by Usama Dandare,
If Money can buy the whole world, there is indeed one thing in it that no amount of money can buy, and that is credibility. The credibility of our democracy as a whole has been diminished by the role money plays, although politics all over the world needs money, but its influence in the pursue of power has broken the fragile conscience of the ordinary Nigerian citizen. Prior to this era of reckless exhibition of corruption and impunity, politics in Nigeria was about revered name, credibility, merit and competence. I wasn’t opportuned to witness the sweet post-colonial days but I have read about great leaders like Sarduna, Awolowo, Azikiwe, and those in their exclusive class. These men were not after material benefits and were not rich, but with a good reputation, credibility, and a selfish desire to free their people from the shackles of colonialism and imperialism, they were able to fought their out, and cast a spell on the British administrators. We wouldn’t have been where we are today had it been we regain the virtues of these past heroes who created a desire for mutual benefit across board.
Unfortunately, since the advent of the military rule and the subsequent introduction and reintroduction of democracy, Nigerians only witnessed a speedy declination in patriotism, equity and justice, and the seeds of corruption was sown and nurtured in the land with a strong emotional attachment to money. Corruption and impunity became the only tools one could use to secure appointment into public offices, our lives became stepping stones and ladders for satanic men to climb to the devilish height of plucking public wealth while their venomous appetite became insatiable.
This has been the case with with several Nigerian states for several decades now and Sokoto state is not an exemption. No one conversant with the political terrain in the Seat of the Caliphate will gainsay the fact that the success of any politician and as well as his ability to deliver good governance largely depends on the amount of money he is willing to throw up on the streets and what the electorate can get daily from the those in power. Unfortunately, this is how the people of Sokoto understood politics, thus transforming the Seat of the Caliphate into rubbles. This practice of money politics is perhaps habitual of almost all the politicians in the state, a leadership style they (politicians) and their foot soldiers regarded as a welfarist system that enables them relate closely with the people, in a deceit to boost their political popularity. No doubt, it works well for many, but, the present and future development of the state is unarguably at risk.
Notably, the arrowhead that catalysed the nurturing of this ugly trend is no other than the former Governor of the State, Senator Aliyu Magakarda Wamakko, who authoritatively glorified and sustained this ugly act throughout the lifetime of his administration as Deputy Governor from 1999 to 2006, his governorship days from 2007 to 2015, and still carried on without any sign of retardation: by assembling children that are supposed to be in school, unemployed youths and the old at his residence on a daily routine, with each group giving specific day in the week when they should gather to receive a token of between N200 and N500, when it is time, those whose turn it is for the day would assemble in their hundreds at his residence for their weekly pocket money. An act that engendered the lives of the poor masses to the act of begging, reaching a vexatious stage where even visitors are been constantly harassed on the streets by underage children, youths, and old men/women who repeatedly ask for money from every car owner and all neatly dressed people they came across.
Wamakko, obviously violated his party’s manifesto and watered this ugly trend of sharing money to the masses just to fulfil his political desires and score some cheap political points. In return, the state’s growth and development suffered, and unemployment rose to it highest maximum. With this act being practiced in the state for almost two decade now, one needs no soothsayer to understand why Sokoto State – despite its ancient history, resources and all its influence in political making of this nation – has been topping the table of the states with the highest level of poverty in the country and one of the states with the highest rate of illiteracy in Nigeria. There is less or no empowerment opportunities in the state, no industries, joblessness on the rise, but unfortunately, Wamakko never realised the need to empower the youths and create employment opportunities. Instead, he opted to be sharing to the people, the funds meant to upgrade their lives economically. More vexatious, the former governor now Senator Wamakko is confidently going on with this practice and his sympathisers keep hailing him for the gesture. What a pity!
With Wamakko’s victory in the March 28, 2015 senatorial elections and his subsequent relocation to Abuja, we thought this anti-people practice will decrease to its minimal. But unfortunately, the State’s Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu, a political underdog and Wamakko’s political godson is going on with this irresponsible tradition of his godfather. Regrettably, Ahmed Aliyu, is now carrying on where Wamakko stopped – always wielding his lilliputian intellect to swindle us of our right to decent living, by spraying his ill-gotten wealth on the streets, during official/unofficial functions, political gatherings and even at burials places – just to lumbar his way into the heart of the electorates and commit a monumental rape on their hard earned wealth. Obviously, the political atmosphere in Sokoto is witnessing another Alu in the making.
It is disgusting, disastrous, and lethal to see a state with huge potentials lacking behind in all developmental indices. But notwithstanding, the current administration of Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal can do well by empowering the youth with skills rather than sustaining the practice of wasting the money meant to provide practical skills for the youths to enable them build a better future through self employment and encourage less dependence on the part of the people on politicians and the government for survival. This is indeed the time for Governor Tambuwal to exploit all opportunities in Sokoto state and tackle the numerous challenges presented by modern realities. Such as unemployment and the growing number of idle youths, the long ignored old men and women who have turned the practice of “maulla” [a form of aggressive, area-boys begging process] into a normal culture. It’s also the time for Tambuwal to sufficiently withstand the pressure from local politicians and the ordinary people to practice the “stomach infrastructure” type of politics, as no true leader who has the interest of the people at heart will go about be sharing development funds to the people on the streets. He should strive hard to prove wrong the doubting thomases that he understands the problems and politics of Sokoto state very well and he’s bold enough to do everything humanly possible to tackle these challenges, from where i and others alike will look forward to gauge his performances in office.
To bring an end to this ugly practice, Governor Tambuwal should through the state assembly pass a legislation prohibiting all acts of money abuse in and around the state, and at same time prescribe retributions for indulging in money abuse and other related offenses. The fight against corruption should be given more priority, all those displaying their ill-gotten wealth with pride should be brought to book and make to pay dearly for their actions. The poor living standard of the people which perhaps is the roots of all these practices should also be upgraded. Apart from raising the living standard of the people which is of paramount importance to any well meaning government, Governor Tambuwal should without further delay invest heavily in agriculture, education, industrialisation, youth and women empowerment, and as well as encourage small scale industries. To succeed, Tambuwal also needs to run a government driven by honesty, transparency and the desire for progress and development, and an open, all-inclusive administration and urge his opponents to join hands in rebuilding the state, for he alone cannot handle the very hectic task of surmounting the various challenges confronting the state in recent times. Despite the fact that Sokoto is been regarded as the most peaceful state in the country, still there is the need for Governor Tambuwal to sustain the long enjoyed peace and public order in the state, so that Sokoto will become the envy of others and lead in the comity of states.
Usama Dandare is a social commentator, he writes from Sokoto. Contact him via [email protected] or on twitter @osadaby