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Democracy @ 20: High hopes as Buhari, Govs Take Oath of Office



Democracy @ 20: High hopes as Buhari, Govs take oath of office

By: Jude Opara

Nigerians are expecting a better delivery of democracy dividends, as President Muhammadu Buhari and 29 state governors take oath of office on a day Nigeria is marking is 20 years of democracy.

On May 29, 1999, Nigeria returned to constitutional democracy after a tedious military administration which had seized power and disrupted democratic institutions.

Before now, the country was having an interchange between the military and the civilians in the quest to administer the country.

In 1993 the country had an election that was generally adjudged as the most peaceful before and it was presumed to have been won by philanthropist and businessman, Moshood Abiola.

But the military government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election.

The heat generated by that annulment was one of the reasons Babangida who had always shifted the goalpost of the handover date quickly inaugurated an interim government headed by Ernest Shonekan in August 1993.

Just three months after, Shonekan whose government was powerless announced his resignation after the then Army Chief, Gen. Sani Abacha allegedly forced him to do so.

During the reign of Abacha from 1993 till his death in 1998, the country was under the stranglehold of one of her most brutal juntas. The ruthless General also incarcerated Abiola.

However, it was a new turn after the maximum leader died in 1998 and Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar who took over gave a promise to return the country to a democratic rule in 1999. This promise he kept.

To kick start his transition programme, Abubakar registered three political parties which were, Alliance for Democracy (AD), All Peoples Party (APP) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which gave birth to democratic governance in 1999.

So, the current democratic experience which is the longest uninterrupted so far began effectively when the mantle of leadership was handed over to President Olusegun Obasanjo by Gen. Abubakar.

It is our sincere hope and desire that the military boys have returned to their barracks for good.

So, 20 years after, we want to evaluate how the journey has been so far. The PDP took the first shot and ruled the country for 16 years before they were defeated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015.

The government started by purging the military when President Obasanjo retired all military officers who have been exposed to political offices. This indeed terminated the career of a generation of military officers; some of them were the finest at that time.

One intractable problem that has bedeviled Nigeria from inception is corruption. The government began a fight against the monster by establishing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).

Like every new broom, these agencies appeared to have been effective at the beginning until somehow they became the instrument of harassment and suppression of real and imaginary enemies of the government.

There was this hope of a new horizon when the country returned to constitutional democracy despite the fact that the president at that time was a retired military dictator himself. Nigerians had hoped that there will be a reversal of their dwindling economic fortunes, but 20 years down the line the standard of living has even continued in a downward slide.

The Obasanjo administration made some efforts in returning Nigeria as a global citizen with her involvement in many international treaties and conventions. His government also negotiated with the international donor agencies like the World Bank, the Paris Club as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to offset the nation’s debts.

In the area of infrastructure, there were a lot of contracts awarded for the construction of roads and other projects but they were given out at highly outrageous rates with jobs delivered not commensurate with the money paid.

For instance, the construction of the Abuja National Stadium is said to have cost the country a huge fortune which if properly managed could have delivered three of the same quality project

In the electoral system the story has not been any different. Politicians were ready to do anything to win elections. Imposition of candidates and ballot box stuffing were and are still the order of the day.

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During the PDP era, impunity was taken to a rather ridiculous level to the extent that the godfathers can give the party ticket to anybody they like whether such a person won the primary election or not.

The mantra then was do whatever you could to be declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), then the judiciary will be the next bus stop. The manipulation of the judiciary was the order of the day as in most instances, cases were delivered to the highest bidder.

In 2007, Nigeria conducted yet another election and shortly after his inauguration, late former President Umaru ‘Yar Adua had accepted that the process that led to his victory was faulty and he promised to do something about it.

Certainly, he did by setting up the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reforms Committee. That Committee recommended for electoral reforms aimed at giving INEC more latitude to organize free and fair elections across the country.

However, midway into his administration, President ‘Yar Adua died and his deputy Goodluck Jonathan was sworn in.

In 2011, President Jonathan campaigned and won election defeating current President Muhammadu Buhari. Then he ran a campaign based on the fact that he was from a poor background, many people bought into his story believing he will make things easier for everybody given his background.

But his government was largely criticized because of the high rate of corruption. Many people at the corridors of power easily helped themselves from the public purse.

