By Ochiaka Ugwu
It is possible that the 21 Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) governors like their principal in the presidential Villa, President Goodluck Jonathan are quite comfortable with the precarious state of Nigerians which is degenerating on daily basis with little or no effort to remedy the situation. To say that they merry while Nigeria continues to degenerate will not be out of place. These leaders, it seems, are yet to realize that the tea party is over and Nigerians are hungry and at the same time angry. Going by their choice of priorities, both also continue to betray an alarming lack of touch with public expectations that is both shocking and equally annoying. It could even make one to say they are suffering from political schizophrenia, meaning they have lost touch with reality and even the people they claim they govern.
The way these governors in particular continue to operate and even dictate policy with a casual arrogance, I am tempted to believe these governors are under illusion that they are the decider and controller of the peoples’ destiny. Some are even seeing themselves as emperors that have carved out fiefdoms; whereas they are the states while their words are law. They simply could do no wrong. If that is the case then I certainly want to know the rationale behind the 21 governors of the ruling party donating a whopping N1.05 billion in their party’s presidential fund raising.
This is in the face of austerity measures introduced by the federal government occasioned by oil down turn in the international market. All these states no doubt are still trying to grapple with the reality of economic down turn which has greatly diminished their monthly allocation from Abuja.
It is unfortunate that regardless of not being able to pay civil servants in some of their states, these governors, while exhibiting the highest level of sycophancy on Saturday night went ahead to donate N1.05 billion to their party ahead of the 2015 elections. The donation was part of the N21.2 billion raised by the party at its fund raising dinner held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Bauchi State governor, Alhaji Isa Yuguda who spoke on their behalf said each of the governors contributed a total sum of N50 million to make the amount N1.05 billion. Going by Yuguda’s statement in a programme that was broadcast live in major national televisions, the money was collected randomly not considering the financial situation of the state in question or the living conditions of the inhabitants of these states. In several states, including PDP-controlled states like Akwa Ibom, thousands of civil servants have not been paid salaries; sometimes for up to four months. States like Enugu has endemic poverty as one of its cardinal programs which has made it possible for poverty to be working in the streets giving people plate numbers. Alhaji Yuguda did not explain why the governors felt more obliged to donate funds to the party when majority of the people are wallowing in abject poverty. Even pensioners who used their productive years in working
for the progress of the country are still expectant that their gratuity will be paid, while others have died while waiting for the reward of their labour which they believe should not be in vain. A state like Benue owes workers for almost seven months. For how long will we keep on giving privilege to over privileged? We are cutting budgetary allocations, increasing taxes, but still we are busy abusing our common patrimony.
In the first place, who approved this money for disbursement in the states or could it mean the chief executives can spend the tax payers’ money without recourse to due process or even without the peoples’ consent. Because, I will bet you that no discerning mind will approve money that will help in perpetuating an arrangement that has continued to pauperize him, if the power of approval will be thrown open or placed in public domain.
It remains a paradox that despite the fact the states are crying of depleting resources with a larger proportion of its inhabitants living in abject poverty, the governors are busy fretting away their wealth in the most dishonest way.
This misplacement of priority could well be responsible for the rising poverty in Nigeria with the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) saying that almost 100 million people are living on less than $1 a day, despite acclaimed growth as the Africa’s largest economy.
The fact is that percentage of Nigerians living in absolute poverty – those who can afford only the bare essentials of food, shelter and clothing – rose to 60.9 percent in 2014, compared with 54.7 percent in 2004, and has kept on increasing by the day.
Although Nigeria’s economy is projected to continue growing, poverty is likely to get worse as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.
Today, poverty is clearly very visible in rural areas with governors killing the rural economy which would have lifted a whole lot of Nigerians from poverty. In rural communities, poverty is clearly one of the most profound problems being grappled with and contributing substantially to the erosion and undermining of the foundations of peaceful co-existence and stable national development. It is increasing, and deepening by the day engulfing an overwhelming majority of Nigeria’s population. Poverty seems to have defied solutions in spite of the massive investment of resources and targeted program to deal with it, hence it has become severe, acute and chronic, contributing significantly to underdevelopment, generalized insecurity and instability in the country. The failure to achieve the desired poverty eradication by successive targeted program is largely due to lack of political will by these governors towards promoting rural economy. It is as a result of complete neglect by these governors to poverty eradication that led to growing discontent and social injustice among the rural people of Nigeria who constitute the vast majority of the population of this country. They purposely refuse to implement an action plan that would have spread prosperity in their states especially in rural areas where it is wide spread. They forget that to achieve the important objective of eradicating poverty, actions need to be taken on several fronts simultaneously in an integrated manner to break the vicious circle of poverty and underdevelopment in rural areas mostly. This issue is not negotiable if the issue and challenges of poverty eradication in Nigeria must be addressed sustainably and effectively.
Finally, these governors should stop spending their time on frivolities, but should focus more on peoples’ oriented program by engaging in all round development that will benefit the people especially in rural communities. Studies have shown that development of rural economy is the most effective strategy for eradicating rural poverty which many see as the greatest problem facing the nation.