2015 ELECTIONS AND THE OUTSET OF SILLY SEASON
Barely a year before the 2015 general elections, some politicians are adopting laughable political antics just to attract media attention and better their chances of retaining a semblance of relevance in the run-up to the elections.
Pranks of this nature make up what, in a sense, is referred to as silly season.
And one politician who is well into his personal silly season is Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.
As every discerning Nigerian now knows, Amaechi is constantly engaged in the tiresome antics of trying to sully the government of President Goodluck Jonathan in one way or the other.
Lately, operating under the auspices of the faction of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) which he leads, Amaechi sought to fly the alleged missing $49.
8b phantom kite, which was first flown by the error-prone Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.
The outgoing CBN governor began the $49.
8b joke, which many Nigerians immediately questioned, for it was inconceivable that such an amount of money from the sale of the nation's crude oil could be missing and yet the country continued to meet its financial obligations.
Faced with evidence of his error, the CBN governor admitted that he had made a mistake.
And yet, for a man who, on that occasion, looked like a rain-beaten chicken, Sanusi still sought to revise the number down to $12b.
He was again called out for this new error by the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who explained that what was outstanding was $10.
8 billion, which expenditure books were still being reconciled by the relevant government agencies.
Virtually every other Nigerian now knows these facts and has moved on from the silly joke.
But because silly season is exactly what the name implies, Amaechi's NGF faction is still waving the tattered $49.
8b flag in the faces of certain media outlets.
I would not have bothered with their attention-seeking antics if not that Nigerians in the states, where the Amaechi NGF group is, supposed to serve deserve to know how their governors are idling about in Abuja, playing school-boy pranks.
A major misunderstanding of Nigeria's present democratic structure is that many Nigerians routinely forget or may not even know that the Federal Government is not responsible for every single aspect of development in the country.
Under the Federation Account Allocation system, state and local governments receive monthly statutory allocations to carry out certain duties in their domains.
Moreover, they also have additional money brought into their coffers through Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
But sadly, when things are not going well in the states and local governments, Nigerians are more likely to blame the Federal Government, and not those who receive billions of naira monthly to develop infrastructure in the states and local government areas and fail to do it.
It is this failure of Nigerians to vigorously interrogate what the state and local governments are doing with the billions of naira they receive that has allowed Governor Rotimi Amaechi to perambulate all over the country in a private jet.
In other climes, citizens of his state would have seriously questioned how the private jet was acquired when there are many communities in Rivers State without potable water.
Additionally, considering the many important matters that a serious state governor should attend to, Amaechi would not have the luxury of time to engage in silly season politics if the people of Rivers State were to demand a comprehensive account of his stewardship from him.
It is for this reason that one must commend the Rivers Integrity Coalition for presenting a table of the amounts of money that Amaechi's government has received from October 2007 up till September 2013 under the Federation Account Allocation system and the Internally Generated Revenue for the same period.
According to that table, Amaechi's government received a total in excess of N1.
If one chooses to convert this amount to USD even at a conservative rate of N160 to the dollar, this amount is in excess of $1.
1 billion of real money, not the phantom money that Amaechi and his silly season cohorts are still trying to make jokes about.
The question then arises, with such a huge sum of real money flowing into River State coffers, why has Rivers State not become an Eldorado? Or, if Eldorado is too much like the phantoms that Amaechi and his colleagues like to chase, why has Rivers State not become like Dubai? These are some of the questions the people of River State need to ask Governor Rotimi Amaechi, in order to help concentrate his mind on real issues such that he may have little time to engage in the phantom-chasing pastime of his silly season politics.
It is understood that once general elections are approaching many politicians begin grabbing at straws to garner media attention, but it is the duty of all Nigerian citizens not to allow silly season politics to detract focus from the serious issues of the day.
Written By Sylvester Okoro [email protected]