Date Published: 11/03/09
L. G. Excellence Award: A Faux Pas By Edward Wabundani
In its commitment and desire to discharge her Corporate Social Responsibility to the larger society, one of Nigeria’s reputable national dailies, the Nigerian Tribune, extended her tentacles to fish out most outstanding Local Government Chief Executives for Award of Good governance.
In the first instance, 10 nominees from among each of the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT were arrived at, by the paper, the names of whom have constantly been advertised for quiet some time in her daily publications. According to the advert, 3 most outstanding Chief Executives from among the 10 from each State will emerge and qualify for Award of Excellence in Local Government Administration in the country. It did not stop there. The paper went a step further to claim that, the 3 nominee Chief Executives that will emerge during its 60 th Anniversary celebration, must be people from identifiable areas of Good Governance.
A near perfect initiative indeed with a vague mission, Personally, I have a couple of names I would have recommended, but for the poetic nature of the paper’s terms of reference. Instead of compressing the terms or areas of assessing the Council Officials, it is my view that, the Newspaper would have done its homework properly, if it had spelt out categorically by itemizing their requirements in black and white.
My idea of the proposed Award of Excellence portends that, at least a reasonable level of reforms aimed to upgrade people-oriented programmes at the Local Government level, such as an enhanced health care delivery, rural feeder roads, Universal Basic Education, and the provision of portable drinking water, would have been the yardstick for nominating the prospective awardees. Not any other selfish, mundane and or parochial consideration.
It is no more news that, inspite of efforts by successive leaders at all the three tiers of government in Nigeria, not much has been achieved in the health secto,r compared to the huge investments committed so far. There are evidences that the key health indicators have either stagnated or worsened. According to the WHO, about 52 percent of under-five deaths are associated with malnutrition especially at the Council level. The maternal mortality rate of 800 per 100,000 live births, is one of the highest in the world. It is pathetic that common things within the financial ambit of LGA’s such as coverage of critical PHC interventions like immunization, access to safe drinking water and sanitation has declined, and marked inequalities do exist among the country’s six geo-political zones based on this.
There is no doubt, that after 60 years of uninterrupted journalism practice, the Nigerian Tribune would use this Award of Excellence on performing Chief Executives of LGA’s to improve the level of development at the grassroots level, if it chooses to do it.
The other missing link in its modus oparandi is the yardstick and or criteria used by the daily to nominate each of the 10 LG Chief Executives from across the 36 states. This seems to be the most fundamental issue. Tribune may be tempted to claim it has her cream of reporters’ stationed in all states of the Federation who report to the Head Office some of these requirements on daily basis. Myself a reporter of several years experience is conversant with the nitty gritty of News gathering. But with due respect to my fellow colleague reporters, obtaining a comprehensive and objective activities of Local government Chief Executives in Nigeria is a tall order. It’s a Herculean task.
Taking Adamawa as a case study, is it justifiable for any organization to go to town, nominating any of the 21 LG Chief Executives for Award of Good Governance? Has Tribune management forgotten that, majority of the Chief Executives just assumed office in December 2008? Well, if they don’t know, let me update them on how and when each of them assumed the mantle of leadership.
Contrary to the ruling PDP’s constitution, Article 17 (A-F) which provides for the conduct of primaries (and NOT imposition), to elect candidates for each public office, Senator Jubril Aminu and his stooges on 20/12/08, handpicked 17 out of 21 Council officials in Adamawa. This started with a semblance of selection exercise, out of which some candidates were disqualified based on reasons best known to the clique. In what some people described as a terrorist exercise, elections were suspended in 4 Councils namely Shelleng, Lamurde, Hong and Michika LGA’s. These areas were considered and still being considered strategic to the present administration’s political success in the state, hence it shifted forward, its own selection rendezvous to May 2 nd, 2009. And that was how they came to office.
Ordinarily, going by their short tenure coupled with the inability of each of these Councils to settle their staff accumulated monthly salary for between 5 and 7 months, I feel it’s inappropriate and ungodly to consider any of them for an Award of Good Governance in any identifiable sector of the economy. While I’m not in anyway ruling them out from such an award in future if any of them measure up to it, but honouring any of them under the current dispensation is a disservice to the society in general and Adamawan’s in particular. Come to think of it, these are people who claim their predecessors left them with huge indebtedness to banks and contractors, coupled with accumulated staff salary. From which source would they have generated money to fund what project? Or would good governance be awarded just because one is appointed a Sole Administrator?
They should borrow a leaf from the current governor of Taraba State Mr. Danbaba Suntai, who recently affirmed that a little over 2 years in office, he is not satisfied with his performance to the people. That is a mature talk.
Although wonders they say shall never end, but I am particularly appalled with disbelief, when the name of Ibrahim Gayus of Hong Local government appeared among the Council officials nominated to be considered for Award from Adamawa. At the last count, this guy officially collected the sum of over N370 million in the months of June, July and August 2009 from the Federation Account as salary bill of his local government staff. Unfortunately, he couldn’t settle more than one month salary. How then can he fit in the category of LG Chief Executives for good governance? Imagine he cannot even pay the NEPA bill of the LG Secretariat, purchase panadol, a common office pin or fix township roads since he assumed office. His alleged diversion of the Council’s 55 market stores situated in the state capital to himself and cronies, alleged purchase of petrol tankers with public fund as published by a national daily recently are some of the legion of his misdeeds within a period of 6 months. I wonder what will befall this Local Government at the end of his two and half year’s tenure – courtesy of the State High Court ruling.
In the final analysis, for any Local Government Chief Executive to wear the crown of Good Governance from any state of the Federation, it presupposes that he/she may have at least eradicated a reasonable level of Poverty and hunger which have been making mincemeat of his community. Also, whoever that may fit this cap, may have partially attained an appreciable level of the much talked about Universal Basic Education, gender equality and the general empowerment of the grassroots people. These among other populist programmes in my reasoning, should be the key determining factors for an award of this magnitude, if such Award of Excellence will ever stand the test of time.
Edward Wabundani, a commentator on public issues can be reached on email@example.com