The Prodigal: Chronicle of a Northern Governor

By Ibraheem Sulaiman

There is probably no task that is as easy and yet as rewarding as being a governor of a Northern State. The difficult part is how to arrive at the seat, the richer you are, or better still, the stronger your promoters and patrons are, the brighter your chances. In other words elections are merely secondary. But once on seat the difficulties cease. The Governor is the star. His words are final, his wisdom unassailable, his ways perfect. To challenge his words, to assail his wisdom, to question his ways are matters of grave personal or collective risk. The cabinet, therefore, consists of only one person, since no other member can be as intelligent, knowledgeable or wise as the Governor, who therefore is both the sole cabinet and the sole Chief Executive. The State, likewise, comprises of only one person. If the Governor is a wise person, the State is wise; if he is a psychopath, the State is a psychopath; if he is away, the State hibernates; if he is a giant, so is the State, if he is a pygmy, the State is a pygmy. In short, the Governor is the Government, the People and the State. Thus is the State reduced to the status of just one individual, and whatever its diversity or complexity, it is, in composition, character and quality, only one opinion, one way, one style. Never will it ever grow beyond the prism of one megalomaniac, or advance above the confines of one psychopath.

As a Northern Star, the Governor’s routine is static and predictable. The most important function for him is to collect the state’s share of Federation Account. And then the feast begins. Disbursements are made according to the dictates and wishes of the only one man in the state. Yes salaries are paid, and to some extent some essential services are funded, usually in a continues dwindling manner. Since the Governor has come to power without a plan, agenda or program, decisions as to what goes where in terms of funding are decided on the spur of the moment. What this means is that there is no defined scale of priorities, and no defined set of goals, and no definitive developmental strategies. So, in this Northern State, as probably in nearly all the others, the most likely outcome is that what matters most to people are bypassed and ignored. As money after money pours into the coffers of the State from Abuja for development, growth and well being, little of all of that actually takes place, because there is no plan and no process. Every month the will of the Governor prevails: more money, and yet more poverty, more misery and more despair. No one cares as long as the only citizen is happy and his desires are fulfilled.

No surprise then that the most tragic and enduring symbol of Northern Nigeria is the Almajiri, that unfortunate child beggar whose plight defines, most graphically, the economic and social conditions of the region as well as the pathetic failure of leadership. The young, innocent life who is being forced to beg on the street defaces the face of Northern Nigeria and is a very strong indication that the region is not ashamed to compromise its future. No surprise that the Governor is content just to sit back and relax, doing nothing except to wait for the monthly allocation. No surprise also that there is no serious process in place to develop the economies as well as the societies of the region, which is left perpetually in a precarious and unacceptable situation. And the situation is such that if oil money is not forthcoming from Abuja every one of these states where the Governor feels himself supreme will suffer sudden economic and social collapse. Surely no society, least of all the societies of Northern Nigeria whose tireless labor substantially feeds Nigeria, deserves to be subjected to this level of dire predicament when in fact a responsible, legitimate political power can effectively engineer and nurture prosperity and self-reliance.

Next, the Governor, after ignoring the genuine needs of the people, will try to divert the state money to advance his political fortunes. If he is a first timer, he will conserve money for a second term. And this is a very expensive venture, which can adversely affect the life of the people. Money meant for education, health, infrastructure, happiness and overall human development are diverted to fuel the political ambition of just one person. This is one major reason for the continuous impoverishment of the people. If the Governor is a second timer, he has an even bigger ambition requiring even more prodigious resources. The entire treasury of the state might be decimated to support this singular adventure. In this case if the Governor is faced with the choice either to improve agriculture, industry, education and infrastructure with the available resources or, in the alternative, use those resources to promote his personal political ambitions, the latter course will undoubtedly be preferred. So the more first time Governors you have, the poorer the society, the more second timers, the more desolate the entire Northern region. In addition to all that, below the Governor, of course, is the Chair of Local Government, a brazen predator of the first order. On his left is the Party, the ultimate thief, on the right lurks the combined force of vested interests, before him lies the insatiable appetite of his family and inner circle, behind, and prodding, is the hunger for power, wealth, self aggrandizement. Above the Governor is the Grand Master. If you follow the story of the Oil Subsidy carefully, you could, if your probing sight is sharp enough, catch a glimpse of how elections are won at the level above the governors. A very grim future lies ahead for the North, an even grimmer prospect awaits Nigeria, as an ever-growing number of individual megalomaniacs pursue their blind political ambitions.

What is the hidden political cost of the prodigality of the Northern Governor? Cast your mind back to a few years ago. You would come across an incidence in which a Northern Star, by his own admission, gave out some twenty billion Naira of his people’s money in support of an unconstitutional misadventure of a lone warrior. The aim had nothing to do with any sublime principle or worthy cause. The aim was simply to secure immunity from possible legal consequences of massive and unimaginable corruption. Other Governors had also, for the same reason, sold out the vital, strategic interests of the people they claim to represent. Then look ahead, and considering the proliferation of so many ambitious prodigals from the North, you could see the emerging disturbing and dangerous trend. You can hear, for a start, one or two of the Great Apes howling. Some force is promising them forgiveness for corruption, or some high office, or some dirty money. And you know that Northern Nigeria, as ever, is the price. So the cost of giving free reign to a Prodigal is huge, and the damage irreparable. When people surrender their destiny to reckless leaders, or surrender to forces they can otherwise repel effectively or submit to evil for cheap political or economic gains, they risk losing everything in the end.

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