By Tonnie Iredia
When the Yar’Adua administration promised to give Nigerians thousands of electricity megawatts at the end of its first year in office, officials of that government themselves knew that the game plan was to deceive the people.
They were all aware that it was not really a target which their team honestly intended to achieve. Many of us in the group of those being deceived also knew that the public power policy was an outright fraud. But the government of the day like its predecessors had even before the formulation of the policy, rehearsed the arguments it would canvass at the expiration of the fake deadline to justify its premeditated failure.
In any case, there is nothing that cannot be rationalized in Nigeria. For example, it is taken for granted that it is to make life more abundant for us that we have to endure incessant and long traffic hold-ups occasioned by the absurd closure of certain portions of any road under construction.
It is irrelevant that the same foreign contractors working on our roads do the same job with less public pain in other countries. Who are we, some people would ask to grumble over any inconvenience caused by ‘go-slow-men-at-work’ when government has graciously opted to work on our roads?
To defend government efforts in the area of public power supply is even easier. One way out is to attribute the failure of the policy to the activities of some militants which disrupted the strategic plan. If that does not seem plausible, we can put across some unverifiable evidence such as, that some rivers did not flow well during the season leading to low water level which made the power system unworkable.
We can even remove public attention from the project by setting up a probe panel midway to the promised time of delivery to critically examine the immediate and remote causes of the failure of the efforts of the preceding government. Thus, our ingenuity at fabricating official cover-up stories has over the years empowered our leaders to say one thing and do another or do none.
To be candid, Nigerian governments have immunity not to be accountable to the people because, the part of our
constitution-the fundamental objectives and derivative principles of state policy- which should have made it otherwise is not justiciable. Well, we need to be charitable here and take special note of some of our leaders who have publicly declared their assets even if certain items were concealed.
Others have in addition published their audited accounts although no one knows their relationships with the auditors. What is certain however is that despite acclaimed transparency in government, so much impropriety subsists. A good example being the appointment of fake Special Advisers, Special Assistants (some are described as senior) and Personal Assistants.
The saying that ‘those who preach the gospel live by the gospel’ seems to make some sense because everyone should reap where he sows which probably explains why our clergymen today live glamorously on the Bible in their kingdom of God industry. Similarly, those who work for the election victory of a political leader deserve to be patronized by his post-election government.
That should not cause ill-feeling because as this column argued previously, such political patronage is tolerated internationally. Our only source of worry is the recklessness with which it is handled in Nigeria. To start with, the number of people appointed into non-existent and nonviable positions without schedule of duties is scandalously high. Some governments are however inventive about some of the appointees like in Oyo State where a blind lawyer was appointed Special Assistant to the Governor on Disabilites. The Cross River State governor has a Special Assistant on Diaspora Matters. Even if that appears to be some kind of dabbling into foreign affairs which is a federal subject, the government reckons that there is a need ‘to mobilize Cross Riverians, Nigerians and their sustainable partners in the Diaspora to contribute to the development of the state’.
Other states have not been as imaginative. For instance, the Bauchi State government until recently had 913 appointees supposedly serving as advisers and assistants to the governor. Luckily, we hear the governor has sacked the ridiculous crowd and reappointed only a few which looks more like the Isa Yuguda we used to know. Similarly, Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State has since terminated the appointments of 525 political aides made up of 30 special advisers, 45 senior special assistants and 450 special assistants.
The dismissals make sense because the appointments were basically fraudulent. In Kano State for example, the immediate past governor had an appointee with the title ‘Special Assistant I (Political)’. In addition, he appointed three other persons as Special Assistant I (Political Kano North), Special Assistant I (Political Kano Central) and Special Assistant I (Political Kano South).
There is also the issue of some of the appointees having the same schedule. During a visit to Enugu State in 2006, it was difficult to determine who we were to relate with – was it the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media Matters or the Special Adviser on Public Affairs or the Special Adviser on Public Communication? The boss actually said any of them was in order. In some states, the schedule of any special appointee does not really matter. In Ogun State, the special adviser on legislative matters was after two years in office suddenly re-designated Special Adviser on Employment Generation.
Perhaps the word adviser has a political meaning different from what we, political novices understand as an expert in a particular field- a kind of consultant, guru or veteran-a counsellor of repute. It is also possible that our perception of what should be the relationship between an adviser and his principal is similarly incorrect following our experience in Lokoja last week when we wanted to reacState.
A friend told us point blank not to pass through any of his numerous special advisers and assistants because none of them has access to the Governor. So why do they exist? To make matters worse, the salaries of political office holders in Nigeria are bogusly unrelated to their qualifications and experience. Some have in actual fact, never worked before. But we require enormous moral courage to demand the review of such remuneration which is pittance when compared with the extortion in the National Assembly.
Thus, the Egalitarian Mission Africa- a human rights group aptly made the point the other day, that governors who pay numerous attendees such as Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants and Personal Assistants not less than N200, 000 per month for doing absolutely nothing should be able to pay N18,000 minimum wage to civil servants. At least, the civil servants are not fake. Our premise is that it is regrettable that governments in Nigeria are involved in the fraudulent practice of sharing money to some people who are deceitfully described as officials but who everyone knows have no job to do. This no doubt negates the fight against corruption.