Before our governors relocate to Harvard

Casmir Igbokwe

I knew I was deceiving myself. But I had to do it to belong. I’m talking about acquiring the techniques of talking to girls and winning their love. That was in my secondary school days in the early 80s. Then, the more girlfriends you had as a boy, the more respect you gained from your peers.

Being particularly shy, I dreaded wooing girls mainly because of the embarrassment one could suffer if a girl decided to give one the boot. But to be able to discuss the art of wooing effectively with my peers, I bought one of the numerous pamphlets on sale then titled, “How to talk to girls and win their love.”

An example of a conversation between a boy and a girl in the booklet starts with something like, “Excuse me fine girl, your face is familiar.” The girl will naturally say something that will elicit another sweet talk from the boy. It goes on and on until the girl finally falls. To some boys then, taking a ‘no’ for an answer from a girl was a sign of weakness. Some of them actually got some slaps in the process.

I studied this pamphlet but never practised what it teaches. I remember when I travelled home during a particular long vacation and hid the booklet in a remote area of my school box. One day, my mum brought it out and quietly asked, “So you have started pursuing girls.” I was livid even as I tried to cook up stories to defend myself.

There is a huge similarity between my childhood escapades and the quest by our governors to go back to school. For those who have not heard, the 36 state governors under the auspices of the Governors’ Forum have signed up for a capacity-building training at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at the Harvard University in the United States. Key secretariat staff of the Forum and some other political leaders will also benefit.

Media reports late last month indicated that the periodic training would inculcate in the governors the rudiment of governance and leadership. The Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Dr. Bukola Saraki of Kwara State and the Director-General of the Forum, Mr. Asishana Okauru, reportedly signed for the Forum while the Director of Programme on Intrastate Conflict of the university, Prof. Robert Rotberg, and the Programme Manager, Katie Naeve, signed on behalf of the university.

I doubt if the so-called leadership training programme has much to do with public interest. Surely, people treasure any certificate from Harvard University, unarguably the number one university in the world. And so, what they couldn’t get outside office, the governors now want to get courtesy of their exalted positions.

The programme, which will last till 2011, will also afford our governors an opportunity to escape from the existential problems at home. They will not only strengthen their nerves and meet new friends from other environment; they will also enjoy the relaxed ambience of a country built by selfless leaders. Estacode is not really the issue because with or without it, they have access to security votes of their states.

The state chief executives may have got this capacity-building idea from the legislature. Some National Assembly members and state lawmakers had had cause to go abroad for one capacity-building retreat or the other. The latest one was a sponsored trip to Ghana by some Senators.

Remember that last year, members of the Rivers State House of Assembly went to Australia to build their capacity on how to make laws. No sooner had they arrived there than two female lawmakers fought one of their male colleagues who reportedly jilted them for a younger and more beautiful lady. This is not suggesting that their Excellencies will go to Harvard to hunt for ladies. They have beautiful wives who they love and adore.

And by the way, what are the Osun local government chairmen’s wives doing with official cars? The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, Osun State branch, reportedly purchased 30 posh cars for these local government first ladies. They also have official drivers to go with it.  Apparently, this is to enable them to enjoy their own dividend of democracy.

You see where our problem lies? It is the misplacement of priority; mismanagement of resources; corruption; greed; and deception.

Our governors do not need to go to Harvard to know that our roads are bad and should be fixed. They need not acquire any special training to know that their citizens are dying of hunger and other deprivations. They don’t need any certificate to realise that the easiest way to win the love of their citizens is to render unparalleled selfless service.

Their going to Harvard is even a subtle indictment on the leadership of this country. It means that they, the leaders, have failed to provide qualitative education to their people. They could have gone to the University of Lagos, University of Benin or even University of Maiduguri to learn the leadership skills. But they can’t go to such places because Nigerian schools lack the requisite facilities that will make learning worth the while for their Excellencies.

Since our governors have already signed the memorandum of understanding, I don’t think anybody can stop them from going to Harvard now. But before they start their lectures, they must resolve that from 2011 onwards, the leadership problems bedevilling this country will be a thing of the past. Otherwise, their trip will be nothing more than the frivolity of a boy sent to school to study Mathematics, but ended up reading “how to talk to girls and win their love.”

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