FEATURE ARTICLE

Nnanna IjomahTuesday, October 24, 2017
[email protected]
New York, New York, USA

INEPTITUDE OF SOUTH EASTERN STATE GOVERNORS

orgive me if I begin this essay with the premise that most Nigerian State Governors, both past, and present are aimless, visionless, greedy, myopic, selfish and clueless. That notwithstanding I will be the first to admit that some are worse than others and for that category of Governors, their South Eastern counterparts could be said to belong to a special class of what the 2016 U.S Democratic Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton once called "The Deplorables", if I may borrow her words. For the millions of young Igbo youths who roam our streets aimlessly, jobless and without hope or sense of purpose, they will never believe that we once had leaders like M.I Okpara and Sam Mbakwe just to mention those two. To them, our present crop of Governors in the South East and their terrible record of governance is all they've known. Unfortunately, many of them have come to internalize the governing ineptitude of these Governors as an acceptable norm.

With possibly the exception of the Anambra State Governor, who in my estimation, whatever his shortcomings, has done a more than average decent job of effective governance than his other four colleagues, if effective governance is measured by the yardstick of salary payments and infrastructural development. The rest have been poster boys of the soft bigotry of low expectations and they have not disappointed. However, collectively, they can best be described as a bunch of ineffectual, inexperienced, ill-informed and impulsive men who have surrounded themselves with a rogue's gallery of Commissioners and Special Assistants who basically are square pegs in round holes, deficient in any core values and administrative sophistication. As a young Imo Broadcasting Service news reporter in the first year of the Sam Mbakwe regime, I saw a man who was a true champion of the people he governed. A man, who did not hesitate to challenge or stand up to the ruling party of the day on issues concerning the Igbos. A man who cried when he could not bear the sight of the deplorable conditions of the roads in Aba and got the moniker the "Weeping Governor". A moniker he wore as a badge of honor. Compare him to any of our present South Eastern State Governors and none can hold a candle to him not to mention the indomitable Dr. M. I Okpara.

Unlike the late Mbakwe who was combative when he chose to be, it is a shame to see most of our Igbo Governors grovel like beggars before the President with their red caps in hand begging for more Paris Club funds after mismanaging their state's resources and not using earlier funds received for the purposes intended. It is no wonder the President was reported to have asked all the Governors present at the NEC meeting how they could sleep at night knowing they owed months of worker's salaries. These men collect and pocket millions of Naira monthly as Security allocations and yet their states are ravaged by kidnappers and criminals of all kinds. As chief security officers of their states, they failed to protest when the army invaded the region under the guise of a training exercise, "Operation Python dance", instead, they cowered timidly under their executive desks too scared to speak up and displease their Northern political masters unlike Governor Fayose of Ogun state who did. Cowardly, they hurriedly proscribed the IPOB, and by so doing gave the President permission to label them a terrorist organization. Again when the Nigerian Army came with their Greek gift of a vaccination program for schoolchildren without their consent or that of the parents of the children as will be the case in any civilized democracy, these Governors failed to protest like Governor Wike of Rivers state did. At this point, it will be fair to say that the only surprising thing about the way most South Easterners feel about their Governors is that they are no longer surprised by anything they do.

Now let us take a look at the two worst of the worse- the Imo and Abia State Governors. For a state Governor who owes and is yet to pay months of retired pension benefits in his state, to spend millions erecting a statute for an ethically challenged and corrupt South African President to say the least, criminal, delusional and irresponsible. To watch the same Governor travel to Aso Rock asking for more money after spending a reported 500 million Naira on a worthless statute and to later say he does not owe anyone an apology is emblematic of the shamelessness and arrogance of these Governors and the low regard and their condescending attitude for and towards their constituents, we the Igbo people. This is also a Governor who used Imo State funds to construct school classrooms in Yola while a Community Secondary School barely 2 miles from his house lies in ruins and total disrepair. As for his counterpart in Abia State, what can I say? I've written so much about him and his administration that saying anything more is akin to self -repetition. But this much is clear and evident. His administration is both a travesty and a tragedy. A travesty in the sense that he should not have been enabled and allowed to rig himself to victory in the 2015 elections and a tragedy for electing an individual to a position above his capability, the consequence of which has been the calamity the Abia people have found themselves in.

This calamity is evidenced by the deplorable condition of the roads in Aba and other parts of the state, the ever unending story of non -payment of salaries, the falling educational standards, the decrepit healthcare facilities just to mention a few of the state's collective malaise. This is a Governor who has spent as much time globetrotting instead of running the state's affairs, presumably seeking foreign investment for a state that is lacking the enabling environment to attract such investments. A Governor who has flagged off more road construction projects than he has commissioned. A Governor whose first order of business after taking office was to begin the construction of a mansion in his hometown and sending his kids to the United States to study while millions of school children in the state study in dilapidated classroom buildings and going home hungry to parents who can hardly feed them because this Governor has not paid their salaries or pensions. To hear him order construction companies to go back to their job sites because the rains have finally stopped is a lame justification or poor excuse for his failure to provide this basic requirement for economic growth which is good and accessible roads. The reality is that this Governor, not to exclude his two predecessors has brazenly redefined what governance is all about. This Governor, in particular, has defined governance down to mediocrity.

