LAST year, former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Dr. Aliyu Modibbo drew attention to the enormous powers Governors held because State Houses of Assembly were not strong enough to control them. He said governors had become emperors.
“We must reposition State Houses of Assembly in order to check the excesses of some of the governors. That is why some of us are thinking we should have a movement this coming election. The best people should be in the State Assemblies because governors have become emperors,” said Dr. Modibbo in a stirring speech while receiving a WHO award for his anti-tobacco stance when he was FCT Minister.
“If we want good governance, it should start at the lower level, not at the federal level. More experienced people that have been endowed should go back to their States and run for the State Assemblies where they can look their governors in the face and tell them no, this money will not be spent in this way,” he said.
Dr. Modibbo then promised setting up an NGO to assist those interested in improving the quality of State Houses of Assembly. His type of people for the Assemblies should be retired permanent secretaries, directors, but they must be people of integrity.
If he realised the damage civil servants have done to this country, his prescription should have lent more on integrity, undiluted passion for improving the lives of Nigerians, fecund knowledge of issues, curtailed greed, people-oriented politics and personal deep pockets that would place legislators above the reach of godfathers and mothers.
Not much has been heard about Dr. Modibbo and his project thereafter, but the need to find better leaders as governors has not abated. Governors have remained imperial, impervious and in most cases imperious. Their States are their private estates, and they have learnt very well from their predecessors, who went through the same rituals, some for eight years, littering the landscapes with marks of their miserable governance.
Examples abound of their indifference to the plight of people. Most of their projects are schemes to skim resources off the common purse. They have no remorse about their untoward enterprises and most of them seeking second terms do so as a matter of greed (reminding us they have a constitutional right to another term) rather than an opportunity to continue projects that would improve the lives of the governed.
Governors have been like this for years. Only a few see public office as a call to service. Service to them remained meeting their expectations and those of their cronies. Unfortunately, those who criticise them are only waiting for their turn, they have been known to be worse. The attractions to public office are control of state resources, the powers to deny others their rights and the current fad to loot these resources in unprecedented and unconscionable matters.
State Assemblies are part of the scheme. Their membership is replete with those governors carefully choose to perpetrate evils. Few get into the Assembly without a pledge of absolute loyalty to the imperial governor. The governor changes leadership of the Assembly once any doubt exists about its loyalty to the governor. Some governors pull the strings of the purse to determine how their legislators act. Some outrightly ignore their legislators as they run the State to their pleasure.
Framers of the Constitution had thought the rules were for reasonable people, patriots who would be selfless and play by the rules. Few, if any, are in sight. The scramble for office is more for the benefits office provides, than its platforms for service.
Our Constitution provides immunity from prosecution to those vested with powers to control tempting resources. They see the immunity as a cloak to loot the treasury to their delight.
They cannot be prosecuted while in office. They leave office with enough resources to immunise themselves against successful prosecution. A solution to this quandary lies in a carefully selection of those who wield power on our behalf. This can only happen when votes can and voters know the powers in their hands.