by Tola Sarumi
For some hours on Saturday, the governor of Ekiti interacted with some bloggers, activists and young influencers at the Ikogosi resort, upon the conclusion of which, he handed out cash gifts to them on Sunday.
Some took the money and kept quiet about it until the lid was unceremoniously blown on Twitter.
Let me start off by saying, in the grand scheme of things, being reimbursed for one’s expenses is standard practice but in this instance, we are unsure of the reason the cash was handed out. Is it for time spent traipsing through the Ekiti bushes or is a ‘thanks for coming’, a token to show the governor’s appreciation of a willing audience for this public ego stroking?
The obvious reasons the invitation was extended to these particular set of people was (a) they have a new media visibility that the federal and state governments covet (b) By inviting them, the governor hoped to leverage that visibility in to positive coverage for himself and his works.
You don’t have to look too hard to see constant references in Nigerian newspapers about governors (especially) ‘donating’ sizeable sums of money for this cause or the other. The writers, in their usual incurious style, report these stories without asking the singular germane question, ‘whose money is it’? At the risk of being trite, one cannot donate what doesn’t belong to one. To whom is the Fayemi accountable? What has the Twitter bourgeoisie contributed to his cause? He has embarrassed himself and by extension, his party with this glaring attempt to curry favour and though he behaved like one, he’s surely not some modern day Father Christmas; he expects good publicity for his money.
As the saying goes, a man may refuse a gift but he cannot refuse to be offered and danger here is, those who defend this carefree disbursement of funds have shown a side of them that they perhaps had no idea existed; they do not quite know what it takes to be accountable, not as a leader nor a follower. Demanding a higher standard of oneself is never easy; funds with no legal purpose are being distributed with abandon, how many people would turn down such freebies? Except this isn’t free is it? Ekiti is not a rich a state, why the governor would choose to pay for a tour of his good works is beyond me. Do not the citizens of the state, to whom he is ultimately accountable, have eyes? If he is sure the projects are what he says they are, come next election, winning should almost be a breeze.
The ‘twitterati’ were invited not only for the above mentioned reasons; it appears they had built up a cache of goodwill from their thousands of followers, young people who for a host of reasons actually expected better. Instead, their concerns have been met with derision and casual put downs.
I read a comment on Twitter where USAID, an arm of the American government that works to alleviate extreme poverty, was compared to the government of Ekiti. I was almost shocked. USAID and other government agencies like it, are accountable, they have annual budgets that are or can be scrutinised by relevant congressional committees and an interested media. To whom is JKF going to explain his sporadic generosity? What part of the Ekiti 2014 budget provided for this largesse?
Perhaps I expected too much from these individuals, the collective Nigerian conscience seems to have a Naira tag on it, whilst some of these very same people were condemning The Future Awards jamboree that took place at Aso Rock, where as far we know, no money changed hands, they didn’t anticipate that the day would come when they would be required to say ‘no’ and they’d fail woefully.
It seems we have even further to go than I thought, and we cannot relent from our aim of keeping each other accountable. One cannot, when it suits one, draw on the engagement of one’s peers in a bid to further a cause or an idea and then declare that one owes no accountability. A lot more money will change hands as we approach 2015, do you have the fortitude to say ‘no’ when integrity calls on you to say so?
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Afrovii