Governor Peter Obi
Right Of Reply By Chidozie Emenuga
Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, on 8 June 2012 wrote an article in his THISDAY Friday column captioned “Anambra’s Budget of Misplaced Priorities”. The contents of the article are clearly mirrored in the caption, prompting Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State to respond that “Only Anambra People Can assess me” as reported in the THISDAY of 10 June 2012. From its title, the message of Governor Obi is that el-Rufai is not a stakeholder in the affairs of Anambra State and has no business assessing his performance.
As a background to my comment, I wish to presume the context under which el-Rufai’s article has been read in Anambra State, hence the response by the Governor which might have reflected the views of his advisers and other officers of his government. If indigenes of Anambra State are among the most educated, most successful in business and in the professions as el-Rufai observed, how then has it become the business of a “mallam” to judge the appropriateness of the state’s budget and governance? Mallams, as they are known in Anambra State have three roles namely “maiguard”, “mai ruwa” and “mai nama”. The maiguard stays awake all night to safeguard the master from being kidnapped by his fellow Anambra people, mai ruwa ensures regular supply of water from wells dug by his fellow mallams while mai nama, supplies meat to Anambra people.
Anambra people also know that there exists a fourth category of mallams who are learned and among the best Nigeria can offer a class to which el-Rufai belongs. Notwithstanding, Anambra people believe that they have equivalents of educated mallams, as they often rehearse that the state has produced unrivaled species, including the mathematical Chike Obi, Father Tansi that successfully made it to heaven and Power Mike that was the “strongest” man on earth while he lived. I imagine that the undertone of the response to el-Rufai’s article is that Anambra has sufficient qualified persons to judge its performance rather than an “outsider”.
The article does not doubt the competence of Anambra people to run a good government, having confirmed that “The people of Anambra State are known to be brilliant, enterprising and resourceful” and that “Most of Nigeria’s brightest professors, writers, public servants and politicians hailed from the state”. As a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, el-Rufai could be privy to the share of Anambra people in high political positions and the housing market in Abuja. His expressed puzzle is why the brilliance and enterprise of Anambra people have not reflected in the quality of development of the state. Apart from el-Rufai, everybody knows that it is not well with Anambra State in any aspect of human life.
I have met non Nigerians that asked why I chose to “come from that place”, thinking that I have a choice like Americans to determine my state. Where else in Nigeria other than in Anambra can people openly accuse their governor of being an “araldite”, an acronym that the governor’s hands are sticky that he cannot help himself and others from the public coffers. The point Governor Obi and other Anambra people should swallow is that the condition of Anambra State has become of such a national and an international concern that “outsiders” can no longer be shut out from proffering solutions.
Further, I rather believe that el-Rufai, like any other Nigerian, is a stakeholder in Anambra State. He is a contributor to the N36 billion that is expected to flow from the Federation Account to Anambra State in 2012. If the money is rather shared among Nigerians (as some people suggest), el-Rufai will be entitled to his cash share in place of Anambra State. The presence of his brother mallams that provide indispensable services of security, water and meat in Anambra State is also a justification for el-Rufai to wish the state well. Therefore the views expressed by el-Rufai should be examined by the government and Anambra people for whatever they are worth and on this note, I hereunder further comment on them.
I think it was on purpose that el-Rufai kicked off his write up by recapitulating governor Obi’s background and the tortuous struggle the governor has gone through to claim and sustain his mandate. He reported that Governor Obi has a university degree in Philosophy and had served as chairman of a bank. These are rare attributes of a typical Anambra man that rather prides in his accumulation of wealth but lacking in the level of education and decency that can earn him the chairmanship of a bank, a position that requires a general perception of being clean. Governor Obi’s background in Philosophy is an enviable footing for leadership.
While other disciplines focus on and deepen knowledge of an aspect of human quest, Philosophy envelopes all and seeks to rationalise and find reason for all actions of man. In ancient civilisations and even in modern developed nations, Philosophy and related disciplines are for the nobles while the rest chase disciplines that guarantee them economic survival. By recalling Governor Obi’s credentials and struggle to retain his mandate in the article one is reminded that such a labour deserves not to be in vain to Anambra State. Thus, if Governor Obi, with his background in Philosophy, relative financial stability at a young age and a determined fighting spirit to keep his mandate, does not get Anambra right, the time of restoration for the state remains indefinite.
Another clear message from el-Rufai’s article is that Anambra State is not financially independent. The Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in Anambra State in a month cannot pay the salaries of civil servants in that month. Precisely, the budgeted IGR in 2012 can finance only three-quarters of the salaries of civil servants. The Federation Account pays one quarter of the salaries and all non-salary expenses, including all capital projects, petrol for the governor’s vehicles, food at the government house, Awka and allowances for traditional rulers. In America, states do not receive allocation from the federal government and if Nigeria were to operate like America, Anambra State will go bankrupt and liquidate in the first month of the transition.
