Northern Governors: Jonathan’s Soul Mates? By Babayola Toungo
It has been universally agreed that northern Nigeria has become a basket case. The region is now a perfect template for failure in all its ramifications. Our educational system has failed; the health sector is in shambles; agriculture – hitherto the bedrock of the region’s growth – is virtually non-existent, and commerce and industry has practically disappeared. The north is to all intents and purposes, the sick man of Nigeria. Blessed with a vast land – covering almost 80% of the landmass of Nigeria– most of it arable, large body of water and abundant human resource, this area is not supposed to be living on handouts. This area was the financial grit of the country during the colonial days and the days immediately after independence. What went wrong and how did we get it wrong? These are questions that have been agitating my mind for a long time and I am yet to get answers to them.
I have had cause to visit one of the northern states recently and what I saw and went through in the hands of the top hierarchy of the political leadership opened a small vista for me on how we got ourselves into the current morass. I have gone to this particular state on an official assignment with the intention of spending no more than two days at most but end up spending a week. This is mainly because of the nature of leadership and the way power is exercised by those who wield it. I saw first hand, how governance grind to a halt whenever the state governor is not around because of the enormous power vested in him by our constitution and his unwillingness to delegate such powers. I saw first hand how time stopped for millions of people because governance come to a halt whenever the chief executive is not around and because political offices are turned to a platforms for dispensation of patronage instead of discharging administrative functions and responsibilities. I felt scandalised. Sadly, on sharing my experiences with a senior colleague, he told me that this is what obtains in virtually all the northern states.
On this visit, I was confronted with mediocrity, visionlessness, “big manism” and the cluelessness that is today the hallmark of our leadership. I have seen how time wasted over commonplace issues to the detriment of critical issues that requires the full attention of a chief executive. I have seen how the north was gradually rundown to its present state of hopelessness and anarchy by a core of leadership, which happened to find itself on the steering wheel without being ready for the journey a leadership largely bred by cronyism. I was confronted with the base level we have taken governance thereby leading us to where we are today. It is a pathetic narrative of the ways and manners the northern region is brought to its knees by those whose only motive for seeking public office is the acquisition of power with no articulated ways of using it. It is acquired for the appellations or the state’s purse, which invariably becomes the governor’s personal wallet. I came to the conclusion that most of the governors of the north came to office without any enunciated plan or vision for their people, thus it is easy for them to rule the way they are doing.
In most cases, the governors are absentee governors as they can be found most often than not in Abuja, Dubai, one of the European capitals or the USA. While the liaison offices in Abuja are in reality an extension of the governors’ offices to provide for a conducive working environment whenever a state chief executive visits the capital city, the governors’ offices in the various states capitals are now de facto liaison offices. Most of them breeze in and out of their state capitals that it is easier to “catch” them at the airports than in the government house. I spent three days to see a governor just for three minutes. My shock was in the realisation that neither him nor his minions who were aware of the imperativeness of my desire to see him, saw anything wrong in the man hours I wasted waiting to be summoned to his court.
With time on my hands, my mind kept wandering as to how the north got saddled with the kind of leadership we now have. Do we deserve our current crop of leaders? May be we do. It dawned on me that these guys and Goodluck Jonathan are just different sides of the same coin. May be that was why they went out on a limb to campaign for him in 2011 and some of them are still doing so for the upcoming 2015 elections. Could the incompetence I saw, which my senior colleague told me is the same all over the north, be the catalyst that drove thousands of unemployed and unemployable youth into the waiting arms of terror merchants? Could the nonchalant attitude that I saw be responsible for the successes of the insurgency in the region? Could this behaviour towards governance and its understanding or lack of it be liable for our failure to stem the brigandage going on all over the north and is threatening to consume everybody in the region? Is there a correlation between how our governors administer our states and the rise in vagrancy in the north?
Numerous commentators have documented the incompetence and cluelessness of Jonathan, but I believe the searchlight should shift to our governors. And to us the electorate who voted and rigged for them to get to their current offices. What measures did we take to gauge their competence or incompetence before killing each other over their ambitions? When they came for their campaigns, they only mumble inaudible and we cheer them without understanding what they mumble. For all I know they may be insulting us. We fail to see the shallowness of their promises and their emptiness in their verbosity. If we had looked deeper, we would have noticed that the only promise they fail to make to us is the promise not to steal – and this is the only one they fulfil – they steal to their hearts’ content. Please don’t get me wrong – I didn’t say corruption but stealing. Our governors only take a break from the stealing only between one Federation Allocation Committee to another.
To underline the lack of vision by our governors, some of them are calling for the increase in revenue allocation to states instead of talking of revenue generation by the states. They are very comfortable to be abused and insulted for the pittance thrown into their begging bowl by men no better than street thugs. While we are blessed with abundant resources both human and natural, we have failed to harness any.
I believe the time is nigh for the northern electorates to open their eyes and ears to know who to vote for. While our public officers are ensconced in fenced houses and cruise around in bulletproof vehicles, we are left at the mercy of a society fast retrogressing into a dark past. Underlying our problems in the north today is a massive social dislocation. This social dislocation is driven by a host of factors – greed, restricted access to education, health and other social services to the poor. When next we go to the polls, we must ensure we make the right choices. We must ensure that we elect officials that we will hold accountable. Or else we surrender to internal colonialism.
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