Last week, Nigerians had a peaceful transition of power at the centre and in most states of the Federation. We felicitate with the 29 state governors who were inaugurated during the occasion and wish them a successful tenure and the realisation of their ambitions for their people for which they campaigned during the elections. Having been handed the levers of power, they should hit the ground running to ensure that they fulfill their campaign promises. The campaigns, the politicking are over; the truly challenging tasks of governance have begun.
We urge all the governors to enlist the support and cooperation of all their citizens, including the opposition politicians. Every governor needs everyone in the state. Leaving some citizens behind is a clear indication that something is wrong with the administration. It should be the reality check which every governor must use. And we know that every governor has his own priorities and must determine how best to serve the citizens of the state, who under all circumstances, must be put first.
We appeal to the governors to make every effort to complete the projects of their predecessors. The temptation is to ignore such projects and start new ones. That attitude ignores the investments already made by the state in such projects and the fundamental principle that government is a continuum. Every governor is like the proverbial actor on a Shakespearean stage, who plays his part and then departs, leaving room for the next. Issues often arise over such projects but they can always be thrashed out on a resolution round table. But every governor must realise that it is a monumental waste of the state’s resources to ignore its uncompleted projects.
Every state governor has an opportunity to initiate new projects and because resources are scarce, the aim must be to make the maximum impact on the lives of citizens of the state in terms of creating jobs, rendering services, initiating poverty alleviation programmes, investing in education and general welfare. The economic condition of Nigeria precludes the execution of bogus projects. Even the so-called prestige projects should be saved for more opportune times.
Governors should assembly their most creative executives to brainstorm about the internally generated revenue (IGR). Efforts must be made to enlist those, who are not currently on the tax roll, and those who are considered affluent should be persuaded to chip in more. In a situation where there is so much poverty, the IGR drive must be done with care so as not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.
It should be the ambition of every governor to open up more rural areas. That is the essence of development. It takes resources and foresight to do so, and governors who do so are often remembered. The dependence of the states on the Federal Government is one reason our federation is considered fragile and dysfunctional. Its unitary nature makes the states exist at the mercy of the Federal Government. Because most resources are concentrated in the Federal Government, the political competition for the centre is too intense.
To owe civil servants and, especially, school teachers their monthly salaries is clearly a governmental malpractice. To fail to pay pensioners is even worse. Yet several state governors, without shame, admit to not paying their civil servants and school teachers. A state governor who owes has demonstrated that he is incapable. With that comes state indebtedness, which is becoming a problem for many states. No governor should take the state into debt unless he can demonstrate an explicit investment that promises good returns. The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Finance are officially the guarantors of state debts and should, as much as possible, discourage these loans.
Every Nigerian state has its special gifts and peculiar problems. We urge the governors to take advantage of the different economic opportunities in their states to create jobs. Many university and high school graduates often need technical or vocational training to equip them with the necessary skills to be employable. State governments should ensure that such colleges are functional to help them in the toughest task they have, which is providing gainful employment to so many young graduates.