By Oma Djebah
Nigeria is at a very critical crossroad and that the nation is currently walking a rather ugly and precarious tight rope. In recent times, symptoms of a failed state appear to have manifested themselves so evidently with all manner of agitations. While some canvass, rightly and logically, for a radical restructuring of the federation along the paths of balanced federalism, others like the Biafra agitators insist on a complete break- up of the federation into smaller autonomous units under a confederation. That to me, this is rather very extreme to be contemplated.
Still, there is a third School of thought which insists on a preservation of the status quo but this group has sadly not helped the evolving scenario.
Among this group are those in government, especially most idiotic politicians at the sub-national level of public administration called governors who can hardly distinguish between logic and politics, who forget that government come and go but the system, as a prevailing institution, just like the Press-the Fourth Estate of the Realm- remains the binding and lasting structure that wield nation-states together.
These people tend to forget that it is the viability of a system that keeps a nation working! The pervasive culture of illiteracy that currently characterize governance at the sub-national level (State) in Nigeria tragically mitigates against state development. And by extension, national development is sadly stunted since the governors represent a vital building block of our national development process.
For me, the significance of development and governance at the sub-national level can best be appreciated by the sheer fact that they are deeply close to the people than the central government in Abuja. This is the very key reason why attention should seriously be beamed on this breed of politicians who constitute the second tier of government in Nigeria.
From the perspective of most Nigerians, most of our governors are at best, self-dramatization politicians whose crazy manipulative tendencies, have left the citizenry poor and vulnerable. Many are wondering if indeed, this breed of politicians have lost every sense of reality and reason!
Perhaps, it might be instructive to illustrate this grave reality with two symbolic examples : Governors Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, respectively. In 2015, when Governor Wike assumed office, he came on board with great a promise. And truly Governor Wike inspired great promise with his dramatic narrative that did not only altered the political calculations about Rivers State but also triggered public confidence in his administration . But sadly two years down the line, all that seems to that have evaporated! An empirical analysis of the factors that account for this tragic reality is rooted in the basic fact that like most Governors before him, Wike ‘s recent actions tend to suggest that he wanted power for the influence that comes with power that comes with power and for a platform to tackle former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and his group.
This explains why Governor Wike appears to have stabbed logic, reason and intellect on the face and allowed political consideration to over-shadow the case for the accelerated development of the Niger Delta region. Over the years, clear lack of knowledge of governance turned Rivers State into Rivers of blood! That was the graphic verdict of Human Rights Watch Report, London, recent report which detailed the several cases of assassinations, mindless killings and culture of cultism that currently pervade the entire River State.
Now, rather than seek assistance to tackle these menace, Governor Wike reportedly told Visiting US Envoy, Ambassador William Symington who paid him a courtesy visit that corruption has taken over the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) especially at the level of the Commission’s Managing Director who is aspiring to run for elections as Governor of Akwa Ibom State and concluded with a bold demand he conveyed to the US envoy: The Board of the NDDC should be disbanded forthwith!
At the surface, the Governor appears to have made a point! But at a deeper level, the attack stems from the fact that the current Management of the NDDC led by the MD may have reviewed many of the very bogus, ill-conceived and badly executed projects awarded to some People’s Democratic Party(PDP) lords in Abuja during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. Going by media reports, that was the best decision the current management took and it remains valid both in logic and reality. We must not forget too soon that most of the power lords in Abuja during the Jonathan’s administration, with restless and unquenchable appetite for easy fortune, almost drove the then Mr Dan Abia-led NDDC management into a frenzy! Mr Abia, a calm Attorney and former Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom State, was at the heat and receiving end!
It is therefore understandable that many bogus contracts reportedly awarded by NDDC board under the previous administration are said to have been reviewed for lack of professional competence and shoddy performance. At that time, performance appears to be of marginal interest and concern. What mattered most was political affiliations! Besides, many people appears to forget that the tides have changed from dramatically. The days when Governors simply sit down and compile list of projects and handover to NDDC, without any logical NEEDS Assessment to determine amongst other things, if the affected communities actually need a hospital or a school or a road, should be thrown overboard for good!
Still on Rivers! There was once a time, when a certain leader called Chief Melford Okilo, with sterling leadership qualities, ran the affairs of Rivers State with a grand vision , unrivalled accomplishments, clinical efficiency and above all, pragmatic performance. As the first Civilian Governor of Rivers State, late Okilo laid a solid foundation for the accelerated development of the state. He was a star performer. But in today’s Rivers, there seems to be so much rhetorics without corresponding action!
