Tuesday 14 February 2012

Nigeria: The need to manage the Emperors of State

Emperors of State
Executive governors of states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria appear to have untrammelled fiat almost equivalent to absolute monarchies of old within their fiefdoms.
I do not intend to cover that particular matter but they are also granted immunity from prosecution which has the somewhat unintended consequence of many acting with impunity as they project the personification of absolute power that corrupts absolutely.
Thankfully, they only have that megalomania for the tenure of their offices before they become ordinary citizens again. Usually, to forestall a wholesale jettisoning of the things they put in place they would most likely attempt to interfere with the succession process with the hope of putting in a stooge that will for gratitude or other allegiances be their marionettes in power.
Deficiencies in governance
One thing is evident with our system of democracy, there are no strong institutions that make for ensuring that the governor acts within the sometimes grey areas of the law, the state legislatures tend to be overly partisan and factional rather than work as a moderating chamber more representative of the people and the powers the governor exerts are sometimes unreasonable that they will almost always be reviewed and the acts rescinded.
In many states where the new governors have been elected especially where the successor has come from another party or there have been differences within the same party that the erstwhile governor has not been able to influence the succession process the states have been in radical flux.
Basically, it is like the new governor is on a crusade to expunged every act and idea of their predecessor which all fall within the spectrum of atrocious through commendable to excellent, you rarely find areas where these governors attempt to build on the previous successes and take the state forward.
Consequences of the lack of continuity
Obviously, each governor has their own agenda and manifesto; it is their prerogative to act and hopefully in the best interests of fairness, justice, of the people and of the state rather that follow through their personal animosities in a show of sheer pettiness masquerading as leadership.
However, other things suffer if the system is not built to manage the acts of the executive governors at their most powerful and guarantee continuity after they have left. In fact, it feeds a vicious circle of counter-productive measures that give a lie to our democratic experiment.
On the matters of contracts, land ownership, business confidence, long-term enabling environments for development and growth the looming uncertainties that are generated by the musical chairs of quadrennial elections mean many projects not completed within the tenure might get abandoned and other thriving initiatives might be jettisoned.
Examples of breakdown
Worse still will be actions the old governor took for their own benefit when the new broom puts the old person in their place as is now happening in Ogun State - the once promising potentate at the advent of office who by the end of his term was probably the worst thing that ever happened to Ogun State who for his power-drunk egregious and megalomaniacal excesses plundered the state and appropriated lands that are now subjects of dispute.
If the new governors do not do well to spell out their intentions, many might read their actions as an all-out vendetta especially when one read the placards of student protesters whose university was downgraded to an institute of education amongst other things happening there and all around the country.
Constitutional review
There is a need to review the powers the executive governors had and what they can do, the state legislatures need to rise to the challenge of being better moderating influences on the governors whilst ensuring that the ideas and projects put in place have every prospect of continuity no matter who sits in the governor’s house.
Our constitution after almost 13 years of use is in need of radical amendments and subtle refinement to make our democracy more representative whilst also making leadership more responsive and accountable to the electorate.
Most importantly, there is a need to redress the matter of public service with more emphasis on the service over just having a public – these changes must happen soon, if we are to have a more enduring union and the hope that the best minds do vie for office and bring forth the change that Nigeria so badly needs.


Codliveroil said...

Thanks Akin
State governors are act more like saboteurs. They can borrow externally using the Federal government as a guarantor. They bare a large share of the responsibility for the indebtedness of the Nigerian state. Many silly schemes were started and never-finished, or they only exist in paper.

The people of the various states are extremely apathetic, those who have an inkling of political awareness can only call for the creation of more (unsustainable states) for their own selfish and greedy ends.

Whole regions of the country have been governed so badly, that the standard of living now is worse than it was 50 years ago. How could he governors of Borno and Yobe states to name just a few, be allowed to deliver next to nothing in their tenure. To the extent their states are now the home of Boko Haram menace that is threatening the nation.

White elephant projects are given the go-ahead, which serve no real benefit and are more like an attempt to swindle money from the government. Ogun state wanted to build a helicopter maintenance factory and acquire helicopters (for mineral exploration and to aid the police in fighting crime), and governor of a South-East state was touting building a mono-rail. Nobody ever questions these foolish schemes. They all keep quiet as long as they can profit from such daft ideas, or some are so silly they think it will develop their state, such developments are "prestigious". Is there one state in Nigeria, where all it's people have access to clean drinking water (in the year 2012)? I don't think so, but yet states are clamouring for airports, inland ports etc. Faciliites they can't construct properly not to mention maintain. Some people are calling for a nucleur reactor, (that would really be a national [interntional] disaster.

How can these and other acts be halted if the people of those states, close their eyes? The government can't move in, as it is seen as government interference, and the state governors can easily mobilise mobs to point the accusatory finger at a largely distant and irrelevant federal government.

There have to be limits, if state governors are doing such a bad job, they should be replaced by technocrats, who can implement and fulfill government projects to demonstrate that their is a better way of doing things.

This is why I say the fault is not simply at the centre it is everywhere and Nigerians condone and excuse this mis-governance. They can all point fingers at Abuja, as that is far away from 'home'. What is going on in Abuja is a reflection of  how Nigerians think the business of government should be run, ie shoddily and in a corrupt manner, producing nothing but skimming off the from the one productive sector of the economy (that is not in the hands of Nigerians). This is the elephant that people choose to ignore. We will see where such hypocrisy will lead us.

Thanks for raising this often overlooked but very important subject.

Codliveroil said...

Sorry, I forgot to mention.

If the states were being governed well and the centre was corrupt, no one would particularly care who ruled from Abuja, of local governance was effective and inefficient. But because the contrary is the case, whereby most funds from from Abuja, this makes the fight for the presidency all the more important.

The former president Obasanjo did briefly demonstrate that rule from the centre can be beneficial where the former governor of Plateau state (Joshua Dariye) was temporarily replaced by Chris Ali, who restored a degree of calm to Plateau state. This should have created a precedence, for those governors who are failing, that they can be replaced, they are not indispensable.

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