By: Okanga Agila
Perception of Nigerians on leadership is often faulty. We most times, indulge in the error of judgment by feeling that every responsibility about leadership resides only on the leader of the federation. But this is extremely wrong and awkward thinking. We ignore the leaders at subordinated levels and in the case of Nigeria, blame the President for everything we deem as wrong or happen to us.
Thus, I am always disconcerted to see to see how Nigerians mount unnecessary pressure on President Mohammedu Buhari over everything. When the governor of a state fails to pay salaries or does not execute any capital project, we find it more convenient to blame President Buhari. Anywhere there is a national disaster, the person we immediately attack is the President. We blame him and scold him for inaction and say all manner of things to ridicule his personality or leadership of Nigeria. Sometimes, one is compelled to wonder is President Buhari also preside over states.
When the lunatics masked as secession agitators, whether as IPOB or MASSOB strike, it is Buhari that is blamed. If Boko Haram insurgents drop a bomb and kill people, its Buhari that is responsible or has failed to secure Nigeria. When a Princess is kidnapped somewhere in the Southeast, we perceive it as sign of Buhari’s leadership incompetence.
When criminals rob or abduct Nigerians, President Buhari becomes instantly culpable. If suspected Fulani herdsmen and farmers violently clash and spill blood, Buhari becomes a very tribalistic President or leader and a religious bigot, who has permitted or armed his Fulani kinsmen to recklessly murder Nigerians to promote a “Jihadist agenda”. Nigerians amuse infinitely.
This negative redefinition of our leadership in the peculiarly Nigerian style is sad. But the good thing is that democracy permits such liberties of expression. But most times, the bulk passing game is misplaced. It is nonsensical. The odd events; the criminality that takes place, everywhere in Nigeria; the insecurity that has become the burden of “patriotic” Nigerians happen in lawfully constituted states, local governments and communities in Nigeria. Each segment of governance has a responsibility, particularly, the sworn oath of office on the protection of lives and property.
There are State Governors and local government chairmen. Outside the monthly statutory allocations, Governors collect security votes in millions and it has never been lower than N300 million monthly. Nobody cares to ask them how it is expended on security.
So, if a band of cultists invade a state or local government in Nigeria, the governor or council chairman is not prompted to act or use his security votes to quench the fire. It is allowed to blossom, beyond instant control. And when the explosion ascends to dreadful levels, with killings and destructions, it invokes the passion for press conferences. And such media interactions conceal everything, but exposes a crooked leadership; encouraged in official neglect by the failure of the citizenry to hold them accountable.
The Governors shamefully call for Federal Government intervention over little security breaches within their competence to handle. The citizens are incited to feel Mr. President has reneged on his duties or is incompetent. And social media would go agog with vile commentaries. But none of the commentaries probe the governor or council chairman in the locality of the trouble on how he has discharged his responsibility of protecting lives and property. It is the President that is chastised, lampooned and tongue-lashed.
When such submissions are played in public space, it speaks much more, about ignorance of the people about the office of the President and the rest of the lower rungs of governance. It is good to see the President devoting resources and energy to protect lives. But I do not think it is his primary responsibility to delve into every matter, where the state has been sufficiently empowered to act or bring succor to the people.
The people dread confronting their state governors whom they know or have evidence that he is embezzling state funds. They do not ask their state Assembly lawmakers to act. What they believe in their little minds is that President Buhari is pretentious or selective in his prosecution of the anti-graft war. How are the corrupt acts of a governor, the business of Buhari, when the state assembly is empowered by law to probe and possibly impeach a Governor if they establish a prima facie case of corruption or abuse of office against him?
A nation cannot attain its potentials or be good for everyone to inhabit, if people feel the onus of making it better falls on the shoulders of one man or leader. All of us have a stake to make it better. And the masses have a great rule to play. Leadership quest is built on the social manifesto of trust and accountability to the people, vested in whomsoever is entrusted to lead the people. The office of a council chairman is not too small and the office of a governor has a very large chest to take up these responsibilities. It should or ought not to be the responsibility of Mr. President alone.
We all know the problem of Nigeria is bad leadership. Erudite scholar, Professor Chinua Achebe asserted in one of his essays that leadership is Nigeria’s problem and not restructuring. With the revival of the campaign on restructuring, sincere Nigerians have openly canvassed the position that until we get our leadership right, restructuring is not really the panacea.
I tend to believe these views because bad leaders have crippled Nigeria in many ways. The Niger Delta region would not have been impoverished to the extent of the portrait it projects today, if leaders in the region had judiciously utilized the billions of dollars pumped into the region these past years. But it is always cornered or embezzled outrightly. But the beneficiaries do not ask their leaders to account for the resources. Rather, it is the Federal Government and the President that is blamed for neglecting the region.
If we desire that our country should be a paradise and a Dubai in Africa for us to enjoy it, we must learn to hold the Governors or council chairmen to account for our resources. We must ditch this idea of always running helplessly to the President. It is our collective duty and an obligation we owe to posterity for every Nigerian to demand to know how much his governor and council chairman have received in the last three months or annually and how it is has been expended. Do we demand annually audit report of state accounts from our governors?
If a state governor fails to pay salary, it is not just enough to accept his explanation that federal allocation was insufficient. No! We must prod further to know how much was released to the state and what has been generated from Internal revenue sources that has placed him in a position not to pay salaries. This is not the duty of President Buhari. It is our inalienable right to hold all our leaders accountable. This is the only way we shall assist President Buhari deliver seamlessly on his mandate to Nigerians.
We should place ourselves in a position of interrogating our state governors, state lawmakers and seek to know why the anti- corruption campaign launched by President is yet to be entrenched at the state and local government levels. We must help the president to help us. The penchant of locking up ourselves in the confines of homes to lament that the centre is not working is regrettable sloth and consented self-destruction. And it won’t affect President Buhari now or in the future.
Okanga writes from Agila, Benue State.