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The profligate governors
By Saturday Ikoro

Published July 12th, 2015


Several weeks ago, some of the newly elected governors descended into Abuja asking for what can be termed a handout or bailout from President Buhari. According to published reports, they returned to their respective official residence empty because President Buhari claimed, he inherited an empty treasury from the government of Goodluck Jonathan. Anyone who was miffed by the President's action should embrace his magnificent display of probity and moderation. The President ought to demonstrate that misuse of public fund is intolerable and would not be condoned. While I joined the masses who applauded his decisiveness in rejecting and shunning waste in government, I want him to go further.  These ex-governors who left government workers, contractors twisting in the wind for non-payment of salaries and completed contracts assignments should be brought back to Abuja to account for their malfeasance.

Malfeasance in not a new menace in conducting government affairs in Nigeria and no one hopes it is going to end soon. But it should and President Buhari must not let the light go out of this goodwill the country bestowed on him without cracking down on those, especially the ex-governors that played fast and loose game with the treasury. The issue of empty treasury is consequential to the pandemonium and cacophony that filled the air in Rivers State between the past and present administrations. I will argue that a true test of governance is altruism. These governors who did not meet monthly salary disbursement certainly did not pass this test and their action is unconscionable. No past administration in Rivers State has lived up that expectation or standard which is immensely anticipated but hardly and rarely accomplished.


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I want to assert my political independence as I have not taken an active part in supporting and voting for anyone seeking political office since the 80s.Therefore, I bear no burden to anyone to prove my allegiance. The debate has gone on for a while now and I am persuaded to contribute to it. The former governor, Hon. Rotimi Amechi has done some commendable things and as a human being, he has also done things not so commendable. When Governor Amechi rebuffed the former first lady when she insinuated herself into Amechi's handling of the squalor segment around Okirika, people approved that action as it was within his official functions. But what is happing now is different as the current bravado and pronouncements have become consistently inconsistent from the former executive and his associates.

Recent events in Nigeria, whether by design or accident, tacit or expressed have suggested that a new leaf has been opened. Such things as former President Goodluck Jonathan conceding defeat, such as Goodluck Jonathan presenting a handover notes to the incoming administration, such as Jonathan accepting steps by the Buhari's administration to probe him. Suffice to say that these have been public demonstrations of someone who has nothing to hide. Before the election season commenced, Mr. Rotimi Amechi declared that an Ikwerre man has been disqualified by his origin and was not suitable for governor's office but he (Amechi) is an Ikwerre man. Did Mr. Amechi forget that he dethroned another Ikwerre brother from the government house through judicial fiat without any moral indictment? This is when Amechi began to sow this seed of discord. Now, Primary elections were held and Nyesom Wike won and that should have settled the uproar then. But Mr. Rotimi Amechi did not want to dispense one issue he thought he has a huge following i.e. to ensure PDP candidate is not installed as a governor in Rivers State. He (Amechi) fomented this ugly discourse.  These behaviors have raised some serious questions especially when a former chief executive of a state conducts himself in a blatant display of arrogance and immaturity. Why did Amechi fail to provide a hand over note? Why would President Buhari's declaration of an empty treasury credible and Nyesom Wike's declaration of the same unacceptable? Why would President's dissolution of NNPC appropriate and that of Wike's election body dissolution in Rivers State inappropriate? Would someone tell me the contrast? The little Mr. Amechi can do is to accord the new governor the same respect that Sir. Celestine Omehia accorded him.

