Eze Onyekpere: Wobbling And Fumbling As An Art Of Governance

The Online Dictionary defines wobbling as, inter alia, “to move or rotate with an uneven or rocking motion or unsteadily from side to side”; “to waver or vacillate in one’s opinions or feelings”. Fumbling on the other hand includes touching or handling nervously or idly; to proceed awkwardly and uncertainly in a bid to accomplish a mission; to make a mess of, to mishandle, among others. From the way governance is run in Nigeria, it is becoming clearer by the day that at all levels, it has become a directionless act of wobbling and fumbling. Every official attempts to outdo others in acts and omissions that would qualify the official either as a long-term guest in a penitentiary institution or someone that needs to have a serious chat with his psychiatrist. Other officials who do not belong to this category engage in acts that can only be likened to the proverbial man busy hunting rats with the full knowledge that his house is on fire. Only a tiny minority qualify as leaders properly so called.

In recent times, we have been inundated with outrageous conduct of men and women of power. It is either that pension thieves are ravaging our land with the active connivance and support from the highest echelons of governance or a state government is busy presiding over the withdrawal of a certificate earned by a former governor at a state university. In another instance, the Executive and the National Assembly cannot resolve their differences over the 2013 budget leading to unnecessary delays whilst the Minister of Finance who also coordinates the economy is announcing that we spent only 14.6 per cent of appropriated funds on capital expenditure in 2012. In other developments, some charlatans apparently in connivance with state officials rush to apply to usurp the name of an emerging opposition party whilst the President decides to pardon persons who have been convicted of high-level fraud and who have in no small measure contributed to the economic adversity of the nation. At every turn, it is all sad news for Nigeria!

For the greater part of last week, the discourse was on the state pardon granted the former Bayelsa State governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and others for the crime of corruption. This pardon raises various posers: On what rating and parametres did granting state pardon to persons convicted of corruption become a state priority? What public interest is served by the pardon or more pointedly, what message is the President sending to Nigerians and the international community? Are there no others deserving of pardon for purported offences against the state? Why is the President finding it difficult to channel his attention to more ennobling things that border on the security and welfare of the people? Considering our enormous economic, security and social challenges, the President and his team are expected to be very busy attending to these challenges.  They are expected to have a scale of priorities and preferences in terms of how they use their time and energy, which by virtue of their being in public office, have become state resources.

Nigerians had expected President Goodluck Jonathan and his team to focus more attention on solving the security challenges ravaging all facets of Nigerian life. From the Boko Haram crisis to armed robberies, kidnapping and general life-long insecurity, there is enough work to occupy our leaders. The high level of poverty- over 70 per cent of the populace live in poverty- should also find work for our leaders. If the President is looking for persons to pardon, what has he done for the Ogoni rights activists, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and his kinsmen who were murdered by the state in 1996? Has the President forgotten the role played by these men in the Niger Delta struggle which contributed to his eventual emergence as the President of Nigeria?

The President promised Nigerians that he was going to implement a Transformation Agenda and part of that agenda was a life and death struggle against corruption. It was going to be his struggle and our struggle and we were not supposed to retreat or surrender because surrendering was not option until that great monster was finally thrown into the deepest part of the deep blue sea. We thought we were fighting the same cause and now our leader has turned his gun on us. The President’s agenda also promised to improve infrastructure through a number of options including the budget. Yet, in 2012, the money was available through the capital budget for infrastructure improvement and under the watch of the President and his Coordinating Minister for the Economy; yet, over 49 per cent of available funds were not utilised. And the beat goes on.

If Alhaji Abdulrasheed Maina, the alleged pension thief, escaped arrest as the police want us to believe and there are reports that he is no longer in Nigeria, has he been formally declared wanted using the international policing system to track him wherever he may be?  Or, is that case now part of the of dustbin of our history? If James Ibori, the former governor of Delta State left our shores and was nabbed by the INTERPOL to face trial in the United Kingdom, why is Maina’s case different? Do our leaders think that Nigerians are idiotic and lack reasoning faculties? It is imperative that the Senate follows up this case to its logical conclusion by ensuring that the Police take the appropriate steps to guarantee Maina’s arrest and repatriation back to Nigeria.

For the 2013 budget, it was announced three days ago that N400bn had been released for the first quarter capital budget. This is coming in the middle of March and the release does not amount to the money being available to the MDAs as there are many intermediate stages before it will be available for project implementation. The whole amount indicated in the release may not even be cash-backed. Very soon, the rains will set in and all major outdoor construction work will be halted. Like in previous years, the Federal Government may find it difficult to exceed 60 per cent capital budget implementation.

All these happenings are not accidental. Indeed, they are planned and the natural consequences of the actions and inactions of our leaders. In all these, the overwhelming determinant of results is the les than noble volition of those who parade the corridors of power. A majority of them have no hunger in leaving positive and lasting impact for generations to come. They are too concerned with politics and ignore governance. Selfishness characterised by the grabbing syndrome pervades official conduct – meetings of the Executive Council of the Federation have a recurring agenda item solely concerned about award of contracts. Little or no time is dedicated to thinking through and reviewing policy issues and their implementation.

All through history, wobbling and fumbling have never been the basis of national regeneration and growth. Instead, they have been the basis of retardation in policy formulation and implementation. Without clear-cut ideas for improvement in national life and a deep commitment by the leadership, Nigeria is bound to face more challenges. But, it is still not late for Jonathan to find his bearing and stabilise the nation on an even keel.


Eze Onyekpere (censoj@gmail.com)

Article culled from Punch

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