In1967, General Yakubu Gowon superintended the dissolution of the regional divides, and the creation of twelve (12) States. The creation of the new States was greeted with thunderous applause and great enthusiasm. In the subsequent years, Generals’ Murtala Mohammed, Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha raised the tally to 36 states.
One reason (among many others), for creating the states was for developmental purposes. The Generals believed unequivocally that the states would bring developments closer to the people. And the people believed them.
Several years gone by, the much anticipated development is nearly or totally nonexistent in many of the States. Each administration come and goes, bequeathing poverty and underdevelopment as legacies to the people.
Poverty at State levels is unprecedented. A good chunk of the populace live in abject penury. They can merely eke out a living, operating only at the basement of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In almost all the States, the situation of hunger, health, water, sanitation, education and infrastructures is abysmally deplorable.
The state of roads, both in the major arteries and interior crannies of majority of the States is ridiculously pathetic. On the TVC news stable yesterday, the people of Aba in Abia State were lamenting the despicable state of roads in the State which has brought them, sorrows and tears over the years. It appears that the persistent calls on the government to come to their rescue have yielded no positive response. Same situation is replicated in all States of the federation.
The consequences of such situation have been the soaring rate of accidents which have turned them into “a huge slaughter slab” where human lives are worth little or nothing. It also limits the transportation of goods and services to and from the rural areas to city centres.
The original intention was for States to be able to generate substantial revenue internally to service itself. But alas, aside from Lagos, Kano, Rivers and a few other States that are seemingly viable in terms of internal revenue generation, many have been reduced to fastidious gluttonous whales that suck the centre for sustenance. Quite absurd!
How we arrived at this precarious quagmire is not farfetched – bad governance and leadership at State levels. Some Governors became so inept and greedy. Corruption was comfortably embedded in the system with cynical inclinations. They got ensnared in illicit wealth accumulation and flamboyant luxuries to the detriment of State development.
The current Governors came with well decorated “point agendas”. Some ranging from one… five… ten… and even twenty point agendas. These templates were designed with developmental headliners like security, human and rural development, industrial growth, education, health, agriculture and infrastructure growth including water, roads, electrification, etc.
But as we speak, none of the State Governors can beat his chest to say he has delivered. Not even the least point on the agenda. They always invent new slogans as they come on board. They will vow to “leave the State better than they met it”. But verily, I said unto you that they will leave the States comatose. They always do that. Even worse than they met it.
Many of the Governors lack the creativity to explore revenue potentials in their States. Instead, they embarked on monthly pilgrimage to Abuja every other month (through their Commissioner for Finance), to share and receive allocations in FAAC and JAAC accounts from the centre. These monies are thereafter expended to service their aggrandizements tagged as recurrent expenditures.
The paraphernalia of office is more paramount than the rigors of bringing developments or what they now christened “dividend of democracy” to the people of the States. They drive lin long and unnecessary convoys and are always active in foreign trips where they pay to themselves, ridiculous dollars in estacodes.
Many of the States can no longer pay salaries, in spite of the several intervention bailout funds given to them by the federal government. The amount shared by the States every month from the centre runs into billions of naira, but nothing tangible, in terms of development has been provided in many of the States.
The capital expenditures are often misapplied, either in over ambitious white elephant projects that are intentionally designed not to be completed, or frivolities. In Benue State for instance, the Governor publicly celebrated the commissioning of a mere billboard. His Katsina State counterpart was reported to have bought thousands of coffins and distributed to mosques in the State. And the Governor in Jigawa was alleged to have concluded plans to build three (3) mosques in each of the thirty (30) constituencies in the State. All these are developmental strides of their Excellencies, the Governors.
It is high time Governors treated issues of governance with all the seriousness it deserves. They must think outside the box. Many States have rich mineral deposits and fertile arable lands for agriculture. These are potential which can be explored to boost their revenue earnings.
Governors should make deliberate efforts at building infrastructural capacities in their States. This will attract both local and foreign investors from far and near. It will also afford government the opportunity to partner with them to bring about positive developments to the States. The State can provide incentives for businesses to strive. Most importantly, they should invest in health and human development (education).
Doing these would excite the people and would certainly guarantee Governors a second tenure in office as reward for prudent, effective and efficient leadership.
Ikese writes from Jos, Plateau State.