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Ranking Nigerian Govs Nov/Dec 2021: Sanwo-Olu’s mixed bag, el-Rufai’s consistency, Ortom’s obsession, Wike’s pendulum

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Ranking Nigerian Governors, a special monthly publication from Ripples Nigeria dedicated to the review of the performance of Nigerian state governors, returns for the months of November and December, 2021.

The special publication which made its debut in August 2019, kicked off with the traditional ranking of the state chief executives on the basis of Top 5 and Bottom 5. However, with the steady decline in the performances of governors both in concrete actions and policy formulation and pronouncements, Ranking Nigerian Governors evolved a slightly different approach, though in the interim, by singling out governors considered worth mentioning, either for positives or negatives, as the case may be.

Despite the seeming general lethargy in governance by virtually every tier of government in the country and our self-imposed duty of holding governors to account, we are not unmindful that the act of governance in this part of the world could be herculean. This is so especially with dwindling resources at the disposal of government, as well as increasing insecurity occasioned by terrorism, banditry and other violent crimes in virtually every part of the country.

It is, however, a stubborn fact that Nigeria, with its God-given natural resources and huge and intimidating human assets, visionary and forward- looking leaders should not have too many problems making things work.

Unfortunately, governance and prudent management of resources have been abysmally low and near-zero despite the huge possibilities and citizens’ high expectations for development.

In the preceding month of October, we noted sadly that nothing had changed significantly in the performances of State governors, as insecurity persisted, hunger worsened, especially as the prices of food and other essential goods seemed to be veering off the reach of the common man in the country.

Nigerian governors were, despite the huge challenges facing Nigerians, preoccupied with party politics, as they battled for the control of their political parties— the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC)— to the detriment of the longsuffering common man.

There was, however, a little consolation as Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, once again rose to the occasion by showing that all hope was not lost when it comes to quality leadership and purposeful governance in the country.

For the months of November/December 2021, Ranking Nigerian Governors beams its searchlight on the Lagos State Govenor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who had a mixed bag review, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State for his consistent and unrelenting clamour for ‘appropriate’ treatment of bandits, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State for his now legendary obsession with anything Buhari, and Governors’ doublespeak on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

Sanwo-Olu’s Mixed Bag

Sanwo-Olu

We acknowledge the show of leadership Governor Sanwo-Olu displayed immediately the Gerald Road, Ikoyi High-rise building belonging to late Femi Osibona came crumbling. Sanwo-Olu, who was on a trip abroad, cut short the trip and immediately returned to Lagos to oversee the rescue operations.

Though the deed was already done, as scores of people lost their lives in the collapsed building, including Osibona, it is, however, symbolic that a Nigerian governor felt responsible enough to the people of the state by cutting short his trip abroad to attend to a tragedy. We deem it symbolic and worthy of commendation as it is alien to this part of the world for leaders to feel touched and concerned enough about a tragedy to return to base.

We note that Sanwo-Olu’s action as it relates to his prompt return from a foreign trip because of the collapsed building is capable of reassuring citizens that their leaders are not distant from their challenges and are indeed touched by their pains.

We concede that this, indeed, is what the Nigerian society needs at this trying period— a government that shows empathy, sympathy and is connected to the people all the way.

The above notwithstanding, we note with concern the shoddy way information about the disputed approval granted Osibona was handled. We recall that there were conflicting reports, quoting different state government officials, including the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat.

READ ALSO: Ranking Nigerian Governors June, 2021: Helmsmen from the south offer fresh hope

It is our belief that effective crisis management communication, the sort adopted by the Lagos State Government in the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic was not adopted and followed through in handling the many fallouts of the Gerald Road, Ikoyi building collapse, as Lagosians were left to themselves, and bloggers, half-baked and ‘emergency journalists’ fed the public most times with fake news and half-truths.

Aside the controversies that attended the number of floors approved for Osibona, families of victims went through a harrowing time waiting for information on their loved ones trapped or killed in the collapse. It is our belief that such a situation is not ideal as it amounts to double tragedy.

Closely coming on the heels of the building collapse is the release of the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on #ENDSARS protests, a report that generated heated debates all over the country.

We note, with dismay, the mismanagement of the process, from the submission of the report to the release of the state government’s white paper, a process fraught with less-than-tidy handling.

We acknowledge that as Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has a responsibility to assuage the feelings of the people of the state, however, the speech by the governor preceding the release of the white paper went contrary to assuaging any feeling but rather provoked fresh arguments and ill-feelings, especially among the youths, who felt slighted by Sanwo-Olu’s offer to embark on a ‘Walk for Peace’ with them.

We consider it a misstep for Governor Sanwo-Olu to have gone ahead with the speech which many saw as mere rhetoric, an attempt to coerce Lagosians into buying into an outcome that was already expected. It is our belief that Sanwo-Olu’s speech and his invitation to the arrowheads of the #ENDSARS protest was a poor attempt at softening the ground for what the government eventually threw at Lagosians in general, and the angry youths in particular.

It is our considered opinion that the heavy backlash from youths immediately after the speech could have been avoided if the governor and his handlers had taken time to gauge the feelings of the youths, who obviously were still angry over the way security agents truncated the elaborate plans for the first anniversary of the #ENDSARS protests.

On the whole, Sanwo-Olu’s attempt at softening the ground and the minds of Lagosians was a gross public relations failure that the governor must take responsibility for.

el-Rufai’s Consistency

We acknowledge the consistency of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State in calling for an appropriate action against bandits troubling his state and other states in the North-West and North-Central geopolitical zones of the country. el-Rufai has over time consistently insisted on non-negotiation with the armed men that were recently declared terrorists by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja.

