• Thursday, December 07, 2023
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How Cuomo’s resignation offers lesson for Nigeria’s public office holders

Andrew Cuomo

In the last few days part of the issues that have dominated discourse on the global stage is the resignation of Andrew Cuomo from office as Governor of New York.

Cuomo would leave office in a fortnight after a state investigation release last week accused him of having sexually harassed multiple women and violated state law.

Media reports had indicated that the indicting report from the state’s attorney-general Letitia James’s office had said it found the reported allegations from eleven women against Cuomo credible.

In the last few days, Cuomo, a democrat, has come under serious pressure, while facing an impeachment investigation from the New York Assembly’s judiciary committee.

The Governor has come under severe criticisms from leaders with many of them urging him to resign his position, including President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several New York State senators.

Read Also: New York governor Cuomo resigns, he’d wished he were a Nigerian politician

Meanwhile, Cuomo’s resignation is a sharp contrast to the situation here in Nigeria where public office holders, irrespective of the allegations against them, often find it difficult to resign from their positions.

In Nigeria, there is disregard and glaring lack of concern about public opinion by public office holder, elected and appointed.

Political watchers say that the situation has perhaps, been fuelled by the refusal of government to prosecute those who have been found wanting to serve as deterrent.

However, the situation exposes Nigeria’s weak institutional structure where impunity reign and elected public officers see themselves as above the law.

Evidence bound across Nigeria where several state governors and politicians enmeshed in fraud and misappropriation of public funds are still occupying key offices or walking freely without prosecution.

Former military dictator, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in an interview recently said corruption in Nigeria is worse under present civilian leaders than under military rulers.

Babangida had said people who steal public money under civilian administrations are on the streets walking free and have not been prosecuted.

He said: “Well on that, you can’t compare it with the facts on the ground now. You can say it. From what I read, from analysis, I think we are saints when compared to what is happening under a democratic dispensation.

“I sacked a governor for misappropriating less than N313, 000. Today, those who have stolen billions and are in court are now parading themselves on the streets. Who else is better in fighting corruption?”

Despite promises by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 to make the fight against graft the priority of his administration, across Nigeria there is growing discontent that the President is not doing enough to fulfil this promises amid allegation of corruption by top officials in the administration.

For example, in 2018, a viral video circulated online in which a governor in the North was allegedly receiving bundles of dollar notes supposedly from businessmen.

Reports alleged that the governor was alleged to personally receive some kickback for every project executed in the state. Several other media outlets have also reported the story.

After a flat denial of the allegations and threats to sue, by the governor, a second video has since been released with voices of the Governor and the contractors clearly being heard.

Despite public outcry and calls for his prosecution, the All Progressives Congress (APC) government turned a blind eye and refused to act.

In 2019, the Governor sought a second term in office and still won.

“We don’t have that culture here. You can see there, it was even the President Biden and other leaders that asked him to resign from office. In the 1960 independence constitution it was written once you lose the support of parliament you resign.

“If you want something you have to spell it out; that is why there was change in the constitution in 1979 on how someone can leave office or be removed from office. In Nigeria, you have to be removed from office. So, that is the situation here,” Wunmi Bewaji, a lawyer and activist, said.

Political analyst, Kayode Kehinde, said Africans should learn from western countries, respect public opinion and the rule of law.

According to her, “When we talk about politics & representation, trust me, they do better. It is, therefore, not wrong if we try as Africans to learn from those who have gotten it right by following paths to that end.

“The resignation of the New York Governor over allegations of sexual harassment is just one of the numerous examples of people & climes who respect public opinion and fear anarchy.

“It is disheartening to observe the momentum of power acquisition and the sit-tight governance system in many African countries even when there is popular dissatisfaction for the regime and clear evidence for their alleged offenses.

“Many public officers in Nigeria, at several points, have been accused of one offense or the other but continue their tenure or in some cases, even vied for another public position,” he said.

Kayode further identified impunity as a major issue that must be tackled; stressing that political party must be accountable and democratic in choosing their candidates.

“Our case of letting accused public office holders off the hook, tells a lot about a failing legal system/institution/laws, a power shift from public opinion to the hands of few public office holders, and having representatives lacking the people´s trust, etc.

“We have a long way to go, and if we must begin to tackle good governance in Nigeria, we must begin with accountable representatives not to the political parties they represent or few groups of persons, but to the people they claim to serve,” he said.