Is it just me? Are others beginning to see what seems like deja vu in our country and governance? It is nearly six months under a new government, and even though there are a few ‘not-business-as-usual’ approaches to governance, the larger climate in the country has not really changed. While I appreciate that we are on a long walk from the putrid past, but having been in despair for such a long time, Nigerians should not be blamed for asking for speed. As far as the term of office of this government goes, we are one eighth of the journey already, so it is not too early to demand our change, the way a passenger on a Lagos minibus (danfo) would demand his ‘change’ from the driver and conductor before the end of the journey.
I recall that shortly after the success of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last general elections, but before their take-over of government on May 29, I cautioned the party to really bring the change it touted. Writing under the headline, ‘APC as the new gravy train’, I expressed concerns with the sudden trooping of politicians from other political parties, especially the now ‘dethroned’ Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC, after the elections. And I hinged my fear on the fact that if the APC fails, neglects or refuses to do things differently and more responsibly than the PDP was known for, we would just have been thrown a reversed PDP that goes by the name APC. So, now that I am beginning to see some PDP-ish signs in the new government, I must shout out.
One of the things I often criticised previous governments, which were predominantly PDP (at the centre and in many states and local government administrations then) was the issue of abuse of power and privilege. I am already beginning to see that in the APC. One area the abuse often showed up was during electioneering. So here we are with the gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States. During the week, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was in Kogi to lead the APC campaign to solicit votes for the party’s candidate, Abubakar Audu.
I have no problems with Osinbajo, as a party member, thumping support for his party and its candidate. But I have a concern when he does so in his capacity as Nigeria’s Vice President, carrying along the full compliments and influence of the pan-Nigerian office. As I often asked during the previous administrations, I wish to ask again: “who bore the cost of his trip and maintenance, as well as those of his accompanying aides during that partisan engagement?” Could this conduct not have run contrary to the Code of Conduct for Public Officers? That Code states in paragraph one that a public officer shall not put himself (or herself as the case may be) in a position where his/her personal interest conflicts with his/her duties and responsibilities.
Still talking of deja vu, whatever happened with the petroleum products supply that we are back to the era of long queues for fuel that doesn’t seem to be enough? What is the state of our refineries? Why are we still paying so much for ‘fuel subsidy’? What are the minister and minister of state for petroleum doing? Also, with the federal government submission of a supplementary budget of N465.6billion this past week, we should begin to worry when the budget proposal for 2016 would be presented.
Deja vu is also when the states claim inability to pay salaries, rush back to the federal government saying they are broke and demand the sharing of money from the federation’s bird nest savings. The slightly good news from the ‘wailing’ governors though was their pledge to cut down cost of governance by limiting the number of political appointees. Haven’t we been wailing on and riling them all along about this their excess luggage? And no better example again fits this than the case of the Cross River State governor who created more ministries and appointed 28 commissioners, thus setting a record of more commissioners than there are members of the state House of Assembly. And I hear the number of vehicles and personnel in his convoy would make Idi Amin envious.
Finally on the deja vu mode is this insidious issue of Biafra. Okay, some people from the South East (Igbos specifically) have been clamouring for secession. The protests and demonstrations have been on and swelling for weeks now. Not much, if any, official comment has come from the presidency or the parliament. Not much has been heard from South East/Igbo traditional and political leaders and from public officials of Igbo origin on the issue. It thus creates an impression of subtle endorsement or lack of courage to speak up against it by the Igbo elite, while the masses from there seem to jump on the idea of an independent Biafra Republic.
If we cast our minds back, we would recall that this was the very same accusation many in the southern part of the country levelled against ‘northern leaders’ when the Boko Haram insurgency began and got very fierce. That, coupled with the poor handling of the conflict by the federal government, led to the exacerbation of the problem. The government must address this issue now, lest it conflagrates into another insurgency.
Published in The Niche newspaper, Sunday November 22, 2015 http://www.thenicheng.com/?p=26866