The issue of the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram in the North East also took a dangerous turn as bomb explosions were happening just in days even in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

All these and many more real and imaginary reasons were capitalized on by the civil society organizations and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) which was an amalgam of some political parties for the sole purpose of capturing power to run down the government.

For instance, in 2012, the government attempted to increase the pump price to N140 naira to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy, the CSOs and the opposition party took to the street to protest. They claimed that there was nothing like subsidy, describing it as a scam. The Jonathan administration buckled and returned the price to N87 naira.

So, in 2015, many analysts were not surprised when the incumbent president was defeated by his challenger. This is because a lot of people had had the notion that the country needed a change and the person of President Buhari well fitted in.

President Jonathan, who had always said his ambition never worth the blood of any Nigerian, equally surprised many especially his party members when he put a call across to Buhari to concede defeat. That singular action also saved the country a lot of stress because the tension in the country was at a fever high pitch.

Many analysts believed that the APC never believed that the former president was going to hands off so easily, so they were alleged to have prepared their supporters for a wild protest which may have turned violent.

President Buhari mounted the saddle with a lot of promise and the people in turn were also not in short supply of expectations and hope. The government during their electioneering campaign had promised a lot of things including payment of N5,000 monthly to all unemployed Nigerians, reduction of the exchange rate from a naira to a dollar, reduction of the pump price from N87 naira to about N45 naira, ending the Boko Haram madness within the first three months and many more.

But four years after, many Nigerians are yet to feel the impact of the government. Most of the promises have at best remained promises. In fact, some have been out rightly denied.

The exchange rate is now N360 to $1 dollar, the pump price instead of selling at N87 is now N145 naira.

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While some of the abducted Chibok girls have been released, over a 100 others are still in captivity, just like Leah Sharibu of Dapchi school who was among the other set of school girls abducted under the watch of this present government is still in captivity after the freedom of her colleagues was negotiated.

The country has not fared better in any way including in the security situation because while we will agree that Boko haram has been pushed to Bornu state, other dare devil organizations have commenced the business of mass killings and wanton destruction of property. Today the killer herders and armed bandits are freely on the rampage, killing and abducting people with little or no hindrance.

The government seems to have lost ideas of what to do and perhaps that is why the clamour for at least the change of the service chiefs has been ignored. Today all over the country, people are living in fears and some ethnic nationalities have started threatening of defending themselves from any external aggression.

The mass killings by the herders in Benue state last year with one incident resulting to the mass burial of over 77 bodies will linger for a long time in the minds of Nigerians.

The country is today more divided unfortunately along the two dangerous lines of religion and ethnicity. This government may have inadvertently contributed to this by its actions and utterances earlier in their regime. For instance, shortly after his inauguration in 2015, President Buhari in an interview told a foreign television that he will not treat those who allegedly gave him 97% and 5% equally. While those who believe he was right rose to support him, those who differed said it was unnecessary for a sitting president to so classify his own people.

Suffice it to add that the government must be seen to be fair to all manners of Nigerians irrespective of their creed, ethnicity and orientation. The idea of treating some people with kid gloves while others are given the sucker punch will not help us. One can easily remember the seeming pat on back to the Arewa youths who audaciously gave Igbos living in the North a quit notice as well as the activities of the killer herdsmen are being justified by the body language of the government, while the secessionists Indigenous People of Biafra who are only carrying flags were quickly branded as terrorists.

Unemployment and hardship are now bedmates of most Nigerians and the ugly result is the high rate of suicide among the citizens at all levels and strata. Many people are confused and ready to take any rash action at the slightest provocation.

So as the President takes his second and final oath of office, he should begin to think of how to solve of some of these problems especially those that bother on national security and the standard of living.

The Social Investment Programme (SIP) which the administration launched before the 2019 elections has been variously described as a failure as little or no impact have been felt of the hundreds of billions of naira budgeted for that. No other personality than the First Lady, Aisha Buhari only this week cried out that the programme has failed especially in the Northern Nigeria.

The Buhari administration and the 8th National Assembly had at best functioned in a cat and mouse relationship with accusations and counter accusations of sabotage every now and then. It came to a head last year when the men of the Department of State services (DSS) sealed off the assembly, locking legislators, staff and visitors out.

Despite the fact that both the outgoing Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara were members of the APC by the time they were elected, the leadership of the party did not welcome them and hence the barrage of attacks and court cases that followed. This also forced the duo to decamp to the PDP later on.

