RIGHTSView, By EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO: Nigeria: Is it Democracy or Demoncrazy?

Posted by News Express | 29 July 2015 | 3,344 times

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Benue State is no doubt one of the struggling federating units in the body politic that is ravaged by mass poverty. The state is poor, not necessarily because of lack of trained manpower that could power it to greater heights. No, Benue State carries a large baggage of bad statistics in terms of development index, essentially because of the dearth of good leadership in its political space. 

Anyway, Benue’s political misfortune of possessing greater number of self-centred and greedy politicians is much the same as virtually all the 36 states. It’s increasingly becoming clearer that Nigeria is under some kind of affliction or a vicious spell of leadership failures, coupled with a high percentage of gullible followers who knows next to nothing how to use their people’s power to obtain real change in the ways and manners that governance takes place. Both at the macro and micro levels Nigeria’s brand of politics is abysmal. At the national level, the newly sworn-in President started on a very delicate and, indeed, unsatisfactory fashion by first and foremost depleting a quantum of cash paid as tax to the Nigerian federation by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company. This huge cash was redistributed to states which couldn’t pay salaries to their workforce for many months, not due to lack of internally-generated revenues or lack of federally-redistributed revenues from the Federation Accounts to the federating units; but due largely to grand corruption and theft of public cash by these state governors. Osun State, for instance, didn’t pay salaries for a year, but the governor flies around in a jet purchased by that state. This is criminal misplacement of priorities. One wonders why President Muhammadu Buhari would bail-out these states whose governors have stolen their states blind.

Still at the macro level, the President has made top level appointments into the sensitive defence sector but one region of the six dominated: and that is the North from where the President comes. Nepotism has become a national pastime. At the micro level, most states only exist to pay the over-bloated but fraudulently inflated workforce salaries, plus the high cost of running the offices of the state governors and their so-called first ladies. The real programme of manpower development and infrastructural transformation are no longer the immediate priority of these selfish and never-do-well governors. So sad! 

Few days after the results of the governorship election became manifest and it happened that then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated the incumbent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Benue State something of interest happened. The outgoing governor, Mr Gabriel Suswam, announced to the media that he is 'donating' (note the word donation, as if the money from which the vehicles were procured belonged to him) nearly one dozen assorted Special Utility Vehicles to the then governor-elect (Mr Ortom) to in his words ‘enable the transition team’ to run the less than a month programme of preparing handover notes to be properly anchored. Some critics were alarmed that it was too early in the day for an incoming administration that professes change to capitulate to such bribery offer from an outgoing government it convinced the voters to punish electorally for its abysmal leadership failure in eight years. But these criticisms were rebuffed because both the giver of the different brands of vehicles and the recipient quickly rose to their defence of such a deceitful act of sharing state resources, even before assuming office. 

It was reported that the then governor-elect said those vehicles reportedly 'donated' by Gabriel Suswam, the governor (as he then was), were received because that is the tradition in every transition programme from an outgoing administration to the incoming one. Tried as they could, this explanation didn't sell because, clearly, the entire scenarios appear apparently like some organised agenda to cheat the electorate of Benue State and to simply use some warped logic to confuse them. But the newly inaugurated governor of Benue State has demonstrated his true colour, as just one of those politicians who wouldn't agree to change from being a set of self-seeking political office-holders to real servants of the people. 

The very first action of borrowing hugely from the banks, just to purchase vehicles again for his large cabinet and service their salaries/allowances, and then salaries of less than 5 per cent of the people who make up the workforce in the civil service,  flies in the face of logic. This atrocious and selfish act has, indeed, shown that in Nigeria, it is DEMONCRAZY and not DEMOCRACY that we practice. In Nigeria, the demon of greed, corruption, economic mismanagement and pursuit for illicit wealth by politicians have constituted the essential attractions for the involvement of most people in government. Sadly, the real meaning of democracy - which is government of the people by the people and for the people - has been lost in transmission, so to say. 

Those in government care so much about their personal comfort and thinks next to nothing about the welfare and well-being of the people. Before we continue, let us read what reporters are quoting the state governor as telling his good people of Benue what he did with the N10 billion he borrowed on assumption of duty. Nigerian newspapers are reporting Mr Samuel Ortom as saying that the N10 billion borrowed by the state government was used to pay workers salaries. The governor said when he applied to the State Assembly for approval to borrow the money, he gave details of what it was intended for.

His words: “I said it was going to be used to pay two months salaries. On the average, we expend N3.7 billion on the payment of monthly salaries.
The breakdown is as follows: wage bill is about N2.8 billion while the overhead per month across board runs to about N700 million.

“So if you take that for two months you will be spending about N7.4 billion or close to N7.5 billion on salaries alone; thereby leaving a balance of about N2.5 billion out of the N10 billion we borrowed. Part of what I applied for the loan was to enable the executive and the House of Assembly to take off. We needed to buy cars for 13 commissioners, 18 advisers, and assembly members, including payment of allowances.”
He added that more than N3 billion had already been spent on the take-off of the government, including the legislature. He also assured that the N2.7 billion the state received from the LNG dividend was still intact, and part of it would be used to pay July salaries.
“Benue State got N5 billion from the LNG account, but what actually came to the state was N2.7 billion, because N2.3 billion went to the local government councils. That money is still intact in our account. We are now waiting for July allocation and if nothing adds, we are expecting about N1.7 billion, which cannot pay our workers salaries. So, we have to take from the LNG account to pay July salaries.”

He said his administration was committed to transparency, accountability and the rule of law, and appealed to the people to offer advice and constructive criticisms that would ginger development.

Now let’s assume that salaries of workers were paid from the loan he collected, the next logical question is to find out if Benue State does not generate internal revenue or if those private sector operators such as Aliko Dangote and Transcorp Hilton Hotel are just operating cement and farm establishments for free without tax returns to the state coffers. Is Benue State run as a charity organisation, whereby the business of government is to pay salaries to workers from the resources sourced from the Federation Accounts? Couldn't a serious-minded governor just settle down and look at the available records of audits handed over to him, reorganise the state workforce to sift ghosts from genuine staff and then computerise through biometrically arranged strategies the payment of salaries? From all that the governor said regarding the borrowed N10 billion, it is apparent that Benue people have literally entered a 'one chance' bus, because it appears this man has no vision and mission of how to make that state viable financially.  Is Benue no longer the food basket of Nigeria due to its fertile agricultural land assets? What is the agricultural strategy of the new government to turn farming into thriving commercial enterprises in that state? 

Where are the vehicles handed over from the last administration or did Benue under Suswam run without state government-owned vehicles or were they taken away? What about the over one dozen brand new Special Utility Vehicles ‘donated’ to him during the short-lived transition programme by Suswam’s failed administration or have they outlived their usefulness because they were meant for only transition programme from the last to the current administrations? Why buy new vehicles for state legislators and commissioners every other time? What happens to the vehicles so bought for the last occupants of those offices or did they appropriate the government property as theirs when they quit political offices?

Indeed, in Nigeria, the DEMON has gone CRAZY in government offices and the earlier Nigeria is exorcised of these political demons the better.

RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source: News Express

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