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Governance Template For Governors Elect

After the recent governorship election, nine new governors-elect have so far emerged. The number might increase with inconclusive polls in six states out of the 29 where the March 9 elections took place. Since then, waves of optimism have been sweeping across the landscapes of these states. The new state executives, alongside those who have won a second term in office, will be sworn in on May 29. Nobody should really envy them because of the challenges ahead.
Indeed, the omens are scary. The expectations are too high, against the backdrop of the prevailing economic headwind, which has assailed the country since the tailspin in the prices of crude oil in the international market began in mid June 2014. The governors-elect entered into a social contract with the people with their electoral promises; therefore, they should work to deliver. No excuses! This breath of fresh air will be felt in Ogun, Lagos, Imo, Kwara, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, Zamfara and Oyo states. As expected, they have set up transition committees to liaise with the outgoing administrations to receive notes and ask questions on financial and policy profiles of each state.

But more critical is their governance blueprint; they should hit the ground running after being sworn in. A lean team of seasoned professionals is what is needed to steer their states to a new direction of economic development. The challenges ahead demand creativity, transparency, accountability, due process and zero tolerance for corruption in governance. Regrettably, the country’s experience since 1999 indicates that resourcefulness has been lacking, while states are not seen as economic units that should be developed for jobs and wealth creation and provision of infrastructure. These governance deficits explain why 27 states owe between three and 10 months of salary arrears, while payment of gratuities and pensions to retirees is no more a social priority.

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It is foolhardy that some governors engage more than 1,000 aides and are indifferent to their bloated workforce. This path leads to perdition. The Integrated Payroll and Personnel System, which the Federal Government introduced in the last dispensation, has demonstrated how it could be used to sanitise the payroll. With it, the Federal Ministry of Finance was able to prune the dubious police numerical strength of 370,000 to 291,685 personnel in 2017.

A government does not exist only to pay salaries of workers, a tiny class of the citizenry. Infrastructure such as roads, functional schools and healthcare delivery services are in a sorry state. Leakages need to be blocked to save costs and give them priority attention. As a result, the plague of “ghost workers” and dual employment of workers in the civil service should be uprooted. Any state that carries a workforce that results in salaries and wages exceeding its revenue is doomed with the imminent implementation of the new N30,000 minimum wage. Some states are already in this hellhole without the new pay.

The internally generated revenues of states graphically underscore their non-viability save Lagos. It beggars belief that Zamfara’s IGR from January to September 2018 was only N4.4 billion, Gombe N3.6 billion; Yobe N2.8 billion and Nasarawa N5.3 billion, according to the data of the Joint Tax Board. Yet, these states sit on solid minerals such as gold, limestone, silicon sand, zinc, lead, granite, columbite and gemstone, which they can tap into to enrich themselves. With the liberalisation of the sector by the Federal Government, through well reasoned policy instruments, these states can attract investors, thereby creating jobs and expanding their tax net or revenue base.

A state like Imo has two oil palm mills and a palm plantation of about 9,000 square kilometres in Ohaji, which have been left to lie fallow but can be privatised for job creation and increased revenue. As production cannot meet local demand, Nigeria now imports palm oil, which it used to be the leading global exporter up to the 1970s. Lamenting over the matter, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, said on Monday that the country spends about $500 million annually to import palm oil. The World Economic Forum says the global market for the product will reach $88 billion by 2022.  This is an economic opportunity Imo State can exploit under a new leadership come May 29, to boost its IGR and create jobs.

States should stop relying on crude oil revenue to run their affairs as emerging global realities suggest that tougher times await oil-dependent economies, especially the like of Nigeria and Venezuela, which failed to utilise their petrodollars to diversify. With new countries discovering crude oil, the shale oil production by the United States, and timelines by nine countries to ban the use of diesel-driven cars between 2025 and 2050, signpost a worse economic horizon for Nigeria. Norway, France, the United Kingdom, India and Mexico are among such nations. Only short-sighted leaders see this as a joke. But Nic Lutsey, Director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, warns, “These governments are signalling to the world that they need to move to zero emission vehicles to meet their climate and air quality goals.”

Many of these governors-elect will inherit a huge debt burden. Deliberate steps should be taken to investigate whether the foreign and domestic loans were judiciously utilised; and where not, the law should be activated to bring culprits to account. The spending of security votes unaccounted for or stolen should be avoided. The Court of Appeal said last November that such action was criminal and equated it with committing genocide, while confirming the jail term of a former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame.

Taking a state to new heights should start with a quality human capital development agenda. There are states with two universities, dual colleges of education and polytechnics even when similar federal institutions exist there, serving their interest. Such states need to merge these institutions for proper funding and focus. Development-driven governance demands that capital expenditure should be higher than recurrent. Unfortunately, the reverse, which is anti-development, is the case here, except a few. Hard decisions need to be taken and the political will to implement them is imperative.

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