The incident which happened when the President was away on medical trip hugely embarrassed the country as the local and international channels beamed the development live. The then Director General of the DSS, Mamman Daura was forced to resign as an aftermath of the power play that emanated from that inglorious outing.

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The government should this time try to operate in harmony with the leadership of the 9th National Assembly. We also hope they succeed in getting their preferred candidates, Senator Ahmed Lawan and Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila elected as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively.

The President has promised to change his style; we hope the change will be a positive one. To start with, immediately after the inauguration today, we expect to see the list of ministers as soon as the 9th Assembly is inaugurated in June. Nigerians will not accept the long wait of six months it took before the out gone ministers were appointed.

As a leader, the President should also devise other ways of getting information of the real situation in the country because it appears that most of the people around him only tell him things that will make him believe that all is well.

Importantly, President Buhari has said he believes Nigeria needs to practice True Federalism; it is expected that he puts flesh to the skeleton of the verbal pronouncement by initiating a bill to the National Assembly to make the necessary constitutional amendments.

I have said it severally that without True Federalism Nigeria will not likely improve on her development. This is because the unitary system we are operating at the moment is not helping us. At best what we are doing is motion without movement.

We must practically move away from the mono economy we are operating. Oil alone cannot continue to carry the country while elsewhere in Zamfara people are freely mining gold and the government looks the other way. Nigeria must allow each component unit or state to operate a level of autonomy that will help them take certain responsibilities.

Finally, the APC as the government in power must begin to drive some of the changes, they promised Nigerians in 2015, this the President is expected to champion because what has happened so far is a far cry from what was promised.

For example, the level of impunity exhibited by the APC in the last general elections must have even dwarfed whatever the PDP did on the scale of infamy. Today the ruling party has lost all elective positions in Rivers and Zamfara States including the national and state seats because they simply failed to adhere to their own guidelines.

The report of the Uwais Commission which recommended that the chairman of INEC and other board members should be appointed by the National Judicial Council (NJC) instead of the president.

Today it is the president that usually appoints the Chairman, the National Commissioners as well as the Resident Electoral Commissioners of the commission. INEC as presently constituted will most likely continue to do the bidding of politicians especially the ruling party and the appointing president.

An example is due to the ease of manipulation by any sitting government; in 2001 it did not take the then government of President Obasanjo to get the amendment of the Electoral Act ahead of the 2003 elections. Prior to this time, the presidential and national assembly elections used to come last but it was changed to be the first to be conducted.

Indeed, that change was selfish because the president and the members of the national assembly reasoned that if the state governors should win their election first, they may truncate their own election.

President Buhari can and still has the opportunity to write his name in gold by using the last four years which starts today to conscientiously move Nigeria forward.

He should look for competent and quality men and women to man the ministries and not necessarily party men who may add little or nothing to the growth of the nation.


Justices of the Apex Court and the Verdict of History




By Eugene Winful

With knees on our necks, gasping for the last breadth of hope for our nation, Nigerians are keeping vigil, by keeping hope alive to witness history in real time. Nigerians, Africa and the world are watching as our legal luminaries and judicial juggernauts take the center stage in these trying times of the State of our Union —adorning their horsehair wigs and gowns.


On whose side will history be? The onus is on their Lordships to prove their mettle as the distinguished jurists they are (or meant to be) in the discharge of their sacred duties.

Banish the thought that we might be constrained to say — As the court pleases! —even when we are not quite pleased! 

Below are 3 quotes I find interesting from a great Chinese Philosopher, Confucius.


* Isn’t it a pleasure to study and practice what you have learned?-Confucius.

* If I hear the way of truth in the morning, I am content even to die in that evening.-Confucius.

* When we see men of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see men of contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves- Confucius.

For a lawyer to rise through the ranks to attain the position of a Judge of the Supreme Court in any country in the world, is a feat worthy of the highest recognition.

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In the same breadth, where one who has risen to such enviable pedestal, is found wanting or compromised in one fell swoop, he or she would have completely eroded the years, the honor and dignity the position bestows on him/her.

If Judges have to be put in a position where all they are taught to stand for can be rubbished by greed, by all means, use the prospective baiter as an example to others who might be nursing such thoughts. 

