By Yemi Adebowale
Gabriel Suswam, Jonah Jang, Isa Yuguda, Sule Lamido, Saidu Dakingari and many other state governors across the nation often play god. These governors have simply turned their states into private estates. They have become Emperors while their family members run the states with them. But during the last general election, the people of Benue, Plateau, Bauchi, Jigawa and Kebbi states, and some others revolted. It was more pronounced in the listed states. The long-suffering people of these states did not just humiliate their governors, they humbled their parties.
I saw the disgrace coming a long time ago. The sycophants around these men did not allow them to listen to the voice of the people. They refused to listen to the voice of reason. The case of Suswam was most painful. He started fairly well in Benue State, but suddenly degenerated. As I am writing this piece, Suswam owes hapless Benue civil servants three months salaries. Public schools and hospitals in the state are in shambles. The Benue he claims to love so much remains largely a rural community with decaying infrastructure.
While the Benue governor and his cronies are living well, the masses of the people wallow in poverty. Suddenly, early this year, Suswam commanded that highly distinguished Senator Barnabas Gemade should step aside for him to represent Benue East in the National Assembly. He also decreed that his crony, Terhemen Tarzoor should replace him and handed the PDP flag to him. The more experienced and caring Gemade simply defected to the APC. He took along Samuel Ortom who got APC’s gubernatorial ticket. In spite of his almost eight years of inglorious reign, Suswam believed that he would win the Senatorial election and also have Tarzoor elected as governor. His dreams crashed during the general election. The people of Benue State revolted and threw away everything that was Suswam. Gemade and Ortom got the nod of the people. The truth is that if Suswam had allowed Gemade to be, perhaps, Tarzoor would have won. Gemade simply took his supporters to the APC and Suswam lost everything. This is what voracity does to a man. Suswam wanted everything and got nothing.
In Plateau, Jang simply gave the PDP governorship flag to his nephew, Gyang Pwajok. Just like Suswam, he wanted his crony to replace him as governor; Jang also wanted the Plateau North Senatorial ticket. He got his fingers burnt with Pwajok. Plateau people revolted and voted for Simon Lalong. Jang’s eight years inglorious sojourn on the Plateau worked greatly against Pwajok. Civil servants in the state have never had it so bad. Jang has a backlog of four months to clear. His eight years have been traumatic for the people of the state. The state has virtually been on a standstill with very few people having access to basic things of life like public water supply and quality health care. Public schools are in shambles. Civil servants in this state are wallowing in poverty. Recently, the Joint Unions of Plateau state-owned Tertiary Institutions shut all the state-owned higher institutions for weeks over salary issues.
The people of the state agreed that Jang’s reign had been a nightmare and voted against Pwajok on April 11.
Plateau people are still seething. Jang is leaving the state with a huge debt; the total amount is a closely guided secret. There is hardly anything on ground to justify this huge debt. The workers are gasping for breath. Some may be choked to death if care is not taken. The state has become a family business. Jang’s son, Yakubu and his siblings are running the government with their father. Yakubu is the Commissioner for Lands and Urban Planning. Jang holds the unenviable record of being the only state governor having his biological son in his cabinet.
The interesting angle to the running Jang soap opera is that he wants to access a loan with just five weeks left of his tenure. Three former attorneys general and commissioners for Justice in the state have gone to court to stop him over the purported N28 billion loan. The case, which is before a Federal High Court sitting in Jos, was filed by Luka D. Dalang and two others. Justice Ambrose Alagua of the Federal High Court granted the interim prayers of the plaintiffs seeking to prevent banks from granting such requests from the government. Garba Pwaul, the plaintiffs’ counsel, said the interim order was due to the limited time frame Jang has to stay in office. “So, accessing the funds may be a colossal loss for the incoming government. If any bank goes ahead to grant the loan, it will amount to contempt of court, which is punishable by law.”
God bless Plateau as Jang exits. May there never be another Jang in their Government House again. I hope Lalong is reading this. He has to run a people-oriented government and impact positively on lives. The newly elected Plateau governor has to leave his family out of government and avoid grandiose life style amidst poverty.
Now to Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State. Just like Suswam and Jang, after eight inglorious years in government, he still wanted to represent Bauchi South in the Senate. He also single-handedly handed his party’s gubernatorial flag to Mohammed Jatau. Yuguda’s tenure has been unpleasant to the people of the state. He is one of the governors with a huge backlog of unpaid salaries. Salaries and allowances have been irregular for years. Some parastatals in Bauchi State owe as much as five-month salaries. Bauchi State’s NLC Chairman, Hashimu Gital and that of TUC, Muhammed Usman had remarked a couple of months back that irregular payment of salaries by Yuguda had impoverished the workers, forcing some of them to resort to begging in order to survive the hardship foisted on them since February 2014. They also urged Yuguda to restore all illegal deductions from workers’ salaries; pay backlog of gratuity and pension to retired workers, as well as remit to the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, all contributions made by workers for the National Housing Fund. Yuguda took the people for granted. He did not implement any of their demands. But they said enough was enough during the last general election.
Despite being the incumbent governor, Yuguda’s Senatorial ambition was aborted by the people who gave the Bauchi South Senatorial ticket to Malam Ali Wakili of the APC. Mohammed Jatau, Yuguda’s candidate for governorship was also kicked aside by the people of the state. They voted massively for Mohammed Abubakar of the APC. The truth is that if Yuguda had simply not contested for any post after his unimpressive years, his party would have salvaged something from the general elections. If he had not imposed Jatau on his party, the PDP would not have been humiliated in the state. Just like Suswam, Yuguda wanted everything but lost everything. I sincerely hope that this will serve as a lesson for the incoming governor in Bauchi State.
In Jigawa, Lamido handpicked virtually everybody that flew PDP’s flag in the general election. His Chief-of-Staff was the governorship candidate. The people of the state simply waited for the general election before hitting his inept administration very hard.
Virtually all his candidates were voted out; he won only four House of Assembly seats.
Saidu Dakingari also suffered the same humiliation in Kebbi State. For eight years, Dakingari failed to serve his people. He served his pocket. The people of Kebbi State who had become wise after eight years of trauma rejected him and his candidates. Dakingari and his candidates were rejected during the elections.
Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State has proved that service to the people is always rewarding. The new governors to be sworn in, in Bauchi, Benue, Kebbi, Jigawa and Plateau must learn from the humility and people-oriented programmes of Dankwambo.
Government should be about the people first. Lalong, Ortom and Abubakar, please, leave your immediate family members out of government. We must put an end to nepos.
To my fellow Nigerians, democracy is not just about electing people. It is also about holding the elected officials accountable. Citizen activism must be very strong. Many Nigerians failed to do this in some states and allowed cronies of some failed governors to win elections.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Yemi Adebowale