Governors on the art of connecting

Nigeria Governors

MANY of them are young, bold and brave. They are audacious and inventive, unlike some of their forerunners who were staid, laid back and conservative. Not for them the deep, reflective language of old, aimed at pricking the people’s conscience and stoking the fire of patriotism. Nor those dull, […]

MANY of them are young, bold and brave. They are audacious and inventive, unlike some of their forerunners who were staid, laid back and conservative.

Not for them the deep, reflective language of old, aimed at pricking the people’s conscience and stoking the fire of patriotism. Nor those dull, drab and sober campaign phrases and songs that just won’t “connect” or show that “they are on ground”. Nor the stale theory of “my work should speak for me”. No.

Regrettably, besides some awards that are not worthy of the fine wood with which the plaques are made, our governors hardly get any credit for their exertions.

Take, for instance, the youthful Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello. Nothing the hard working man has done – no matter how worthy – has gone down well with his large army of critics. They describe him as lazy and his performance as lacklustre. Some even ask: “What do you expect of a man who was dashed the governor’s seat, just like that?”

I disagree. Where were they, the armchair critics and busybodies hiding behind the veneer of “social critic and rights activist” when Bello hit the road, a pack of fliers on one hand, to advise drivers against over-speeding? Besides, he mounted the traffic warden’s stand to ensure a smooth flow of vehicles in the capital city, Lokoja.

If these would not convince the so-called critics that Yahaya is “connecting” and about his passion for the job, how about the way he handled the herders-farmers’ clashes? Bello visited a frontline monarch and warned him to support cattle colony–the Buhari administration’s controversial answer to the bloody clashes – or risk deposition. Many were shocked at his audacity. Did His Excellency get any credit for this? No. Instead, he was tongue-lashed for being so harsh and brash. Some even accused him of immaturity.

The state, like many others, has been finding it difficult to pay its workers. Instead of showing understanding–declining allocation from the federal purse and rising cost of governance, among other factors – Bello has been labelled a spendthrift. Not one to be caught panting for an answer, the governor plunked down some millions to buy space in a newspaper for the periodic publication of the names and offices of those who got paid. Ever since, nobody has accused the government of not “connecting”workers.

Remarkable as Bello’s inventiveness has been, it is incomparable with the creativity of his Ekiti State counterpart, Mr – no; I take that back–Chief Ayo Fayose, “architect of modern Ekiti, leader of the opposition, Osokomole”. When the herders’ problem was knocking at the door in Ekiti, His Excellency ordered youths to seize any cow that strayed into a farm and have it for dinner. Not one who fails to lead by example, the governor actually joined some youths to hunt down a big cow and, in the full glare of all, cameras flashing, dealt with the animal.

But the herders would not relent. They threatened violence. His Excellency, not one to be intimidated, gathered all the hunters in the state – guns, cutlasses, knives, catapults, amulets and all–to issue a counter threat. Herders who would not control their herds would pay dearly for their insensitivity, he said.

To demonstrate the seriousness of the matter at hand, His Excellency was decked out in a military camouflage. He was in a war mood. When it was widely rumoured that killer-herdsmen were on the way, it was to the security agencies that governor cried out for help. And people were asking: where are the hunters?

In his early days in office, Fayose would not just join firemen at work whenever there was fire in the capital city, Ado- Ekiti. He would mount the fire vehicle’s driver’s seat and, on getting to the scene, grab the hose and train it on the inferno. Heroism.

This year’s Federal Government budget was sent to the National Assembly on November 7, last year. It was passed only last week. Not so in Ekiti. When Fayose took the state’s budget to the House, he strolled in with his own gavel – a source said a replica of the mace was in his car, should the original disappear – and a crowd of supporters.

“If you want this budget passed speedily, say yes,” he announced, after stressing that the “state is my constituency”. The gallery yelled: “Yeh.” If you want this budget passed speedily, say yes.” “Yeh!”. “Those who want the budget passed speedily, say yes”. “Yeh!.”Those who doesn’t (sic) want this budget to be passed speedily, say no.” All was quiet. Fayose banged the table with the gavel. Applause. Applause.

His Excellency has since graduated from munching corn on the street and eating at roadside canteens. He now serves himself, stirring the stew of itinerary food vendors and turning cassava powder into gari. An average Ekiti resident owes his rotundity and chubby cheeks to Stomach Infrastructure, the governor’s popular poll harvesting strategy. The governor’s opponents may accuse him of many things, not “connecting” is surely not one of them. He “connects”.

In Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai has been barging into one controversy after the other. He ordered beggars off the street–to have a spick and span environment. That worthy cause became a subject of attack from (who else?) his political opponents, who claimed that it was insensitive.

When bandits posing as herdsmen stormed the state, His Excellency simply called them and settled. Those who were never privy to the arrangement accused El-Rufai of bribing murderers. Haba! Trust the governor; he simply ignored them.

A splinter group of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) recently set up a parallel secretariat. Unable to stand such irritants, El-Rufai ordered in the bulldozer to level the new secretariat, just as the headquarters of the El-Zak Zaky group was demolished to have peace. Now, many states, I am told, are planning to visit Kaduna for lessons in how to make demolition a state policy that can bring peace when all else fails. Yet, his opponents say he is not “connecting”. Not one to bandy words with such people, His Excellency simply rained curses on them and incited the public against them.

Whenever Owelle Rochas Okorocha screams “my people, my people”, Imo State residents reply: “Our governor, our governor.” Such is the bond between the leader and his followers. He “connects”. Routinely, His Excellency would take the seat at a roadside corn vendor’s stand, the vendor’s baby on his lap, in one instance, and turn the stuff to ensure it is well roasted.

That, however, was in the early days of his tenure. Now, Okorocha is taking loftier steps, such as the creation of the Ministry of Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment, headed by His Excellency’s sister. Those who know nothing about governance are accusing Okorocha of making his sister the head of the ministry. Who else can the governor trust with such a sensitive portfolio? He has simply ignored them. But those who are saying Okorocha plans to install his son-in-law as his successor would not be ignored. He is teaching them new lessons in politics and governance.

Owerri ‘s landscape has been beautified by statues of some prominent Africans, among them former South African President Jacob Zuma, who was forced out of office for alleged corruption. Seeing the statues alone, many residents have confessed, is enough armour against the hunger induced by non-payment of pensions and salaries. Yet, His Excellency gets no kudos but knocks for this creativity.

Many were shocked when Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje visited a project site and tried to “connect” with the workers. He filled a head pan with sand, lifted it with both hands and placed it on his head. The crowd roared.

It used to be mass weddings only in Kano. Now, tea vendors, known as “mai shai” in the local language, are being empowered with milk, sugar and other ingredients of their trade. Everybody is happy that His Excellency “connects”.

Apparently not to be seen as not “connecting”, Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu led the executive council out on a sanitation drive. His Excellency jumped into a stinking gutter and began to shovel out the dirt. He forgot to add that it was simply part of “connecting”. It was all in a bid to fight malaria, an aide said.

Some idle fellows have been attacking Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom for giving out branded wheelbarrows to youths. They said other governors were building roads and bridges and hospitals and schools and houses, but he chose to give out what they called a symbol of poverty. A smart fellow, Ortom simply dismissed them as “jealous”.

After all, what is governance if not “connecting”?

About The Editor 438 Articles
The Editor of The Heartlander. - News & Views from Imo State, the Eastern Heartland of Nigeria

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