Mr Wike did the right thing when he restored the honor due to Mr. Omehia. Other state governors have performed likewise. According to The Sun publication on June 29, 2015, "the President has ordered the vice-chancellor of federal university, Otueke to refund over payment of salaries running into millions of Naira" Why is that action prudent but recovery of ill-possessed government properties in Rivers Sate is not? Why is not the dissolution of Rivers State Road Traffic Management Authority and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria in tandem with standard operation procedure but killing the existing management body of NNPC by President Buhari is? Again, it is appropriate and smart to wipe out corruption the moment it is noticed as Governor Wike did with 344 or 435 sacked lecturers/employees of the state Polytechnic institution in Ogoni. Condemnations are flying around because the relieved employees cannot provide sustenance to their families (Tribune, June 22, 2015). If they were employed under unscrupulous methods, it is the job of the state to rectify it. Before picking Wike’ administration apart, has anyone wondered the plight of the sacked employees as they have not been paid their monthly salaries for several months? Now I ask all Wike's detractors. Which of these two actions is more grievous? I would recommend that the sacked individuals must be given an opportunity re-apply for their positions through proper agency channel. Furthermore, if Governor Wike came home with federal vehicle as a parting gift, he must wipe it clean and return it back to Abuja. Then he can return to continue the recovery efforts of government properties from where they don't belong. It will be futile to cry foul now and henceforth if security operatives arrived in your premises to retrieve vehicles because of your determination that is calculated not to comply with government directives. Giving paid government employees vehicles is a wasteful spending of public resources. I do not understand why a commissioner should have that right or privilege that is not available to rank and file employees of the government. Should not any commissioners be satisfied with the vehicle granted to him or her to meet each travelling need? This waste can easily and quickly be terminated without inflicting any economic harm to those civil servants. That monetization policy must end and must end now. Wike should stick with it. They are paid enough to purchase their own vehicle and vehicle allowance provision should be killed by the legislature. This way, honest people with the optimum aim to serve the people with integrity will enter public life and embrace it and not expect gratuity. Where necessary, any officials doing government business that involves a lot of travelling should submit an expense report.

No one whose hand is clean is afraid of the darkness. I disagree with the assertion in The Sun opinion publication of June 28, 2015 which states “Every public officer in the state now lives in fear and trepidation that the rampage axe of the Wicked may descend on their neck any time soon” This is an indictment of the whole government apparatus that it is filled with corrupt personnel. If they are found to misappropriate or misuse money allotted to them for smooth official operations, then the axe should indeed come down hard on them like a ton of bricks.

And Amechi or anyone else should not be excluded from this axe until cleared, vindicated or exonerated by the probe commission. So, why is Amechi so contemptuous of Wike? It appears clearly that what seems to bother him greatly is the probe. Is it very remote to conclude that Mr. Amechi wanted an APC candidate to occupy the government house thereby averting probe and the strong arm of the law? Had his party (APC) won the gubernatorial election, the principle that “a person whose kernel has been cracked by a benevolent spirit should not forget to be humble” could apply. How? Amechi could have been viewed and portrayed as a king maker in the state and investigating his conduct in office would not have been forthcoming. And Amechi calling the probe of his administration a “witch-hunt” or political thuggery is an obvious attempt to inoculate himself from embarrassing outcomes penultimate the commission’s report. What was the noise about the governor’s bedroom? The only two individuals with extant knowledge of the bedroom are the past and yet to be current occupant. Any accounts of the permanent secretary of government house would have been a hogwash because he never slept there. What happened to the inaugural ceremonial car and why should the Governor-elect have to ask for a similar vehicle from Bayelsa State? An inquiry mind wants to know.

 If he (Amechi) has been transparent as his supporters claimed, the probe will clear him of any wrong doings. Until then, President Buhari will be ill advised to accord him any federal responsibility. I do not believe probing an administration that left an empty treasury, failed to pay employees salary but received his monthly salary and hired 344 0r 435 employees in a swoop without proper documentation and due process could be considered an unethical conduct. Certainly, if Wike soils his hand while in office, he will be probed and will face the wrath of the law at the end of his term.

Today, President Buhari affirmed that one of the ways to sustainable economic recovery is through job creation (Vanguard, June 30, 2015). I completely agree. As for Wike, he must and should keep his eyes on the ball in terms of job creation. The Governor’s mantra should be jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs. Some of the jobs will be temporary while others will be continuous. Reviving the ports is an excellent start. This can be accomplished through infrastructures’ development as the governor has determined for the Elele Alinini General hospital and other hospitals in the state besides road constructions. To bring back the lost glory of Port Harcourt, actions which can produce jobs should be his focus. Of course I am not his adviser and he did not ask for one. I will use this occasion to present an idea. Change the ambiance of PH by edict or executive action so that dilapidated buildings are repainted. Decrepit roofs are replaced. Institutions and govt. properties that have been breached are reconstructed. These actions are good for small and large businesses and will produce jobs for the indigenes and I believe his image will change from “Wike the wicked” (The Sun, June 28, 2015) to Wike the wonderful.

Note: If anyone responds to the views expressed here, ensure that real facts (numerical data) that are verifiable are provided and the data can be confirmed by independent news organizations like National Public Radio(NPR), Associated Press International or the BBC all of which are located in Nigeria. That is how you assure your credibility in Nigeria and the world community. Political defense with words only based on party ideology will not suffice. I will be watching.

 

Saturday Ikoro

Administrator, Candor Healthcare Inc.

Atlanta, Georgia USA.


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