Edo State and the pol­i­tics of “anointed” lead­er­ship

Daily Trust - - PHOTO NEWS -

One of the more novel sug­ges­tions on how to end malfea­sance in gov­er­nance in Nige­ria is to some­how en­sure that power at Fed­eral and State lev­els is ro­tated be­tween po­lit­i­cal par­ties rather than be­tween Re­gions, Zones or Se­na­to­rial Dis­tricts. The idea isn’t as ab­surd as it sounds. It’s an­chored on ac­cept­ing the re­al­ity that the Nige­ria elec­torate only gets an inkling of the rot in the polity when gov­ern­ment changes hands.

There is lit­tle doubt that if the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (PDP) had de­feated the All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress (APC), in the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion, their se­rial mind­bog­gling fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment would still be se­cret. It’s not just PDP. Now that “Ikoyi-Gate” is be­ing hushed up, the na­tion waits for a non-APC gov­ern­ment to re­veal the truth. In Nige­ria, when the Po­lit­i­cal Party in of­fice re­tains power, more of­ten than not, the in­com­ing Chief Ex­ec­u­tive is the “anointed son” of the out­go­ing one. He isn’t anointed to cause prob­lems for his bene­fac­tor! Un­less he is an un­grate­ful in­grate, he has lit­tle op­tion other than to en­sure his pre­de­ces­sor’s trans­gres­sions aren’t ex­posed, and carry on as best he can. This is why dur­ing 16 years of PDP fi­nan­cial mis­man­age­ment, not a whim­per was heard even as Pres­i­dents came and went.

The same sce­nario ap­pears to be play­ing it­self out in Edo State where the PDP is rais­ing a storm over the APC Gov­er­nor’s plan to pri­va­tize the new Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal An­nexe con­structed by his APC pre­de­ces­sor. The PDP says they are “sick­ened but jus­ti­fied” in re­fer­ring to the “5-Star Med­i­cal Fa­cil­ity” as a failed project, and red her­ring ex­er­cise. Edo State cit­i­zens are no strangers to failed projects. Back in the day, PDP Gov­er­nor Lucky Ig­bine­dion re­de­fined the con­cept. De­fend­ing the aban­doned State Fruit Juice and Cas­sava Fac­to­ries he con­structed, Ig­bine­dion in­sisted that they shouldn’t be clas­si­fied as failed projects be­cause they had been; “com­pleted and com­mis­sioned but were sim­ply yet to be func­tional!”

Years later un­der the APC the new 5-Star Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal An­nexe ap­par­ently en­joys the same fate. The fa­cil­ity was “opened” by Pres­i­dent Buhari with much fan­fare, but to­day al­most a year af­ter com­mis­sion­ing the empty shell of the build­ing lies fal­low! Many such “com­pleted and com­mis­sioned, but yet to be func­tional” projects lit­ter the na­tion. The prob­lems with the Benin Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal An­nexe started from in­cep­tion. Res­i­dent doc­tors op­posed the plan say­ing it didn’t make sense to build a mod­ern 5-Star An­nexe in­side a di­lap­i­dated 100-year-old Cen­tral Hos­pi­tal premises over­whelmed by an un­san­i­tary, per­va­sive, re­pul­sive odour. They said gen­eral ren­o­va­tion of the ex­ist­ing premises, ad­di­tional mod­ern equip­ment, am­bu­lances, medicines, and em­ploy­ment of more spe­cial­ist doc­tors, nurses, paramedics and an­cil­lary staff were far more press­ing needs than con­struct­ing a new ed­i­fice. They urged gov­ern­ment to ad­dress the pa­thetic sit­u­a­tion in which the hos­pi­tal had no heart sur­geon, pathol­o­gist, pae­di­atric sur­geon, or­tho­don­tist, anaes­the­si­ol­o­gist or neu­ro­sur­geon, and not one func­tional x-ray ma­chine.

Nev­er­the­less, the con­tract was awarded un­der yet to be dis­closed terms. Con­tro­versy arose when the struc­ture spec­tac­u­larly col­lapsed dur­ing con­struc­tion. The op­po­si­tion PDP launched a bar­rage of al­le­ga­tions rang­ing from in­com­pe­tent work­man­ship, to con­flict of in­ter­est in the con­tract award, and the fail­ure of the con­trac­tor to com­ply with con­tract spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Even more wor­ri­some is their al­le­ga­tion that re­in­force­ment of the de­fec­tive por­tions was sub­stan­dard and to­tal col­lapse of the struc­ture is a disaster wait­ing to hap­pen when­ever the com­plex be­comes fully func­tional. PDP spokesper­sons claim that the APC gov­ern­ment has a moral obli­ga­tion to dis­prove these al­le­ga­tions. These un­proven po­lit­i­cal al­le­ga­tions aside, the de­ci­sion to re­lin­quish con­trol of the An­nexe doesn’t sit well in many quar­ters.

The pop­u­lar opin­ion is that Edo State money was used to con­struct the ed­i­fice for the ben­e­fit of the “com­mon man” who was promised ac­cess to the best med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties at af­ford­able gov­ern­ment prices. Now the State is in debt part of which was in­curred on the project. With­out a com­pre­hen­sive ex­pla­na­tion of the de­tails, there can be no moral ba­sis for pri­va­tiz­ing the An­nexe. The Gov­er­nor finds him­self in a predica­ment. He was Chair­man of the State Eco­nomic Man­age­ment Team dur­ing the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion. De­tails of var­i­ous “Gov­ern­ment / Pri­vate Sec­tor ar­range­ments” en­tered into by his pre­de­ces­sor are opaque to say the least, and he is one of the few who should have first-hand knowl­edge of all that tran­spired. How­ever, as things stand, it’s highly un­likely that he will ever di­vulge the murky de­tails to tax­pay­ers whose funds were ex­pended. Sim­i­lar sce­nar­ios are be­ing played out through­out the na­tion be­cause in Nige­rian pol­i­tics, per­sonal loy­alty over­rides all con­sid­er­a­tions of pub­lic in­ter­est. This is the root cause of the un­abated “Tsunami of un­eth­i­cal prac­tices” in lead­er­ship which has im­pacted so neg­a­tively on na­tional de­vel­op­ment.

Cit­i­zens are be­ing de­nied the div­i­dends of democ­racy and the great­est ob­sta­cle is not fi­nance but rather the col­lapse of eth­i­cal lead­er­ship. The over­bear­ing in­flu­ence of in­cum­bency and god­fa­therism in de­ter­min­ing who be­comes the anointed party flag­bearer in elec­tions places se­ri­ous con­straints on in­com­ing Chief Ex­ec­u­tives. They will be bur­dened with per­sonal in­debt­ed­ness dis­ad­van­ta­geous to their per­for­mance. Like the Edo State Gov­er­nor, they have no choice. It isn’t a ques­tion of ethics, in­tegrity or con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism. It’s sim­ply the pol­i­tics of anointed lead­er­ship!

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