It’s now official: our super rich governors claim their states are broke to the extent that they can’t pay workers’ salaries in spite of all the money at their disposal. They are now going cap in hand begging the president-elect for a nebulous bailout.
Speaking recently after paying a courtesy call on Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, told the president-elect: “As it stands today, most states of the federation have not been able to pay salaries and even the federal government has not paid April salary and that is very worrisome. By May and June, that will be three months. We wonder with the huge expectation from Nigerians and people who have voted us into power, we are hoping that the president-elect will do whatever is humanly possible to bring about a bailout not only in the states but the federal government at least for people to get their salaries and turn around the economy.”
It is a pity that our governors have descended to this level of using the ever diligent and poorly remunerated Nigerian workers as political pawns this season. It is very incredulous to hear state governors who are not being owed their monthly allocations by the Federal Government crying for bailouts.
Their actions are more pitiable considering the fact that the Federal Government had informed the governors few months ago, when it was obvious that the price of crude oil would continue to crawl in the international market, that payment of salaries to civil servants should be a priority instead of paying contractors. Instead of adhering to that advice, they went on unrestrained spending sprees during the electioneering process.
Now, the governors have nothing to lose even if all their workers starve to death. Why would the governors pay workers when election is over? What do they stand to gain by paying workers’ salaries? The answer is simple: No worker can hold them to ransom at the polls because of their inability to pay them.
The governors would rather pay their godfathers and politicians in dollars than pay workers’ salaries lest they are impeached or the state made ungovernable for them. It is not a hidden fact that the ForEx market is pressured whenever federal government makes allocations to the states. The money that is meant for workers’ salaries is converted to personal use as they travel abroad for shopping and holidays.
The governors would rather pay contractors who are embarking on white elephant and ghost projects instead of paying workers’ salaries. Why do they do these? It is because it is more profitable for them to pay their cronies who are contractors. In certain instances, paying contractors means certain percentage will come back to them as graft and kickbacks.
Can someone ask these governors if their security budgets have dwindled? What about payment to their retinue of aides, special advisers, hangers-on, commissioners etc.? You can bet that these payments would not cease for a second.
Amidst this so-called cash crunch these governors have not relented in sending their cronies to Jerusalem and Mecca on religious pilgrimage on the state government’s bill.
Beyond the obvious reasons of corruption, nepotism and short-sightedness, which have made these governors unable to pay workers’ salaries, the huge debt they have plunged their states into is also wreaking havoc on their finances.
Our governors need to be schooled in the art of fiscal literacy. They need to understand how to prioritize and manage scarce resources. After all, those ought to be some of the management skills that should have qualified them to serve as governors in the first place.
Instead of laying the blame on the doorsteps of the federal government as a means of beclouding issues and taking away attention from their incompetence and extravagance, they need to wake up to reality and do the right thing.
Well-meaning Nigerians should continually task these governors to do the honorable thing by paying workers’ salaries instead of continuing in their lavish lifestyles. This government may be winding down, but our passion as Nigerians who want to see the right thing done should not. Our governors must not be allowed to think that they can get away with such devious and inhumane acts.
Enough is enough!
Olusola Daniel is a political observer and advocate for community development. He writes from Lagos, Nigeria.