The recent moves by Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai to cut down the cost of governance in the state by streamlining the number of workers almost resulted in a nationwide shut-down by Labour.
But were there any merits in his proposed actions?
If you attend seminars on good governance in Nigeria, one country keeps on popping up as the yardstick, Rwanda. What the proponents of Rwanda don’t know or pretend not to know is that El-Rufai and Paul Kagame have a lot in common.
Strangely, they extol Kagame but spit on El-Rufai! Even in academia, university professors who claim to be believers in democracy use Qatar, UAE, China, Singapore as the model for building prosperity. It is baffling how they miss the contradiction in their positions.
Reforming a society is dangerous. One thing that Ngozi Okonjo Iweala noticed, which perhaps prompted her to write her book; Fighting Corruption is Dangerous.
Bringing reforms is even more dangerous than fighting corruption. This explains why most economic miracles in the last two decades are in countries with a warped form of democracy; China, UAE, Qatar and a few others.
We have a serious fiscal problem in Nigeria, particularly at the state level. Other governors have a strategy of ignoring it. But El-Rufai has taken it on. The question is, is his approach right? Maybe not.
What is the alternative? Instead of his recent mass sack action which resulted in a major Labour strike; some have argued that the governor should dialogue with the NLC. Good idea, until you ask yourself, who is the NLC loyal to? Nigerians or their members?
It is simple. The loyalty of any union is to its members. Bargaining power and comradeship in the spirit of injury to one is injury to all!
We all recall that school teacher in Edo State who could not read. Guess what. The Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT0 backed her to the hilt; to the point that a stubborn Adams Oshiomhole had to back down.
The sentiment against sacking workers is one that everyone subscribes to. But we have to do something. A lot of states are on the brink of bankruptcy. But out of fear, governors are not doing anything about it. Kaduna State is still healthy than most states.
Even rich oil-producing states are drowning. Some are owing months of salaries and entitlement to workers. Further, some local governments have turned to pocket money sharing entities. Some only function to share money.
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Even some states only function to share money. In fact, the situation is so bad that some state governors are living in Abuja.
Of course. We need to tell the governors to cut down the cost of governance. The governors need to reduce the humongous number of political appointees. But at the moment, there is a need for drastic measures. And strangely, El-Rufai seems to be the only one with the balls to take action.
Even in his first tenure, he risked his re-election bid to embark on a reform of the education sector. Hate or love him, we need people with the courage to bring reforms. The pandering to the mob will not help anyone.
At the federal level, recurrent expenditure alone is about N5 trillion and growing. The current budget is N13.86 trillion, if you deduct debt servicing of about N3 trillion. The implication is that less than one million Nigerians are taking half of the budget meant for 193 million.
Despite this gloomy reality, the Federal Government has brought back subsidy through the back door. We are now subsisting on loans from China and other countries. We are a poor country, but live like a king. When are we going to admit that Nigeria is a poor country? When are we going to implement the Oronsaye report to downsize? The country is bleeding economically.
What is a poor country like Nigeria doing sponsoring people to Mecca and Jerusalem? We have hundreds of government agencies that are not doing anything.
More importantly, the National Assembly is equally not helping. On a daily basis, what we see are bills for the establishment of all sorts of entities.
This pandering to populism needs to be addressed. The approach should not just be outrage, but having a serious conversation on how to reform governance. The truth is, restructuring will not resolve this, but making hard cold decisions.
Jail time for ransom payments: What are these lawmakers smoking?
Just when you think Nigerian lawmakers have no shocking stunt to pull, they go Jet Li on you. The new bill to criminalise payment of ransom is just another ill-thought bill from the stable of our lawmakers.
They are like Wale Adenuga’s productions. Comedy is their genre. Kidnapping is not thriving because of ransom payments, stupid! It is thriving because the government has failed to perform a simple task: protect the lives and properties of Nigerians.
Section 5 (1) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) entrusts by empowering the president and governors with executive powers to uphold the tenets of the constitution by ensuring among other things security and protection of her citizens and properties and coordinating good governance. Where the Executive arm has failed hitherto; the citizenry cannot be crucified for bending towards negotiation for the release of their loved ones. Placing jail term for giving or offering ransom should outrightly be discouraged and set aside.
The victims are not the problem. The perpetrators are the problem. Or do these lawmakers think Nigerians enjoy parting with money they do not have in the first place?
Will government arrest itself? Up till now, the government is yet to explain how it secured the release of some kidnapped Nigerians. Did Sheikh Gumi facilitate the payment of ransom on behalf of the government or not?
Kidnapping points more to the failure of governance. Blame not the victims.