How To Be A Nigerian Governor - By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye
It is quite possible that before now not many people have taken time to seriously consider it, but there is no doubt that governing a state in Nigeria has over the years been reduced to one of the most unduly simplified jobs in town, which does not even require an average intelligence or any special qualities to perform.
Or, put another way: the overly simplistic interpretation most of our governors have given their jobs has so much reduced it to such a very unchallenging assignment that it no longer requires any special preparations or endowments to execute; in fact, any fellow can just walk in there and encumber the ground for another four years, and that would be all.
But my hope is that those who will emerge as governors through Saturday's election will hasten to realize that a growing number of Nigerians are beginning to develop a highly critical taste and greater degree of discrimination in their assessment of governance, and have indeed lost significant patience for the old, perfunctory and uncreative way of doing things.
Every indication shows that more and more Nigerians are no longer content to merely watch their rulers grope and wallow in confusion and directionlessness in the face of humongous problems requiring urgent intervention, and indeed may go a step further with proactive actions to demand accountability from them.
This realisation ought to motivate our new governors to hasten to excuse themselves from any post-election bacchanals and devote quality time to fully appreciate the gravity of the very high office they are about to occupy and the high cost this time around of dismal outing.
Now, let's look at what it presently means to be a governor in Nigeria. Indeed, shorn of all the glamour, pomp and noisy convoys, what can we really say is the difference between what housewives do for their families and what State Governors do in Nigeria? The answer, if you ask me, should be obvious, but I am very reluctant, for a very obvious reason, to answer it with just one word: None!
Certainly, I do not want to start this beautiful morning with placard-wielding housewives thronging the front of my office, protesting the grave insult of an unfair comparison.
And so, I will be fair. But, first, let's look at one clear similarity: A husband labours, earns some money, invites his wife to one corner of their house, and gives her the “monthly allocation” for the family upkeep. Nigeria also takes its God-given oil, markets it, and then State Governors are invited to Abuja, to cart away their own “monthly allocations” for the upkeep of their respective States. So, is there any difference?
Yes, I think there still is. At least, we now have wives who are no longer comfortable with being just housewives but now go out to work hard to help diversify the sources of revenue for their families, unlike many Governors whose only understanding of governance is, like housewives of old, to sit still and eagerly await the monthly allocation from the Federation Account, a fraction of which they spend to make some impressions here and there, and then call press conferences and buy spaces in national newspapers to showcase their “wonderful performances.” They do N1 work and advertise it with N1000!
It is really a great tragedy. Now, tell me: why should any Governor with any brains in his skull, and the slightest hint of self-esteem, expect me to clap for him for renovating (or even, in most cases, merely repainting) a few school buildings and filling a couple of potholes on some roads? Even if he builds new roads, new schools and hospitals, has he done anything extraordinary? Shouldn't all those form part of his routine duty? What special intelligence or endowment is required to do that?
By the way, what is he supposed to do with the billions he carts away from Abuja every month? Hide them in his wife's bedroom, and then begin to use them to gallivant about town, to increase the number of his girlfriends and leisure spots?
Now, what extraordinary talent is required to pay salaries to workers (out of the money duly packaged and given to a full grown adult) or clean up a few streets? Even my small daughter in Primary School can do better than that! Please, let's stop turning ourselves into objects of derision before sensible and civilized people out there.
Now, assuming oil was not flowing beneath us here, and so no monthly allocations or “excess crude earnings” to share in Abuja, what then would be the work of a Governor in a Federal State like Nigeria? Or, are we to take it that no one would have agreed to become a Governor if such a situation existed?
Whatever happened to great ideas and insights that inspire well thought-out policies for the creation of jobs, opportunities and wealth with which talented administrators are distinguished? Why has Nigeria reduced governance to mere routine assignments like provision of power, potable water, roads and exercise books for pupils? So, if I pay my children's school fees or fuel my car, I should expect any person to applaud my “great achievements”, even though I sweat out the money, unlike the Governors that merely receive theirs without labouring for it? Do our so-called leaders ever bother to listen to the vision statements of their colleagues outside Nigeria?
Well, what more can I say? I was making these points the other day and somebody just looked me in the face and bellowed: You should be grateful that there are some Governors who are even willing to spend some bits of the money to fill potholes and repaint school buildings; what about those who don't bother to do anything, though they also receive the money? What are you going to do about that? So, just praise those who agree to do something.
Can you beat that? Does anyone see what our country has become? Maybe, Nigeria would become better if the Governors are immediately replaced with housewives – even the uneducated, rustic ones. Indeed, most husbands have little or nothing to complain about how their wives manage the “monthly allocations” in their homes.
They return virtually everyday grateful that their homes are in good hands, and that virtually everything that ought to be done had been done. The housewives not only buy into their husbands' visions and aspirations for the prosperity of the homes, they also generate their own ideas which any husband spurns to his own hurt, and would readily contribute their own lot to ensure the realisation of those ideas.
But what majority of our Governors do is to just sabotage our hopes and aspirations with their boundless greed and callousness. They could be likened to irresponsible housewives who alienate themselves from their husbands' good dreams, and ensure they never come to fruition. Instead of investing the “monthly allocations” to move the home forward, irresponsible housewives stash them away to prosecute their selfish agendas. This is the situation in many States in Nigeria today.
It is sad that most Nigerians do not think too highly of their governors but regularly dismiss them as mostly wayward and underemployed; fellows that are incapable of thinking beyond how to secure their personal comforts and leisure.
I am not bothered that some people may laugh at my position today, but several of our Governors have failed us so much that I keep wondering if Nigeria's political class is capable of ever producing more than very few committed, altruistic and visionary leaders with sound, workable ideas.
Some of them appear so blank and unprepared that one is left wondering whether they were just woken up one morning and told they had become Governors. One searches in vain for the slightest hint that many of these governors ever lose any sleep at all because of the enormous problems plaguing their States; men without the gravity of mind to appreciate the enormity and even sacredness of the high responsibility placed on their shoulders.
All these must change this time around. Our new governors should see the building of roads, provision of safe, clean water, electricity, quality hospitals and schools as mere routine duties, just like somebody waking up in the morning to brush his teeth.
From today, any governor that purchases some taxis and buses for public transportation or even tractors to motivate vibrant farming and goes on to buy newspaper pages to advertise them as “great achievements” must be compelled to pay the advert fees from his pocket! The intellectual bankruptcy and mediocrity that classifies such routine efforts as “great achievements” to be applauded should be hastily consigned to our inglorious past.
Governors should be thinking of how to grow the economy of their respective domains by judiciously husbanding the natural and human resources available to create wealth and jobs. They should hasten to identify the mineral deposits in their domains, create enabling environments and the right policies, and engage the relevant agencies, corporations and investors in constructive and beneficial deliberations to see how the deposits and opportunities can be exploited to drive the economy of their states to create prosperity, mass employment and better life for the people.
We must do away with the old retrogressive style and adopt a more creative approach to governance for the good of all.