A Letter to Nigeria’s 36 State Governors By Niran Adedokun
Pardon my inability to salute you individually. I assure you that I mean no disrespect. I am aware of the enormous power, which each of you wield in your states and the fact that you are arguably the most powerful bloc in this country.
A governor in Nigeria is the literal owner of his state. He has enormous financial resources to covert the support of all leaders, be they young or old. He is the unseen head of the state House of Assembly and wields considerable influence on the courts in his state. He mostly handpicks chairmen of local government areas and has them all at his beck and call. As surprising as it may sound, the governor is the concealed hand behind every move that is made by members of the National Assembly from his state. One can then imagine how impossible it would be for anyone to stand in the way of anything that Your Excellencies desire if you were all to come together as one. It is for your collective failure to put this influence to positive use, that people like me rejoiced over the demise of your Billionaire Boys Club otherwise known as the Nigeria Governors’ Forum a couple of months back. What is the usefulness of such a body when even the most basic successes of one governor cannot be emulated by all other governors, so much for peer review?
I said all this, Your Excellencies, to show that I have a true understanding of your weight and that not saluting you individually, as I am sure you would love, is due to space constraints rather than any illusions about where you stand in the scheme of things. It is the same realisation that inspired this correspondence.
Each waking day, Dear Excellencies, I wonder if you truly know the extent of the frustrating suffering going on all over the land and that you stand in some good stead to make things better. As we speak, it is said that about 70 per cent of our compatriots live in abject poverty. A report by the World Bank on Wednesday said 100 million Nigerians live in “destitution”. Our people are hungry, they have no access to proper health care and more sadly, are unable to lay any solid foundation for the future of their children since quality education has become the exclusive preserve of the privileged. Experience has shown me that education, sports and entertainment are three sure ways of changing the destines of children from indigent backgrounds. If a child does not have great mental ability, he would most likely have some physical prowess. One or another, if well-developed would most definitely equip the child for a productive future. I am afraid that I cannot tell of any robust plan to develop Nigerian children, along any of these lines in any of our states. We just allow them to roam the streets.
Things are equally bad in the health sector. About 53,000 women are believed to die from pregnancy and related causes yearly; I think the cases are underreported. Most of these mortalities, occur in the rural areas. The rate of mortality for infants and children under five is equally alarming; Nigerians are all just at the mercy of disease and lack of opportunities.
It is true that these are usually not the kind of problems that people refer to you but I know enough of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) to suggest that Your Excellencies could do more on all of the fronts than you currently do.
Let us take the case of education. At the moment, Nigeria has the highest number of out of school children (11million!) in the world. This number refers to children who are supposed to be receiving basic education. The quality of teaching at this level of education is also pathetic. Now, by virtue of the 1999 Constitution, the responsibility for primary and secondary education is totally within the purview of local and state governments respectively. And since local governments are mere appendages of Your Excellencies’ governments, it is safe to conclude that the responsibility for educating children at the primary and secondary school levels belongs to you. There is no further testimony of how much you have failed on this front than the number of out-of-school children in the country as well as the quality of basic education in our public schools, a reason for which anyone with means, including yourselves, would never contemplate having children in these schools. Maybe, I assume too much on this last point being a victim of the dearth of reliable data as every other Nigerian, but, would you mind letting us have a list of the schools that your children attend? Just to be sure.
The same goes for the health sector. Primary health care is the responsibility of the local government while secondary health care is the constitutional duty of all state governments, but what do we have? Inefficiency and lack of capacity, all the way. At a recent press conference, the Nigeria Medical Association pointed out that a recent survey it carried out showed that most primary and secondary health care systems are deficient in human resources, lack basic health care facilities and services, as well as adequate funding and essential drugs. The implication of these is that most primary health care clinics and general hospitals are buildings mostly without skilled personnel and adequate equipment for any meaningful intervention.
And who says we should only demand the employment of thousands of our youths from the Federal Government alone? I am of the opinion that Your Excellencies are able to provide gainful employment for thousands of the young men and women who are roaming the streets in your states before they decide to compound the already complicated life in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. I have always thought that just a little bit of creativity would make agriculture attractive to thousands of Nigerian youths and that done, you would be solving the employment problem as well as tackling our food security challenges. Have you even considered raising a new generation of well trained hands in assorted vocations in areas where Nigeria currently lags behind?
One cannot deny the fact that so many of you embark on elaborate capital projects aimed at improving our infrastructure deficit. This is commendable but then, these projects, as tokenistic as they may be, do not trickle down to the rural areas. As a result, the bulk of rural people still suffer from lack of basic amenities including roads, potable water and so on, all of which open them up to penury and disease.
I am of course aware of the age-long complaint about the unfair revenue allocation formula in the country, but this not-too-fair allocation has not stopped Your Excellencies from that bogus indulgence known as security votes. It has not stopped you from hopping on charter flight, at will and on the bill of your state. I am also aware that so many of you have taken loans on behalf of your states while others have gone to the stock market to raise bonds, some have even done both, yet your citizens cannot benefit from any social security net.
I admit that some of you have shown ingenuity in certain areas but there is more to governance than populist programmes which have no bearing on the future of the people. I therefore humbly suggest that there is an urgent need for every one of you to address the issues of development in your states. Politicians who care about posterity remember that government exists to provide safety and happiness for today’s people and for generations coming after. Unless you lay down structures for the proper education of those little children, provide affordable and accessible health care for the citizenry, create opportunities for those who are able to work to get profitably engaged and devise ways in which your state would be free from the dangers on relying on Nigeria’s unpredictable oil resources, some of your names would be mentioned in 10 years and people would wonder who you were.
May the good God that you believe in help you!
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