Uniting To Produce 2015 President: Ethical Deficit Of Northern Governors
Media reports on Friday, May 18, 2012 highlighted that the nineteen (19) Northern Governors are Uniting to Produce the 2015 – 2019 President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The announcement was said to be made by the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum, Governor Muazu Babagida Aliyu of Niger State after the meeting of the Governors in Kaduna on Thursday, May 17, 2012. According to the report, Governor Aliyu remarked “we must be united more than ever to go into the 2015 elections as one entity with the aim of producing the president”. He advised all the Governors and politicians in the North to remain focused and pursue issues of development rather than trivial issues that have led to the retrogression of the region in recent years.
Hausa people have a saying: Jumma’a mai kyau, daga Laraba ake gane ta, meaning the sign of a Good Friday is noticed on Wednesday. If our current reality in the North is anything to go by, it amounts to trivilising matters and indulging in shadow boxing for our Northern Governors to be talking of producing 2015 President. There are far more urgent priorities facing our ‘illustrious’ Governors of Northern Nigeria than the task of producing 2015 President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Just take a look at the gory statistics produced by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and other agencies and the challenges facing our Governors in the 19 Northern states is well defined. For instance, average unemployment rate for the 19 states of Northern Nigeria is 27.9%, which is higher than the national average of 23.9%. What this means is that about one out of every three adult employable citizen in the North is unemployed. With estimated population of 83 million, about 27 million qualified working population of the region is unemployed. The reality will be more appreciate if we take into account that the working population may not be more than 50% of the total population of the region. The working population of the region therefore would be about 40 million, out of which 27 million are unemployed.
Problem of high unemployment in the region has significantly contributed to high poverty rate, which the NBS estimate at 73.8% for the three zones that comprise the 19 states in 2011. This is higher than the national incidence of 69%, which means that more than seven out of every ten citizens in the North are poor. In other words an estimated 61 million citizens resident in the North are poor.
High unemployment and poverty rates are partly a reflection of low economic activities. This, in many respects, has translated into low internally generated revenue (IGR) for all the state governments in the region, on account of which the total IGR for the 19 states for 2010, according to Central Bank of Nigeria Annual Report released in March 2011 was N92.1 billion. Compared to total personnel cost of N245.7 billion, internal revenue generation capacity for our 19 state governments can only meet 37% of personnel cost commitment. Taking into account the new minimum wage of N18,000, which came into effect in March 2011, the IGR of our 19 Northern states may not be able to meet more than 15% of the personnel cost commitment of our state governments.
In addition to these problems, our 19 states are also highly indebted, which according to information from the Debt Management Office (DMO), as at December 31, 2011, was US$834,600,888.72 or N129,363,137,751.60 at the exchange rate of N155 to US$. This represents 39.2% of the total debt of our 36 states.
Our 19 states are protected from the negative impact of low IGR and high debt profile with soaring revenue from the federation account, which according to Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) stood at N1,502,551,340,400.06 for the period January 2009 – December 2011. This represents 56.53% of the total allocations to all the 36 states of the federation. The availability of high revenue from the federation account enables our 19 Northern states to meet up with personnel and recurrent commitments, which is made possible because of high oil prices in the international market that has remained at more than US$100 per barrel for almost 10 years now, if not more.
With prudent management of the high revenue from the federation account, capacity of our state governments to generate employment and reduce poverty would have been enhanced. Economic activities in the region would have been stimulated through strategic investment in the productive sectors of the economy, as a result of which the meager IGR would have been boosted and economic viability of our states guaranteed.
Unfortunately, all we have in return for high revenue from the federation account is high unemployment, rising poverty, illiteracy, mortality rates, etc. This has produced high crime rates, insecurity and reign of terror with the attendant colossal loss of lives and property. As things are, we are faced with a situation of anarchy, the magnitude of which made Gen. (Rtd) T. Y. Danjuma, some few weeks back, in early May 2012, to declare that the country is on fire and queried the attitude of Northern Governors in handling the security situation, which has crippled some states in the region.
Gen. Danjuma’s alarm bell may have generated political and propaganda responses. However, the reality is very clear. Just attempt to visit Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Potiskum, Damaturu, Maiduguri, to mention few. Issues of freedom, liberty, respect for law and order have been lost. Citizens’ lives in most Northern states are endangered and life has virtually returned to the Hobesian state of nature – nasty, brutish and short. Bomb attacks are almost daily occurrences, claiming the lives of innocent citizens, including pupils, students and their teachers in our educational institutions.
If this is the barometer to gauge the competence of our 19 Northern Governors in terms of their leadership capabilities, apologies, resignations and impeachments may be more appropriate. Certainly not any interest, remote or immediate, directly or indirectly, about who is the 2015 President of Nigeria. Given our current realities, it will be a dereliction of responsibility and lavish for our 19 Governors, individually or collectively to at this hard time express any form of interest regarding who become the President of Nigeria in 2015.
With our prevailing situation, the primary responsibility of our Northern Governors should be to address problems of high rates of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, mortality, crime and insecurity in the region. So far, the only thing that stands out for our Governors is the scale of mismanagement of the resources of our states. With more than N1.5 trillion coming to our 19 Northern states and almost nothing to show for it, our 19 Governors should be individually and collectively ashamed of themselves. Regrettably, this is not the case because we live in times when it is a big achievement to squander and steal public resources.
These are times when qualification for leadership is equated with public office. Performance and achievement is hardly a reference point, especially if measured based on positive impact on the living conditions of citizens. With zero or negative impact, a sitting Governor is already an automatic candidate for re-election for second four-year tenure or even emerging as presidential candidate. Serving Ministers, Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, State Commissioners, etc. are potential candidates for re-appointment, re-election or becoming gubernatorial candidates, etc.
This is in fact the motivating factor behind the clamour from our Northern Governors for the so-called unity to Produce the 2015 President of Nigeria. It is largely driven by self-interest based on a high probability that, if united, one of them would be the President. Given our experience in the North under their reign as Governors, it will be disastrous for the nation to have any of our current serving Governors to emerge as the 2015 President of Nigeria. Their competence or lack of it has only successfully produced social upheaval in the region.
To the extent of this competence or lack of it, our Governors are therefore ethically deficient to attempt to influence the emergence of a President in 2015 that can serve the interest of the people in North. If the 2015 President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to emerge based on the influence of the 19 Northern Governors, resource mismanagement, resulting in high unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and mortality rates, low economic activities and low IGR may only be re-enforced.
In the circumstance, our Governors should be more challenged to ensure that at the minimum they are able to return the North to some levels of sanity between now and 2015. The task of producing 2015 President of Nigeria, who can serve the interest of the North, cannot be addressed in a situation of anarchy. It should not also be reduced to the usual conspiratorial and high-level regional political scheming, which has since 1999 undermined the growth of our democracy. Conspiratorial and high-level regional political scheming have only succeeded in installing incompetent and mediocre public officials in the country.
This needs to be changed through the institution of democratic processes that would enable citizens to sort interests and aspirations based on capacity and competence to provide selfless services. Our 19 Northern Governors, with hardly any exception, have no moral basis of seeking to influence the process of determining the 2015 President of Nigeria, especially if the objective is to serve the interest of the people of the region. Like it is said in law; “He who comes to equity, must come with clean hands”.
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