1 August 2017

Nigeria: Edo State and the Politics of 'Anointed' Leadership

opinion

One of the more novel suggestions on how to end malfeasance in governance in Nigeria is to somehow ensure that power at Federal and State levels is rotated between political parties rather than between Regions, Zones or Senatorial Districts. The idea isn't as absurd as it sounds. It's anchored on accepting the reality that the Nigeria electorate only gets an inkling of the rot in the polity when government changes hands.

There is little doubt that if the People's Democratic Party (PDP) had defeated the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the 2015 general election, their serial mindboggling financial mismanagement would still be secret. It's not just PDP. Now that "Ikoyi-Gate" is being hushed up, the nation waits for a non-APC government to reveal the truth. In Nigeria, when the Political Party in office retains power, more often than not, the incoming Chief Executive is the "anointed son" of the outgoing one. He isn't anointed to cause problems for his benefactor! Unless he is an ungrateful ingrate, he has little option other than to ensure his predecessor's transgressions aren't exposed, and carry on as best he can. This is why during 16 years of PDP financial mismanagement, not a whimper was heard even as Presidents came and went.

The same scenario appears to be playing itself out in Edo State where the PDP is raising a storm over the APC Governor's plan to privatize the new Central Hospital Annexe constructed by his APC predecessor. The PDP says they are "sickened but justified" in referring to the "5-Star Medical Facility" as a failed project, and red herring exercise. Edo State citizens are no strangers to failed projects. Back in the day, PDP Governor Lucky Igbinedion redefined the concept. Defending the abandoned State Fruit Juice and Cassava Factories he constructed, Igbinedion insisted that they shouldn't be classified as failed projects because they had been; "completed and commissioned but were simply yet to be functional!"

Years later under the APC the new 5-Star Central Hospital Annexe apparently enjoys the same fate. The facility was "opened" by President Buhari with much fanfare, but today almost a year after commissioning the empty shell of the building lies fallow! Many such "completed and commissioned, but yet to be functional" projects litter the nation. The problems with the Benin Central Hospital Annexe started from inception. Resident doctors opposed the plan saying it didn't make sense to build a modern 5-Star Annexe inside a dilapidated 100-year-old Central Hospital premises overwhelmed by an unsanitary, pervasive, repulsive odour. They said general renovation of the existing premises, additional modern equipment, ambulances, medicines, and employment of more specialist doctors, nurses, paramedics and ancillary staff were far more pressing needs than constructing a new edifice. They urged government to address the pathetic situation in which the hospital had no heart surgeon, pathologist, paediatric surgeon, orthodontist, anaesthesiologist or neurosurgeon, and not one functional x-ray machine.

Nevertheless, the contract was awarded under yet to be disclosed terms. Controversy arose when the structure spectacularly collapsed during construction. The opposition PDP launched a barrage of allegations ranging from incompetent workmanship, to conflict of interest in the contract award, and the failure of the contractor to comply with contract specifications. Even more worrisome is their allegation that reinforcement of the defective portions was substandard and total collapse of the structure is a disaster waiting to happen whenever the complex becomes fully functional. PDP spokespersons claim that the APC government has a moral obligation to disprove these allegations. These unproven political allegations aside, the decision to relinquish control of the Annexe doesn't sit well in many quarters.

The popular opinion is that Edo State money was used to construct the edifice for the benefit of the "common man" who was promised access to the best medical facilities at affordable government prices. Now the State is in debt part of which was incurred on the project. Without a comprehensive explanation of the details, there can be no moral basis for privatizing the Annexe. The Governor finds himself in a predicament. He was Chairman of the State Economic Management Team during the previous administration. Details of various "Government / Private Sector arrangements" entered into by his predecessor are opaque to say the least, and he is one of the few who should have first-hand knowledge of all that transpired. However, as things stand, it's highly unlikely that he will ever divulge the murky details to taxpayers whose funds were expended. Similar scenarios are being played out throughout the nation because in Nigerian politics, personal loyalty overrides all considerations of public interest. This is the root cause of the unabated "Tsunami of unethical practices" in leadership which has impacted so negatively on national development.

Citizens are being denied the dividends of democracy and the greatest obstacle is not finance but rather the collapse of ethical leadership. The overbearing influence of incumbency and godfatherism in determining who becomes the anointed party flagbearer in elections places serious constraints on incoming Chief Executives. They will be burdened with personal indebtedness disadvantageous to their performance. Like the Edo State Governor, they have no choice. It isn't a question of ethics, integrity or constitutionalism. It's simply the politics of anointed leadership!

Nigeria

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