1 December 2012

Nigeria: Wada - the Many Headaches of a Governor

Lokoja — One by one, and as if scripted, crises are erupting one after the other for the Wada administration in Kogi State.

For Idris Ichalla Wada, the Kogi State governor, this may not be the best of times. The calm mien he always wears is beginning to ebb as the burden of office gets heavier. "The state of affairs in the state will shock you; the debt burden-contractual and otherwise as well as the general rot he inherited is overwhelming," an aide told Weekly Trust last Wednesday in confidence.

However, many, especially aggrieved party members, who lost out in the power game and the opposition may view such line as "defeatist." "Every crown has its burden," they are wont to remark; and Wada's opponents would have support within the masses in the state, who had welcomed his emergence with so much relief and serious anticipation.

But even the opposition within the governor's own Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and those without led by fiery politician and former governor of the state, Alhaji Abubakar Audu did acknowledge that he met a state on its knees. They made this clear in their arguments for Wada's sudden emergence as the party's flag bearer preparatory to the governorship election in the state that he was railroaded in to clear the mess which will be left behind by his predecessor. "The reason why we all must unite against the candidature of Wada is that if we allow him, Ibrahim Idris will never be summoned to account for his many misdeeds in the state," a PDP gubernatorial aspirant had argued during one of the party's stakeholders meetings in Lokoja, the state capital.

Several months on, Wada is seemingly bearing his burden well. He has kept sealed lips over the much talked about "endemic corruption and the general rot" under the immediate past administration of Ibrahim Idris, absorbing the kick and pinch by many to "squeal and damn the consequences". "Instead of entangling the new administration in unending probes that will achieve no meaningful result, the Governor decided to chart a new course for the state," Jacob Edi, Wada's Special Adviser on Media and Strategy told Weekly Trust. But his refusal to probe Ibrahim Idris was the oppositions' main grouse against him. The opposition, both within the party and without had seen such as an opportunity to get back at the former governor.

Observers point at the alleged many contracts the former governor "hurriedly awarded" at the tail end of his administration and the crisis thrown up by an audit which contract sum was subject of controversy as among some misdeeds the incumbent is supposed to look into.

About 10 months after he assumed office, however, the state of account under the immediate administration remained unknown. Wada was not forthcoming on the assets and liabilities he inherited, precipitating rumours over imaginary debt burden and rot that is stalling the administration efforts to move the state on the part of development and growth.

Though the governor himself has not publicly told the people that the state is broke, many still believe he is rendered handicap financially by his predecessor. However, some also fault this claim, while blaming the current state of affairs on what they term as the governor's "lack of preparedness for the task placed on his shoulders." As plausible as this argument seems, many, especially from the governor's camp, believe he has the wherewithal to turn around the fortune of the state for the better with time if given the right support, despite the many crises he is facing currently.

Among the crises Wada has to contend with is over bloated work force and the problem of ghost workers which the immediate past administration tried unsuccessful to eradicate. The development is said to be putting a lot of pressure on the state finances, especially with the on-going implementation of the new minimum wage. The situation is made worst as the amount accruing to the state from the federation account continued to dwindle. "By the time we paid salaries, there is hardly much left for development," Edi lamented.

However, analysts believe that the major hurdle Wada faced to date is that of opposition within and outside his party. The crisis which rears its head immediately his intention to contest for the state's top most position became public knowledge had continued till today. The face-off culminated in series of court cases against him across many courts in his home state and Abuja. Although most of the cases have been resolved, analysts said the many litigations against the governor slowed down the pace of governance in the state while they lasted.

Just as the pressure occasioned by the avalanche of court cases was easing, flood hits some local government areas in the state with unprecedented furry, leaving in its wake deaths and destructions. The flood incident was one crisis that caught Kogi State pants down. Although, the humanitarian crisis the incident threw up, elicits intervention from the Federal Government and international agencies across the world, the devastation will continue to hunt the state and its people for a long time to come.

Also, receding flood came with the heat over the impeachment of the Speaker of the state House of assembly, Alhaji Abdullahi Bello. Although the governor, through his aides, has denied involvement in Bello's ouster, the incident has unsettled his government, following the involvement of the House of Representatives and activities of interest groups who are flexing muscles. The crisis leads to the shutting down of the state assembly by the order of a House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the matter.

Even as the dust over the Assembly imbroglio is yet to settle, a petition by a group of elders and political leaders from the state to President Goodluck Jonathan and the national chairman of the PDP and others to urgently step forth to avert what they claimed was an impending drift to anarchy has further heated the stated and reverberated at the national discourse. The group accused the Governor Idris Wada-led administration of lacking a sense of direction, corruption, incompetence and illegalities, among many other sins.

"It is now very clear to all that Captain Idris Wada - the man who was not even a card-carrying member of our party when he was imposed on us as governorship candidate in 2011- has absolutely no clue on how to run a modern state. In nearly one year on the saddle, Wada cannot point to one tangible project executed by his administration beside a whitewashed roundabout in front of Government House, Lokoja," the group had averred.

The group accused the President and the national secretariat of the party of inaction despite series of complaints and protests over the situation in the state, while warning of the implication of such. "Mr. President, we the undersigned, strongly feel and believe that your body language, silence, inaction, apparent lack of interest and seeming disconnect with Kogi State, leaves us with only one conclusion, i.e. that we are on our own, and that the only option open to us is to seek self help. This is not right. We feel scandalized that the party has chosen to watch helplessly as this charade and impunity continues in Kogi State. This is not acceptable. The party, our party should not cross one river and insult the crocodile, because there are more rivers ahead for the party to cross," it averred.

Some observers may dismiss the threat by the group which mostly included those who vied for the party's guber ticket alongside Wada, as the ranting of the aggrieved. However, the implication of their warning of "...more rivers ahead of the party to cross" is not lost on Wada and indeed the party's national leadership. Analysts believed personalities such as Senators Alex Kadiri, Mohammed Ohiare, former Speaker of the state House of Assembly and former Acting Governor, Clarence Olafemi, former state PDP Chairman, John Odawun, Air Vice Marshall Salihu Atawodi (rtd) and former governorship aspirant, Dr Adinoyi Ojo-Onukaba, who authored the letter are strong forces capable of unsettling the party in their respective communities. Analysts contended that urgent mediation is required if Wada must concentrate on addressing the "decade of rot and deterioration" he inherited.

The governor's aides, however, said important step is already being taken by the administration from the blueprint drawn up by 25 eminent citizens of the state in the on-going effort to put the state on the path of development and growth. Some of these efforts were said to have included the restructuring of the internal revenue mechanism to address the problem of paucity of fund and a phased screening exercise of its staff to check the lingering crisis over ghost workers which has being eating into the lean resources that is accruing to the state from the federation account among other efforts. Observers believe the governor must step up the pace of development if he must win the confidence of the people of the state, while also shielding himself from "undue influence" of the immediate past governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris.

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