The position of Anambra is made more precarious by the fact that the state cannot claim surrendering tangible revenue to the Federation Account. Lagos, Kano and a few other non-oil producing states are not as vulnerable as Anambra as their IGR can at least finance their recurrent expenditure. Does this situation suggest that the brilliance of Anambra people has been put to work in managing the finances of the state?
El-Rufai pointed to the alarming poverty level and unemployment rate in Anambra State and expressed disappointment that the government is not doing enough to solve the problems. He criticised the Anambra Integrated Development Strategy (ANIDS) and the Anambra Youth Reorientation and Empowerment Program (ANSYREP) as being incapable of revving up the production base. Governor Obi would prefer critics to visit Anambra to see the “right things” his government is doing. What are the good works a visitor will see in Anambra State? Peer Review? King Solomon of Isreal did not publicise his good works before the Queen of Sheba heard of it and embarked on a trip to Jerusalem to see for herself.
The only solution to poverty and unemployment in Anambra is to expand economic activities in the state, period. The role of the government is to create the enabling environment for the private sector to flourish and for the enterprising Anambra people to invest at home. All such programmes as ANYSYREP and other handout therapies will not solve poverty and unemployment. In economics, they are called short-term palliative measures while waiting for the long term solution. I believe that if the government creates an enabling platform for economists and other professionals to design and implement a growth plan for the state, the future of the state will take an upward bound trajectory.
My summary of the analysis (or critique) of the Anambra State budget by el-Rufai is that the budget scratches the back of every sector at a rate that is no more than the annual deterioration of that sector. There is no sector where the planned action and budget are capable of making a difference and in fact this is the basic weakness of the ANIDS. Health, Education, Agriculture, Environment (Erosion), Housing, Water and other sectors are being massaged but by the time Governor Obi leaves office, all these sectors will remain in about the same condition he met them. What then will be the achievement of the governor?
A popular igbo proverb says that an effort without an achievement is tantamount to idling. El-Rufai has referred to former Governor Chris Ngige as a performer based on his rule for about three years. I do not come from the same senatorial zone as Ngige but the only tangible sign of government we have seen in my area since the return of democracy in 1999 is the road constructed by Ngige. From Igbo ukwu (the town of former Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife), through Uga, Umunze and to the farthest part of Anambra South East at Owerre Ezukala our vehicles and tires speak well of Ngige.
In my state constituency where the deputy to Governor Obi comes from, there is nothing to show of the governor’s six years of governance. Despite the area being the most populous rural area of the state that is blessed with bountiful arable land for root and tree crops, the agricultural harvests waste because there are no feeder roads to join the Ngige link road. In this area, there are no functional hospitals (except for mortuary services), no new school facilities other than the ones built by churches decades back and no public water supply. What then is the invisible ANIDS that the governor’s spending the state budget on?
Governor Obi has two more years to vacate the government house at Awka and if he maintains his extant record, he will be judged a failure. So far, the government of Governor Obi prides itself of not stealing government money, of not focusing on one sector, and of doing better than some other states in the South-east and in Nigeria. In the city of the blind, a one-eyed man leads the way. Yes, I am happy to have a governor that does not do what he is not supposed to do as per misappropriating public funds, but I will be happier to have a governor that does what he is supposed to do with the state funds. The write up by el-Rufai is an alert to both Governor Obi and the rest of Anambra people and despite the poor rating I still believe that it shall be well with Anambra State. God’s gifts to Anambra people shall not be in vain.
•Dr. Emenuga, Economist/Mason Fellow, Harvard University wrote from USA.
Carnage in Zaria, Kaduna and Damaturu
The bomb explosions in Zaria and Kaduna, the so-called reprisals and counter-reprisals have once again placed my home state under siege. I thought that with the pains and experience of the sectarian and ethnic crisis of the 1990s, we will never experience this kind of senselessness and needless killings.
What saddens me the most is that bigots on both sides of the religious and ethnic divides count how many Christians or Muslims were killed, instead of recognising the sanctity of human life and recognising that every human life massacred - Muslim, Christian or atheist, affects our common humanity.
What is strange is that the authorities have arrested many insurgents, both Christian and Muslim, without a single one being tried. In the case of the Zaria church bombing, it is clear that the authorities withdrew soldiers guarding them the night before the so-called Boko Haram insurgents struck. Who gave the order to withdraw them? We will never have answers because it appears the Federal Government wishes these attacks to continue unabated.