Children undergoing vaccination against meningitis in Nigeria.
By Emmanuel Aziken
Only if a fraction of the words and conduct of Nigerian leaders became known to the public, the revulsion that would erupt could only be imagined.
So one could picture the import of the royal but public rebuke given to Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State by His Royal Highness, Muhammadu Sanusi II, Sarikin Kano, at the opening of the Kaduna Investment Summit last Wednesday.
The governor had in responding to the meningitis outbreak that had as at Tuesday killed 215 persons in Zamfara, and more than 300 nationwide, claimed that the outbreak was a rebuke from God. God Almighty, the governor claimed, was angry at the spate of fornication and associated ills in the country. He spoke as if any including the governors, would stand were the Almighty to count iniquity in the land.
Given the fact that Governor Yari is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, the episode goes a long way in defining the way and manner the majority of Nigerian governors approach governance. It is remarkable that Yari was found fit and worthy by his fellow 35 governors to be the governor of governors.
It is also noteworthy that the royal remonstration came from a person of the stature of Emir Sanusi who at that function claimed that the host and accidental public servant, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai makes him look like a moderate.
Of course, it was not as if all the ranking traditional rulers from Zamfara did not hear the gubernatorial gaffe. They certainly heard, but given the culture of ranka-de-de, they preferred to stay away from the controversy.
Meningitis, unlike earthquakes, sandstorm or other naturally occurring phenomena certainly cannot be described as an act of God in the context it swooped on Nigeria. It is quite preventable and the easiest path to the prevention of the disease is good governance. Good governance that provides immunisation and other elements that characterise a sound healthcare system will certainly have checked this meningitis outbreak.
It is, of course, assumed that no casualty from this epidemic came from the Government House, Gusau or any of the other Government Houses in the country where the symbol of good life makes a mockery of the suffering in the land.
Whereas most of the Government Houses in the country are supplied with regular power supply, have well-equipped ambulances to follow the governors’ convoys, and provide their residents with sumptuous food, the same cannot be said of the rest of the population. Or who has forgotten the provoking fact that the amount provided for capital for the State House Clinic in the 2016 appropriation was more than that provided for all the teaching hospitals in the country.
Such absurdities would have provided the basis for the governor of the governors, to look beyond the failures of those in power to blame God Almighty for the meningitis epidemic.
Besides the royal rebuke of the Emir of Kano, the governor has also been chastised by the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which described the outbreak of meningitis as a consequence of the failure of the All Progressives Congress, APC led Federal Government.
That claim could well have gone uncontested if the meningitis outbreak could be proved to have been limited to APC controlled states.
Besides meningitis, there are other failures of government all around us which must not be blamed on God. The persistent power problem, the dithering procrastination of the APC federal administration to fulfil its electoral promises including the inauguration of the Public Procurement Council, the rot in the social sectors, among many others are choices which governors have the choice to either tackle or ignore. It was their decision to ignore the causative factors that led to the present scourge of meningitis.
That Governor Yari and the other 35 governors were spared by the meningitis scourge was not because the governors are less fornicators or sinners, but mainly because they have used state resources to safeguard themselves against contagious diseases. The rest of the populace deserve nothing less.