I don’t know if this is “lawful”, but pray, can Judges collect the inducement, tender same as evidence in court, and lodge the loot into the coffers of the Judiciary?- just the way Customs and Border Patrol, Police Officers of repute do in developed countries. Then, proceed to deliver judgment against the inducer to set precedent not only to up and coming Judges, but also as a valuable lesson to those who might contemplate indulging in such nefarious acts in order to deter prospective criminals that may think they could buy their way to favorable rulings and judgments.

If Judges can stand for the truth no matter what is dangled before their eyes, rest assured their names will forever be etched in stone.

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No dignity equals that of “robed men” who have risen through the ranks in the legal profession to be counted amongst those that discharge fair and unbiased judgments sitting on the Apex Courts. But for such highly placed “supermen” to fall prey or be caught pants down, risking everything they have worked hard for and achieved over decades to attain would be a huge shame to be borne by their families and their generation.

If our Honorable Judges live up to the oath they have so sworn to uphold, by delivering judgments devoid of bias and strictly based on law and facts, it would be a new dawn in the writing of the opening chapter of Hope for a New Nigeria. 

Where the other two arms of government are complicit, the Judiciary should stand tall by standing out.

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Towards a Democracy-sensitive, People-oriented Judiciary




By Tunde Olusunle

That Nigeria’s very highly regarded *The Guardian* newspaper published a two-part editorial in the immediate past week on the nation’s judiciary, attests to the seriousness with which this arm of government is taken. *The Guardian* has deservedly earned its place in the nation’s media space, having survived four full decades, consistently making regular, daily showings on the newsstands.

This is despite the country’s unabated inclement socioeconomic situation which has summarily interred several other similar initiatives over the years.
On Thursday March 16 and Friday March 17, 2023, an editorial titled “The judiciary and public criticism” featured on prominent pages of the authoritative publication.
The editorial alluded to public denunciation of certain judgments delivered and actions taken, by the nation’s apex court and its leadership. Principally cited in the commentary, are pronouncements gifting Ahmed Lawan, president of the Senate, and Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom state, tickets to contest the recent senatorial elections. Such appropriation was done by the Supreme Court, even when both political leaders did not participate in the primaries which would have presaged their emergence.

Little known Bashir Machina had won the senatorial ticket for Yobe North, while Lawan was contesting the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, (APC). Udom Ekpoudom a former deputy inspector general of police, (DIG), had also contested to represent Akwa Ibom North West zone in the senate, while Akpabio from the same zone, sought without success, the ticket of the nation’s top job. To the consternation of most followers of Nigerian politics, however, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Lawan and Akpabio! Lyrics from *Unknown Soldier,* one of the classic hits of the maverick Afrobeat precursor, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, appropriately capture such bewildering turn of events. Fela alludes to “government magic” which turns “red into blue and electric into candle!” The January 2020 “installation” in confounding circumstances, of Hope Uzodinma, by the Supreme Court, as governor of Imo State a few years ago, and the displacement of Emeka Ihedioha, remains fresh in popular consciousness. 

Unsettled by accentuated public angst and vituperations against the Lawan/Machina and Akpabio/Ekpoudom twin-rulings, the Supreme Court through its director of information and press affairs, Festus Akande, issued a rejoinder. Titled: “Be mindful of unwarranted attacks on the judiciary,” the statement countered insinuations to the effect that sections of the judiciary had been compromised. Akande had stated that the concoctions to the effect that its justices were bought over “by some unknown and unseen persons, was nothing short of a bizarre expression of ignorance.” The release was very obviously a response to public bewilderment to the apex court’s arbitration in the substantial political litigations of Lawan vs Machina, and Akpabio vs the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) and other interested parties. The Supreme Court, Dr Akande noted, was overburdened with nearly 600 cases deriving from the primaries of the various parties. The topmost arbiter in the land, Akande advanced, “was duty-bound to adjudicate on the matters brought before it to the best of its ability and in accordance with the law.” 

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Our recent very highly controversial and largely opaque general elections, have spawned additional responsibility for the Supreme Court. From parliamentary, to gubernatorial and thenceforth to the presidential elections, fall-outs, without doubt, will engage election tribunals and be escalated to the Supreme Court, in the weeks and months to come. Of the multilevel petitions emanating from the polls, that of the presidential election engenders the most interest and attention of Nigerians and indeed the global community. This is understandable given the pivotal place and preeminence of the president to the superintendence over, and guardianship of the people and the state. A winner, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), was in the early hours of Wednesday February 28, 2023 returned by INEC. 

