By Tonnie Iredia
Nigerian governors are quite media sensitive but not all of them relish publicity. A good example is Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger state who hardly meets with the media. During the last democracy day ceremonies however, he hosted a media parley where he reportedly made a profound statement that during the electioneering period of 2015, he never promised the people of the state anything. To some people, that must have been a great blunder attributable to lack of media exposure.
Believing that the governor was perhaps misquoted, many had looked forward to further clarification from his officials but that is yet to happen or yet to be similarly publicised like the first statement. Having read different media reports on the subject, it would appear that the statement is a true reflection of what the governor said. So, if the man promised nothing, on what basis was he elected? Could it be that his ascension to office was essentially a coronation or was it that the people just accepted him and prayed that God should direct his ways to govern well?
Although some people had tried to rationalize the governor’s statement by suggesting that he only honestly stated the truth, it is strange that a person seeking to hold the office of governor of a state had no well laid out plans to persuade voters and yet was elected. In other words, despite revealing no vision or direction, he got a blank cheque from his people to act as he deems fit while in office. Lucky governor Bello, he needn’t account for anything or to anyone because whatever he has done or left undone in the last 3 years that he has been in office could be regarded to be in order. Indeed, no one can accuse him of non-performance as there was a zero yardstick for assessing him. It can therefore be concluded that he could be reelected if the people behave in 2019 as they did in 2015. But it is slightly too early to know if they will be that naïve.
Other governors may not have followed the same line of thought as Bello, but many have not done much better as they made several promises which they have not been able to redeem. The real problem of the Nigerian state therefore is that several people seek to hold offices for which they are ill-prepared. There was the classical story of one governor who shocked his sate by his level of unpreparedness. First, he was unable to determine which of his followers should become commissioners and when he eventually did, he announced at the inaugural meeting of the state executive council that each commissioner should submit his vision statement to enable the deputy governor work out the vision of the government!
The point that is being made is that the there are governors in Nigeria who have no business getting to the office, thereby elongating our road to development. One of the critical reasons for this is that the major parties are similarly clueless. There are no clear manifestos just as there too many breaches to party rules and regulations. This is probably why it is so easy for a candidate to migrate from one party to another. Indeed, there are politicians who openly confess that they are in party X today but cannot guarantee if they would not be in party Y after primaries.
Some are generally known to belong to a party in the day time but attend meetings of different parties at night. Put differently, our main political parties are neither strong nor are they willing to recruit strong hands so that they can continue to exploit party members and society. The National Assembly which is known for speedily altering constitutional provisions in its own interest; has not been patriotic enough to make room for independent candidates to strengthen our political system.
Many governors are therefore unable to find strong aides to assist them formulate and implement public policies. That is the logical conclusion to be made from the declaration of the Niger state governor that he made no promise to the people in 2015. A strong cabinet would have instead articulated the governor’s media parley to bring to the front burner, many of the issues he has handled or is handling. Here is a governor who came to office with a strong desire to change the narrative of the state from being a civil service state to an economically viable and solvent entity.
This he imagined he could do by reversing the old order of abandoned projects. For example he has totally rehabilitated many schools with perimetre fence, well furnished dormitories, new classrooms, laboratories, workshops, libraries and staff quarters as well as functional kitchens. The schools according to reports had not been touched in the last 40 years that they were built. If it is true that the governor explained at the same media parley that he was fully prepared for the restoration agenda he set in 2015 after his electioneering campaign in the 274 wards of the state, what was the relevance of stating that he made no promise in 2015?
Painfully, weeks after the much publicised statement of no promise, the same governor only last Tuesday outlined plans by his government to tackle the issue of lead poisoning for which Niger state was the second state to be plagued in the country. On the occasion, the governor announced the progress so far made in the arrangements to establish a mining city within the state making it the first of its kind in Nigeria. Governor Bello confidently spoke at the second edition of the international conference on lead poisoning in Abuja.
With wise counseling, Bello should have since clarified the negative publicity he has swallowed as a result of wrong use of words at a media parley. In our clime where sycophancy is the order of the day, there would be state officials and party members who would have told the governor that he is doing so well and that he should ignore the media and other critics. Such sweet talkers are no doubt around government house Minna, hence some of his officials had argued earlier that governor Bello has been living in a boy’s quarters since his election, forgetting that many people know Bello’s background as a man who had been projected as the richest governor-elect in Nigeria in 2015. Someone should tell governor Bello that good publicity matters because whatever he does that is not made known will be counted among the things he couldn’t do.