Governors As Imperial Lords

By Julius Oweh - Asaba
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Democracy as practised in saner climes is a beautiful concept meant to serve the mass of the people. Elected leaders act as servants to the people using the common patrimony for the good of all. They are contended with what the constitution provides for them as their financial benefits as they minister to the people economic and social needs and hold the electoral mandate in trust.

It is highly unfortunate and regrettably too that since 1999, our elected leaders at all levels of governance have behaved as imperial lords and they disdain the electorate as their servants. That explains why most of our politicians are riding on the crest of opulence while the masses gnash their teeth at the nadir of poverty and hardship. This situation is not likely to change in the near future going by the disposition of our state governors.

As if they were living in outer space, insulated from the economic hardships ravaging the nation, our governors recently disclosed of their intention to travel to Germany for some vocational training. The governor of Zamfara State and the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari dropped the hint in Abuja while speaking to reporters. This is how he puts it :` We received some presentations from the German Ambassador prior to our trip to Germany for the vocational programme`.

Predictably, the proposed trip had drawn the ire of organized labour and some Nigerians. The Nigerian Labour Congress has called on the German government to deny them the opportunity of that wasteful trip.

The fiery Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana has described the proposed trip as a decoy for summer holiday. He thundered thus: `There are here enough solutions to the problems of the nation which the governors are not attending to. You said the country is broke; governors are embarking on jamboree to Germany. We will contact the German government not to be party to this wastage by the Nigerian government`.

At the time of writing this report, the governors are yet to deny the report fuelling the reality that they are indeed on a mission to further pauperize the nation and continue to oil their egos. It is not within the province of the federal government to stop this trip in an era where the centre is giving out bailout funds for state government to pay salaries. Today about 27 states cannot pay salaries.

The case of pensioners is like a hell. Yet our governors corner millions of naira under the veneer of security vote. It is perhaps time the citizens should call the governors to account for the huge security vote drawn every month whereas armed robbers, kidnappers and pipeline vandals are ruling the cities, towns and villages.

The basic constitutional provisions of the security and welfare of the citizens can no longer be guaranteed under their watch. That is the tragedy of the Nigerian democracy where the governors and other elected leaders are imperial lords and the people, their puny subjects.

The various state houses of assembly which are supposed to check on the excesses of the governors are mere rubber stamps. In some states, the speakers are treated either as commissioners or special adviser or not as a head of separate arm of government. That is why one state speaker in what could clearly be defined as after whiskey talk maintained that they were not elected to oppose the governor and that anything done by the governor was in the best interest of the people. Can you beat that logic?

Since 1999 the local council area has been treated as a department of the state government. No meaningful election has ever been conducted in any state of the nation for the councils. There are many councils in the country that are administered by sole administrators or caretaker committee despite the constitutional provision that the local councils should be run by elected council chairmen and councillors.

All the political parties are guilty of this constitutional transgression. Even when allocations are got from Abuja, the state government takes the lion share of council money and gives out doles to the `selected` council chairmen or appointed care taker committee members.

This is an aberration and ours is a democracy that supports dictatorship at the grassroots level of governance. Those who lambast INEC will realise that the body is a saint compared to the various state electoral commissions. It is only the political party in power that wins all the councils seats. The facts are just staggering yet our governors pride themselves as democrats. The image of imperial majesty disturbs the mind.

Time was when President Muhammadu Buhari openly declared his assets and even went ahead to reduce his salary. Our governors are deaf to that. Some of them are saying that they can no longer pay workers` salaries. Fine argument! But nobody forced them to run for that elective position.

As the Nigerian Labour Congress said the other day, any governor who feels that he can no longer pay salary and that the burden of the office is too much for him, such person should throw in the towel and allow a more capable hand to captain the affairs of the state.

The original concept of the governors’ forum was meant as peer review and a forum for comparing of notes. It was not meant as a group that would embark on some frivolous trips to Germany on a study tour, a country whose lingua franca is not even English.

The tragedy of our democracy is that most politicians in power see it as a passage to instant wealth and fame. Politics in our clime is not seen as a service. That is why a state governor could afford to travel abroad to celebrate his birthday whereas workers in his state are yet to get their salaries.

It is the same twisted logic that informs the appointment of many political aides whose job description is suspect whereas the hardworking civil servants are denied their just wages and allowances. The situation is not likely to change in the near future unless the masses take their destiny in their own hands and put in check these political imperial lords. Governors were not elected to be majesties or globe trotters.

Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392

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