Of emperors and their empires


Only state governors in Nigeria can be emperors. Or who else can be an emperor in Nigeria? Our state governors irrespective of religion and tribe are the ordained emperors at state level where they play God. Since 1999, many Nigerians have focused their attention on the presidency, who occupies it, what are his policies and strategies for implementation, without watching closely what happens at states and local governments. And because “we the citizens” fail to challenge status quo, almost all the states are below acceptable standards in terms of governance and development. Most times, columnists, political analysts and commentators including journalists have erroneously concentrated on the government at the center, forgetting that all politics is local.

If indeed, all politics is local, Nigerians would have monitored closely what happens in their states and local governments. If there was no development in all the 774 local governments, there cannot be progress in all the states. I have travelled to more than twenty states in the country, some of them are glorified villages. Most states capitals are without adequate electricity supply and good roads, while our rural areas are really backward. It is for these reasons and many more, that one expects our professional politicians who serve as governors to pay attention to everyday issues affecting their people and proffer workable solutions to problems.

How can we have a breakdown of meningitis requiring immediate medical attention in Zamfara State, and what the governor had to say is: “God sent meningitis to punish Nigerians for their sins.” I thought the governor was being ridiculed by the media until he was reported as saying he is not the chief security officer of his state because of incessant killings of the people he governs. He simply let go his responsibility as chief security officer because he could not articulate strategies to protect the state, its people, and implement same. Yet, he did not resign as the state governor. This is only one of many examples.

We cannot continue to ignore what happens in most of the 36 states of Nigeria where there is hardly transparency and accountability. To further compound the problem, many of the governors exercise their powers with total violation of the rule of law. Who will blame them? They have no one superintending over their constitutional responsibilities. State houses of assembly are extensions of their empires with the legislators caged, local government chairmen and their councillors have been rendered impotent. Yet, some powerful politicians say there is no need for restructuring. They have made up their minds that what the nation needs is to fight corruption. Once elected, the people cannot hold them accountable anymore. In fact, they exercise their powers “without any form of restraint- either by law or social conscience.” You need to see some state governors the way they swagger in their empires. They sack their deputies at will. Report has it that since 1999, no fewer than 23 deputy governors have lost their jobs once they have independent views on any state matter. Many governors turn their deputies and other senior officials to glorified errand boys who have no rights to dissenting views on any matter. Most state governors are immersed in only self-serving matters either at the state or national levels respectively. But all you hear is: “My people! My people! My people,” when the people they govern are suffering and smiling.

When one visits many of our states, one would see what a scholar of techno-economic development refers to as “development myopia.” Most of our governors use flawed theories and archaic ideas to stimulate economic growth in their states. People need food, housing, transport, electricity, jobs, healthcare and security, but they are provided with airports and stadiums in billions of Naira. This is akin to the case of medical myopia where a patient suffering from malaria is not properly diagnosed and treated, but suddenly death is the outcome for such a display of ineptitude. In such states, continued decline of their economies is inevitable. That is the tragedy in most states of the country where dire poverty has replaced affluence.

Most roads in the country are in a state of disrepair. Health facilities are in a state of decay. About 13.5 million of the children residing in all the 36 states are out of school roaming the streetseither begging for money or selling cheap commodities from other countries. The nation has a youth bulge which is currently a liability as more than 55 percent of our youths (18-35yrs) are either unemployed or underemployed, according to statistics. One can only imagine what Nigeria will look like if states can boast of jobs, good roads, electricity, pipe-borne water, healthcare facilities, and sufficient food. But only very few governors come up with brilliant responses to the needs of the people. To worsen the matter, many Nigerians are passive to an extent that often, our emperors find themselves spending recklessly the meagre allocation they get from the monthly Federation Accounts Allocation Committee meetings. Nigeria wants it this way and that is why the states have adopted the begging bowl approach to survival. At the end of each month, state officials go cap in handto Abuja to share money. It’s very disturbing to see owners of resources go to someone else to beg for a little of what belongs to them. That is the way our 1999Constitution says it should be.

The newly elected governors and state legislators are congratulated. They must be innovative and be close to the people as they govern their states by adopting the bottom-up approach to leadership. Nigerians deserve a better deal from democracy. We need to transform our states, and this requires a deliberate action on the part of all the state governors and the citizens of Nigeria. Most importantly, our state governors should demonstrate capacity to create, renew and increase wealth of the people who voted them into office on a continuous basis. The coast of poverty across 36 states is expanding at an alarming rate. This calls for meaningful economic reforms throughout all the states of Nigeria.


MA Johnson

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