It is rather unfortunate that for an ethnic group that has a surfeit of capable and selfless men and women of intellect, probity, and empathy these present bunch of South Eastern Governors is the best we can do. We have elected men who collectively have committed themselves over the last two years to florid, collective delusion. They have become fitting leaders for the Igbo nation that has over the last couple of elections nurtured a promiscuous devotion to electing or enabling crooks and clueless kleptocrats more interested in lining their pockets than providing service to the people. Governors, who lack vision and are devoid of intellectual promise. Governor's whose acquisitive instincts and impulses take precedence over the need for reforming and breaking up a sclerotic system, a raucous version of governance and a crony system of democracy. These are men whose portraits reveal misleaders who are vain, arrogant petulant and amateur. Consequently, the Igbo nation has become an ethnic group who keep trying to make the best choices on a political environment defined at every turn by economic constraints, peril and disappointment. An environment, in which you quickly learn the hard way that life could drag disgrace out of you. An environment that suffocates ambition and distorts hope but nevertheless one they have repeatedly brought on themselves by their voting preferences and enablement.

Whether we accept this reality or not the Igbos have become a laughing stock for the rest of the country each time we complain of marginalization by the Federal Government when over the years we have been continuously marginalized without protest by our own Governors and political leaders. Is not ironic that we cry marginalization yet tolerate a Governor who spends millions of his state's financial resources to build a statute for a President who is presently facing corruption charges in his home country? Is it not the height of stupidity and sycophancy that we tolerate a Governor who spends millions of state funds to celebrate his birthday with thousands of Imolites attending in shameless subservience as we have become accustomed to the naked profiteering of the Governorship office which in my opinion both underlies and transcends our current political nightmare.

As the saying goes, "it takes two to tango". We have by our actions and inactions become willing and enabling partners to this grand scheme of political daylight robbery. I know enough to admit that we have been complicit in everything that has happened to us as a people hence we must be brave enough to accept our share of the blame. Yes as a people we are angry, frustrated and hurting but we cannot bring about any change until we accept the fact that we have failed ourselves by living in plausible deniability. We refuse to admit that we deserve these men as our Governors because we voted for them or helped them rig their elections. When faced with a choice between an incriminating truth and a flattering lie we go for the later. We hunger for plausible deniability of our culpability and swaddle in it for the sublime relief of deferred responsibility or the soft violence of willful ignorance and barbaric freedom of rugged individualism. Individualism, in the sense that we have always as an ethnic group survived through our individual and community efforts. The truth is that Government owes us the responsibility and obligation of providing us with certain basic needs that only it can provide. A government should be there to provide us with those things we cannot provide for ourselves such as good roads, efficient and modern educational and healthcare facilities, running water, uninterrupted electricity supply, good transportation system as well as the economic incentives and enabling an environment for individual progress and self- actualization.

As the 2019 elections approach we, the Igbo nation need a new awareness and a willingness to take the bull by the horn and say to these selfish, criminal Governors that we've had enough of their lack of sympathy for our plight and our sufferings not to mention their failure to provide us with the dividends of democracy and their looting of our commonwealth or collective inheritance. We must let them know we are tired of being taken for granted and our votes as a given. We must get them to be aware that we can no longer be deceived by their lies and fake promises or belated actions like the Abia State Governor ordering a 3 month payment of pensioners benefits or promising to do better by us during their second terms or their request for another 4 years to complete projects for which money earlier allocated to has already been misused or stolen. As the saying goes, "stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result". It will be definitely the height of self- destruction, and stupidity should we re-elect these bunch of leaders with the exception of the Anambra State Governor who in my humble opinion and backed by verifiable evidence has done a better job than his other colleagues. Come, the 2019 elections we must elect men and women of Grace, discipline, intellect and administrative experience. Technocrats, who know how to manage men and resources and above all the discipline to keep their hands out of our state coffers. Men, with proven and impeccable antecedents worthy of our admiration and emulation. Men, who will do their best to always tell us the truth rather than use the propaganda machinery of state radio and television media outlets to constantly lie to us. Men, who will not waste our resources paying hundredsof Special Assistants without portfolios. In a nutshell, we need leaders who will lead us on the road to a revitalization and a new path to glory and the protection of a sacred trust.

2019 must be a year of change if we so desire it. A year when the Igbo nation must reject all forms of political thuggery and willing participation in election rigging, for what does it profit any Igbo man or women to gain a few thousands of Naira in financial gratification and suffer 4 years of benign neglect, economic deprivation, and untold suffering?. If we are serious of weaning ourselves from this cabal of selfish Governors we must rededicate ourselves to the fight ahead and 2019 cannot come quickly enough. We have the tools to bring about the change we desire if we choose to employ them. Today we live in the golden age of the internet and solid media connectivity served and seduced by online communities, bloggers, podcasts - an entire ecosystem of media dedicated to enabling us to articulate our thoughts desires and hope not to mention the potential for mass mobilization. But first, we must register to vote and acquire our PVC cards. We must liberate ourselves from these chains of servitude and oppression imposed on the Igbo nation by these Governors with pedestrian backgrounds who have all suddenly become billionaires by dipping the dirty hands and crooked fingers in our financial coffers. I will conclude this essay by borrowing a few words by the U.S Republican Senator John McCain, made a few days ago when he said, and I will paraphrase, "a healthy democracy requires a certain sort of honorable citizen who will not only always tell us the truth but who will also devote his life to a common purpose as well as defer to a shared moral code". We need such honorable and moral citizens as our Governors come 2019. May God help us.

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