By Eddie Mbadiwe
SOMETIME ago, I was on a flight from London Heathrow to Abuja. In the compartment next to mine sat a middle-aged English lady by name Janet.
About an hour into this flight and I can’t remember exactly how, a conversation developed. Janet had a thriving beauty outfit in London West End and visited Nigeria on invitation to attend to the sartorial and aesthetic needs of a then State governor. She was not travelling economy and said she could spend between one to two weeks all expenses paid in the best hotel in the state capital. She was particularly busy on days when the governor had functions covered by television. Since the pay was good, she looked forward to these ‘’Nigerian treats’’ as she called them.
I can understand a woman devoting unlimited time and energy to massage her ego for that can be traceable to her genetic makeup. For a man to engage in that luxury of time COME ON !!!
In my view, any man who spends more than thirty minutes on morning ablutions, cleansing and purification possibly has mental health issues and his family will be well advised to get in their psychiatrists or psychologists for the needed psycho-analysis and early remediation.
Reflecting on this fortuitous flight set me thinking about the quality, structure, and by extension the Practitioners of governance in our country. There seems to be emphasis on playing to the gallery and glamour rather than permanence and solidity. Is it all a matter of show? We do not seem to build for posterity.
Projects that impact positively on People’s well-being and enrichment do not matter. Otherwise how can we justify billions (most of it borrowed money) spent on roads which collapse after two rainy seasons? Could the National Assembly tarry a little and bring into our statute books laws that will prosecute and punish anyone- Governor, Minister, local government Chairmen etcetera who recklessly waste tax payers money on Projects whose life-span is less than ten years.
In the former Soviet Union, some component countries had such laws and even when the Culprits had died and their projects collapsed, they were still sentenced. This was the inheritance and legacy for their families.
For people of doubt, let us remind ourselves that longevity of projects exists in many countries. Some parts of the Auto bahn in Germany built under Adolf Hitler’s third Reich regime are still in use. An example is the Berlin-Munich Reich Santo bahn built in 1936.
If the truth be told, all of us in various levels of governance in our country know the right thing to do. The level of recklessness seen in government business is completely absent in private businesses. Objectivity also demands that we do not tar all projects with the same brush. There are few exceptions, Samuel Ogbemudia was military governor of the old Bendel State. Some of his roads have endured till now. On a visit to Ondo State a few years back, one was pleasantly surprised and pleased that the roads in construction then were anchored on concrete foundations of about six inches thickness with reinforced rods.
In a number of other states for example Imo, a majority of the roads have washed away after one rainy season. How sad!
Governance is serious business demanding trust and transparency and that is why people surrender their rights to a group called government. In that vein therefore one cannot help but condemn the recent fad which can be labelled as governance by television and newspaper self- congratulatory messages. The flip side of the course is that this craze spins money for our friends in the media.
A situation where a governor basks in adulation and vain-glory, praise singing by a deprived crowd who are unemployed, hungry and angry is nothing but cosmetic governance. Could the governors please take a cue from the President who is unfazed by this nonsense. We need some degree of quiet and candour in the polity.
What the people demand are projects which will create jobs and take the unemployed youth off the streets. One has in mind, projects like the largest par-boiled rice mill in Africa situated in Argungu capable of giving jobs to 50,000 Farmers. Another laudable example is the integrated poultry farm in Kaduna State capable of processing 1.65 million chicks and a billion eggs weekly.
To close this write-up without touching our cosmetic ritual called the Federal budget is a disservice. We are limping into April and the National Assembly has not passed the 2018 budget. This is the mandatory prelude prior to the jig-saw of assent and signing by the President. Who is prepared to wager unsuccessful implementation since no Nigerian budget since the return of democracy in 1999 has achieved 50% success. This is under both the PDP and APC governments.
The congressional budget office of the U.S. Congress whose pattern of democracy we are aping unsuccessfully prepares budgets two years in advance. Members of our parliament have been at courses at JOHN HOPKINS in collaboration with the Capitol so this is not new to them.
My friend Dr. Eugene Mgbojikwe (God bless his noble soul) asked us repeatedly in the Chairman’s lodge ‘’Where did we get it wrong’’. I wish someone can give him an answer.
*Dr. Mbadiwe, former member of the House of Reps., wrote from Abuja.