It is barely two months since the new set of state governors elected on March 18, 2023 were sworn into office. They received the baton on May 29, 2023.
Many of the new governors, including the reelected ones have very serious issues to confront. The lingering issues are mainly those arising from insecurity, poverty and acute shortage of infrastructure as well as the sudden hike in cost of fuel!
These factors create huge challenges to growth and development, peace and stability of all Nigerian states and indeed, the whole country. There is no state today that is free of these nefarious challenges, though to varying degrees.
The Buhari government indeed has left the stage but he indeed left many unresolved challenges behind for the new helmsmen?
Since that transition, things seem to have gone from bad to worse in so many dimensions of our national sphere.
The removal of petrol subsidy on May 29, 2023 by President Tinubu has exacerbated the hardship in the country and has pushed many more people into dire poverty! With the steep rise in prices across all sectors, many more citizens have joined the 133 million Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty. This is according to the statistics from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Obviously, many small scale businesses will close as a result of these steep price increases occasioned by the 300% rise in fuel costs. More so, many Nigerians cannot even afford cost of commuting talkless having any purchasing power left to patronise even food vendors.
As everyone who has ever been hungry knows, hunger often turns into anger!
The anger naturally will manifest as crime and various forms of anti-social behaviour such as separatist agitations, banditry, insurgence and ethnic clashes!
In the news recently, herders are once again unleashing terror on sedentary farmers and in many instances whole farming communities driven away from their ancestral homes as has happened in Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Niger, Imo and elsewhere across the country. This is after a lull that was noticed during the buildup to the elections!
These widespread instances of insecurity in Nigeria means that the new governors have really a tough job before them. With the humongous security votes under the control of state governors, it is not acceptable for governors to claim helplessness while the innocents are being massacred in their domains!
We have seen how the South West governors have been able to relatively reign in killer herdsmen that had been hitherto on the rampage in that zone through the instrumentality of Amotekun security outfit. So, new governors should quit lamentation and rise to the occasion.
The sad tales coming out of Benue and Plateau in particular should be very serious cause for concern for these newly sworn in governors. These states produce a huge chunk of the food that feeds many states across the nation. If these attacks on farms and farmers are not checked, the situation will compound poverty in those states while aggravating the scarcity of food across the country! Indeed, the times are not normal.
Every Nigerian has to adjust, including those in power. We must as a nation return to “low profile”, that philosophy of reduced government spending and reduced opulence in public spheres!
Given the intensity of poverty in the land, particularly in the states, you can therefore understand the feeling of the people seeing their elected governors and other officials travelling in long convoys and exhibiting ostentatious lifestyles that are at variance with the fate of the suffering.
This is the best time to cut the cost of governance. Governors, senators, and all public officials must live the austere life. They cannot live in opulence while telling the public to bear the fuel subsidy removal and the excruciating poverty therefrom.
One way of cushioning the ravaging effects of the high fuel cost is to protect small businesses from multiple taxation as this taxation seems to be the norm in most states. Rather than taxation, states should give incentives to small and medium scale businesses which are recognised as the engine of economic growth in all countries that had moved from Third to First World.
Governors should prioritize citizen’s welfare. Indeed, a bit of social welfare palliative is in order at the state level. States have peculiarities and state governments should not be shy of designing welfare packages that suit their people!
One other area that the governors should pay attention is education. In this area there is a lot that the state governors could learn from the Taraba State governor Dr Agbu Kefas who against all odds declared free education at primary and secondary levels while slashing the tuition fees at the state owned university.
The importance of education to the development of any nation cannot be overemphasized, thus any governor that truly cares about the future of his people must ensure the education of the youth.
According to UNESCO 26 percent of annual budgetary allocations should be set aside for education. Sadly, both the federal and state governments in Nigeria have not been faithful with the international recommendation that is in the best interest of the country. Most times not up to 20 percent of budgetary allocation is devoted to education even when it is a notorious fact that none of the E9 countries; Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan or D8 countries; Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Turkey; other than Nigeria, allocates less than 20 per cent of its annual budget to education.
Indeed, even among sub-Saharan Africa countries, we are trailing far behind smaller and less endowed nations in terms of our investment in education. This column suggests that with the dire state of education in our states, only annual budgetary allocation of 30 percent can take us out of the woods. Governors should seriously look towards that direction to salvage the education sector and assure better future for our children in a world under the firm grip of knowledge-based economy. To have youths that could compete in this world ruled by knowledge, education must be in the front burner across the states.
The governors should also encourage productivity in their various states. Here, agriculture provides a perfect ground for specialization and productivity. States must emphasize large scale production to meet local needs and for export. This is possible because the various geographic regions of the country have been provided with opportunities for specialization based on comparative advantage and economy of scale. If we ramp up production, especially in agriculture we will reduce food import and save scarce foreign exchange for the country. Governors can also increase productivity by patronizing local furniture for Government Houses, offices, schools among others and use made in Nigeria automobile among others. Productivity is the only way to stop the continuous fall in the value of the naira and the states as well as federal governments would do well to reduce conspicuous consumption of imported goods and services by increasing local productivity. That is the most realistic way for Nigeria’s economy to rebound and the economy, especially the naira, will not end up like basket cases such as Venezuela and Zimbabwe among others.
As I write this, I got a cheering news from Kwara. Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq has just approved a slew of multibillion naira palliatives to neutralise the effects of the recent removal of fuel subsidy, cutting across different sectors and demography of the state.
On top of the palliatives is a cash support of N10,000 for every public sector worker in the state, which will begin this month (July) and last until a new minimum wage is introduced to enable workers cope with the economic shocks created by the subsidy removal, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaye, told a news briefing in Ilorin Monday.
MAY NIGERIA REBOUND