At another level, most of our current Niger Delta Governors fail to appreciate the historic struggles for the emancipation of the Niger Delta region. The struggles championed by the likes of late Sir Justice Udo Udoma, former Chief Justice of Uganda, founder of the COR(Calabar, Ogoja, Rivers) State Movement, late Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, founder of the Niger Delta Congress(NDC), late Ken Saro-Wiwa, foremost environmentalist, poet and leader of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People(MOSOP) and radical nationalist and founder of the Movement for National Reformation(MNR), late Chief Anthony Enahoro, the Adollor of Uromi, the vibrant Parliamentarian who moved the historic motion for Nigeria’s independence on the floor of Parliament in April 1953. Late Pa Enahoro, who later led NADECO during the historic battle to chase away late General Sani Abacha’s Military junta, remains one of the most fearless nationalists Nigeria has ever produced! Many never recovered from the battles!
Even the Media was never sparred. As one of the media foot soldiers of NADECO at that time, I almost lost my life in Port-Harcourt during the reign of Lt. Col Okuntimo, who reportedly ordered that I be arrested and detained for writing what he considered an offensive article against late Gen Sanni Abacha which was published in TEMPO and TheNews Magazine. It took the personal intervention of Chief Olu Benson Lulu-Briggs, now Chairman of Monopulo, who as one of the then Leaders of NADECO, found a safe NADECO route for me to escape to Lagos out of Port Harcourt.
Throughout that era, I never heard about the names of some of our current day Niger Delta Governors, even remotely, associated with the struggles for Democracy, Rule of Law and most importantly, the Niger Delta Question. Yet, the Niger Delta question has been a burning global issue, encompassing political, economic, environmental, social and Human Rights dimensions for years.
Next, is Imo State. As I noted not too long ago, Imo State appears to have had the misfortune and tragedy of travelling in reverse gear for almost three decades. In fact, since December 1983 when Chief Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe, who by all accounts, remains the father and shining star of Imo state, left office following the military coup of that year, Imo State has been a tragedy under successive administrations.
The poor state of road infrastructure in Imo is stunning, especially in Owerri the State capital. It is not only pathetic but most worrisome. This ought to be an issue of serious priority to the current Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha. But going by media reports, there is no indication that actions have been initiated or taken on the state of roads in Owerri by the State government. Admittedly, there is paucity of funds which greatly account for the slow pace of governance at the State level all over the Country. But as Winston Churchil once noted, what is most critical in all situation is the vision and’’ all others things will follow.” Imo seems to have produced Governors and not visionary leaders since the exit of the inspiring and incorruptible Chief Mbakwe.
In fact, to think that this is the same State that Chief Mbakwe once presided with exemplary dedication, visionary leadership and abiding faith in the values of industry, integrity and honesty, is to say the least most lamentable and tragic. De Sam as he was fondly called by all men and women of the entire Eastern Region, was a great leader whose exploits produced excellence in politics and distinction in governance.
Mbakwe came prepared for governance in 1979. Born in 1929 in Avutu in present day Imo State, Mbakwe studied at Teachers Training College, Oleh in Isoko from 1946 to 1947. He later proceeded to Fourah Bay, College, Sierra Leone in 1952. Upon completion of his studies at Fourah Bay College, the visionary and dynamic Mbakwe headed to the United Kingdom(UK) where he attended the following institutions and qualified as a Lawyer: University of Manchester(1953-1956) , University of Hill(1956-1958) and the Inns Court(1958-1959). Late Mbakwe who is referred to as the authentic father of Imo State on account of his transformational leadership which saw him nurturing the then young State into an epicenter of industrialization and economic prosperity between 1979-1983.
Prior to his election as Governor in 1979, he had served as a member of the Justice Udo Udoma- chaired Constituent Assembly in 1978. Thus as soon as he assumed office, he tore down the public sector bureaucratic inertia which had resulted in many abandoned projects in the young state and quickly completed major roads in Owerri, Aba and Umuahia. He embarked on rapid industrialization using the zonal model as development catalyst. What were the factors that propelled Mbakwe to achieve these feats? They were three: Knowledge, Vision and Commitment.
But tragically, in the case of our current crop of Governors, I am not sure if they possess these three vital elements of governance. That is why in today’s Nigeria, there has been so much noise and smoke at the state level. But in reality, there has been no progress in many States! The examples of the Mbakwes and the Okilos represent the rare and authentic breed of leaders!
Mr. Oma Djebah, a Global Journalist and former Delta State Commissioner for Information is the Chairman of The New Diplomat Multi-media Group, publishers of The New Diplomat newspaper and the New Diplomat media platforms.(www.newdiplomatng.com)