We are back on track. We took some time off to give our departed father, Pa Moses Lokutor Omorotionmwan, a befitting burial. To God be the glory, that burial, for a long time to come, shall remain a reference point for a successful event. Let me use this opportunity to thank all of you for your enormous contributions towards this great success. May God bless you abundantly.
Anything that affects all must be approached by all. This is the type of mind frame that State Governors should take into the office. What we find, however, is each Governor for himself and God for them all.
From the very beginning, they are driven apart by their different political parties. Ordinarily, the political party should be used as a vehicle for getting into office. Parties are important only for their symbolic value – it gives members a party to call their own and a candidate to vote for on election day.
The State Governors may as well know their rights but they hardly realize that their strength lies in their unity.
In their scattered form, it was easy for Big Brother to browbeat the Governors into submission and confine them to the narrow area of being tagged the looters and the corrupt.
Once this was done, the Governors were not to take part in the corruption debate. It makes sense that the looter should not be the one to decide what happens to the loot!
Once Big Brother successfully created the divide and rule system over the Governors, Big Brother began to have a field day on the issue of our looted commonwealth.
Early in the day, State Governors should have learnt to adopt common positions on issues affecting them – irrespective of their varying political parties.
They should also have known when to approach the courts for interpretation in cases where they were confused. On some of these issues, it is better a confrontation than a cave-in.
Big Brother soon made himself a pimp on issues that should have been truly federal.
The Abacha loots couldn’t have been from anywhere other than the Federation Account. As the loots are being repatriated, they are apparently being relooted in the name of being applied for the implementation of Federal Projects. Actually, the repatriated Abacha loot belongs nowhere else other than the Federation Account from where it would be redistributed to the Federating units.
Meanwhile, the State Governors are remaining stoically silent while their money is being stolen from them in broad daylight.
We do not see the States adopting a common position and insisting that justice must be applied with universal equality. Otherwise, why should they watch on while Delta State is being treated differently from Bayelsa and Plateau States on the issue of repatriated loot? They should stick together, knowing when to approach the courts.
Sadly, the balance of the Federation Account remains what the Federal Government says it is. At least, the Federal Government is a senior partner in the Federation Account Family – not the sole proprietor!
We have insisted, perhaps with monotonous regularity, that there should be a General Accounting Office, GAO, for the Federation, which should be headed by the Accountant-General of the Federation while the Federal Government should have its own Accountant-General.
A situation where the Federal Government dips its hands at will into the till, particularly the illegal Excess Crude Account to feed its cattle and satisfy its slush funds of all sorts, to the detriment of other members of the Federating Unit is unacceptable!
For serious effect, we wonder when the anti-graft war will be truly deepened. For now, it is thoroughly shallow and shambolic.
We know it takes two to tango. Shamelessly, we have chosen to be scratching on the surface of this otherwise great war. By our approach, we cheapen the war in the face of the real world.
We just pick on the opposition Governors. The process is such that at the beginning of each Financial Year, the Governor approaches the State Legislature for funds to execute his projects and programmes.
The Legislators are aware that they have oversight responsibilities over the Governor.
Again, this year’s approval is predicated on how well he spent what was approved for him last year. Proper appropriation and oversight would presuppose that if the Governor spent last year’s appropriation on the execution of projects, there should be nothing left to steal.
But under our kill and divide procedure, the money is shared and projects are not executed.
This happens every year, hence Legislators scramble for blue-chip committees.
Yes, Governors are corrupt but if we look hard enough, we may find Legislators who were paupers when they became Legislators but at the exit, they have sprawling estates in most Capitals of the world.
The story is told of that State Governor who went to the House of Assembly to present this appropriation Bill. While he was reeling out the jaw-breaking figures on the floor of the House, a bullion van had been stationed at the parking lot of the Honourable Members. The message went round the members and they dispatched the Appropriate Committee Members to go and inspect the packaging. All correct!
When the Governor finished presenting his budget, he left for Government House. The Governor and his entourage had hardly reached Government House when the news came over the radio that the Appropriation Bill had been passed as presented.
In spite of these shambolic displays that have virtually become a way of life in Nigeria, at the end of tenure, the Governor heeds for prison while the Legislators who gave him his annual Appropriations walk our streets in unfettered freedom! How deep is the fight on corruption?
Shouldn’t the oversight masters who took the Governor’s money and looked the other way while the Governor embarked on his looting spree come into the corruption bracket?
A system in which everyone plays well his part should also be able to distinguish between performing oversight committees and dormant ones.
A Government in which the Recurrent Budget performs at 100 per cent level while the Capital hovers over the 13 percentage level should know that it simply exists for the purpose of keeping itself in office and receiving humongous salaries and allowances – not for development. A good anti-graft war must spread its dragnet in all these areas. Let’s deepen the war!
There is nothing in the foregoing to suggest that we would encourage the governors to be any more corrupt than they already are. Our only stipulation is that they belong to an elite group that cannot be ignored in the scheme of things.
The sweeping generalization that every Governor is corrupt is also dangerous. The league of Nigerian Governors cannot exist for the purpose of drinking pepper soup and choice wines together. Besides existing to point their erring members to order, the group must also be in a position to take a stand on any matter for national discourse.
The Governors showed a shining example of what their role should be when they promptly condemned the assassination attempt on Governor Samuel Ortom of Plateau State. But it is observed that if the smallest finger of the Federal Government had been sighted in that sordid affair, the Governors would have chilled up. What is this phobia about the Federal Government all about?
The Federal Government is at war with itself. To be successful, that war must be holistic in all its ramifications.
The Federal Government is free to fight its selective war on perceived opponents. It is also free to use the so-called war as a veritable source of recruitment by creating a safe haven for corrupt officials. But under the circumstance, the fight must continue silently. The Federal Government cannot shout hallelujah because there is none in sight!
Sadly, this anti-graft war has been a potent instrument in the hands of every government in fighting political opponents. Yet, no government – even the Buhari Administration that has the war as the sole item it brought to government – has been bold enough to say so.
Since no government is permanent, every new regime spends a bulk of its time, undoing what the previous regime did. This is not the route to development.
A good anti-graft war should be deep enough to pull down every atom of corruption on its way, not minding whose ox is gored! That way a new regime simply takes off smoothly from where its predecessor stopped!
Forward ever, backward never. That should be our guiding principle.