by Bayo Oluwasanmi,
Recently, the story of a victim of hunger graced the pages of SaharaReporters. Nasiru Lukman, a teacher at Saint Luke’s Grammar School, Molete, Ibadan, Oyo State, slumped while teaching in the classroom. The Vice-Principal of the same school, Emmanuel Olajide reportedly died as a result of hunger “apparently due to non-payment of four months’ salary by the State government.” The 37-year old teacher of accounting bled profusely as a result of an injury sustained on his head. He was rushed to Molete Health Center for treatment.
“My husband has been vomiting blood since morning when he collapsed and became unconscious since then,” says Mrs. Modupe Nasiru. “Our two children,” continues Nasiru, “are even staying with my mother because we could not afford taking care of them as my husband’s salaries have not been paid. I’m appealing to well-meaning people to assist us and save the life of my husband,” pleads Nasiru.
As I write, many governors are still defaulting in their financial obligations to their workers in spite of the bailout funds by the federal government to assist them to pay outstanding salaries and allowances. Last year, the federal government released N338 billion to 27 states as bailout funds to pay their workers backlog of salaries and allowances. Some of the bailout funds were either diverted to other avenues or pocketed out-rightly by the governors. I have it on authority that a chunk of the bailout money was paid to contractors of companies owned by the governors.
It is safe to say that our state governors have set a standard for corruption that’s hard to match. The governors lack the key attributes of good governance: transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation, responsiveness to the needs of our people. The governors are known for washing millions of Naira through corruption conduits. As prominent members of the large club of governors and former governors, they are widely believed to be corrupt and linked to organized corruption. They rarely face any sanctions. They effectively control their own legislatures and their own courts. They’re kings in their own dominions.
The roots of this power and impunity lie in the obnoxious clause in the Constitution that grants immunity to governors for every crime – murder, stealing, forgery, rape, assault, name it – while in office, hence they have become feudal governors with absolute power. The governors and the private sector and organized corruption are intertwined. It’s a potent mix. They have become so powerful because some of the governors’ parties have been in power for years, the legislatures are in their pockets, and the social organizations and the local media have been largely co-opted by the governors. Grassroots participation has been deleted in the States’ constitutions by the governors. The people has been completely emasculated. The governors have adamantly refused to hold local government elections. Instead, they imposed their handpicked morons as chairmen and councilors. There is no rule of law, no checks and balances, and no judiciary to control or check the loose-canon governors.
We have a democracy without the rule of law. Citizens in the respective states under the almighty governors are suffering the consequences. Any attempt or semblance of attempt to call the governors to order would be considered a jibe. Corruption is the most pressing threat that our democracy faces. The governors, potentates of corruption, in concert with the Supreme Court that adopts ahistorical and improperly narrow view of corruption have shut down the effective judicial weapon to fight the very real threat that untamed corrupt governors pose to our democracy.
The treatment meted out to the workers by the governors is heartbreaking, terrifying, and unforgivable. The governors place their private interests and welfare over the public good in public office. Consider the following: How can a worker go for six plus months without income? How do they fend for themselves and their families? What back up do they have in a country without social safety nets like unemployment income, soup kitchen, homeless shelter? How can one cope without income for two weeks talk of m-o-n-t-h-s? What kind of country is Nigeria? What kind of people are the governors? How do they sleep at night knowing full well they owe workers salaries for months while they are collecting their bogus salaries as due, living off the state paying nothing for housing, food, transport, light, water, entertainment, and other basic amenities and luxuries of life? The opposite of public virtue is when a governor is using corruption in a public office for private ends, and it’s a central threat to the life and health of the state and the citizens.
The governors ruthlessly engage in corruption. Corruption, wastage, mismanagement are their predominant passions. They are not better than ordinary criminals. They are worse. They have willfully neglect to faithfully execute the laws of the state and have consistently acted in violation of the law to promote their personal agenda. They are dishonest, unprincipled, immoral, and incompetent. Just take a tour of the states of some of the governors. The evidence is chillingly compelling that they exercise poor judgement, greed, in making decisions detrimental to their people. For example, some governors in their warped judgment and misplaced priority believe building airports are more important than paying workers’ salaries. The airports built by these charlatans are not functioning talk of being profitable. For instance, the Akure Airport by Governor Olusegun Mimiko is patronized by weeds and rodents as permanent tenants. The ex-danfo driver, the unrepentant bastard and prodigal son Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, had plans to build airport in Ado-Ekiti while civil servants and teachers in the state have not been paid for months.
It amounts to moral turpitude on the part of the governors to refuse to pay salaries to workers and starve them to death. Hellooo Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State! Are you there? Can you hear me or read me – now? Have you read the story of Lukman and Olajide in your local newspapers? What have you done or what’s your plan to save the life of Lukman? What help have you given to the Olajides? What’s your plan to pay workers regularly and promptly? Lukman’s case is an emergency matter. Get in touch ASAP with the wife and save Lukman’s life because delay is dangerous. Many Lukmans are going through the same thing in all the 36 states. If the governors could stop stealing, be more creative, more resourceful, entrepreneurial, dispose their fleet of jets, reduce the fleet of official cars, reduce the number of political appointees, give up the so called “security vote” (whatever that means) and stop hauling our money to Panama, Dubai, and other foreign countries, they’ll have more than enough money to pay workers’ salaries – and on time.
Governor Abdulaziz of Zamfara State, Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum said last week that governors of 36 states would seek access to about $3.2 billion fund from the World Bank to meet their financial obligations. Reason: “You know $3.2 billion dollars can do a lot to improve the lives and livelihood of our citizens,” says El-Rufai the Kaduna State Governor. “… citizens would get its benefits including health to education and the rural areas, agriculture and livestock and water supply,” continues El-Rufai. That’s all crap. Baloney. Bullshit! We heard the same old trite story before. No Nigerian in his or her right senses would believe El-Rufai and the governors. What happened to the World Bank money taken in the past? Show us what you did with the money – where is the agric farm? What health benefits have we gotten from past World Bank loans and funds? How many hospitals were built and where? What rural empowerment took place? Were any dams built? Did treated water flow from the taps? As far as Nigerians are concerned, no benefits or projects financed with World Bank loan, money, or funds are visible, accessible, and verifiable in this part of the world. Hell No to World Bank money!
My heart sickens, and my mind grows faint in contemplation of horrible cruelties of the governors. By the governors’ stubborn rejection of love and mercy for our people, they’re inviting the curse and wrath of God. I have this warning for the governors from the Romish leader: “If you will not receive brethren who bring you peace, you shall receive enemies who will bring you war.” To the state employees who are yet to receive their peanuts, listen to Amaechi and act on his advice: “Politicians are still stealing because citizens are yet to carry out jungle justice on them. If you see a thief and you allow him to steal, what do you do? … you have stoned nobody that is why we are still stealing… if you don’t take your destiny into your hands, we will go and other leaders will come and they will continue to steal.” So, state employees, what are you waiting for? Heed Amaechi’s call to action Unite, stone your wicked feudal governors to submission. You have nothing to lose but your hunger!