These are difficult times in our country, no doubt, especially due to the slide in crude oil prices which has resulted in the thinning out of revenue accruing to the country from crude oil sales. This has had a terribly devastating effect on the states as many of them are unable to pay their workers’ salaries.
At the last count, no fewer than 15 states owe workers between two and seven months salaries. Many of them are unable to pay pensioners their stipends and a number of them have stopped remitting deductions from workers’ salaries such as pensions and cooperative contributions, to the appropriate quarters. Similarly, developmental work has stopped or at skeletal level in many of the states as many contractors have left project sites sequel to the inability of the state governments to meet their financial obligations to them.
Put succinctly, many states are not only distressed, they are on the verge of bankruptcy. Hence, they are looking up to the Federal Government for another bailout to meet some of their obligations.
While the propriety of a bailout is a matter of public discourse, my concern here is how the states got to this sorry pass. How did the state chief executives allow the situation in their respective states to degenerate to the level of their being unable to meet their commitment to the workforce and the populace as a whole? How did they allow things to get to the point that they have to make beggars of their otherwise hardworking civil servants?
The governors have all blamed the tumbling revenue from the federation account for their predicament, but is that enough reason for the states to go bust? Were the governors elected only to superintend over the distribution of revenue from that account? If all a governor does is to administer his state’s share of the federal allocation, then governance needs redefinition. The governors should just imagine what fate would befall them were they to be running commercial banks the way they are running their states and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi were the CBN governor. Not only would they lose their positions they would also forfeit their investments.
It is unfortunate that our governors have narrowed governance to allocation sharing, being a guest of honour at an event or playing host to some visitors from one part of the globe or the other, forgetting that the most critical part of governance is opportunity creation which leads to wealth generation. A leader is a purveyor of hope; a leader must consistently create a beautiful future for his people to behold. He cannot effectively do this if he does not create wealth for his people or provide opportunities for them to become prosperous. That is where ingenuity comes in. What is ingenious about the distribution of money that a governor played no part in its generation? Pray, why should we expend our scarce resources on organising elections now and then for people whose motivation for seeking office is the opportunity to dispense favours or disburse state funds?
All of these governors promised, while canvassing for votes, to create enabling environment for businesses to thrive in their states; they all promised to attract investments; they all pledged to increase internally-generated revenue. Had they lived up to their promises they would not have found themselves in the dire strait they are now in.
Our governors should realise that leadership is not about rhetoric or grandstanding; it is not about oppressing the populace with siren-blaring vehicles or moving about in flowing robes. It is about ingenuity. It is about solving problems. It is about giving hope. It is about creating opportunities. It is about making life meaningful and enjoyable for the led. Anyone who fails to do these may be anything else but certainly not a leader.
Leadership, especially at that level, is not for those with limitless ability to promise but limited capacity to deliver on promises made; it is for those who combine the capacity to dream with the ability to translate such dreams to reality. The sooner the governors come to terms with this, the better for everyone of us. The governors need to realise that they were not elected by the people to tell them what cannot be done, they were voted into power to help the people realise their dreams of a better life. Unless and until they do this, they are undeserving of the high offices which the electoral powers of the people they are making life difficult for have installed them.