Governor Babangida Aliyu, where's our N500m?
It is being said - not necessarily by wise people - that Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State is a good governor. However, I have accepted the difficult challenge of explaining, reprogramming and educating these unfortunate people (who are usually not from Niger State) that Governor Aliyu is in fact, not a good governor. It's hard work. To convince these obstinate folks, maps have to be drawn, articles written or a portrait of the governor sketched. Babangida Aliyu will make my job easier if only he'll stop talking. Why do people think he's a good leader? It's because he's perfected the science of reading the thoughts of ordinary Nigerians. He mirrors our desires and articulates them on our behalf; thereby building a rapport with the neutrals and the talakawas.
When we wanted corrupt politicians executed, Dr Aliyu said it on our behalf. When we said majority of our politicians had criminal intentions, the Chief Servant (that's what he calls himself) loudly echoed our murmurings. When Nigerlites thought the zillion retired generals in the state were a liability, Babangida Aliyu said that, is in fact, true. Thus, as our President uses his Ph.D. to instigate violent clashes between pronouns and verbs, to dodge debates and throw infantile tantrums (e.g. the threat to sink our ship), Aliyu uses his Ph.D. to infantilize us. Here's his latest gem. During the economic summit in Kaduna last week, he said the Northerners had lost the opportunity to correct some of the socio-economic woes in the region when they were at the helm of affairs. 'We need to take a cue,' he said, 'from the broadminded approach to issues, the political sagacity and ability to negotiate, the sophisticated reasoning, the comportment and commitment of our fallen heroes who were selfless and lived above board in all ramifications.' He then asked his incredulous audience a few important questions. 'Do we still have 'the North' that reflects 'a trans-ethnic community' and 'the Northerner' as a citizen that transcends tribal, religious and class affiliations? Where do we stand today in the political equation of this community? Are we still with the ball; or where did we lose it; and are we still in the game? Are we prepared and ready to compete with other regions?' (Daily Sun, March 16, 2011). This has been his style since he came into power in 2007. The guy is famous for the truth of his speeches. He tells the truth to us all, including his colleagues. I wonder if he does the same to himself. Below are a few more of his 'truths.' On October 22, 2008, Thisday reported him to have advised the youth to 'go back to farm' instead of searching for white collar jobs. It'll interest the reader to know that Niger State has a vast agricultural potential which the governor has refused to develop. Six days later, Daily Champion reported that the governor said the underdevelopment in the North was caused by its leaders "the slow rate of development in the north is the handwork of corrupt leaders from the part of the country." How true and how useless the information is to us. In Ado-Ekiti he advised Nigerians to isolate bad leaders and stop idolizing and mystifying their leaders. 'It is only when a nation remains buoyant that unity can thrive. So, it will be good for Nigerians to isolate these corrupt and hostile individuals and crush them for the nation to remain united and corrupt free,' he said. He also had a word for his colleagues:
'You should remember that the service to the people, is a service to God and whatever you do for the people, either good or bad, God will reward you abundantly.' (Thisday, August 09 2010). Amen to that, dear Chief Servant. And most importantly, 'Nigerians must ensure that political leadership does not go to money bags, political god-fathers, and self-seeking politicians who may have nothing positive to offer to the people in terms of service delivery.' It was on this occasion (organized by Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA) that he alleged that Nigerian politicians were criminals and that 90 per cent of them had criminal intentions. 'Imagine a situation where some politicians will set aside N1 billion for their gubernatorial ambition when states like Niger gets less than N2 billion as monthly allocations from the federation account. Out of this money, after paying salaries you end up having just N200 million for capital projects,' he said. (Sunday Trust October 31, 2009). He even fights our electricity battles for us. After berating PHCN over service delivery he said, 'the state government is not expected to be buying transformers for its citizens, but as a result of the corruption in the system, the PHCN cannot provide such basic facilities.' (Daily Trust, December 7, 2010). Because of being our megaphone, many people think the guy must be great. For example, all my non Nigerlite friends in Diaspora believe he's doing a great work for his people.
Even Sahara Reporters when kicking against the IBB's ambition to be president and ascribing (deservedly) criminal appellations to those who went to support him at Eagle Square, was soft on the Chief Servant 'the Governor of Niger State is lightly-regarded' they said, thus, 'he is likely not in true support of Babangida's ambition.' (SaharaReporters.com September 16, 2010). Now the important questions are: is the governor a good leader? Are Nigerlites benefiting from his leadership? Is he even lightly-regarded (whatever that means) by his own people? Most Nigerlites in Diaspora say he's not, majority of the people back home say he's not and the scandals oozing out of his government validate such perception. The N500m example below suffices.
The Sun reported on June 27, 2009 that the Chief Servant paid himself N500 million for two years accommodation. Citing several documented evidences, the Sun concluded that 'Babangida's state stinks.'
One of the memos from the office of the chief of staff to the governor reads: 'Sequel to our discussion on the official residential accommodation of your humble self, you are requested to consider the release of N500m for the payment of rent for two years at N250m per fiscal year.' The memo was dated January 18, 2008 and the governor approved it the same day.
The memo raises a lot of points. One, there's no residential building in Minna, Niger State worth N250m per annum. Two, if the governor is truly our servant, then he must accept the servant quarters we built for him i.e. the Niger State Government House. Three, since the governor - on his own accord - chose to stay in his own house, then, he should not and must not bill us for that.
So before the Chief Servant says another word, we want to know if the governor still continues to pay himself N250m every year after the first two years. We also want to know if he plans on returning what he's already taken because we obviously don't approve of him charging us for staying in his own house when he can easily move to the Government House where his predecessors resided. Or is this servant better than his masters?
I gave you only one example but there are several more. When I was in Nigeria last year, a friend and member of the state house of representatives, gave me several seedy details of Aliyu's government. But even another look at Saturday Sun of June 27, 2009 that I cited above will tell you more of how several hundred millions were requested and granted all within a few hours.
Finally, dear Chief Servant, before you search for my sponsors, I want you to know that I agreed with you when you said the generals were a liability; I also believe that your predecessor, Abdulkadir Kure gave us a crappy leadership and have not forgiven him for watching while his cronies stole from us. But I'm more saddened by the fact that you're likely to be our governor for another four years because the opposition has not shown us a better alternative.
But still, I'm sponsored - by my conscience - because I'm a stakeholder; and this stakeholder prays that you're not returned as our governor in April elections.
Ibraheem Dooba (