There are, however, crystal clear, convincing and compelling reasons to interrogate the authenticity and veracity of the electoral exercise which produced him, in its totality. INEC which supposedly, had been preparing for the recent elections for four full years since the last general polls, pooling resources close to the one billion US dollar mark, delivered a complete sham, a shameful string of elections. INEC’s pretences and deceit of Nigerians about technological innovations to enhance and ensure seamless, fraud-proof, open, transparent and believable elections, was a colossal scam. The process was a perfidious bouquet of gross impunity, unashamed indiscretions, unparalleled and unpardonable lawlessness, unacceptable violence, brazen electoral thievery and mass disenfranchisement among others. The Centre for Democracy and Development, (CDD), reports that Nigeria’s recent electioneering, claimed 109 lives, which means more than one death per day within the period.

Mahmood Yakubu, a professor of History and INEC’s chairman for a second term of four years, delivered the most preposterous general elections this fourth republic. If the performance of Maurice Iwu, also a professor and Yakubu’s last but one predecessor was presumed controversial, Yakubu has unwittingly beatified Iwu. Yakubu’s outing fell way below the basement of global best practices. The characterisation of the elections by the local and global media, has been most unsparing. *The Economist* described the presidential election as “a chaotically organised vote and messy count.” An editorial by *The Financial Times* said the poll was “deeply flawed” and the winner “a wealthy political fixer.” *Aljazeera* wrote about “How violence robs Nigeria of their votes.” A Canadian newspaper also writes that “depression, anxiety, uncertainty be-clouds Nigeria’s political space as a drug-kingpin wins the election.” 

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Yakubu’s regime which popularised the culture of “inconclusive elections,” has equally introduced the dismissive expression, “go to court,” to the nation’s electoral vocabulary, in direct reference to disaffected parties. Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former vice president, flew the flag of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) at the recent presidential poll. There is substantial, even mind-boggling evidence to the effect that he won the election. Theories and hypotheses about the pre-election cannibalism of his vote tally by Peter Obi’s breakaway from the PDP to the Labour Party, (PDP), and the *G-5* governors, fall flat in the face of tangible evidence. Obi, by the way, filed his petition investigating the process of the emergence of Tinubu as president-elect, 24 hours before Atiku’s.

There is apprehension that electoral malfeasance as already committed and legalised by the issuance of the apposite “Certificate of Return,” (CoR) is *fait accompli.* Atiku, however, is calling for the withdrawal of Tinubu’s CoR, on the basis of “noncompliance with the electoral act, which invalidates Tinubu’s election.” While observing that by-passing and non-use of BVAS in the transmission of results impugned the integrity of the polls, Atiku also listed a dozen corrupt practices perpetrated by INEC to swing the election in favour of Tinubu. The suppression of votes;  manipulation of ballots and ballot boxes; manipulation of BVAS machines; manipulation of accreditation and collation, and the manipulation of election material(s) delivery, feature among these infractions. Manipulation of election material(s); reverse logistics; massive thumb-printing of ballot papers, destruction of electoral materials; mutilations, cancellations; overwriting on result sheets, have also been highlighted in the petition. Atiku urges the court to either declare him Nigeria’s president or order a fresh election. Atiku’s core desire is that the votes of the people, their franchise, should count, consistent with global democratic traditions and expectations.

Flowing from recent experience where the judiciary has been repeatedly kicked around and disrespected by the executive, there are palpable concerns that the judiciary as presently constituted may not be in a position to deliver justice. The homes of revered judges and justices were breached under the cover of night in places, by operatives of the secret police, ostensibly to search for monies paid to them to influence judgements, under the present regime. The manner of the suspension, arraignment and summary retirement of Walter Nkanu Onnoghen, former CJN within the 2019 electoral season, reaffirms the dilemma of the judiciary under an all-powerful executive arm of government. There are apprehensions about the plausibility of objective, dispassionate, independent opinion and adjudication, by the Supreme Court. Yet, there is no better time for the judiciary to exercise its professionalism, forthrightness, and alignment with popular will and democracy, than at this time in our national and democratic evolution.

