News reports have it that former Imo State Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim was denied entry into a church for the worship of God on Sunday, May 8, 2011. The youths were said to be angry with him for abandoning and neglecting his people and community. As a show of their seriousness, the youths had asked the governor to point at one project he executed in the community all through his four-year tenure.
Ohakim had lost the Imo State supplementary elections conducted on May 6, following the inconclusive polls of April 26. In that too close to call contest, Ohakim of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost to Rochas Okorocha of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). This is a similar fate suffered by many others of his type who refused to learn from history. That is the price of non-performance, and governance with impunity.
In Delta, Akwa Ibom, Nassarawa, Borno, Oyo, Kano, among others, where allegations of non-performance are rife, tension over the victory or loss of the people’s mandate has been greeted with mixed reactions. It now leaves room for pandering over whether non-performance should be subjective or purely based on available physical infrastructure projects the people can see, touch and feel.
It is, indeed, incontrovertible that people look forward to their governments to provide them with the basic necessities of life, such as school infrastructures, healthcare facilities, potable water, good roads, decent waste disposal system, sustainable electricity, and security of lives and property. There is no one who would not be touched by the presence of these human necessities. This is why any leader who fails to pay priority attention to these projects is seen as either not performing or completely out of touch with the yearnings and aspirations of the electorate.
Now, there are clear cut indices for measuring performance and non-performance of political office holders. Take Rivers State for example. The Governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, from the onset of his administration in October 2007, pledged to Rivers people that he would provide 105 primary health centres, 250 model primary schools and 23 model secondary schools across the 23 local governments of the state. All these have been oversubscribed, and Rivers people are still counting.
He did not stop there. Amaechi also promised hundreds of kilometers of all-season roads in all the local government areas, and good network of world-class roads, resurfaced, reconstructed or rehabilitated roads to facilitate communication amongst the communities, and ensure unfettered free flow of human and vehicular traffic in the state. In addition to this are his pledge to address the issue of waste disposal and management, provision of water and enhanced sanitation status, improved welfare packages for government workers, stable electricity supply, among others.
In all these planks, Amaechi has been outstanding in his performance, despite obvious legislative and legal impediments, especially as it regards to boosting electricity supply to the people of the state.
Another tacit example of a leader whose democratic and good governance credentials make him an easy sellable product in the electorate’s chessboard is Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola. Perhaps, it is remarkable to note that men who assume power and remember that the position they occupy is transient, would definitely work for posterity so much so that even after they had left the saddle as governors, they can walk the streets of their states’’ cities without fear of molestation.
Former Cross River State Governor, Donald Duke is also another testimonial, as he took part in street processions of the Calabar annual carnival without any form of fear. Now, even after he had left office, Duke could still walk the streets of Calabar like a common man and darling of the masses. In fact, subsequent governments are still finding it difficult to keep pace with his strides.
As a toast to good governance and people-oriented leadership, it is certain that such Governors as Amaechi, Fashola, and their likes would walk the streets of their various states with lots of accolades. This is the test of good statesmanship, which is usually rewarded with appreciation.
Perhaps, it would be wise to refresh our minds with the fundamental reasons why this situation exists in Nigeria. The basic reason is that our administrative structures have made little provision for institutions to operate independently of the will of the governor, in fact, without recourse to what the governor wants instead what the electorate desire. This has made it easy for those who fail to do so to be noticed because they are quickly seen to building on non-existent foundation.
But in societies where standard structures of governance and institutional frameworks have risen appropriately always have the various agencies of government independently performing their duties according to the law. For instance, the police can initiate and investigate crime against a sitting governor, and can even indict him or her for abuse of office or other crimes, if found wanting. A number of cases exist in the United States where incumbent governors or even incumbent presidents have been investigated and either exonerated or indicted of inappropriate behaviours and abuse of office. Take the Governor of North Carolina, Mark Stanford in 2009, investigated for travelling out of his state on holidays with his Argentine mistress without notice and misuse of state funds. He was eventually found clean. But the State of Illinois governor, one-time governor of New York, and even former US President Bill Clinton were also investigated and found culpable for abuse of office and inappropriate behaviours.
Indeed, physical and urban planning departments have the courage to write-off or condemn a government planned road, bridge or other infrastructure projects, if they fail to meet approved specifications and standard in line with existing master plan for development. This can only happen in an environment where separation powers works effectively in government, where all tiers of government: executive, legislature and judiciary work in line with the Constitution, and where development projects are aligned with community, local, municipal, state and national aspirations and goals.
Imegi, lecturer, Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Rumuola, resides in Port Harcourt.