Campaigns amid hunger, salary arrears
…governors face biggest hurdles in race
Since the second week of this month, residents across the 36 states of the country have been receiving August visitors in their domains.
The crusading candidates for the 2023 gubernatorial election are truly ‘August Visitors’ because in their selfishness, they hardly embark on such a journey for the four years they have been in power until now they need re-election or fresh mandate from the masses.
They are even in the remotest parts of the country seeking for votes and are not deterred by the rising insecurity, which they often cite as reason for not meeting the grass root while in power.
However, the situation seems worse for some gubernatorial candidates, who in normal circumstances should not seek reelection or their party fielding a candidate for fresh mandate due to the poor performance of the incumbent or outgoing governor.
These are governors whose non-performance woes are worsening by several months of salary arrears owed to workers and retirees in their states, amid hunger in their states.
According to a report by BudgIT, a civic organisation, at least 12 out of Nigeria’s 36 states owed workers at least one-month salary as of July 28, 2022.
The civic organisation updated the number a few months later to include more months of salary arrears and more states, which are; Abia, Imo, Cross Rivers, Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Ebonyi, Delta, Edo, Ondo and Kogi.
While most of the governors from these states are leaving office in 2023, pundits think that their parties may risk losing the 2023 election as hungry and angry citizens are more determined now to vote them or their parties out in 2023.
Idris Yenusa, a Kogi State senior civil servant, queried the basis on which a non-performing governor will seek reelection when he has not paid civil servants for over five months, when roads he built are dilapidating within one year, bridges collapse before the commissioning date, among other issues that should have made the House of Assembly to impeach him.
He lamented that there is no basis for campaigning for the governors, who he said are only interested in the second round of looting in the state or at the federal level.
“You media people write good things about these non-performing governors and even give them awards for impoverishing their states. I am from Abia, the governors from Orji Uzor Kalu, Theodore Orji and now Okezie Ikpeazu, have done nothing but looting the state treasury.
“So, what is PDP in Abia going to campaign with, what are they going to promise when all who ruled under that party in the past promised the same and never fulfilled them,” Chijioke Umelahi, a former Abia lawmaker, said.
The former lawmaker, who lost at the primaries for the Arochukwu/Ohafia Federal Constituency to a money bag, noted that across the 36 states, it is hard to find a governor that has fulfilled his campaign promises considering the level of poverty in the land.
“They said Lagos and Ebonyi governors are working, but have you considered what they have stolen too, the debt they are leaving behind and the divide and rule they enshrined in the system that makes it impossible for opposition to thrive.
“All the governors and parties have all combined to place Nigerians in this precarious economic, security and social situations we are in now, they deserve no second chance or representing the states at any other level,” Umelahi stated further.
Citing Plateau, his state, as an example, Rekila Ovat, decried the hardship and silent killings ongoing in the state, bad state of infrastructure, especially roads and growing poverty.
“None of the many things Simon Lalong promised that made the people to help him and the APC to unseat PDP in the state has been fulfilled. Even in Shendam, his place of birth, still cries for help today.
“So, what is his party going to promise that will be fulfilled this time? I think they are set to rig the election because if you go by performance, they will lose. But, the masses are ready to die to defend their votes this time. It will not be easy to rig this time,” Ovat, a Jos-based entrepreneur, said.
Deferring from the previous comments, Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian researcher in Belgium, noted that elections are hardly won on performance basis in Nigeria, rather by rigging and vote buying and that is why most politicians will rather loot money meant for development than use it for the right purpose.
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“Those of us in the diaspora, who have interest in the country, have more information than those at home.
“So, tell me which governor has performed, why the new set of candidates will not loot public funds like their predecessors and how many looters have truly been prosecuted to deter others from doing so,” he said.
For him, the campaign is to fulfill the demands of the electoral law, but the real action should be the masses, who he said should change from mortgaging their future with N5000 from vote buyers at every major election.
“For me, all the gubernatorial candidates seeking reelection have no chance because of their gross non-performance and betrayal of the people’s trust.
“We should beam search light on new leaders, check their backgrounds and pedigrees, even if they come from an unknown party, they can win if the masses shun dirty money and stand behind them.
“You saw what happened in Britain where an Indian blood emerged prime minister; let us allow people, despite their background, tribe or religion to try their best in salvaging the country. Truly, the governors have nothing to campaign again, having failed to deliver in their first or two terms in office. If it is here in Belgium, they will be in jail and their loot confiscated by the law,” he stated.
They also said that the same abysmal performance at the federal level is what has been replicated across the country in the last seven years.
Comfort Andrew, a teacher by profession, wondered what an APC candidate would campaign on judging by Buhari’s failure at the Presidency.
“Nobody needs to ask to ask if Buhari performed or not; at least, we can feel it, smell it and touch the poverty he entrenched in the country. That this has been the worst government ever in the history of Nigeria is not an exaggeration. I tell people that if it were in other countries, it would have been a referendum against the APC as a party. If you have observed, they have skillfully avoided campaigning on whatever he claims he has done; what they want to sell Asiwaju Bola Tinubu with is whatever records of achievement he has when he was governor,” Mrs Andrew said.