The bloated size of governments at different levels of Nigeria’s political system is unsustainable, and the country urgently needs restructuring to make any appreciable development, the Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, said Thursday.
Mr. Sanusi, who was speaking at the inaugural lecture and launching of a N250 million endowment fund for the Oba Sikiru Adetona Professorial Chair in Governance, Department of Political Science, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, said it should be obvious to everyone that the country can no longer afford to maintain the number of political office holders in the country, especially in the face of current economic downturn.
“If you really reflect on the problems of this country, it seems to turn common sense on its head,” he said.
“You sometimes wonder if anyone needs to tell any group of people that if you are a poor country, you do not need 36 governors, 36 deputy governors, with members of house of assembly, commissioners and advisers, Special assistants, a president, a vice president, 36 ministers, special advisers, federal legislature and so on.
“Simple arithmetic will tell you that if you have that structure, you are first of all doomed to spending 80 or 90 per cent of everything you earn maintaining public officers. It is really common sense but it seems to be a problem for us to understand it,” he added.
The emir called for a reform of the country’s political system to encourage a lean government to save resources for projects that benefit the people.
“If you don’t free up the resources and put them up for capital projects, you are laying the foundation of what we are seeing today. We need to have structural reform.
“Kano State today is much smaller than Kano emirate, because there are two other emirates in Dutse and Ringim which were carved out from what was the Kano emirate just to create a new state. There are two governors in Kano and Jigawa, two deputy governors, maybe 40 members of the House of Assembly, 40 commissioners and advisers, 70 local governments, chairman and councillors but for nine years, Governor Audu Bako with nine commissioners, one governors and nine commissioner managed the entire territory and they were doing much better services than we are doing now. Is it not time to face reality?”
Also, the guest speaker of the lecture, Akin Mabogunje, a professor of urban and regional development, while delivering a lecture titled: “Issues and Challenges of Governance in Nigeria”, said the abundance of free oil money has created a culture of imprudent spending by successive governments.
He said this free money which he described with the pidgin English term “awuff”, encouraged laziness and corruption in the polity.
“[Awuff] is a word used commonly in pidgin English to signify “free” money or unearned income which is not the product of a person’s labour and therefore can be squandered or spent imprudently,” he explained.
“In applying it to governance, it is meant to describe a situation in which fiscal resources accrues to government not from tax revenue assiduously and diligently collected from citizens but from royalties and rent from the exploitation of mineral resources particularly petroleum which can therefore be squandered, spent imprudently or unaccountably or simply misappropriated into personal accounts.”
He said instead of the government to invest the oil windfall of the 1970s, it declared a bazaar for civil servants who spent the money on expensive household items.
He explained that the “awuff” mentality festered and led to a culture of corruption and lack of accountability, fest in the public sector but later spreading to every part of our national life.