By: Israel Umoh
The ENDSARS protest rocking Nigeria is making life more exciting. And it is gradually making some people indeed leaders in Nigeria to be born again. Whether it is imagined or real, most leaders are wishing to be given opportunity to acquit themselves of any malfeasance in the ark of governance. Others want to be seen as listening and responsive persons to the yearnings of the masses. In short, they want to be counted among the people to escape any supposed Armageddon.
By now, they are ready to bare their minds on issues troubling others. Some are ready to march with the protesters as a sign of solidarity. Even some are ready to find scapegoats to be pious before the aggrieved youths. The fear of the unknown is gnawing on them. It is difficult to predict how the protest will end. Will it lead to anarchy or revolution as predicted by some God’s giants? This is the veil of uncertainty.
For a long time, Nigerian Governors did not talk about improved governance in the country. But Monday, October 19, the 36 governors gathered and issued a communiqué asking President Muhammadu Buhari to embrace improved governance as a way of arresting the raging protest. I do not know how many of the governors had read the communiqué before it was made public. I do not really know how many governors read it line by line and absorb it. If that was done, fine; if not then more questions than answers.
Given their constitutional roles and their occupation of the cockpit of governance at the state level, the call by the state executives on Buhari is self-conceited and insensitive. For instance, Part 11 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) vests the executive powers on the governors and charge them with the execution of the state law.
It is the responsibility of governor to assign the Deputy Governor or a Commissioner any business of government. He assigns Finance and General Purposes Committee (FGPC) portfolio to the person he wishes, he appoints Secretary to the State Government, commissioners, Head of Civil Service, recommends for appointment of State High Court Judges and Chief Judge to National Judiciary Commission for confirmation, appoints Permanent Secretaries or other chief executives in any Ministry, Department or Agency as well as appoints board members and members into commissions.
Also, the Governor signs bills into law, serves as commander-in-chief of the State Security Committee, convenes special sessions of the state House of Assembly, and grants commutation and pardon to prisoners. He advances and pursues revised policies and programmes using such tools as executive orders, executive budgets, legislative proposals and vetoes. He appropriates and collects humongous security vote and receives terminal benefits and pensions at the end of tenure of his office.
As fringe benefits, the Governor has inputs in the appointment of local government Transition Committee Chairmen, election of local government chairmen, nomination of members of the State House of Assembly for election including election of Speakers and other House Leaders, nomination and subsequent election of aspirants to represent his state in the Senate or House of Representatives.
In fact, the State Joint Account is in the purview of the state Governor and he distributes allocation at will. No one queries him without getting hurt. Any local government chairman who raises an eyebrow is sent packing without notice.
A typical Nigerian Governor operates like a maximum ruler in his enclave. Governors such as out-gone Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State who lashed at President Buhari, could not be impeached. Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike could take any action to circumvent the constitution, yet he does not bog. But try such in their states, then you have to pay dearly for recalcitrance. Not so at the state. Local government chairmen who opposed or challenged their governors are ruing in financial lack and political eclipse.
Though the ENDSARS protesters have listed a 23-point demand to President Buhari for consideration and implementation, his administration is better in terms of policy formulation and implementation than many administrations in different states in the country. The administration has been following the implementation of its yearly budget and has been making known contract sums, and amounts spent on different projects. But some state governors do not disclose contract sums while expenditure profiles are shrouded in secrecy. Others could not announce the monthly allocations accruable from the Federation Account.
Chapter 1V of the Constitution espouses the functions of the executive President. In the Presidential system, the President has omnipotent powers. President Olusegun Obasanjo used it arbitrary to the whims and caprices of many. He employed impeachment tool to emasculate the governors. He re-introduced On-Shore-Off-Shore Oil Dichotomy through the backdoor and employed political solution to sort it out when the pressure mounted beyond executive lawlessness.
So, the Governors should talk about improved governance in hush voices because many of them are products of bad governance. Why do they want the removal of speck from the eyes of Buhari when they have beams in their eyes? Except they want to play Biblical Pilate. Pilate who presided over the judgment of Jesus Christ wanted to sentence Him to death, but his dreamer wife warned him to steer clear of such crucifixion. Yet, his conscience was polluted towards Jesus.
Some of the Governors who are advising Mr. President have conscientiously sentenced him remaining his crucifixion. They are guilty but are biased and their conscience seared. Not that Buhari’s administration is perfect, no, not so. Mr. President is usually accused of ineptitude in rescuing Chibok girls, inability in curbing insecurity in the North East Region, skewed political appointments, systemic corruption, high unemployment rate, high inflation, and other weaknesses, among others.
Are many Governors not carting away all local government seats for their political parties without conceding any to the opposition party using Independent State Electoral Commission? Yet, Buhari rarely (if at all) interferes in the election of Governors, ensuring that Governors even in the opposition party still win. In the just-concluded elections, Edo Governor Godwin Obaseki and his Ondo counterpart Oluwa Akeredolu could testify. Let the Governors embark on self-cleansing exercise and chart reformed governance up to grassroots. Though some of them are doing well, others are causing their subjects to wail.
It is only when Governors perform excellently, then they can the audacity to advise President to sit up. It behoves the electorates to hold the President and Governors accountable for their actions. Now the governors want to portray to the protesters that they are with the masses, but their hearts and actions are far away from the bosom of the downtrodden. The masses are crying, yet the governors are turning deaf ears and blind eyes to them. Let them flee from hypocrisy for the masses know them well and what they stand for.