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The nation, profligates and their surrogates

By Owei Lakemfa
MY friends and I used to have a good laugh about the  Olusegun  Obasanjo administration. We read about so many Special Advisers, Senior Advisers, Political Assistants and other such offices that we concluded  that the man must have over a hundred such officers.

We speculated  that he may meet some on the Aso Rock corridors and challenge them without being aware that they are supposed to be his ‘advisers’.

What does the Presidency need such a crowd for? We ascribed this to part of the profligacy engendered by an indolent political class. We thought that the over 40 ministers were already too many.

You can imagine my shock when the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) of  Kebbi  State, Alhaji Muhammad  Sama, announced that Governor  Saidu  Dakingari had sacked  470 Special Assistants! What the hell was he doing with that huge crowd, I yelled.

How can anybody waste public funds in such a mindless manner? Is there no limit to the elites culture of sharing the oil wealth? If they can’t build schools or clinics, can’t  they invest?

Somebody remarked that I seem naive about the culture of waste and political bribery in our country; the  banker  – governor  of  Bauchi  State, His Excellency, Alhaji  Isa  Yuguda  sacked twice that number of assistants.

It was unbelievable, how did I miss that?  A quick check revealed that it was true. The State SSG, Ahmed  Dandija had announced that the amiable governor had sacked 23 Special Advisers, 41 Senior Special Assistants,  265 Special Assistants and 582 Personal Assistants!

It was bewildering to me; how can states that are so poor that the masses, to quote a friend, shake hands with poverty in the streets, distribute political largesse so much as to impair meaningful development and discourage hard work?

I recalled the case of the Adamawa State Governor, His Excellency, Murtala  Nyako, a retired Chief of Naval Staff who sailed into history by making his four wives, First Ladies, each with a bureaucracy and offices at state  expense.

I also recalled that these states and 16 others used to be one region governed by Alhaji  Ahmadu  Bello using internally generated revenue.

Now, with free oil money, that one region is 19 states having 19 governors, 19 government houses, 19 state houses of assembly and an equal number of bureaucracies.

All the governors, unlike Premier  Ahmadu Bello, being incapable of raising the basic funds to run the most   rudimentary administration.

If we were to take the retinue of advisers and special assistants in Kebbi and Bauchi states as an average, that would mean that each of these states has 690 such political appointees,  or a total of  13,110 advisers and special assistants.

Although they all praise the simplicity, administrative acumen, foresight and honesty of Ahmadu  Bello,  none of them wants to live or govern the way he did.

His legacy and style have become fossilized pieces; some  museum relics to be viewed once in a while and conveniently forgotten.

Similarly, the West was once governed by  shrewd elites, epitomized by Chief Obafemi  Awolowo. It was self sufficient, had an efficient administrative system,  and pro – people  programmes like free education.

Today, it is broken into six states, and with possible exception of Lagos, all financially dependent on monthly federal handouts. Unlike the North with diverse languages, cultures and ethnic  nationalities, the West is primarily homogeneous with one language, a general culture, contiguous geographic  area and a generally accepted progenitor.
So why would they need

six separate states with six executive governors and an equal number of  government  houses and state houses of assembly,  and be agitating for more?

The answer is in the indolent and dependent ‘Federal  System’  under which like the legendary Abdul, everybody wants to be rich without working.

Even with this, the states cannot provide the basic needs which the Awolowo/Akintola administrations  provided. Now, it is a region whose political turf is dominated by  thugs, godfathers and oath administrators.

The Eastern states  are in a similar mould as the West; they are fairly homogeneous geographically, culturally and linguistically.

Unfortunately, it has produced some of the most rascally politicians who won’t think twice before setting public structures alight and even kidnapping a sitting governor.

A large number of the youths over the decades have abandoned school  to explore ways of making quick money. Gone are the values inculcated by men like Dr. Nnamdi  Azikiwe, Mbonu Ojike  and  Mokwugo Okoye; the elites have abandoned their source  and  emerged one of the most  degenerate politicians in the country.

The South-South  govern-ments are perhaps one of the most profligate; to most of them, resource control is to earn more money to squander.

They do not even make pretences at holding elections like their counterparts in the West And the North; results are simply declared.

The cost of running government, the deliberate leakages and the amount of bureaucracy are simply outrageous.

What do we need the presidential system for except to squander resources and have in place political leaders who are not accountable to the people? What do we need two chambers for in the National Assembly?

What will we lose if we scrap either the Senate or the House of Representa-tives? To me, nothing. Rather we might save  some of the average  N8 million we pay each member of the  469–member National Assembly monthly.

We cannot continue this way without facing socio -  economic collapse. A stop has to be put to this massive waste and squander. The reform we need is not so much an electoral one but a total transformation of the system. We must stop this share-as-you-go syndrome.


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