By Abong Egbogiro
The art of control confers the authority of governance on the controller. Dogs not being humans, are controlled by the leashes around their necks, children are kept away from danger, harm and misdemeanors by the control of their parents, teachers and guardians. Laws and law enforcement agents serve as the leash on society otherwise our cities would be constantly visited with miscellaneous mayhem. The democratic system of governance we claim to practice in Nigeria has its own in-built control mechanism; hence it has been designed to have three arms that operate independently towards the singular goal of delivering qualitative governance to the society. It is in recognition of the fallibility of man and institutions that control mechanisms are instituted. It is also common knowledge that where they are no controls abuse becomes very imminent.
In designing our democratic system of governance, the flow of policy formulation, interpretation and implementation is such that the Legislative arm of government makes the laws, and by extension performs some superintendence (or oversight) functions over the Executive, the Judiciary interprets the laws, while the Executive implements these laws. These roles are mutually exclusive without bias to the fact that the President or Governor (in the case of a state) remains the Chief Executive Officer and as such the buck stops on his desk. Given the various interest groups in any body of persons or geographical definition, be it state or nation; a fourth realm of the estate which constitutes such other stakeholders as the Elders, Press, Non Governmental Agencies, Professional and Trade associations also have high stakes and as such should make inputs in the affairs of the entity; the goal remaining the delivery of high quality service to the society. As much as the fourth realm of the estate is not a constitutional body, its role in playing particularly oversight and advisory roles cannot be underestimated or overlooked.
There is no doubt that there has been a total failure of governance in Abia state in the past seven, going to eight years. The failure has been so far reaching and extensive that it has attracted local and international condemnation. In some quarters, it is believed that it is not possible for a government to so underperform, they therefore allude to some spiritual undercurrent, others, posit that it is a mere case of sheer incompetence. There are however obvious indicators that what we are dealing with is a combination of these two factors and a plethora of others.
So much has been dropped on the desk of the Executive arm of government that it now appears that Abia had a one arm government set-up. It is agreed that the buck stops on the Chief Executive’s desk, but we must diagnose this malaise beyond that position to x-ray the contributions of other arms of government and stakeholders to this monumental disaster.
What did the speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly speak on? What did the Legislature as a whole legislate on? What input did they make in the past eight budgets of the state? What reviews did they do on the budget performances? Could budgets have been implemented as passed? where there were variances, distortions or extra budgetary incidences, what corrective actions were taken?. It is important that the performance of the Abia State House of Assembly be brought under close scrutiny to determine how much resources were wasted on this body. Could the Executive arm have done better if they were periodically called to order or restrained from embarking on self deluding undertakings. What level of oversight was done on the activities of the various ministries in the state that allowed them to attain such level of lethargy and inefficiency. These and many more questions we must find answers to. Above all what manner of persons did we hand the destiny and affairs of Abia State to? This last question is critically important in the light of the fast approaching 2015 general elections as Abia cannot afford another holocaust after the present travesty.
We must critically examine the contributions of the men and women who held sway as Legislators in Abia because there is no record of whatever corrective measure, advice or sanction that issued from that shallow chambers, even in the face of a deluge of ill conceived moves, strategic blunders and blatant abuse that were emanating from the executive quarters. It will therefore be safe to submit that these men and women are not only guilty of dereliction of duty but are also culpable in the near total annihilation of all that was good and noble in the state, they should therefore be denied the privilege of continuing in that position having proven beyond all reasonable doubt that they lack the requisite qualifications to hold such exalted positions. The Abia House of Assembly has been a sham, a disgrace and an embarrassment to the Legislative arm of government in the country. They abandoned the leash that they were supposed to hold and allowed the subjects they were supposed to control, to not only control them but also to wreck havoc on our dear state. No member of that house deserves a recall, this is in order not to corrupt or poison new members as we are wont to have.
Since it was created, Abia has produced a good number of national and international figures, statesmen otherwise thought to be astute, national and international personalities who we envisioned were the cream of our society and who we believed we could look up to. Take a bow of shame Abia Elders! While the state bled to death you reveled in gallivanting all over the world and the nation propagating the politics of acrimony and irresponsibility that has been the hallmark of the present administration. None of you stood on the side of the people, nor did you stand on the side of the fatherland. You choose to reason with your stomachs, refusing to observe the limits of greed and avarice. Instead of aligning with the obvious truth, you chose to be active players in the propagation of falsehood as truth in an attempt to curry filthy favors, forgetting that in this age and time, it is extremely difficult to deceive even new born babies. It is unfortunate that you have chosen to consign yourselves to the dustbin of infamy. Henceforth the people will no longer recognize you nor will they accord any respect to your now debased positions. What has happened in Abia can only happen where there are no elders. Abia has no elders period. We therefore pray that a vibrant generation of young men and women of good conscience will take up the gauntlet and grow into that position to offer the guidance and wisdom that is the lot of elders the world over.
It is heartwarming news that the Federal Government of Nigeria has heard our cries and in recognition of the embarrassing state of affairs in Abia, has decided to intervene in the state by embarking on a project known as Rural Access Mobility Project (RAMP). The initiative is said to be a joint venture between the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Finance, African Development Bank and the Abia State Government. The project is targeted at boosting the state’s aggressive rural road infrastructure development program. To any discerning mind, this is a face saving measure by the Federal Government to salvage some modicum of respect from the people of the state given the betrayal of the mandate so freely awarded to their political party through its representative. Our wife, daughter and sister must have also wedged in to rescue the state from imminent collapse. Kudos to her, but danger lurks.
