Shall we blame the governors if this democracy fails?

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Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress
by Wale Oloko

 

Just a reminder, there are thirty-seven governors in Nigeria. Thirty-six are elected and one appointed. Perhaps, the common attribute of all the governors is the fact that they are very powerful in their “territories”, or in fact they are demigods. Their activities are interwoven.

They are entities that for good or bad determine the well-being of Nigerians and the political stability of the country. The elected ones are supposed to be accountable to the people that they seek their votes during campaign seasons, but as soon as they are sworn in they become “kings” and some even tyrants. Oftentimes, they manipulate the system in their favor and return for a second term. That is not all. When they are through with their role as sole administrators in their states, they move over to Abuja as senators. For records, about thirty-two of the present and former governors are angling to become senators in 2023. Who can stop them…only divine intervention?

Notably, they have taken their impunity and imperial authority beyond their states and they now determine who becomes the President of the Republic. In the recently concluded presidential primaries of political parties, the majority of the candidates were serving or former governors. I guess you know the reason for that.

One way or another, they have devised an opaque way of direct or indirect access to the resources of their states even when the workers and pensioners are not getting their dues. It is getting more interesting. Is it just a coincidence that two of the presidential candidates of the three major parties are former governors while the third won an election as governor but was not sworn in? Just to show the stuff they are made of, the northern governors of the ruling party ensured that the presidential candidate was chosen from the southern part of the country despite the body language of the President. And who did they choose, a former governor?

Even the one that is not a former governor, but who won the nomination of the main opposition party is still seeking the support of a governor who felt betrayed that he lost the nomination. He has thus chosen to bring on board some of his colleagues to play the role of a spoiler in the house he helped build. To do this, they flew to the United Kingdom in a chartered jet two weeks ago to meet the three presidential candidates. But how did we get to this stage where ordinary reconciliatory meetings now take place in Dubai, Paris, Madrid, and London? What effect does that have on our foreign exchange reserves and the value of the currency? Who pays for the chartered jet and in what currency? Fortunately, they are back hale and hearty. But can we just close our eyes and imagine a scenario where the aircraft malfunctions and Nigeria loses three governors at a go? Do these people realize that such an ego trip was an act of sheer folly?

Everyone seems to feel that the Presidency is the big elephant in the room. Yet, the governors, the elected and appointed are doing more to accelerate the demise of this Fourth Republic than any individual or group. The Governors are the alpha and omega in their states. They have literarily strangulated the local governments, state assemblies, and the judiciary. There is no state where opposition parties can win any local elections. The state assemblies are mere rubber stamps concerning the annual budgets. There are no independent auditors-general to check the finances of the state governments.

The Public Accounts Committees of the state assemblies are functional only in name. They dare not call the executive branch to account for their expenditure both authorized and discretionary. Or how else can a state governor or a group of governors travel for a private meeting in London on a chartered jet at the government’s expense? What is official about that meeting that any of the states must take responsibility for both local and foreign currency components of the trip? To be fair, this kind of impunity does not happen at the federal level and Nigerians must rise up and take all means necessary to put a stop to this frivolous junketing.

For example, when next they embark on this jamboree, the populace can take over the airport and move to the tarmac. There is no how the police and the military can stop five thousand determined Nigerians from breaching the airport security and moving to the tarmac and once that happens, no foreign pilot flying a chartered jet can land on top of Nigerians. Nigerians must take back their country using every legitimate means possible. These governors have taken Nigerians for a ride for too long and it must stop.

While the elected governors are behaving like emperors, the irony is that the appointed one is not too different in terms of his I can do no wrong approach, even when the enabling act establishing the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is very clear on the status of the managers of the bank. Although, he has a two-term limit like the state governors, the governor against all known central banking rules and guidelines all over the world attempted to put his hat into the recently concluded presidential primaries of the ruling party. Importantly, he has every right to aspire to the highest office in the land, but not as a sitting governor of the nation’s Central Bank and when all the indices of economic activities are going south.

As to be expected, Nigerians were unanimous in their condemnation of this irresponsible act. One of the governors of the ruling party captured the reactions succinctly. He said it was a joke taken too far. He added that “It is difficult to imagine that a person who occupies the exalted and sensitive office of the Governor of the CBN will be this brazen in actualizing his ambition”. According to reports, on the same day he collected his presidential nomination form, the currency was sent to a record low, confirming the assertion that his ambition has implications for the country.

To a large extent, Nigeria has been quite lucky with the quality of people at the helm of affairs at the Central bank except for a few characters who without doubt are nothing but pretenders. In this, not too glorious category is the one that claimed that the Aboki FX website was the reason for the decreasing value of the currency and the one that allowed billions of dollars to be taken away from the CBN vault and deposited in personal accounts across the world. Luckily, sympathetic foreign governments are now assisting to repatriate part of the money to the country.

While the classical functions of Central banks all over the world include the management of foreign exchange reserves, inflation, and interest rates, it is very doubtful if the CBN under the current managers is living up to that role, notwithstanding the excuses that Nigeria is not a producing nation but a consuming one. There is nothing new in this assertion that we have heard all these years. We would like to hear new stories. But I guess they have run out of ideas and Nigeria is on autopilot as far as the economy is concerned.

Meanwhile, what is of major concern to me and several Nigerians is not so much the rate of inflation or value of the currency, but the lack of truth concerning the country’s foreign exchange reserves. Sometime last month, specifically on 3rd August 2022, the influential online news media, Premium Times carried a report entitled “Nigeria nears economic collapse; external reserves down to $15 billion contrary to CBN’s $36 billion claim”. I have waited for over a month for the Presidency, and the Ministries of Information, Finance, Budget, and Planning to react to this damning disclosure but none has been forthcoming. And very unlike the Communications Department of the CBN, there has been no repudiation of the story or threat to go to court.

No one has deemed it necessary to talk to Nigerians about the actual position of the foreign reserves. Should we then assume that silence means consent? The irony is that the website of the CBN is still reflecting $39.4 billion as our foreign reserves. Who do we then believe in this act of deception? If the Premium Times story is true then the worst is yet to come.

Meanwhile, the CBN governor claiming to show concern for the status of the country in the comity of nations, but which even a ten-year-old school kid knows is nothing but a reaction to the threats by the foreign airlines to boycott Nigerian airspace, belatedly announced in a statement on 26th August 2022, that the sum of “$265 million has been released to airlines operating in the country to settle outstanding-trapped funds from ticket sales”. The statement noted that the “CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, and his team were concerned about the inability of airlines to repatriate their funds from Nigeria and what it portends for the sector and travelers as well as the country in the comity of nations”. Really?

The logical question to ask is whether he had any consideration for the well-being of the citizens and the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations when he was planning to replace the current president as subsisting governor of CBN.

It is therefore on the basis of the forgoing that I have come to the conclusion that if these governors, both elected and appointed, continue with this can-do-no-wrong attitude and the tyrannical way of managing the states, the bank and by extension the economy, it is only a matter of when, not whether this democracy will fail, after all, it is already broken.

May God not allow such to happen. To prevent this, Nigerians must rise and take back their country. God helps those who help themselves.

Wale Oloko, a Policy Analyst writes via strategicassociatesOLK@gmail.com

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