When I wrote my piece titled Bigger Entity Myopia. I never imagined that state governors and their deputies in Nigeria were as big a problem as recent events have revealed that they are.
Let’s start with Northern governors. With much fanfare, the presidency announced and keeps announcing the commissioning of the glitzy Almajiri schools. Months later, there are no Almajiri in those schools studying. Critics will be quick to blame the federal government for this failure. But a closer look will reveal that it is a state government failure. The design of the scheme is such that the federal government provides the schools, whilst the state government provides the funding for the running of the schools. Therefore, the federal government has done their part. The state governments have however failed to play their own role. The reports are that the Almajiri schools have simply become more comfortable locations for the mallams to meet the almajiri after they have gone out begging.
Take another situation in Bayelsa. The state has merely 10% of Rwanda’s population, is not landlocked like Rwanda and has not dealt with genocide. It gets about the same two billion dollars Rwanda gets annually to spend and does not have to spend anything on defense, foreign affairs and the likes that since these are federal government responsibilities. Yet, on every index imaginable, Rwanda trumps Bayelsa.
Of all the states in the country, only Lagos is not a feeding bottle state. These are states that cannot function without allocations from the center. In spite of potentials available within each state that the governors can develop if they actually want to work, they prefer to go cap in hand to Abuja monthly to go and get money. One would even think that since they are not under pressure to work to make this money and the time this will consume, they would be able to use the money effectively. But acting like lottery winners, they do next to nothing with these monies, whilst daily creating laws to legitimize the ravenous pilfering of what they see as nothing but windfalls. Using the dubious device known as “security vote” as a veritable tool, money disappears into a blackhole. Because the money is free from the center, acquisition of new expensive toys like private jets is a necessity for our governors.
But our governors are not contented with making away with the commonwealth whilst in office. They are not even content with the outlandish money they get when they go into the governor’s retirement home that our senate is fast becoming. They must keep sucking the states dry so they come up with pension laws that can only leave one baffled at the state of mind of those who debated the laws in the state house of assemblies as well as the greed that pushed governors to burden the state treasuries with this clear exploitation and abuse of democratic processes. When governors put themselves on pensions that include periodic changes of cars (three to six cars in three to four year cycles), houses in their home states and Abuja, payment for a plethora of domestic staff and aides, unlimited health bills, salaries that rival those of the incumbent governors and the likes, you realize that the mentality of eating free money is a plague that has eaten the sensibilities of our leaders at every level. Our fixation on the rot at the national level allows these state governors and their deputies to get away with blue murder. When the pension bill for a governor is within the range of 1.5 to 2 billion annually and that of the deputies are also in Lagos and the Akwa Ibom governor follows suit albeit with a lower figure, we see immediately that it is not a partisan thing, but a mindset that cuts across all political parties to seek rent from the state for doing nothing other than occupying or previously occupying a position. In this report in The Cable the details of the pension packages for three states is revealed. One wonders what other states have packaged for their senator ex-governors. Imagine what will happen when we have ten living governors and ex-governors, costing Lagos state for example in the range of 15billion Naira annually. Absurd.
These are states where primary and secondary education, a key responsibility of state governors, is primarily supplied by private schools. These are states where unemployment is rife and job creation is the responsibility of these governors. These are states where healthcare would be a worse nightmare than it currently is without private hospitals. One would even think that these senator ex-state governors, having intimate knowledge of the challenges their states face, will move bills in the senate that would resolve these issues. But most of them do absolutely nothing other than receiving sitting allowances and their humongous pensions whilst in the senate.
All of this is possible because the states are not spending money they have generated. I wish from my heart that we experience another glut in world oil supplies and the oil prices drop, or some disruptive technology comes up and makes the worth of oil become same as coal is today. Then we will see if this irrationality can continue for long.
Tunde Leye @tundeleye is a fiction writer. He believes that the stories written form a priceless resource that is the basis of society, all the other arts (film, music, theatre, visual arts) and hence he is committed to telling stories out of Africa that show it as it was, is, and is going to be.
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