December 12, 2022

FG’s smudge campaign against Govs: Okowa not pilfering LG funds   


By Dr. Festus Goziem Okubor

 SMEAR campaign has always characterized electioneering campaign, especially during the transition period that the nation is currently undergoing.

The atmosphere in the current season, leading to the general elections of 2023, is already tension-soaked. Friends have become foes, and in the same way, foes have become friends. Politicians protect interests just as they trade them off. Principles and truth suffer in times like this, especially when they deliberately tell lies to smear some people.

However, no matter how far or fast the lie travels, it will take truth less than a second to catch up with it. The reckless and unpatriotic politician, who thinks to lie against his opponent, is to score a point, loses the message.

To many politicians, all is fair in politics, as in war and as in love. It is a game where nobody cares about ideology, commitment, and genuine allegiance. This is even worse in a country where many see politics not as a calling to serve and make sacrifices, but as an occupation. Since many of them have no second address by professional calling, politics for them becomes do or die. This is the reason our politics remains stuck in a quagmire and our country cannot make progress.

The very recent statement by the Federal Government that state governors stole funds meant for local governments falls into the above tendency of offering the public lies in order to poison the stream. Yes, it is possible that some governors do that, but to throw a blanket accusation is in the realm of the most unfair.

A government that has never been sure of anything issued the statement. Why now, on the eve of an election year, that a government that has spent close to eight years in office crying out against theft? The Federal Government, in making that accusation, reminds us about the man with a log in his eyes, yet is pointing at the speck in his brother’s eyes. One wonders if the Federal Government was just waking up from slumber or if a faith healer has just cured its dumbness. 

 In making the allegation, the Federal Government and its All Progressives Congress (APC) agents made it appear directed at governors from the Niger Delta states, especially as it came after an earlier accusation by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, asking the governors to display what they have done with money accruing to the states.

However, he recanted the statement later in the face of the overwhelming evidence that he lied, and played to the gallery to make his new masters in the APC happy. When the APC government went to town with the alleged looting of local government funds by governors, it thought it has earned a medal for truth-telling.

The APC-led federal government merely exposed itself as not only corrupt but also grossly deficient. This is so because APC controls more states than any other political party in Nigeria does. The APC, therefore, is calling its governors thieves. This is thinking after talking, which has become the trademark of the APC.

Some concerned stakeholders have challenged the Federal Government to go beyond name-calling to mention the governors that steal local government funds. The people are still waiting for the Federal Government to call out the governors stealing local government funds.

While the wait for the Federal Government could be endless, it is desirous for the world to know that His Excellency Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the Governor of Delta State is certainly not the governor allegedly stealing local government funds. Unlike politicians of the APC stock, Governor Okowa is an apostle of probity, transparency, and accountability.

He has recorded phenomenal achievements in Delta State. Governor Okowa, in line with democratic norms, ensured that autonomy legislature and judiciary are autonomous. He also extended it to the local government tier. These were not just Governor Okowa’s mere intentions or whims; he ensured that relevant legislation legally recognized it. It is on record that he was the first governor in Nigeria to achieve this uncommon feat. He is a federalist to the core.

Besides granting autonomy, Okowa, knowing that the local government tier is closer to the people, especially in the rural and riverine areas, and that the federal allocation going to them will not do much in terms of development projects and regular payment of salaries, he puts a financial system in place to keep the local government councils buoyant and sustainable.

On a monthly basis, he magnanimously releases the sum of N400 million to local governments to supplement their federal allocations and boost development. He has also, recently, released the sum of N2.5 billion to local government councils for payment of pensions out of the N5 billion he earmarked for the state.

Governor Okowa’s milk of human kindness, sense of justice, resourcefulness, and accountability made sure that government does not owe workers in Delta State, including those of the local government councils, salary, not even one month. Delta State is among the only five states in Nigeria, which pays salaries up to date and on top of the nation’s human capital development index.

Followers of the steady progress recorded in Delta State will thumb-up Governor Okowa. He has brought and spread development all over the state. His posture towards the local government councils is to make them real growth and development drivers.

 Certainly, he is not among the governors that Federal Government, without substantiation, alleged to be stealing local governments’ funds. Governor Okowa, a personification of probity, is not one of them, we make bold to set the records straight.