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Certain video clips have been trending of late, depicting the incumbent CJN, Olukayode Ariwoola as presumably politically partisan. Ariwoola spoke at a banquet in his honour in Port Harcourt late last year, expressing delight that the governor of his state, Seyi Makinde, was a member of the *G-5* faction of governors in the PDP. Whereas Ariwoola said he intended to recommend to the Oyo State governor the handbook of infrastructural development in Rivers State, the manner of his expression lent itself to dialectics. There are also salient doubts accentuated by the nepotistic governmental manual operated by the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari. Faith and ethnicity, more than anytime in our political trajectory, sadly, have played very critical roles across the broad canvas of governance and administration under Buhari.

There are reservations that justice may be difficult to get under a judiciary headed by a kinsman of the president-elect, if the latter, who hails from Lagos State, gets sworn-in. CJN Ariwoola hails from Oyo, in the same south west geopolitical zone like Bola Tinubu. An online newspaper has just reported that Ariwoola was in London on a short vacation, during which he will hold a secret meeting with Tinubu who himself was reported to have travelled to Paris earlier this week. Will all of these impact on honesty, believability and transparency at the coming arbitration? This is a unique opportunity for the judiciary to rediscover and reassert itself as the irrepressible temple of truth and justice in the service of democracy and the people. 

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Atiku Abubakar, GCON, presidential flagbearer of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP)*

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Governors: Right Versus Wrong People




By Dakuku Peterside
The gubernatorial and state Houses of Assembly elections have come and gone in most states. Unfortunately in some states, it was characterised by drama, unnecessary tension, flawed processes, violence and broad daylight electoral robbery. The victors are celebrating, and the losers must be feeling bad.

We all hope that these elections, flawed as they may seem, would deepen our democracy and that we have elected leaders who will stir the ship of the various states in Nigeria to a glorious destination.
Especially, governors who will convert their electoral mandates to results and socio-economic progress.