A note of warning must be sounded that the state government must not be allowed any role in the execution of the projects. The AfDB team should collect, collate their data, design their execution programs and implement same. The government in Umuahia is not capable of anything good and seems determined to frustrate any meaningful developmental initiative in the state. No kind of wind should be allowed to blow anywhere near these projects, be they soft or whirlwinds. Despite the government’s disputations and knee jerk reactions, this intervention is a confirmation that all is not well in the state. It is rather curious that one of the areas of intervention is waste management. One of the novelties of our democratic experiment is the practice of conversion of waste to wealth in several states. While companies in Lagos are shopping for waste (bio-degradable and non-bio degradable), to utilize in their conversion processes to earn decent income there from, Abia government is grappling with waste management. It has been unable to fashion an intervention to clean up the state, nor has it been able to borrow initiatives from other climes. That shows how clueless, this government has been!
The intervention should also not stop at taking over the responsibilities of the state, but should extend to the verification of the utilization of the hundreds of billions of Naira that has been received by the government from the Federation Account and from internal sources. Those that have plundered Abia must be made to account for their Heist. It is important to review the activities of the outgoing misfiring team, so that the incoming one will be properly guided in policy formulation, project execution and even in their conduct. There is no doubt that the empire built on falsehood and propaganda by this government is collapsing very rapidly. There are lessons to be learnt, corrections to be made and a State to rescue and develop. The practice of accountability must be entrenched in our ethos if we are to achieve efficiency in the deployment of resources that accrue to our state. We must also embrace fiscal and financial responsibility in the management of our affairs, the wingding of the past seven years plus must be discouraged.
It is unfortunate that the present administration has continued to waste funds in exposing its superficiality through its unrelenting media propaganda, fortunately they only hoodwink themselves, as they bamboozle no one no more. The recent exhibition of obduracy was in the publication of pictures said to be projects executed in Abia in the past seven years. While not set to hold forte for anyone, I see that exercise as another monumental waste of the said scare resources and as a blatant show of insensitivity. The strategy was wrongly conjured, it was ill timed and was very poorly packaged. The veracity of those claims has been called to question in some quarters but that is not my take. For the information of those who authored that kindergarten campaign, you cannot compare Christian Chukwu with Kenneth Omeruo just because both of them played as central defenders for the Eagles (Green or Super). A son is ordinarily and naturally expected to do better than his father by building on the foundation of his source, so also is a protégé expected to outperform his patron. The comparison we expect to see is that with Governors in the same term, under similar conditions and even in the same region, like Governor Sullivan Chime, Governor Peter Obi now Willie Obiano, Governor Chibuike Amechi and Governor Godswill Akpabio. There will be no need extending it to Governor Babatunde Fashola. The comparison should cut across not just physical structures nay infrastructure (real, imagined or repositioned), but also policies, human development, adherence to good corporate governance, transparency, rule of law, vision, development of institutions, security or lack of it, industrial development, financial responsibility, worker’s and people’s welfare and such other laudable expectations from a responsible government. The Abia Government is seriously advised to carry out this exercise, it may just learn what governance is all about after all.
As the elections draw nearer, Abians are offered an opportunity to rescue the state, halt the rot and enthrone responsible God fearing leadership at all levels. One thing that has been very evident with the past misadventure is that you cannot give what you do not have. An appraisal of the pedigree of those who ran things in Abia will clearly reveal the humungous error of judgment committed by the people of the state. We must forgive ourselves and correct those errors. It is now time to analyze the myriads of candidates traversing our land as candidates canvassing for one position or the other. We must know the antecedents of those who want to govern us as Governors, Representatives, Senators or even Counselors. Political offices and positions of responsibility should no longer be distributed as largesse to political cronies, hangers on, girl and boyfriends, thugs, unemployed and unemployable persons. Governance is a serious business for serious minded people. Abia political offices must not be for the occult, neither should they be rehabilitation centers for failed businessmen, career dropouts and those who have been unsuccessful even with raising families.
The candidates must be seen to understand the demands of the position that they are clamoring for, such knowledge should not be limited to the pecks and privileges of the respective offices. We must understand that aspiring legislators who are promising boreholes and houses do not understand their call in government and as such must be avoided. The candidates must be seen to understand the people’s expectations of them, and must come with clean hands, clutching clear cut feasible and viable initiatives, they must be disposed to serve as servant leaders, and not overbearing overlords that we have today. Political offices should not be for the visionless and day dreamers. If the propaganda of the present government could collapse like a pack of cards then there is no place for false hood in today’s world.
Our choices must transcend regional or sectional considerations, we must eschew political cleavages or inclinations, we must focus on character, merit, integrity, suitability, dynamism, experience, commitment, track record, passion amongst other positive indices. We must be able to discuss Abia with them, agree pragmatic programs of action, articulate implementable strategies not just electioneering promises. They must believe in Project Abia not Project self and family as is the case now. Abia can ill afford another misadventure, we have had one too many and must repent of making wrong choices.
We are not going to alter the status quo by being silent, doing nothing, and wishing for change. We must speak up and reveal the hidden identifies of those who masquerade as candidates, we must separate wolves from humans, identify political jobbers and ignore them. We must confront the present warped establishment with superior discuss, strategies and engagements. We must not be cowed for Abia belongs to all of us. Take a stand for Abia, reject candidates with questionable standing so that Abia will never again be ruled by misfits. The time to act is TODAY.