Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Nigeria: Governors' forum donates to late governor's family

Help from the governors
It can be very easy to miss the underlying message in the news that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum had presented NGN 62 million [1], almost half a million dollars to a late governor’s family.
From a sentimental and probably compassionate perspective the survivors of a big breadwinner probably need some help emotionally, morally and financially at the demise of their patriarch. It is also quite heartening to see professional colleagues of a dead person gather together to chip in for the upkeep of his family providing support to cushion their irreparable loss.
However, there is need for an honest and objective critique of this situation because it goes to the core of what warps our democracy, the subject of responsibility and accountability in governance and what is to be expected of our leadership.
Mamman Ali was the governor of Yobe State in North Eastern Nigeria, he died in an American hospital in January 2009 apparently after a prolonged battle with leukaemia.
Nigerian health crisis
The last paragraph can easily become topical on its own, the first question being why the governor had to go to an American hospital to seek treatment for leukaemia. In February 2008, I wrote a blog [2] about the governor of the neighbouring state to the East, Borno State.
A hospital with modern facilities had been built at great cost to serve the people of the state, but the governor held up the use of the hospital for 18 months because he could not get the President of Nigeria to schedule a visit to cut the ribbon declaring the hospital open.
Some disaffected locals got fed up with the situation and razed the apparently white elephant to the ground and all the governor could say was that people were out to ruin his reputation – it just beggars belief.
It probably is the story about health and healthcare services in Nigeria, there are no hospitals, where hospitals are built they are not opened and where they are open they are poorly staffed with substandard drugs, it is a poor narrative but everyone who has the means gets on the first plane of out Nigeria for treatment – the people suffer in silence.
Diagnosis and treatment
Flip through any obituary in Nigerian newspapers and most of the reported deaths seem to be from a brief illness, rarely does one die from a protracted illness and to have that particular illness mentioned is a commendable feat – too many people I know have died from illnesses doctors have been unable to properly diagnose and hence adequately treat.
I find myself in the fortunate setting where when I fell very ill, my doctors had a good idea of what the problem was and painstakingly proved beyond doubt within 9 days what my ailment was and immediately started a course of treatment to deal with the situation.
And in whose name?
Back to the issues that inspired this blog, it is sad to read about the death of a governor and according to the news story, the governors immediately after the death of their colleague decided to offer support to the family, that was in January 2009 but they have only now been able to make good that promise 22 months after his death.
There are 36 states in Nigeria, all states but the late governor’s state agreed or were imposed upon to make a contribution of NGN 2 million ($13,493) each to the kitty. Remember, this is a country that the World Bank suggests has 70% of the population live on a dollar a day; so in context, this is a very large sum of money by Nigerian standards.
As at November 2010, 31 states had contributed their part adding up to NGN 62 million with 4 states yet to send in their contributions. One can only wonder why it took so long and why they have not offered up their pledges.
This contribution definitely did not come from the pockets of the governors; this was done by the Governor’s Forum in the name of the people of Nigeria, who I believe have not been consulted on this giveaway of our resources for the support of the late governor’s family.
Making adequate provision
Whilst the death of a state governor is a sad loss if the governor were able, competent and well liked, it should not be equated with a natural disaster. It also speaks volumes about arrangements people make for their survivors in the event of untimely death either in terms of life insurance or other means of sustainable investments that provide for the family after death.
Probably there should be a law in place that caters for the untimely death of a governor beyond succession to his office about payments or support to be given to the deceased’s immediate family.
When this contribution was made, it was made with ceremony which was unnecessary and then given to the dead governor’s brother to manage for his estate. I cannot say if the governor had a will and if it was the express wishes of the governor to have his brother as executor of his estate.
Who are family?
I am concerned that the wife or wives and children were not mentioned and with this large sum of money being doled out they might well be elbowed out of the way – just as the governors have shown no accountability to their constituents, it is very likely they have demanded no accountability of how the money would be spent on the upkeep of the family.
The major concerns of family upkeep in Nigeria are usually the provision of housing, food, funding for education of children and access to good health facilities to the immediate descendants. One can only speculate that there would be many snouts in the trough and the money may not go to the intended ends and this would be the last we would hear of the situation until someone receives an email claiming to have funds to dispose of pertaining to the estate of the late governor.
Despite my cynicism, the issues are clear, the lack of appropriate healthcare facilities, the absence of forward planning for untimely death, the inertia that governs the resolution to do something good, the insignificance of immediate family members when their father and husband dies and the lack of accountability of our leadership in the doling out of funds for questionable albeit compassionate causes.
Sources

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