Memo to Yoruba Governors (3)

WE have advocated and will continue to insist that states must have their own police so that they can deal with crimes in thief territories. It is awkward that state governments at the moment have no agency to arrest criminals the way Sharia states do within the dual ideology that governs Nigeria.

But within the distorted federalism that we run, the power to prosecute crimes like robberies, kidnappings and murders rests with states. And there can’t be any reason why the ministries of Justice in Yoruba states have been laid back and not getting proactive in prosecuting arrested kidnap suspects as the scourge of this crime has put the region under a serious siege.

An Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure, the state capital on April 9, 2017 sentenced seven men who were involved in the kidnap of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, to life imprisonment.

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The seven men, who were all Fulani herdsmen were found guilty of kidnapping the elder statesman in his farm in Ilado Village, Akure North Local Government Area of the state in September 2015.

The convicts are: Abubakar Auta, Bello Jannu, Umaru Ibarahim, Masahudu Muhammed, Idris Lawal, Abdulkadir Umar and Babawo Kato.

The charges against the kidnappers were not filed by the Attorney General of the Federation or the Federal Police but by the Ondo State government.

If our states have become very active in ensuring prosecution of arrested kidnap suspects in this fashion, some signal would have gone to these criminals to avoid the zone as there would be consequences for their action.

The aim of this serial has been to call attraction of governors in Yoruba states to the responsibility of their offices. It is a wake-up call for them to see the opportunities in leadership in service of the people as against the opportunism of office that is the fad at the moment. A region that has a rich history can only record governors who serve for four or eight years as monumental failures if all they achieved were no more than epileptic payment of salaries, resurfacing a few roads here and there and refurbishing Government Houses or building new ones.

Come off it, you have been opportune to lead a people who first watched Television in Africa. It was the UCH in Ibadan that was the medical resort for the Saudi Royal Family in the years of glory. The Western Region built a world-class institution at Ile Ife with an atomic energy centre in 1962. There are records of all the firsts under visionary leadership that made Yorubaland the home of progress, development and commendable achievements.

What has happened that we are now Rear-Admirals in underdevelopment and backwardness? How come Professor Yemi Osinbajo, ‘Vice President’ of poverty distributing Federal Government of Nigeria can come to any of our states and find thousands of our people queuing to be insulted with Almajiri  N5000 Tradermoni?What brought about a situation that a region where even handicapped people were involved in one trade or the other is now populated by able-bodied beggars? How do we explain the scandal of now having a generation of illiterate children born by educated parents ?

Part of the answers is that the dysfunctional Nigeria has afflicted the Yoruba region to the extent that leadership is no longer sourced from among the best. The hansards of the Western House of Assembly show quality minds comparable to those in the House of Lords in elucidation and faultless presentation of ideas on issues. Today, our Assemblies are littered with watch repairers, thugs and drop-outs.

A space that was renowned for conquering ignorance through the free education programme of Oloye Obafemi Awolowo and his faithful cum disciples now leads among leaders with fake credentials in public life. It is only Ekiti and Ondo states that have not been prominent among Governors embroiled in allegations of forged certificates in the current dispensation!

The situation calls for leaders who will break down the walls of mediocrity encircling the Yoruba space at the moment. We wait to see a Governor like Alhaji Lateef Jakande who will face the education sector squarely and return his state to among one of the first three in WASCE results.

It is a season to show we still can boast of a Governor in the fashion of the late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin, who will serve the people and boasts at the end of his tenure that he leaves government with the same sets of agbada he brought into office but can point at testimonies of changed lives (positively ) because he was there.

What we have at the moment should make any leader with a conscience to be sad with a resolve to make a difference. It cannot be business as usual. And there are possibilities even within the limited opportunities the constrained political structures we currently have afford. A journey through some of our wretched neighbours in West Africa would show we can do better than we are now.

The type of roads you will find in a place like Benin Republic with very limited resources are not available in our states where most roads have broken down in a manner worse than those of war-torn countries. Even within Nigeria, we still have examples. I came in contact with somethe other day in Yola, Adamawa State. We were in the city for the farewell for the late Dr Bala Takaya, former President of the Middle Belt Forum and we drove on several kilometers of well-tarred roads that I had to ask at a point if it was the Federal Government that was tarring the roads within Yola. The only city that has anything near Yola in Yorubaland today is Akure, the capital of Ondo State.

Ultimately, we have to get Nigeria back to a proper federal restructure to unleash the potential of the federating units can be unleashed against the many challenges confronting our people but let it be said here that minds that cannot make any difference within what is available would not be of any use in a restructured polity.

…No bailout in their bailouts

NOW the Federal Government wants 35 states to cough up the N614billion bailouts they were given at the starting years of this administration and I am shaking my head vigorously. I remember now the warning we issued in July 2016:

“There is much hardship in town largely occasioned by the fact that government is the largest spender in our economy, and the economic crunch that the government is facing has made it difficult for government at all levels to meet their obligations to their workers.

“This has created a terminal crisis which almost 30 states today cannot pay their salaries for some months. We are insisting that until Nigeria restructure to have a new economic model that allows every state to go under the soil and bring out their resources to expand the productive base so that there will be more prosperity and can take care of their workers.

“But in the short term, we are asking that the Federal Government should stop being a money lender to the state, giving bail-outs and giving conditions like IMF to states; rather we should take another look at the revenue allocation formula and free some of what the federal government is holding at the moment to go to the state.

“Statutorily, in any case, most of the resources that the FG is using to getting these resources that are given as bail-outs came from the state.

“The only territory that belongs to the FG today is the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and that FCT, ordinary pure water; they are not producing anything there. So if you are giving bail-out, let us slash what FG is taking to go to the state and so that they can meet their statutory obligation to their workers.”

Federalism is the only bailout and to Awo we return. He wrote a book in 1966, Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution, in which he painstakingly analysed the core challenges of Nigeria. He stated: “The evils  which afflicted Nigeria and brought about the end of the First Republic may be put in a nutshell as follows: (1) Abnormal imbalance in the constituent units of the federation. (2) Gross incapacity and utter lack of honesty and comprehension on the part of those who directed and administered the affairs of the federal government. (3) Total absence of correct ideological orientation and courageous and selfish leadership at all levels of our government activities, but more especially so at the federal level. (4) Tenacity of power –that is, over-powering and obsessive desire on the part our political leaders to stick to indefinitely to public offices by all means fair or foul.”

Awo was convinced that the solution to the challenges of attaining nationhood was in a suitable constitution that would become the building blocks for political stability in Nigeria.

He wrote: “It must be generally agreed that the making of a constitution is not an end itself. It is a means to the welfare and happiness of the people, the fountain of which, in a material sense, is economic prosperity. Of all the factors which conduce to the economic prosperity and, again in a material sense, to the greatness of a nation and its people, the most important is political stability. Without it, material resources, manpower, and capital, whatever their quantity and quality, plus technical knowledge will avail very little.

Drawing from his vast and in-depth knowledge about the constitution and practice of federalism in most advanced countries, Awo declared that, “From our study of the constitutional evolution of all the countries of the world, two things stand out quite clearly and prominently: first, in any country where there are divergences of language and of nationality-particularly of language-a unitary constitution is always a source of bitterness and hostility on the part of linguistic or national minority groups. On the other hand, as soon as a federal constitution is introduced in which each linguistic or national group is recognised and accorded regional autonomy, any bitterness and hostility against the constitutional arrangements as such, disappear.”

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