The few coming weeks will see election petitions on account of obviously flawed processes.
And the judiciary will play its role in deciding the fate of most governors. As sad as this may be, this has become an unpalatable aspect of our democratic process. A critical reason for the massive interest in the governorship election is the vital role governors play in our democracy and our federalism. The state level remains the closest to the people and governors are crucial development actors who are often forgotten in discussing development in Nigeria because undue  focus is on the Federal Government, and most people attribute progress or the lack of it to the Federal Government.
The combined total budget of the 36 states of Nigeria for 2023 is over N11 trillion, which is more than 50% of the Federal Government’s 2023 budget of N21.83 trillion. This vast fund accruing to the states, if properly harnessed and managed, could shepherd the development of Nigeria.
Just as in all federal systems, attention must divert from the centre and focus more on the constituent parts of the federation. It is at this local level that development is planned and executed. The Federal Government should play more of the role of a central facilitator and only get involved in the country’s strategic security, economic and social interests. It is appalling and an anathema that the Federal Government controls more funds than all the states combined, which has led to the states going cap in hands monthly to the Federal Government for monthly allocation. In most federal systems, the case is the opposite – the states fund the Federal Government through a specified allocation formula. It is also disheartening that some state governments cannot survive without total reliance on Federal Government projects and allocations. This is at the root of Nigeria’s lack of progress – having states that are liabilities to the nation, because they are unproductive and not viable.
It is utterly absurd that instead of elected governors to focus on making their states economically viable and developing their states from down to up, many governors have turned the states into fiefdoms and domains where they rule as absolute dictators, controlling not just the resources of the state, but all the state institutions with impunity. We see governors who unashamedly use public funds as their private funds and use it anyhow they want, with little or no accountability whatsoever. The job of a governor requires that s/he is less wasteful, less grandiose in lifestyle and cost of governance.
Nigerian state governors, by virtue of our constitution, have enormous powers and resource bases that, if properly deployed, can create oases of development. Some of the revenues accruing to certain states in Nigeria compare to those of some smaller African countries. To illustrate this, Lagos State’s 2023 budget of about $4 billion is higher than the 2023 budget of the Republic of Togo ($3.2 billion), almost equivalent to the Republic of Benin’s 2023 budget ($4.5 billion), and nearly half of Ghana’s 2023 budget of $11.7 billion. Other states have a similar revenue trajectory. How states manage their resources directly correlates with the their development levels.
A cursory look at past governors and their performances will highlight the good, the bad, and ugly shades. I am incredibly grateful to some governors who, in the past four or eight years, were able to articulate their visions clearly, set their priorities right, and who ran disciplined and inclusive administrations. There are only a handful of them. A few have grown the economies of their states, raised the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) profiles, and made considerable strides in the infrastructural, social, economic, and technological development of their states. That way, they succeeded in improving the standards of living of residents of the states. My basis for measuring the governor’s performances is devoid of propaganda and sheer theatrics that most governors exhibit to confuse their citizens about their performance. Building a few roads, flyovers, and community centres does not qualify as development, especially given the enormous resources accrued to the state.
Proper assessments can be based on the Human Development Index (HDI). This measures each state’s social and economic development by focusing on the following three factors: critical education parameters; relevant health metrics; and the standard of living assessed by gross national income (GNI) per capita. The average HDI for Nigeria in 2021 was 0.535 (the possible highest is 1), and this is lower than for countries like Angola (0.58) and Egypt (0.73). Lagos and Ogun States ranked the highest, with 0.68 and 0.67 respectively. The governors of these states are doing their best to maintain this quality of living among their citizens.
There are examples of bad governors who squandered the resources of their states. They spend a lot of resources of the states on politics and political survival to the detriment of the payment of salaries, pensions and investment in capital projects. Where there are capital projects, they tend to be for display and vanity. Some of these governors are under investigation, and others will soon to be investigated when they leave office. In the past eight years, a South-South state had a cumulative revenue of over N4 trillion but has little or nothing to show for it. The quality of life of the people of the state is declining, and unless there is some drastic measures, all the advantages the state had in the HDI during the previous administrations will erode. Many governors were not able to translate their mandates to any tangible results and this manifests in low HDIs that are below the national average. Most of these states unfortunately are in the Northern part of the country. We appreciate the current level of insecurity in these areas and applaud any governor who did his best with the resources he has to improve the lives of his people and heavily criticise those who squandered their commonwealth.
We have elected a new set of governors and re-elected a handful to serve another term. I believe the old governors would have learnt from their experiences and the new governors will be ready to learn from the mis-steps of their predecessors. This is the time to set agenda for them and hold them accountable. This is the time to remind them to think beyond the exigencies of the moment and think “legacy”. Emeka Anyaoku, in 2011, advised newly elected governors to be “harbingers of change” by investing in their peoples and pursuing socioeconomic policies to create employment for the youth, restore quality education, diversify the productive base of their economies and work for improved healthcare. The advise is still relevant till date. All governors should strive towards sustainable revenue inflow tied to economic productivity. As the CEO of the states, governors should map out ways of relying less on federal allocations by improving IGRs through sustainable resource mobilisation.
Growth is possible through productive activities. Sound economic policies and good leadership will stir the states away from the financial crisis that often cripples some states, makes them borrow funds for recurrent expenditure, and neglect critical human development activities that will improve the people’s lives. New state governors must realise that they cannot focus on one development aspect and completely neglect the others, which is counterintuitive and anti-productive. The governors must cover, simultaneously and concurrently, critical areas of development such as quality education, quality healthcare for all, good security, and job creation. We have passed the era of providing basic infrastructure (roads, flyovers, beautification of city centres) as the only indices of development. Development must be holistic and improve people’s living standards, and anything short of this is unacceptable.
I congratulate all the elected governors, irrespective of whether their elections were flawed or not, and implore them to be courageous and determined to make an impact. The task ahead of developing Nigeria is enormous and calls for selfless leadership and sacrifice. I hope for healthy competition among the governors to outperform each other. They should learn from each other to do the right thing and shun all forms of greed and reckless impunity that have marred some other governors. I advise them not to become little emperors and sabotage state institutions for their selfish interests. Each governor must set up a team of experts to determine the best strategy to harness the state’s tremendous economic, social, and political potentials. There are no excuses this time for failure. Developing Nigeria is a task we must accomplish, and state governors are critical stakeholders and catalysts in shaping a new Nigeria. We have a young population that we must engage for greater productivity. The consequences of allowing our youth to wallow unproductively are dire to consider. The governors must allow for checks and balances and make for a healthy function of the legislature and judiciary in their states. They must create enabling environments for growth and development and support the private sector to grow. The problem between the government and the private sector now is caused by the  excessive taxation imposed on the private sector. I sincerely hope that the new set of governors will change the Nigerian narrative only if they are ready to face the task of making Nigeria great.

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