Today, we peer into the mind of a fictional Nigerian second term governor as he marks five years in office.
When my Commissioner for Information and my Special Adviser on Media and Publicity came to me three weeks ago with one bulky file, saying it was a comprehensive plan of how to celebrate my five years in office, I drove them away. Who is talking about celebration in this time of pandemic? Even though we don’t have a lockdown in this state, we have been telling people to wear face masks and maintain social distance. One Englishman even told me that it is not social distance we are talking about but physical distance. That social distance is when you distance yourself from somebody due to race, class, caste or religion.
I know that the Commissioner did not mean well because he is trying to build a new house. His present house, which he bought when he was a Local Government caretaker chairman, is now too small for him. But whose fault is that? Who told him to go and marry many wives? When he was a secondary school teacher, he was managing with his one wife for twenty years but as soon as I appointed him a caretaker chairman, he married three more wives in quick succession. The lame excuses he always gave me was that a respected man in his community came and offered his daughter to him and it will be regarded as a spite if he did not accept. He even said he did so in order not to affect my politics by driving away key supporters.
I am already in my second term, so what am I afraid of? Only God knows the number of people I quarreled with during my first term, and some of them said they will make sure that I will never get a second term. When I became governor, I assured myself that I will carry along all those who helped me to become governor and that I will never jettison anyone. But I soon discovered that in this our state, it is impossible not to quarrel with some people, however much you try. Especially politicians, clergymen, youth and women leaders. They walk into my office and my house impudently, and when ADC tries to stop them, they will say, “we were the ones who put H.E in that office.”
I once overheard one politician saying to my ADC, “You, did you even know how H.E entered this office? Were you not a DPO in one local government and enjoying your bribe? Did you know when we were sleeping in the bush, away from our families for many weeks? The time when we were stuffing the ballot box to ensure that H.E is here, was it not your men who were trying to chase us away? Even me, when I snatched one card reader and ran away because the area was a stronghold of our opponents, was it not your men who chased me through the bush, until I dived into a river? And now, it is me that you are trying to chase away! Ok, H.E will finish his term. When he is looking for me, please remember to tell him that I came but you were the one who chased me away!”
When the cabinet members were saying “Yes! Let us celebrate H.E’s five years in office, we have many achievements to show case,” they did not know what I was thinking. Is it that I have spent five years in office or is it that I have only three years left in this office? Even some of them, that is what they are thinking. That he has only three years to go, and they are already plotting underground how to replace me. Leave them. I know all those ones who have started underground scheming. I will make sure that they will never smell the inside of this office.
They don’t even know what is worrying me. This pandemic of a thing, it has thrown our tenure out of gear. It is real bad luck that this pandemic happened during my time. My predecessor was in office for eight good years and there was no pandemic during his time. But now I cannot go anywhere, no meetings in Abuja, no plane to go abroad, all political meetings cancelled, no commissioning of projects, nothing. On top of that, no money. The Commissioner of Finance told me that at the Federation Account Allocation meeting, they told them to brace up because the account will seriously dwindle from next month. I said, “When did you hold the meeting? I did not know that you went to Abuja,” and he said no, it was a webinar, whatever that means.
Without money from the Federation Account, which legacy can I leave behind now? I told my PA to make a list of all the things I promised to communities during my Thank You state wide tour after I won reelection. He brought a list of 117 promises. Some are appointments; some are roads; some are bridges; some are hospitals; some are water projects; some are schools; some are fertilizer and irrigation implements; some are loans; some are traditional rulers’ palaces; some are mosques; some are hajj seats. How can I do all of them now when money is dwindling from the Federation Account? And that is how people will say at the end of my tenure that I made promises and did not fulfill them. Am I the one who sent the pandemic and made crude oil prices to crash?
Some people were advising me to reduce salary of civil servants. That that is what some of my colleagues have already done. Haha! They don’t know this my state. If I reduce salary now, these our civil servants who are already living above their means will cry to high heavens and say our governor is wicked. They say I should start by reducing the salaries of political appointees but when I mentioned that to the Commissioner of Local Governments, he said, “Your Excellency, you know we are carrying the burden of the people in our communities on your behalf. Everyday people come to us complaining of rent, hospital bills, Sallah rams, wedding of their daughters, etc. If you cut our salary, how can we cope?”
And what is worrying me more than all of that is this insecurity. Everyday people will tell me that bandits attacked this village, bandits attacked that village, people were killed, people were injured, cattle were rustled, people fled from their villages, we must go and feed them, we must bring security to them. Which security can I bring to anybody? As the governor, do I have even a vigilante group under me?
Whenever I receive such reports, I will call the Commissioner of Police, and he will tell me that he sent a report to the IG. Is it report that I will chop? He will say the police have no vehicles and when I give them vehicles, he will say they have no money for fuel, no good weapons to confront the bandits, no body armour and no life insurance, that even the policemen who were killed by bandits three years ago, their families have not received anything. And then if I phone the president to tell him, the next thing I will hear is that he has ordered security agencies to crush the bandits. Is it just ordering? This our police, even if you order them, they cannot do anything.
How can I finish another three years like this? I am even beginning to doubt if becoming a governor is worth it. Imagine all the time, energy and money that I spent trying to become a governor, only to end up in this quagmire. I don’t even want to go to the Senate or anywhere else after this Government House. I will just find one peaceful corner of the world, evacuate my family and go and live there.