Memo to our governors on leadership

 By Casmir Igbokwe

 Published: Sunday, 28 Sep 2008

HURRAY! Nigeria will be 48 years as an independent nation on Wednesday, October 1. This should have been a moment for wild celebrations. But the reverse is the case because since our independence from Britain in 1960, many Nigerians have had a lot of sad stories to tell. Many have lost their dear ones to avoidable accidents. Many have died of preventable diseases. And many more others have suffered and continue to suffer the consequences of inept and insensitive leadership. We seem to be in an irremediable exile, with no hope of a Promised Land to come.

Concerned at this sorry turn of events, many citizens have resigned themselves to fate. Some have tried to proffer some solutions. In a recent email to me, a human capital development consultant, Beckley Jones, suggested a study trip to Singapore by our leaders. In Singapore, according to Jones, we have a model to learn from and a catalyst that is capable of fast-tracking the transformation of our society.

“The leaders should go on this mission armed with Lee-Kwan-Yew’s book, From Third World to First-The Singapore Story 1965-2000, to see, learn, experience and draw lessons from a multiracial, multicultural, multi-religious country that metamorphosed from a Third World to a First World country between 1965 and 2000. There is no way they can go to Singapore, read and understand Lee-Kwan Yew‘s book, come back to this hell on earth called Nigeria and remain the same. They are bound to experience a ‘paradigm shift,‘ which should be a precursor to good leadership and good governance in Nigeria,” he said.

I have a similar but slightly different proposition. I want us to look inwards first. This is predicated on the fact that some readers of this column have accused me of always focussing on the negative aspects of our existence. In my search for positive news about Nigeria, I encountered some leaders who present us with hope that all is not lost. Not that these leaders are saints, but from reports and personal experiences, I have observed that they tend to tower above their peers.

One of such leaders is the Gombe State governor, Danjuma Goje. In spite of little resources at his disposal, the man has reportedly achieved for Gombe what many other governors with bigger revenue allocations could not achieve.

For instance, he built a water treatment plant that treats water from Dadinkowa Dam, which, from media reports, is about 40km away from Gombe. From the treatment site, water is distributed to different parts of Gombe. There is also the Gombe Regional Water Scheme that gives water to the state capital and 15 other towns.

The governor has also constructed roads, 48 of which are in the capital city alone. He has reportedly connected over 100 villages to the national grid, constructed and rehabilitated over 20 dams across the state. He also constructed and upgraded an airport in Gombe to international status. He constructed two new general hospitals at Deba and Nafada, even as he has renovated, expanded and re-equipped the existing hospitals in the state. There is also a free antenatal and delivery services in the state hospitals, as well as the provision of six primary health centres in different parts of the state. He has also tried in the area of education, capping it with the establishment of the Gombe State University. The governor did not neglect housing, agriculture and so on.

Governor Tunde Fashola of Lagos State is another leader worthy of emulation. Those who have suffered his demolition exercises may not agree with me. But the truth of the matter is that his desire to improve and develop his state is visible. Take the beautification projects going on in Lagos at the moment for example. Some parts of the state are wearing new looks with streetlights and flowers dotting the landscape. Construction of roundabout, median, drainage, etc is ongoing in some other parts of the state.

What has particularly thrilled me about Fashola is his inclination for openness. While the government at the centre was administering oath of secrecy to some officials, the Lagos State Government went a step further to open up government. Recently, the state published the telephone numbers of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo; the Commander of the Rapid Respond Squad, Mr. O. Odumosu; Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers. This is in addition to the governor‘s number and those of his commissioners published earlier in the year. There is also the security number, 767, that Lagosians could call in case of emergencies.

However, the governor needs to do more on road rehabilitation and provision of potable water. This will greatly enhance his mega city project dream. Of course, I appreciate the fact that he has just spent one year in office.

A few other governors, I believe, have good intentions for their states. But one problem or the other ends up scuttling their efforts. Anambra and Rivers State governors are in this category. Mr. Peter Obi of Anambra has to contend with 30 legislators, who all belong to the Peoples Democratic Party. He is of the All Progressives Grand Alliance. The governor had been in and out of squabbles with the lawmakers and other political wolves such that he has had little time to devote to developmental issues. It is even surprising that he has remained in office up till now.

In the same token, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, in his own words, has over N100bn in the banks, but cannot really do much because of the activities of militants/criminals. Some investors have pulled out of the state. New ones are afraid to come for fear of either being attacked or kidnapped.

There may be a few other leaders who are quietly doing some good jobs in their states. The truth of the matter is that a golden fish has no hiding place. One way or the other, their efforts will not go unnoticed.

In another good news, Nigeria improved in this year‘s global anti-corruption ranking. According to Transparency International, the country moved from 2.2 points in 2007 to 2.7 points this year. Thus, we moved from 147 in 2007 to 121 in 2008 out of 180 countries ranked.

With this positive news, let us mark our independence anniversary with renewed hope and optimism. I presume my praise of some governors is not coming too early. The idea is to encourage good leaders to keep up the pace and not to relent. For Gombe, which is said to be number 33 out of 36 states in terms of revenue allocation from the federation account, to achieve what it has achieved so far means that money is not really the problem, but the will to serve.

Thus, can all Nigerian leaders promise to be faithful, loyal and honest, and to serve Nigeria with all their strength?

Happy independence!

1 Comment »

  1. 1
    dami Says:

    very good article, but i don think it is wise celebrating leaders whose achievements can not be verified e.g Goje many of these people somehow pull figures out of thin air, they are not verifiable or perhaps the Nigerian press don’t investigate or remind them of the number of times they have boasted about the same project over and over again, in many cases after celebrating the completion of a project they are abadon or not even used by the locals as they are not really needed in the first place!

    Lagos state government is trying but i hope the education sector will be given due attention from next year because majority of the primary schools are in bad shape! the government should also do more in monitoring private school as some dont even have ‘proper’ toilets and water facilities!!!

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