By Jerome-Mario Utomi
It was a very sad scene watching our state governors complain about the delay in the release of the second tranche of the Paris club refunds without giving an account of how the first refund amounting to hundreds of billions of naira shared among the thirty-six states and the Federal Capital Territory was spent. This again brings to the fore the type of people that we, as a people, freely blessed ourselves with as our governors. In the same fashion, the situation has again, presented our governors as people who are vigorously pursuing their vertical interest as against the horizontal benefits of the people.
As a matter of fact, it is not a bad idea demanding for what belongs to you, but acting as if that was the money they relied on when making their electoral campaign promises in 2015 is as surprising as it is worrying. Similarly, not using the sum to prosecute the primary needs of the people as alleged in some states is not a palatable narrative. The governors’ actions are condemnable as the purpose that the money was meant to serve is very visible in most states of the federation. This includes the backlogs of workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlemements to ease the excruciating pains they are going through occasioned by the non-payment of their pensions. Their silent cries still echo from so many states of the federation.
As can be seen, this action of our governors has again reinforced the general belief that our nation’s economy is cruising on auto-drive mode as most of our governors lack economic creativity, resourcefulness and are roundly inept in the area of internally generated revenue creation. This development has also confirmed the obvious reason behind the monthly procession of our state governors to Abuja for the sharing of money by the FAAC.
In the light of the above, we can draw some instructive lessons. Chief among them is the fact that the Federal Government is paying lip service to the fight against corruption. If not, how can a government institution dish out money running into hundreds of billions of naira without deeming it fit to know how the money was spent, yet went ahead to disburse yet another round of hundreds of billions of naira to the same group that has not accounted for the first payment? This practical demonstration of a ‘questionable efficiency’ on the part of the Federal Government speaks volumes of its position on transparency.
Given the point above, it should be pertinent that the president and governors cast a glance, and learn a lesson from this remark as succulently positioned by the first president of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew: “We made sure right from the day we took office, that every dollar in revenue would be properly accounted for and would reach the beneficiaries at the grassroots as one dollar, without being siphoned off along the way. So, from the very beginning, we gave special attention to the areas where discretionary powers had been exploited for personal gains and sharpened the instruments that could prevent, detect or deter such practices.” Strictly speaking, our government at both federal and state levels should think along this axis if providing people -oriented results is their aim.
Furthermore, our leaders should be doing more of ‘economic self-introspection and interrogation as a way of finding solution-oriented answers. They should be more interested in finding ways of purging themselves of corrupt practices as well as design a framework, both legal and administrative, that will block all loopholes within the system. This will be more meritorious than crying to Abuja cap in hand at the end of every month. The government of the day should think along the same axis with Lee Kuan Yew if it wants to be taken seriously in its corruption fight.
In like manner, the activities of our state governors call for concern as they have on many occasion demonstrated that the volume of power they possess is not symmetrical with the love they have for the people. This imbalance has led them to, on many occasions, deploy power in a manner that is ‘reckless and abusive as well as provided leadership that is defective, sentimental and anemic’. The governors have completely forgotten that the grinding poverty and starvation with which our country is affiliated is such that it drives more and more men every year into the ranks of the beggars, whose desperate struggles for bread renders them insensible to all feelings of decency and self-respect’.
To put it differently, if the above is examined closely, one will discover that our governors are in one way or the other, the architects of this situation and instead of trying to ameliorate it, by providing work for their subjects and insisting on their working for bread, they denied those that have worked their just wages and pensions, respectively. Most of these governors promised empowerment of the citizenry and prompt payment of workers’ salaries. But today, that has not happened.
Very instructively, what our state governors should know is that no one takes a government that governs with ‘begging bowl approach’ seriously. No one is ready to listen to your reading of ‘books of lamentation’. What your subjects want to see is creativity and result based on process and fair outcome.
Equally important on the part of our governors is the development of saving culture as this attitude of eating with our ten fingers is not in any way supporting our economic growth or sustainability. A report recently advised ‘that the time has come for Nigerians to embrace a robust culture of savings, irrespective of whether the oil price is low or high. Our country’s experience through the current economic recession and volatility in the oil market has made this decision quite imperative. Let the masses also imbibe the attitude of holding their leaders accountable for their actions as every freedom must go with responsibility.
Jerome-Mario writes via [email protected]