Nigeria: This Calls for Sober Reflection
During the Ramadan fast, precisely in the first week of August 2012, I read in the papers that the Zamfara State government had spent a whopping N2.7bn for the fasting period! I began to wonder if that State House of Assembly had actually appropriated that amount to be spent during fasting. I also began to think aloud if the governor is really in his right senses to do that. Zamfara has one of the lowest scores consistently during major examination.
Zamfara also has one of the highest rates of poverty in Nigeria. Good drinking water is often difficult to get there. But the state government under AbdulAzeez Yari is spending these billions just to “facilitate” the one month Ramadan fast! This calls for sober reflections.
A government is elected to provide services to the people; maintain law and order: as well as ensure the well being and welfare of its citizens. Every governor has sworn to do good to all manner of people, “without fear or favour, affection or ill will”.
Clearly, paying for Umra or Hajj or buying food stuff to distribute during fasting or buying donkeys to give to disabled persons to help them go round for begging in this internet age, all with government money, amounts to not only favoring a few, but indeed helping to increase poverty.
There is a large agricultural potential in all the states. Government is not supposed to feed the people but to help them to feed themselves and even sell surpluses. If any government official is really pious he or she should pay for all these pilgrimages, foodstuff for fasting etc from his or her pockets and not from government coffers. I am beginning to agree that the resources available to these officials are so enormous that some of them do not know what to do with it and have started turning them into some lazy and crazy squander maniacs.
Is governor Yari aware of how many schools he can repair with that amount? Is he aware of how many people he can provide with good drinking water with that amount? Is he aware of how many hospitals can be renovated and properly equipped with that huge sum? Or even how many kilometers of roads can be maintained with that money he spent in just one month of fasting?
There are services that only government can provide because they are public goods. That is what the government should concentrate on doing.
The north will continue to be the domain of poverty as long as priorities are not set right and attitudes are not changed. Everyone knows that as long as agriculture is neglected the north will continue to remain poor and the people will continue to be seen as parasites. Whoever has oil will sell his or her oil and come and buy food, which is not gotten except through human efforts.
Agriculture is a sustainable industry that will continue to enable production while oil is finite and not sustainable. So, why do you leave the certainty of what you have for the uncertainty of what is largely a curse?
That takes me to what Dokubo – Asari said recently when he openly admitted that he has never accepted any amnesty and that he still has arms with which to fight and cut off the north from oil and even food, as if he can stop rain from falling.
He was talking soon after the self – appointed leader of Ijaw Chief EK Clark had done a similar outburst. These outbursts are as regrettable as they are unfortunate. It is really a pity that some people easily forget history. These ethnic bigots must be reminded that Nigeria is bigger than any of its components.
And over the years, there are reasons to say governments have tried to be fair to the Niger Delta in particular. From Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, who first set up the Niger Delta Development Board in the early 1960s, to Gen Gowon who created states to give the Niger Delta some autonomy, to President Umaru YarAdua who not only granted amnesty to the Niger Delta militants but indeed created a Federal Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs, successive governments have tried to address the plight of the Niger Delta region and people.
However, everyone can now convincingly see that the problem of the Niger Delta states is not lack of money to develop. Like many other areas it has to do more with the insatiable greed of their elite. In a month when Kaduna got N2bn from the federation account, Bayelsa with eight local governments got N47bn but while one can see what is being done with the meager resources in Kaduna, there is virtually nothing to show for the billions Bayelsa is receiving in terms of development by the state government.
This is the real issue that they should address, and not their current transferred aggression. Tackling treasury looting and ensuring accountability and good governance is the real way forward. God save Nigeria.