Squandering Governors Rolling Out the Drums

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Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

I am still struggling to recover from the shock of seeing many governors rolling out the drums to celebrate two years in office and 18 years of democracy on May 29. Some added 50 years of creation, while others celebrated six years in power by inaugurating routine projects. One of them even inaugurated a bus terminal with fanfare. There is no basis for these celebrations. These are governors that have failed to meet the rudimentary responsibilities of paying civil servants as and when due, and providing basic infrastructure in their states. They have, by their actions and inactions, turned these hapless entities into failed states. Many are so incompetent and lazy to think of creative ways of motivating economic activities in their states and generating funds. They are so happy going to Abuja monthly to collect handouts, which they eventually squander. They are too lazy to sit down with forward-looking Nigerians to fashion out how to make these states viable. Industries and industrial estates are dead in many states. Our states have great untapped agricultural potential that can make them viable, yet, struggle to survive.

Most of these governors celebrating can’t point to a single industry whose emergence they have motivated since assuming office. So, the industries are not there and commercial agriculture is in comatose. How then do they intend to make their states viable? Allocations are dwindling with huge unpaid bills; yet, our governors live big and operate with a retinue of aides. For example, what is Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State doing with 192 special assistants?
Irregular payments of salaries by these governors have impoverished civil servants, forcing some of them to resort to begging in order to survive the hardship foisted on them, while the governors and their cronies live big. You will find them travelling around the world with a large entourage in the name of looking for foreign investors. Many will still remember Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State travelling to Turkey with about 100 people “to study Turkey’s industrial prowess”. Governor Ahmed Abdulfatah of Kwara State has also been involved in these dubious trips abroad in search of investors.

Many governors have taken huge loans beyond their repayment capacity. The monthly deductions from their share of federally-collected revenue to service the loans are now impacting negatively on their finances. A critical analysis of the contractual obligations/other deductions from the allocations of the 36 states showed that virtually all of them are deep in debt with very little to show for it. Imagine a state like Osun with a domestic debt portfolio of N147 billion within seven years of Rauf Aregbesola as governor. So, what did he use the money for?
The level of debauchery and ineptitude this country has witnessed in most of these federating units in the last two years is unprecedented in the history of this country. How can a man be happy to identify himself as the governor of a state that has failed to pay salaries to civil servants for over a year? Many of them, even after collecting bailout funds from the federal government, loans and Paris Club refunds, still failed to pay these hapless civil servants. I can clearly remember that the anti-graft agency which monitored how states spent the N338 billion bailout funds in 2016 reported that 16 of these governors stole or diverted a substantial part of the funds.

The situation in Osun State is most pathetic. Here, civil servants are pummeled with impunity. Salaries are hardly paid, and when Aregbesola does, sporadically, it is usually half salary. The backlog is frightening. Few days back, medical doctors protested in Osogbo against payment of “amputated salaries” by the state government. Dr. Tokunbo Olajumoke, the leader of the doctors further raised the alarm that there was no drug/equipment in any of Osun government-owned hospitals. Olajumoke said this was contrary to Aregbesola’s claims that he had spent N10 billion to improve the sector.
Let’s flip over to Benue State where Governor Samuel Ortom has failed to tackle decaying infrastructure and huge unpaid salaries, yet, he is able to allocate an outrageous N4.5 billion for “Government House Administration” in this year’s budget. This is a state where health, education, water, roads and other key sectors are in shambles.

The last six years have been harrowing for the people of Oyo State under Ajimobi. There is a huge backlog of unpaid salaries. This state has never had it so bad. Virtually all the gains of the state since creation have been wiped out by Ajimobi. This once peaceful and lovely state has degenerated significantly, with putrefying infrastructure. Public utilities are in a mess. Just visit any of the state’s public hospitals/schools and you will be shocked at the state of the facilities.
The young man in Kogi State, Yahaya Bello has not fared well. Aside from backlog of unpaid salaries and moldy infrastructure in the state, there are also numerous corruption allegations against him.  Governor Bello was accused of mismanaging the N48 billion he obtained as bailout from the federal government. One of such opponents called Egalitarian Mission for Africa wants anti-graft agencies to probe Bello. The group further alleged that N912 million was paid from Kogi State’s infrastructural account number 1010756707 at Zenith Bank to AG Vision Construction Nigeria Limited Account Number 1920001651 at Skye Bank “as part payment for the construction of Agasa-Ukpogoro Road, “a fictitious no-existing project as at today.”