We also note el-Rufai’s recent comments, in which he said the term “repentant bandits” was a misnomer and did not exist. This, however, runs contrary to the stand of the Nigerian military and the Federal Government, which are rehabilitating ‘repentant’ terrorists in the North-East.

We applaud Governor el-Rufai for toeing the popular line of Nigerians who believe government and the security agencies should get more ruthless in handling the bandits who have been causing untold mayhem in parts of the country, killing and maiming innocent Nigerians, destroying property and crippling the livehoods of millions.

We acknowledge that though el-Rufai’s approach and stubborn stand have put more pressure on victims of abduction and their families, government cannot continue to treat murderous bandits with kid gloves and expect the criminals to lay down their arms. It is even more true that such treatment, negotiation and ransom payment are responsible for the escalation of their activities, as criminality has become a rewarding business venture for them.

We concede that if every state government with the banditry burden and the federal government could buy into Governor el-Rufai’s stand, there would be a surge of concrete military action that would annihilate the bandits.

Ortom’s Obsession with Buhari

EFCC unfreezes Benue State accounts

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, is undoubtedly one of the fiercest critics of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, and he is rather unfortunately known for his criticism of the President than any other thing, especially governance achievements.

We acknowledge the right of the governor to freedom of speech, his right to hold opinions he considers appropriate and true, his freedom to associate with whoever he wants and most importantly, his responsibility to protect the people of Benue State.

We, however, note that despite these rights, freedom and responsibility of the governor, there is also the demand for decency, civility and due process in getting things done.

It is our belief that governance is not the same as opposition politics, and as such, they must be separated for the state and the nation to work properly. Governor Ortom is not the governor of a sovereign state that can afford to call the bluff of the central government, as his state is a component part of the country that is unfortunately still tied to the apron strings of Buhari’s federal government, especially for financial survival and the security of its people.

We note the importance of speaking truth to power, but also believe that it must be done in ways that will not diminish the strength of the message intended to be passed. It must also not be reduced to the level of insults, vulgarity and a mere appeal to popular sentiments.

We recall that Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, had in the past spoken truth to power in ways that enhanced his message, giving it weight and drawing widrspread applause from Nigerians and this publication. We also recall that Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State consistently lampoons the Buhari-led federal government but cleverly chooses the occasions for such, which mostly are when projects are being commissioned. This, no doubt, gives him some moral authority for his many outbursts.

For Ortom, we sadly note that his outbursts are mostly borne out of an obsession, a populist instinct and an attempt to pass for a defender of his people, without any commensurate action that practically demonstrates his love for the people like through the provision of basic infrastructures, and timely payment of salaries and pension.

Wike’s ‘Jumpy’ Turns on Electoral Act Amendment Bill

The Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 as passed by the National Assembly, and President Buhari’s decision to withhold assent, is no doubt the issue on the front burner in the country. And as usual and true to character, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, did not allow it pass without having his ‘says’.

We note the contradictory positions Governor Wike took in the controversy surrounding the mandatory direct primary clause inserted in the ammendment by the federal lawmakers, and wondered why the governor changed his position, or what informed his doublespeak.

We recall that immediately the National Assembly passed the bill, including the controversial direct primary clause, Governor Wike threatened to approach the court if President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the bill as passed.

Wike, just like his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), faulted the amendment of clause 87 of the Act, which mandates political parties to use the direct mode of primaries in electing candidates for elections, insisting that political parties should be allowed to conduct their affairs the way they deemed fit.

“If Mr. President assents it, we will challenge it in court as regards the issue of direct primaries. We believe that it is an interference of internal affairs of a political party. Every party should be left on the choice of how to elect their own candidate”, Governor Wike had said during the opening of the new legal year for the Rivers State judiciary.

We also note that Governor Wike made a 360-degree turnaround, claiming that the direct primaries clause was intentionally inserted in the ammendment bill so that Buhari would find an excuse not to sign. According to the Governor, it was a mere strategy by APC governors and lawmakers.

The governor said in a statement by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri: “Three weeks ago, I told Nigerians that there is a conspiracy not to have a free, fair, transparent election in 2023 and that conspiracy was very clear. And I told Nigerians, Mr President will not sign the electoral act amendment bill.

“What APC resolved in the meeting they had was that their problem is not necessarily direct primaries, but the electronic transmission of result in 2023.

“If they allow that, obviously APC will lose the election in 2023 and they told themselves that the only way we can survive that is to include the direct primaries in the bill so that Mr President can use that as an excuse, that he will not sign the bill.

“Unfortunately, you don’t have a national assembly that has what it takes, that will stand for the people, that will say ‘look, we were elected by the people and we want to give the people the best’.

“Nobody in the national assembly, not even the leadership, can have what it takes to say ‘Mr President, for the interest of Nigerians, we are going to veto this your refusal’.”

We consider Wike’s later statement a contradiction of his earlier comments in which he threatened a lawsuit should the president sign the bill as passed by the National Assembly. It is, in our opinion, an attempt to jump into the wave of the moment and align with the popular sentiments of Nigerians who are against the refusal of the President to sign the bill.

It has been argued by some that Nigerian governors and scores of political leaders are against mandatory direct primaries as it will rob them of their ability to impose candidates of their choice on their parties.

We note that Wike’s latter-day conversion to a pro-Electoral Act Amendment Bill supporter as passed by the National Assembly is suspect and may only be a smart political move not to swim against the tide.

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