In terms of qualifications and experience, no one will doubt the capacity and propensity of Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, the self-acclaimed Chief Servant of Niger State to govern the State. He arrived at the scene of power with a thunderous bang for change as if, in the twinkle of an eye, the cosmic landscape of Niger State will change. There were all sorts of talk shows about economic and social agenda for the State.
At the beginning, he assembled one of the best technocrats drawn from various works of life some were even persuaded to leave their plump positions at Public and Private Institutions to help in the shaping of the State. It was a good launch that was crassly misused and rubbished when the Governor begin to operate a civilian-junta-like administration – ascribing to himself the monopoly of knowledge and implementation of policies.
Regrettably, also the “five alive” clique that was running the show was more self-serving and gluttonous than proactive in service delivery. In the end, what the State experienced over the last four years was qualitiless and asphyxiating leadership hold that drives no focus towards providing sustained and useful basic social and economic services to Nigerlites. The Governor has mistaken loquacity, stage managed media hype and truancy as yardsticks for measuring performance. What this has brought out is that the relationship between performance and qualification as well as experience needs to be re-investigated.
Indeed, in the last years, Gov. Aliyu was challenged in two fronts – the challenge of transforming the rural State and the challenge of sustaining and projecting a delusion call servant-leadership. The government became allergic to debate and hostile to any constructive opinion. It opened-up many fronts of antagonism – despising former leaders, and traditional rulers. The composition of a numberless Economic Team and the convocation of Jama’a Forum were real distraction from the material issues. Is Governor Aliyu not aware of the problems of Nigerlites before becoming governor? The problems of Nigerlites are obvious and do not requires any Peoples’ Forum. The problem is not with the people but with the government. Since independence, the common problem has always been lack of water, roads, healthcare, education, food, poverty, etc. It was a pity that the government of hope has turned out to be that of great lust for carnivals, owanbes, unwarranted events and social parties rather than good governance. The State Government has hosted more events than projects it has commissioned.
The events that characterized the period before elections, could indeed serve as an eye opener to Governor Aliyu that his performance over the last four years were not proportionate to his qualification, experience and available resources to the State. At campaign rallies, there were stories of stoning of the campaign entourage of the Chief Servant. Certainly, these were flagrant illustrations of dissatisfaction. Ordinarily, a performer would be told not to campaign – a status the Chief Servant never got. This has been confirmed by the Governor in his inaugural address of 29th May, 2011 that “while it may appear tough to win the people’s trust for the first time in politics, it is even tougher when you are asking for a second chance, and the burden of accountability is heavier once you have been given a second chance to correct your earlier shortcomings.”
The truth is that the expectations of Nigerlites have not been met. The Government of the Chief Servant derailed and fumbled. In the last years, Nigerlites were presented with a blank hope and bogus dreams by a mistaken messiah. There was, in all, a disconnection between the wants of the public and the priority of the government. It is a government of tourism trophies. It operates like a stock market where speculators have a field day. If not, what happen to the conquering of Zuma Rock? What about the Gurara waterfall lamentations. What about the Cargo Airport obsession. What about the Minna –Abuja rail lines and the Housing Projects? What about the Minna Public Private Partnership Hospital, etc. The quality of education has not improved and this is evident from the NECO and WAEC results of the last years. The government has mistaken paying examination fees for improvement in the quality of education. Minna is still without adequate water supply. Every town and community has been left to the mercy of water vendors. The dualised roads inside Minna were too few to be paraded as an achievement in four years. Outside the State Capital, rural areas have been abandoned. It is unfortunate that the State government was unable to construct 10kms of road in each of the LG headquarters despite the huge resources that accrues to them in the last four years. The Local Government Joint Account has remained joint for a very few. What has been prominent and consistent in the last four years has been “hawan durba” and so called tourism development which has become a source of serious wastage of government resources.
And till today, the government has not declared how much it has generated either as profit or loss for the Durba and festivals. I have always argued that tourism development is a function of surplus. There is no way tourism can be developed or patronized amidst abject poverty. There is no way a hungry family will go to Gurara water falls or visit a graveyard of certain people that killed our fore-fathers in Zungeru to relax while a much needed non-functional Fertilizer Company is just close by. How can a Park amuse a people shrouded by hopeless scarceness? The potentials and ingredients of Tourism development lies in the improvement of social well-being of the people. Nigerlites are hungry. There is no amusement park that would ever amuse a poverty stricken public. Tourism can only develop and flourish if poverty is eradicated and you cannot attract foreigners without the necessary infrastructures – simple.
