Despite a flurry of unusual activities and groundswell of opinion on the politics of post-cabinet-portfolio allocations, the rise and rise of a Chief of Staff to the President and our notorious G-77 reportedly painting Nigeria black in the United States, I would like us to continue with our ‘Gubernatorial Watch’ this week. I mean there is nothing anyone can do about the power of a stubborn president who would not like to work with public opinions. Here again, is the thing, let’s leave Buhari alone and concentrate on asking our local leaders questions from where Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala left. She as finance minister (2003-2006-2011-1015) began publication of monthly allocations from Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) to states and local governments. What have we done with that weapon of accountability?
I would like you to come along with me to understand this perilous time: that we have said and written so little about our roots, our states and local governments when it comes to where the rains have been beating us because there has been too much of Abuja in all of us. We need to repent and begin to pray about centrifugal forces – that can propel us away from the centre to the peripheries of the centre.
Soon and very soon, so many media houses in Africa’s most populous nation will begin to compile names of governors to be honoured and given awards to shore up revenues. Most Nigeria’s media managers organise these bizarre events without considering the consequences for the media brands and indeed the polity. The primary responsibility of the news media even in global context is to monitor governance (in politics and business) and to hold such leaders to account. As I was saying, development of Nigeria can only be a result of combined effects of what all the tiers of government can do. The federal government alone cannot be relied upon to improve our GDPs and develop critical infrastructure.
Let’s do some explorations in the polity. Apart from Anambra state in the East, Akwa Ibom State in the South-South, Kano and Kaduna states in the North West, out of the 36 states of the federation, can we see at a glance where state governance systems and critical infrastructural development have been remarkable? Let’s do some value judgment and face the consequences with facts that people can relate with. If we want to talk about what I have always called state governors as ‘federalism brand ambassadors’, we can always use the Peter Obi Years in Anambra state, Godswill Akpabio’s tenure in Akwa Ibom state and Abdullahi Gamduje’s (beginning from Kwakwanso’s) and Malam Nasir El-Rufai’s Kaduna state as examples.
Let’s freeze politics in this discussion point for a moment. No matter the way we perceive the politics of Governor Akpabio in Akwa Ibom State for eight years, if you travel or pass through the state, from the quality of the moderate airport through the federal roads and inner-city roads in Uyo, among other communities, you will see the signature of governor Akpabio as a good example of how a governor should work for his people. Akpabio and his reputation managers do not need to pay anyone in the media to claim that. Let people go to Uyo and its environ and see quality of roads and other projects including state-owned hotels and even stadium that Akpabio built. This is not an insult to the current governor of the state who just began a second term. The story of Akpabio and Akwa Ibom is beyond sycophancy and public relations gimmicks. Some governors who just began their tenure should visit just Uyo and see how not to use any-how construction firms for roads and other constructions including drainages around inner-city roads. In all sincerity, most of our governors in southwest, Nigeria including Lagos that is obsessed with repairing inner-city roads every year should visit Uyo and near-by communities. They need to see Uyo and ask Akpabio why he did not incorporate his own construction companies to handle projects in the state. They may need to ask him how he settled local contractors and all that stuff.
Kano and Urban Renewal Example
So it is with Kano state. We report only partisan politics between ‘Kwakwansiya’ and ‘Gandujiya’ without the riders of what they have done with Kano. It is an untold story of nexus between continuity and development. I have travelled widely in and around Kano. Civil Society and development activists and even state governors need to travel to see Kano Municipality and most of the 44 local government councils. Kano City too is a remarkable story of how to renew an urban centre. Even the federal roads into the city and state roads are well constructed. Inner-city roads are good sights to behold. In the night, streetlights around the city glow. Roundabouts inside Kano City are of good standard. Lagos always boasting as economic capital of West Africa, has a lot to learn from Kano. Let no one tell me that Kano city is not as congested as Lagos. That has nothing to do with construction of good roads by good civil engineering firms. There are too many mega potholes in Lagos, for instance that a recent executive order cannot fill yet. In the main, I believe Lagos works and urban development technocrats should consider a dispassionate peer review risk and visit Kano too- to learn. They will see that most times we are wrong when we sit down in Lagos, talk and write magisterially that nothing is happening in the northern Nigeria. The current governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso have been together since 1999-2003/2011-2015… Visit Kano today and take a ride around the city and you will see unique multi-layer roundabouts and other city wonders that we cannot see anywhere in the southern states. It is a gauntlet I throw to all of us. Visit Kano.
What about Kaduna state? Apart from the urban renewal in Kaduna that is common in this article, have you seen that in the last WAEC result, Kaduna state has joined the league of states that are doing well and prepared for the future? The radical reform that Governor Nasir el-Rufai did in the state civil service including the teaching service’s that was noisy the other time has begun to bear fruits. The governor who many perveive needs some re-orientation in political communication did not wait for the federal authorities to declare an emergency in education the other time when he sacked more than 22, 000 unqualified teachers he pledged to replace. Before him, the governors of Edo and Ekiti states (Adams Oshiomhole and Kayode Fayemi) had chickened out of planned painful reform of the teaching service. The story of Malam el-Rufai that is in the media is that of a religious bigot and an ambitious politician. We are not aware of the other under-reported side of the coin: that Kaduna state is one of the best run states in the country in terms of those intangible things that matter in statecraft. Kaduna state actually began the actualisation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) before the federal government borrowed it in 2015. The state governor did not wait for the federal government in 2015 too before it disbanded the State-House-Clinic structure and posted all the medical and support staff to the general health management board, saying the governor, all public servants and indeed the people should patronise the same general hospitals. All told, Kaduna state’s reformed bureaucracy I know, is a very strong one that is worth-studying. Let some governors too visit Kaduna state and see the city of Kaduna and indeed Zaria, where a just completed world-class water project was commissioned the other day.
I had last week noted the exemplary reform agenda of Peter Obi as governor of Anambra state. He reformed education, critical infrastructure, protocol service and even lifestyle of the governor of the state – for service delivery and reduction of cost of governance. This is quite instructive for the South East where I kept a reporter’s notebook recently. I travelled to Abia state last month through Imo state to attend wedding of my friend’s daughter. What I saw inside Owerri was insufferable. The Rocha Okorocha’s expansion-of-roads project inside the capital, Owerri is horrendous. The former governor and now a senator has been blaming the failed roads’ mega potholes on the nocturnal works of the enemies in the opposition party. But I also saw the well-constructed mega estates that citizens know belong to the wife the immediate past governor of Imo state. I saw the roads of shame to the Federal Polytechnic and Federal University of Technology, Owerri. On the way to Umuahia through Emekuku, Owerri and Obowo, I saw bad roads that should not be blamed on the federal authorities. Inside Abia state, I travelled to Ngwa Mainland, where my friend, Cyprian Ogwumike, a journalist and lawyer told me the history of one tolerable road from Umuahia to Ikputu-Usulu, Ama-Ano heartland. The governor of Abia state, Okezie Ikpeazu, hails from Ngwa area but the four years of the governor who just got a second term has not shown any progress in the area. Even Umuahia is not as good as some capitals of some northern states I visited recently. On my return to Owerri Airport, I saw part of Aba- Port Harcourt Road. It is still slow work in progress. As I was saying, should we blame Buhari for the terrible inner-city roads in Imo and Abia states too? Should we blame the Buhari government for why there is no smooth ride between Imo and Abia states? Should we blame Abuja for the bad roads between Enugu and Anambra states?