In a matter of weeks, AbdulAziz Yari will no longer be the number one citizen of Zamfara state. But he has little or nothing to bemoan. Beyond the fact that, like most Nigerian governors after serving two terms, he is heading to the Senate, a bumper pension package will see him earn salaries for life, in addition to state-sponsored aides, biannual change of exotic cars and health coverage for himself and family.
All of these benefits and more, which extend in varying degrees to other ex-governors of states in the country, are ostensibly meant to reward Yari for his service to the state and make up for time he would have otherwise spent on [profitable] private endeavors. But is this a true reflection of reality?
Yari’s failures: It is important to assess the nature and quality of Yari’s service to the state using three important markers: economy, security and health.
- For years, bandits and other criminal groups have operated almost unchecked in Zamfara with severe consequence on the economy and standard of living.
- Occassioned by non-existent security and other policies, the state has displayed a shameful consistency at the apex of poverty rankings in the country, with lives and properties destroyed; a situation which prompted Governor Yari to make an unpredencented move of resigning as the Chief Security Officer of the state, even though no word was said on the security votes [a monthly allowance paid to states to fund security] he receives.
- The combination of poor security and an impoverished economy has dealt a fatal blow to public health.
- In 2017, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, disclosed that Zamfara has only 23 doctors. This scarcity reflects a poor health system which denies residents access to quality healthcare, and the inability of the state to manage and contain viral infections like meningitis which Governor Yari, in a grand advert of his ignorance or religious manipulation, attributed to God as a punishment of sin following an outbreak in 2017.
Summarily, AbdulAziz Yari has failed in his service to the state. And thanks to a contrived reward system, his failure, which already costs Zamfara billions of naira in resources and hundreds of irreversible deaths, will continue to place a burden on the public purse.
While Yari and his family will enjoy a comprehensive health insurance package which guarantees quality care in choice countries, the people compelled to foot the bill have to make do with 23 doctors despite numbering in millions. His reward for failing to take the state forward, despite being paid highly to do so, is more bounty and a susbsidized life at the expense of the dying public.
Certainly, this is an aberration, and not what the founders of democracy, a system which sees the public entrust resources and power in the hands of a few, intended. Yet, it is a fate citizens of Zamfara and Nigerians in other states share. A 2017 report by a newspaper in the country showed that states spend N37.367bn on 47 ex-governors and their deputies every four years.
For a country that spends so much to deliver luxury to elected officials in and out of supposed service, there is no commensurate growth in either the economy or security. What this means is that those in power, aware of the ripple effects of their plundering and incompetence, further insulate themselves by drawing up unconditional reward bounties which locks up access to public funds, sometimes even after death. For these few individuals, who are less than 1% of the entire population, it is a great deal. For the overwhelming majority though, this represents a double jeopardy. Not only do they have to bear the burden of bad leadership, but they must continue to pay for it as a mark of gratitude.
As Nigeria prepares for another change of guard in various level of governance in the coming weeks, there is going to be a lot of severance payment talks. For the country to progress though, this reward system must be torn apart, and the people will have to severe their relationship with these parasitic individuals who display a shameful entitlement to public resources despite doing nothing to drive development.
Food for thought: The youngest presidential candidate in the last general election, Chike Ukaegbu of the Advanced Allied Party (AAP), said he favors a politically restructured system where “no elected or appointed positions, including Vice President and Deputy Governor, will exceed two consecutive terms, regardless of office. After any two consecutive terms, aspirants must go through a leadership refresher training and wait at least one cycle before running again.” That recommendation stops the progression of state governors from Government House to the Senate. What do you think?