In the last years, the State House of Assembly became a ready-made collaborator for the underdevelopment of the State. The sharing of over N400million to State Legislators for so-called Constituency project was a singular example of the flagrant abuse of due process. Where in the constitution is it stated that the legislators must be given funds to execute projects? Where has Gov. Aliyu gotten the funds to pay N15million to each of the 27 legislators? If a government is that of ‘due process’, it must not subsume the legislative arm that is constitutionally design to checkmate the activities of the executive arm of government. Indeed, this action is a dangerous indication that the State legislators have been bought and will not be able to function normally in terms of legislating for the good governance of the State. Indeed, with the active connivance of the State Legislators, the government had speedily overtaken the shape and fashion that symbolized the Kure’s years. In the last years, the government was obsessive to using persecution, intimidation and harassment of opponents as a tool to hide its failures and lack of focus.
The operations of Local Governments in the States and their performances over the last years have not changed for the better. At the moment, the Local Government system is grounded. The funds are just not going to the LGs while the Chairmen pretends that all is well. Poverty is still ravaging every nooks and crannies of the Local Governments. People are jobless amidst productive potentials. Health care has collapse just like education. Social and economic interaction has been grossly limited because of lack of roads. The operation of the State Joint Local Government Account which is integral to the success of Local administration has not been transparent and accountable. There has never been any Joint Account Committee meeting as required by law. The huge amounts that accrued to the State for Local administration have turn into an
other miscellaneous account of the State Governor.
With lack of unpretentious foundation and genuine compass for socio-economic transformation of the State, it may be contemptuous for any government official to claim that Niger State will be, by the year 2020, one of the best economies in Nigeria. That is a mirage and delusion that must ceased.
At any rate Babangida Aliyu has made his mark with relatively nothing tangible to showcase in the last four years. And by whatever means, he is still the governor, therefore, the choice is now his to make a difference if he so wishes or continue on the path of non-tangible performance. The Government still has a chance to refocus on people oriented programmes that are towards wealth creation and not tourism. And the government must also erase that delusion call servant-leadership. Until that is done, the deception would continue. Nigerlites are not interested in loquacity contest but in action that will change their lives. In the last four years, the governor has absented from thorough superintending of government policies, programmes and projects all over the State. I have not heard of a time when the governor visited my Local Government Area to supervise any ongoing project – anyway there wasn’t any. Supervision is a paramount tool to success in leadership. Therefore, the governor should develop a plan to visit and stay in each local government area for at least two days to inspect and commission projects as well as share and experience the environment in which the people live. Prophet Suleiman (AS) died while supervising a project and the work continues until Allah brought the Ants. This is a clear example that should be emulated.
Also, the government should appoint competent and responsible individuals while also giving them the freehand and support to implement government policies. The government should not continue to pretend or deceive itself about Public Private Partnership. The private sector as we have today those not have the capacity and wherewithal to provide the necessary infrastructure the State urgently need. Thus, the government should concentrate on its core mandate of providing for the citizenry and leave the private sector to provide its private services. Generally, man has been private until government came in to assume the role of providing for the citizenry. It was the government that destroys man’s private ability to provide for his wants and needs. If not who provide all the houses that people live in today? What is the proportion of houses built by government over the population? It is a waste of time and a mark of inefficiency for any government to rely on private sector.
Likewise, the government must put a stop to the wasteful sponsoring of Durba and other worthless festivities. Each generation has its own history and should not be distracted in building that history. The history of the past is only worthy if it will help to build the present history. There are no way horses and camels would shape or influence a generation driven by unprecedented technological advancement. The hundreds of millions that were carelessly spent in the name of Durba were good enough to complete the 10kms roads in the Local Government headquarters. More importantly, the government must prioritize. It is obvious that the challenges are enormous and the available resources are inadequate to meet those challenges at once. Therefore, focus should be on infrastructural development, agriculture, human capacity building and not to pay N500million rent allowance for the Governor!!! Sometimes, I wonder why N2.4bn was budgeted in 2011 for the office of the Secretary to the State Government alone while critical ministry of government were given paltry allocation. These are some of the mismatch that needs to be reconciled. Likewise, joint projects between State and Local Government should be reviewed. Any joint project should be cited in the Local Government area that is contributing in its funding.
The next coming years are critical for governor Aliyu to showcase his qualification and experience by making a difference. It is not how good you speak or how qualified or experienced you are that matters but how much you are able to provide to citizenry in economic and social sectors. The aspirations of Nigerlites are to have improved infrastructure, quality education, healthcare, agriculture and not Bill Boards. Nigerlites are waiting for the magic difference, if it will ever come!
Hussaini Sani Kagara
No. 143, Masoyi Road, Kagara