Revellers and public funds

on   /   in Viewpoint 9:48 pm   /   Comments

IN the name undertaking tours and other ingenious devices, public office holders often steal public coffers empty. It does not matter that for all intents and purposes, the tour has no direct, indirect, immediate or future relevance.

It does not matter either if it is at the expense of basic infrastructure for the people. What matters most is what they stand to gain individually or collectively, as we have witnessed in the character of many public office holders.

Though Nigeria and Nigerians have suffered for so long from the malaise, it appears the culture is not about to be retired. A case in point is the round-the-country good governance tour being undertaken by Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, alongside over 120 others.

The absurdity of the whole exercise was recently brought to the fore when Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, told a bewildered audience in Benin City, the state capital, that the Minister sent him a proposal to the effect that the state should bankroll all expense incurred by the group on its cameo trip to the state. The request, according to the Governor, is expected to cover hotel accommodation, feeding, logistics, etc.

Interestingly, Maku and his good governance group has already toured some states of the federation. Beyond his television claims that “the state is working” which is lost as soon as the camera turns away from him, no other impression is left for the imagination. To imagine that the states affected may have doled out millions of public funds to accommodate, feed and provide logistics for anyone to end up mouthing those vile rhetorics says so much about those in charge in those states. That is, putting it mildly.

Be that as it may, let me point out here that it has been argued elsewhere that nothing can be more wrong than the Federal Government employing its personnel as propagandist for the states.

The states have their own and they have deployed their resources in whatever public relations stunt they want to make their people aware that their elected representatives are doing the jobs for which they were elected. In other words, anyone familiar with governance, vis-a-vis the way states work, understands that there are numerous channels for relaying to the people what is happening in terms of development projects being put in place.

The truth of the matter is that taking advantage of every option available can become a disservice; it is when the process is duplicated more for revelry and particularly, pecuniary benefits as the Maku inspired good governance tour appears to be. The reasons for this conclusion is not far to seek.

Before Maku thought about his good governance concept, Edo, like other states, developed and executed its brand of very effective public relations. It produced copies of booklets with sufficient pictorial evidence of all the projects it executed since the advent of the Oshiomhole administration. At every given opportunity, especially during anniversary celebrations, it distributed them freely to the people, more for verifications than anything else. It is a public knowledge that a lot of television air time, including documentaries, newspapers and/or magazine coverages have also been paid for (and they have extensively done their jobs) with a view to taking the said evidences farther to those who have no access to the booklets.

The essence, directly or otherwise, is to take the message of infrastructural development in the state to the people for assessment as they are the direct beneficiaries of the life changing projects. Practically, therefore, is there any chance that Maku’s cameo good governance tour can have even a quarter of the impact of the avenues above? The answer is better imagined than said.

But but it would have been a disservice to the people of the state if Oshiomhole had agreed to deploy part of their very lean resource to servicing a revelry like the good governance tour. Indeed, it would have amounted to bad governance on his part. That perhaps explains why he responded uniquely: “Why should I take EdoState tax payers’ money to finance a Federal Government project? I don’t need Abuja to help me tell Edo people what I am doing in the state…I expect the Federal Government to finance its officials”.

As it is in EdoState, Nigerians, so it is in other states where the people are already aware of what their governments have done or failed to do in terms of good governance, whatever the phrase represents. Thus, the most pertinent question begging for answer is this: Beyond the possibility of reaping substantial financial largesse from all the states toured, what other impact does Maku’s good governance tour intend to have on the people?

Despite being harassed by debilitating challenges, including economic and security, Nigerians have not lost sight of the fact that Maku is a federal subject on a federal mission. They are aware that by every stretch of the imagination, the mission cannot be of any more benefit to the states than it is for the Federal Government that is using it as a publicity stunt for its vaunted transformation agenda.

Mr.  ERNEST  OMOARELOJIE, a  public affairs  analyst, wrote from Benin City, Edo State.

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