Let’s switch to globetrotting Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State who viciously killed moves by legislators to impeach him last year. This was after he got operatives of the Department of State Service to harass the leaders of the state’s House of Assembly. Wonders will never end. This brutal governor got the DSS in Abuja to detain the Speaker, Sanusi Garba Rikiji, his deputy, Muhammad Abubakar Gumi, the Majority Leader, Isah Abdulmumini and the Chief Whip, Abdullahi Dansadau. The remaining 20 members of the Assembly fled to Kaduna to avoid arrest. Prior to this, Yari used miscreants to attack the Speaker. The intimidation worked, with the lawmakers withdrawing their impeachment notice.
Notwithstanding, Zamfara legislators have made their point about Yari’s alleged ineptitude, misappropriating allocations to the state, corrupt usage of local government funds, failing to implement the budgets and non-remittance of pension funds to pension administrators.
These are hefty allegations. Rather than addressing the issues, Yari, who is constantly abroad, resorted to political intimidation, arrest and detention of principal officers of the House and other support staff. Again, Yari’s frequent trips abroad are evidently impacting negatively on the day-to-day running of government, apart from imposing financial burden on the state. This state remains one of the most backward in Nigeria. That was why elder statesman, Saidu Dansadau, petitioned Buhari last year, asking him to declare a state of emergency in Zamfara State.

Dansadua said: “The governor hardly stays in the state as he prefers to travel all over the world at the expense of the state resources and safety of the people. He has spent only about 20 per cent of that whole period (five years) in Zamfara State. He had utilised the other 80 per cent junketing from one part of the country to the other and shuttling around the globe. All matters of state that require action are kept waiting until he returns to the state. Consequently, intelligence and security reports are kept in abeyance. For instance, at a period, out of 60 straight days, the governor spent only two days in Zamfara State.”
The way Okorocha goes about presenting himself as an honest politician leaves me bewildered. This is particularly so, in the face of glaring evidence that he is owing civil servants, contrary to what he claims to stand for. According to Comrade Austin Chilakpu, Chairman, Imo State chapter of the Nigerian Labour Congress, workers in many of the state’s parastatals have not been paid for several months. I have been reliable informed that some of the affected parastatals are Imo Newspapers, Adapalm Nigeria (Imo Palm Plantation), and Imo Specialist Hospital. Imo pensioners are also owed several months.
Clearly, most of these governors have shown that they are incapable of doing their jobs. How I wish they will resign and allow people with good ideas and political will to take over. We need governors with energy and common sense that can channel resources towards poverty alleviation. We need people capable of fiercely tackling hunger, disease and unemployment. This is the only way forward for our nation.

Boko Haram Attacks and the Unanswered Questions
Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State recently admitted that the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists had not been fully defeated, but degraded, contrary to the usual statements credited to government officials. It was a high profile partial confirmation of my regular expose on the quagmire. Shettima spoke in Abuja during the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Profoturo, a global charity organisation based in Spain. The governor said: “Even though the country has made a lot of gains against insurgency, a lot still needs to be done. While Boko Haram had largely been degraded and posed no existential threat, it would however amount to dishonesty to claim that they have been defeated. We have to give it to this government that they have done marvelously well in containing insurgency, but they have not been totally defeated; anybody who told you so is economical with truth. But they have been degraded to such a level that they are no longer a threat to the corporate existence of this country.”
My message to Shettima this morning is this: To say that Boko Haram has been degraded is pure sarcasm as seen from the group’s invasion of Maiduguri this week, leading to two hours of battle with our brave soldiers. Just on Wednesday, 18 people (three suicide bombers inclusive) were killed during multiple attacks in and around Maiduguri. Only recently, this government went to swap two terrorists with 82 Chibok girls kept in Boko Haram-held territory for over three years. They obviously still control territories; otherwise, where were the girls kept? A degraded group can’t conveniently keep about 200 girls for over three years. A degraded group can’t be controlling territories. A degraded group can’t be attacking and dismantling military formations. A degrade group can’t be deploying suicide bombers repeatedly. The suicide bombers must have been trained and deployed from a base. IDPs still can’t return home, because their villages, towns and cities are still not safe.
The truth is that our gallant soldiers are still ill-equipped and ill-motivated, notwithstanding the billions of Naira budgeted for defence annually. Last year, it got N428 billion, and N465 billion is set aside for defence in this year’s budget. Nevertheless, our soldiers still struggle with mundane things like operational vehicles and attack helicopters. When it comes to field allowances, they are also underpaid. It seems some people want this vicious circle to continue. How long must we allow this rag tag group to continue to kill our people? This anguish in Borno must come to an end, and quickly too. We have had enough of propaganda. We must all put pressure on the APC-led federal government to deliver on its promise to truly degrade and defeat Boko Haram. This government must, as a matter of urgency, bring back the South African mercenaries to help with precision bombing. Our gallant soldiers, with the right equipment and motivation, can then go in and mop up. This is the only way forward.