Governors and sale of national assets

THE support of the National Economic Council (NEC) made up mostly of the governors of the 36 states in the country for the proposal to sell major assets of Nigeria in order to raise revenue for the government to enable it to weather the storm of the current economic recession speaks to a pattern of behaviour on the part of the governors since the return to democracy in 1999. We have since come to see some disagreement among the governors with respect to the sale of these national assets, with the Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola and the Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, disagreeing on the propriety or otherwise of the sale. It is important, however, to note that this disagreement and its public presentation was after the official endorsement of the proposed sale by all the governors through the NEC.

The import of this is that whatever the governors came to do after the initial endorsement would be more of an afterthought as the position was already indicated with the endorsement. And we point to the fact that the endorsement again represents an enduring characteristic of the governors, in not having disagreement among themselves where issues of national importance are concerned: governors are almost always found on the part of themselves and against the people on critical issues.

We are aware of the argument of former President Olusegun Obasanjo about the opposition of the governors to his idea of effecting saving from the monies accruing to the Federation Account. The same attitude was repeated by the governors under the watch of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and President Goodluck Jonathan. And what was significant was that in all this, the governors did not betray party affiliation or ethnic or regional identities. They were all united and did not disagree among themselves to the extent that what was at stake was how to get funds for them from the Federation Account.

To be sure, the point was not to justify the Federal Government taking decision alone on funds that are jointly owned as the governors would definitely have a point in not accepting the bullying attitude of the Federal Government. But not accepting the need for saving would be different from insisting on saving under conditions agreed to by the joint owners of the funds. Unfortunately, what we get from the governors was the predilection to simply expend all the resources available without any thought as to the future and the imperative of saving for the rainy day. Here we find that the governors were more concerned about the funds that would be available to them to fritter away rather than the future of their States and the country, which would be really about the people and what would benefit them in the long run.

This trend, therefore, mirrors something that is a characteristic of the entire political class in Nigeria as we have called attention to the fact that the governors operate as one in this regard with the governors representing all the political parties and shades of the political class. When it is about not looking out for the people of the country, the political class operates as one. They are all the same in all the political parties when it is about selling the people short and looking after only their own interests. This, they have done and exhibited again with respect to the proposed sale of national assets.

It is noteworthy that there are more Nigerians who have spoken out against the proposed sale, including even the Senate which passed a resolution to that effect. And it is on this kind of issue that the governors would have no objection preferring to endorse the sale as a united front. We could not even see any of them objecting at the NEC meeting where the endorsement was effected. This kind of leadership that is denoted by the governors since 1999 gives the indication that perhaps the true growth and development of the country would have to be sought beyond the capabilities of the present political class. For when we have a political class that is incapable of radiating and manifesting national interest and is only able to pursue parochial personal interests, the country is indeed in dire straits.

This is a leadership that is always looking at the immediate rather than the long term interest, concerned more with the here and now instead of producing a wholesome vision about the present and the future, such that it is interested in selling national assets because of the deficit in the 2016 budget. Yet, this leadership would not tell Nigerians what would be left to plug future deficits as if some people did not build up the present assets they are so eager to sell. We can only hope that Nigerians now see their leaders, in all the political parties, as represented by the governors, for what they truly are and must take their own destiny into their own hands by demanding higher level of responsibility from those who want to be leaders in order for the country to have a chance at true development. Evidently, such would seem to require going beyond the present leadership in all its ramifications.