By: Charles Ibekwe
This year has generally been a challenging one for Nigerians across all social strata, even the rich that hitherto seem to be immune from the woes of the land are not exempted this time around.
It was widely reported in many of our dailies that even the “Almighty” Dangote sacked en mass in some of his factories due to the economic conditions in the country.
Several banks, manufacturing industries, hospitality companies etc. have embarked on several drastic measures to keep their operations afloat.
The naira has encountered the worst form of instability since it came into existence, moving from as low as 199naira to the US dollar in May 2015 to as high as 500naira to the US Dollar by July 2016.
Oil prices have plummeted to their lowest in more than a decade, Government revenues have equally sunk to their lowest in decades.
In the midst of this sustained hardship citizens have had to endure unbelievable inflation in the prices of foodstuff, groceries and other daily needs. Pump price of petrol have gone up more than 80%. The level of pain out there is glaring.
The federal government recently just admitted that we are in a recession, even though it assured that this recession will be a very short one as the economy is set to bounce out of it very soon.
Due to this very unfavorable situation, Civil rights groups as well as other well-meaning Nigerians have continued to mount pressure on the Buhari led government to act decisively and swiftly in implementing measures that can save the situation. In response, the Federal government has rolled out a few welfare/palliative programs of domestic spending to help cushion the effect of the current hardship being witnessed across the country.
In all of this there is a particular group that we may have forgotten, that I want to bring to our memory now, This group no doubt in my opinion contributed a lot more than any other group to where we are today and this same group can make a difference quicker than any other, if only they do their part diligently and faithfully.
This group is no other but the State governors, yes! State governors, had they been a little more forth coming in the delivery of their mandate to the people the situation will be nowhere near this bad.
At the moment the spot light is on the federal government, this is very good. However it should not be at the expense of letting the state governors off the hook.
Over 95% of Nigerians reside in one of the 36 states of the federation. States and local governments take over 43% of our total earnings, as much as some people may what to argue that this percentage is not enough the question though remains what have they done with this 43% to better the lives of the people?
The challenge though is that, many in the current crop of state governors do not appear to be such that can provide leadership at this critical time.
We may have forgotten history so very soon, there was a crop of state governors in this country who didn’t have the luxury of receiving huge funds from the federal government as federal allocations yet they carried out massive projects that still endured till this present day.
In the days when we had the likes of Lateef Jakande , Adekunle Ajasin, Ambrose alli, Sam Mbakwe, Shehu Kangiwa. Governance at the state level was on another dimension, those were Glory days when state governments built schools and hospitals that could rival those of the federal government in standard and size.
State government built industries and businesses that were well managed and generated revenue into the state coffers, most state governments then offered free quality education.
Yet in all of this workers were not owed salaries. Today it is a different ball game entirely, all such industries created by these set of governors have been sold off, schools and hospitals built then have dilapidated due to lack of maintenance. The few new ones built are heavily inflated yet very substandard work.
All we see in this set of governors are the palatial state houses across the 36 states, convoy of SUVs trailing them junketing from country to country in the name of finding foreign investors that are not lost.
The set of former governors I mentioned earlier did not need to travel anywhere to seek foreign investors before they industrialized their various states, These new group have traveled so much that some of them practically spend more time outside of their state than in the states they govern. Some even acquired private jets from the states resources to further increase their junketing spree.
Bottom line of my position is this; we need to hold our governors accountable, they control so much and can make so much happen, but only if they manage the resources of the states judiciously.
Read recently that 19 northern state governors traveled to Washington for a summit on security, it is commendable that they are trying to find solution to our security problems but trust me the solutions to our security problems cannot be found only in Washington.
Can you imagine the toll on our economy the bill of 19 governors with their aides and probably spouses on this already fragile economy, some of these governors are owing workers salary for upward of more than six months. I challenge any of the governors who made this trip to show how much this trip cost his state in US Dollars and let s convert to naira and see how many more workers could have been paid.
These are really challenging times for Nigeria and Nigerians generally can any governor come forward and tell us in specific terms the luxuries and entitlements he has denied himself during this time of recession to allow for the catering of the welfare of the citizens of his state.
Without turning the spot light on state governors very little progress will be made. It is plain wicked for any governor to embark on any foreign trip if he has any outstanding salary to pay. It is demonic for governors to continue to enjoy undisclosed security votes monthly uninterrupted, yet owe salaries and pensions for months.
Several state government were given bail outs recently to pay salaries yet what we hear is that rather than pay the back log of salaries owed, many of the governors diverted the monies into other stuff leaving the impoverished civil servant unpaid for months, what else is evil if not this.
There’s so much noise about this current hardship but if we look within, we will discover that the part that state governors contribute to this is huge.
Let us as citizens be very vigilant, it is very okay to keep a watch on the federal government but in my most honest opinion it will do us more good if we all turn the spot light on our various state governors.
Ibekwe a public affairs commentator writes from Enugu, Enugu State.