COST OF GOVERNANCE AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
I was stirred to comment on the above issue once more by the recent statement credited to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in one of the national newspapers, where he reeled out reasons why Nigeria may remain underdeveloped.
Mallam Sanusi blamed the problem of Nigeria's underdevelopment on faulty structures that make the states spend about 96% percent of their resources paying salaries and allowances as against making capital investments. As a person in a position to know all these things, being the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi also wondered how the Federal Government can successfully carry out capital projects that will impact on the lives of 150 million Nigerians with only 30% percent of its revenue when it has expended 70 percent of its revenue paying salaries and overhead. And based on this, he called for the merging of the states, local council authorities and the Federal ministries as the only thing that can help Nigeria develop.
Those who understand the history of this country may agree with the Central Bank governor that most of the states and local government councils were created by the military based on sentiments rather than viability but that is where their agreement will cease. Nigerians are rather in agreement that the problems of the country's development lies squarely on the door steps of poor leadership, high cost of governance and corruption, as well as constitutional constraints that have made the states and local governments very unviable.
In Nigeria, the crises of leadership can readily be noticed by the absence of sound moral and value system at the individual level of leadership, which makes our leaders make wrong leadership choices. Aristotle's theory of leadership since 350BC remains relevant at all times in its timelessness and simplicity. That a good leader must have ethos, integrity and moral character which confers on him the credibility to ask for followership. That a good leader must have pathos or emotional connection with his followers. It will not be wrong for leaders to cry if it is genuine and when heroes fall and followers mourn, leaders must be seen to mourn with them. Good leaders must also have logos-they must be able to give solid, compelling reasons for their actions in relation to common good, to persuade people to follow them.
But it's unfortunate that in spite of the abundant natural resources God endowed Nigeria with, our ruling class has failed to use it to transform the lives of the people. Thus, we have today a country so blessed in natural resources that cannot translate her blessing into prosperity for her people. We have a nation so blessed in human talents yet cannot educate its children. We have a nation that produces oil, yet imports petroleum to fuel its cars. We have a country with abundant sunshine, yet remain in darkness. Nigeria needs transformational leaders who will transform the nation and make the lives of the people better.
We, perhaps, may have heard about the Dubai Miracle. Let me inform you, that it did not happen by chance. It was carefully nurtured and driven by a relentless political architect, their ruler, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. That is why Dubai sits atop world development index today and Nigeria occupies the rock bottom. In Nigeria, we have leaders steeped very deep in corruption and profligacy.
The cost of governance has been allowed to go through the roof and there is little left to develop the country. Or how do you explain a situation where a state governor will have a retinue of over 500 advisers and assistants on the government pay roll, or where the same governor will not be ashamed to award the few contracts he decides to do to himself, his menservants and maidservants at prohibitive rates. We have not also forgotten so soon the squander mania of the members of the National Assembly who the CBN governor alerted the nation last year that their salaries and overhead gulp 25% of the yearly national budget.
It should be noted that what these legislators collect as salaries and allowances are not as approved for them by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) statutorily but that these legislators arrogate to themselves glut of privileges to pillage the national till. It is only members of the national assembly that must change their furniture every year and ride the latest cars produced abroad, providing millions of jobs for foreigners while unemployment and poverty dehumanize their people at home. Nigeria's best assets are its people and our entrepreneurial abilities are recognized across the world. Our institutions and government are, however, our weakness and underlying this is corruption and incompetence.
However, here I must make bold to point out that faulty structures or not, some progressive governors across the country have picked the gauntlet and are leading their people through the transformational agenda they have been yearning for. So Sanusi and his co-travellers would do better and rather alert the never do well and indolent governors on the urgent need for them to draw near their people to reduce their pain and anguish for the well being of the country.
They should reduce the cost of governance, reduce number of trips they make abroad; reduce the number of aids and sycophants milling around them; reduce the fleet of cars in their convoys; reduce the security votes they collect; use their brains to think out ways to uplift their state and people; look inwards for avenues to generate more income like mechanized agriculture; exploration of mineral resources in each of the states and reduce over-dependence on monthly federal allocation; do proper staff audit of all government parastatals and agencies (to fish out ghost workers); and ensure that government workers are well utilized as to increase productivity and hence, get more results. Thus, the increased funds will then help them to meet the developmental needs of their people.
What distances us from the developed economies of the world is simply insincerity and not being passionate about finding lasting solutions to our problems. And, until Nigerians inculcate the necessary values that successful nations thrive on, that is honesty, hard work and patriotism, we will continue to waste our time. Think of instances where, instead of building roads that can last for ten years, some of our governors build only roads that can last for just five months or instead of buying vehicles, machinery or equipment for government that can be used for years, they go out to bring in refurbished ones. This is no way to move forward.
Nevertheless, the current financial crisis facing many states today also owes to the dependency syndrome which the constitution we operate has foisted on the federating units.
This has forced many states to depend on the monthly federal allocation for the greater percentage of the funds to run their governments. Therefore, what we need is a restructuring of our constitutional arrangements that constrain the states from getting funds to embark on government functions even as we enthrone real fiscal federalism or else real development may continue to elude our country. Amendment of the constitution can encourage state governments to work in partnership with the private sector to generate and distribute electricity for their areas. They will equally be encouraged to issue mining licences to prospective investors through which they will make money and pay royalties to the federal government.
Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability, it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. The time here is right and the door is open and it is for us to step up and take the fullest advantage of all the changes that are occurring in our fast changing world. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our country. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of self-centredness, high cost of governance, corruption and shackles constitutional constraints to the solid rock of real fiscal federalism.
Yes, we can become the nation of our dreams if we can throw overboard the consumption binge the military hoisted on us through the constitution resulting in unending annual government recurrent expenditure of nearly 80 percent and capital expenditure of a paltry 20 percent. Our esteemed place in the sun with emerging developed nations like China, Russia, India and Brazil awaits us, if we can muster enough will to take the necessary step.
Okolo is former member of Presidential Advisory Council.