capita stood at $500. In 1991 Per Capita GDP stood at $14, 500. Today the per capita GDP stands at $55, 000 making the country one of the most developed and thriving countries in the world. This can be your state’s story too.
“Singapore is a city-state with no oil, no abundance of natural resources, just human resources and purposeful leadership. Singapore did not just get there by mistake, but it took deliberate actions by focused leadership that started with the country’s post-independence leader, Lee Kuan Yew,” he added.
He said sound financial and economic policy coupled with a corruption-free environment and technological advancement led to massive increase in the standard of living of the people and reduction in poverty.
Elumelu urged governors to create a platform for the young majority to thrive, be heard, and contribute to national development through entrepreneurship.
“Nigerian youth unemployment rate is projected at about 51 per cent in 2023,” he said.
According to him, entrepreneurship is a transformative process as it helps explore creativity, pursue passions, and allow contributing meaningful impact on our own communities.
His words: “Each of the governors here has a responsibility and should commit to creating favourable policies that ensure these businesses to thrive. It is crucial for leaders to create an enabling environment that empowers and supports our young people to harness their potential and create wealth for our nation.”
He advised governors to address challenges facing Small and Medium Scale Enterprises in the country and also invest on infrastructure to promote entrepreneurship, especially among youths, pointing out that “Nigeria’s next generations are our hope for a better and more prosperous future. They are dynamic, vocal, and patriotic – but they need our support, attention and empathy. They need our action! We need their participation in our society. We should embrace and welcome this.”