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2011: States as family assets

Another dangerous signal emerged recently that about five of the 36 states of the federation are surviving on financial life support meaning that these states…

Another dangerous signal emerged recently that about five of the 36 states of the federation are surviving on financial life support meaning that these states cannot meet their statutory financial obligations without resorting to collecting overdraft facilities from the commercial banks.

Quoting an impeccable source at the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), The Guardian reported on Monday, June 7 2010, that the affected states’ situation has become so “precarious” with some of them unable to pay workers’ salaries in the last three months.           

The development has negatively impacted on government’s revenue with the attendant “assault” on the Excess Crude Account, which has been depleted to about $4.8 billion against a backlash of criticisms from some Federal Government officials who would rather that states be more prudent and cut down on excessive spending and leave the account for the rainy days.

Critical questions that arise from the above unfortunate facts are – what is the quality of transparent and accountable leadership in those five states of the federation that have virtually collapsed because of the paucity of federally shared allocations? And secondly, why are the states unable to formulate and implement effective measures for the enabling environment to be created for the private sector to thrive and why are they unable to raise their revenue profiles from internally generated sources?

The simple answer to the above posers is corruption on the part of the political office holders which makes rapid development of infrastructure impossible in order for the private investors to be attracted to do business in those states.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan also concurred with the above answer.

The president who spoke at the first Presidential Retreat on the implementation plan for vision 20:2020 and public private partnership framework for infrastructure development in Nigeria, identified greed and corruption as the major stumbling block to the nation’s development. His words; “Greed of which corruption is a part, is the main stumbling block that stems our growth. If people are greedy, even when they are in the private sector, they tend to inflate the price. All these retard our development….”

It is therefore safe to assume without any fear of contradiction that it is corruption by these governors that has led to the near-financial collapse of the five states and also the monumental crisis of poverty and underdevelopment all across the 36 states of the federation. These are grave signs that corruption by the political elite has unleashed a coordinated regime of poverty and insecurity on the majority of our population.

The worst kind of politics whereby state governors who are in the last phase of their last constitutionally allowed second tenure are already preparing their cronies, blood brothers and sisters to succeed them when they quit public offices next year is the most reprehensible, obnoxious, vexatious and compellingly condemnable development that Nigerians of good conscience must resist.

This act is abominable and retrogressive even as this political scenario, if allowed to happen, will inevitably project Nigeria in the eyes of the international community as primitive and politically unsophisticated.

Why will an outgoing state governor openly or surreptitiously, work for the undermining of the political process to make way for the emergence of his brother or sister to succeed him as governor? The simple answer is that there is something fishy and smelling that the outgoing governor believes that only his anointed brother or sister successor in office can clean up or hide under the carpet to escape the prying eyes of the law enforcement agents.

Two states are already in the news that their outgoing governors are preparing their siblings to succeed them and these are Kwara and Borno States. In Kano state, the outgoing governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, who is the most divisive politician ever to emerge from that side of the country has openly anointed his crony, former local government affair’s commissioner, Sagir Takai to succeed him as governor next year. There are apprehensions that the governorship election in Kano State may not be free and fair because the outgoing chief executive may manipulate the process to favor his anointed, ‘man-Friday’.

In Kwara, the governor’s sister who is a serving senator, Gbemisola Saraki, is eyeing the position of governor even as her brother, the outgoing governor, is eyeing her Senate seat. Is Kwara a family asset or what? Only last year, the strong man of Kwara politics, Dr Olusola Saraki, the Oloye of Kwara state, said that he knows who will succeed his eldest son (Dr. Bukola Saraki) as governor in the 2011 election. It is the belief of most politically savvy analysts that the overwhelming influence of Dr. Olusola Saraki may be broken if he insists on foisting his beautiful daughter as governor to succeed his eldest son.

In Borno state, the outgoing governor, Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, is beating the political drums for his younger brother, Mala Sheriff to succeed him as governor of that state in next year’s governorship elections and most people are afraid that with the intimidating amount of cash at the beck and call of the outgoing governor, the election may be hijacked to favor his anointed one.

It is not the submission of this writer that the governors trying to foist their siblings as their successors are guilty of financial crimes, but it is my argument that if this unfortunate trend is allowed to be actualized in next year’s elections, then Nigerian democracy would have taken a serious dive for the worst and indeed, the democratic future of Nigeria will be doubtful.

Onwubiko is of the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria, based in Abuja

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