Governors:Masters of Nigeria

By Saad Umar

The title of this article is inspired by Adam Smith, the eminent economist and philosopher widely regarded as the father of classical capitalism. In his 1776 Magnum Opus – An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith talked about some group of people he called the “Masters of Mankind”.

The masters of mankind were the merchants and manufacturers of the time of Adam Smith. They owned enormous wealth and power. Because of their wealth and power, they became the major creators of policies. But the policies are only tailored to serve their interests not minding harm caused to anyone else.

They simply followed a maxim, “a vile maxim” formulated by Adam Smith himself; which is “All for ourselves and nothing for anyone else”.

In Nigeria, governors control whopping wealth and unchecked power, probably much more than the masters of mankind. And, the Governors seem to be better at following the maxim, all for ourselves and nothing for anyone else.

Like the masters of mankind, the masters of Nigeria appear to be only interested in enacting selfserving polices and following laws that serve their interests even if it will result to harm everyone else.

There are few crucial examples one can cite to show that the governors, masters of Nigeria, don’t follow laws including the Constitution if it goes against their interests.

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One, take the case of financial autonomy to both the Judiciary and Legislature at the States level.  While Section 121(3) of the Constitution FRN 1999 as amended has expressly granted financial autonomy to the States Houses of Assembly and the Judiciary the Governors have persistently refused to give them that financial autonomy.

In fact President Buhari has since  signed Executive Order 10  of May 2020. The Executive Order (EO)10, in the words of Malami (SAN) the Attorney-General of the Federation, is “… designed and intended to give enforcement spirit to the [financial] autonomy” contained in Section 121(3) of the Constitution.

Instead of the governors to obey EO 10 and  follow the Constitution and allow the financial autonomy, they went to the court to fight it. Why are the governors against financial autonomy to the States Judiciary and Legislature? They want to control all the wealth of the States for themselves and nothing for the other two coequal branches of the State government. If you will, all for the governors and nothing for anyone else!

Two, which is similar to the one above, is the case of Local Government Areas autonomy. Because of their interests, the governors have refused to accord autonomy to the Local Government Areas.

While section 7 of the Constitution says it guarantees the existence of democratically elected LGAs the governors are having non of that. Local Government elections have become “organised crime” in the words of Mike Igini, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner. Igini further said that “we have lost the 774 Local Government Areas to the sitting governors” as reported by the Nation Newspaper. Even a moronic brainer can see that the governors have destroyed the LGAs by undermining elections and cornering their monies. Why? Everything for the governors and nothing for the LGAs.

Worryingly, this destruction of the LGAs has resulted in the impoverishment of the masses. The governors don’t care but I fear for them. Because poverty, in the words of Aristotle, “is the parent of revolution and crime”. And this rings a bell with the hazardous happenings in the North-West and elsewhere.

Three, look at the contentious issue of petroleum subsidy removal. We the people of Nigeria are against it. We reject it, because it will harm us in so many ways. But the governors are advocating for the subsidy removal. They have been advancing all kinds of reasons, from the ridiculous to the stale and dubious Washington Consensus’.

IMF is barking at the government to remove, not only the petroleum subsidy but also power subsidy. In their usual casuistry they called the subsidies “regressive”, they bring economic argument. “Cost reflective tariff”. “Market based pricing”. I heard that in the USA they still subsidise petrol, or gas as they call it. IMF should so encourage the USA first. Charity begins at home.

More importantly, our subsidies are a fraction of the subsidies in the USA. “State governments in America collectively spend $10 billion to subsidize the fuel consumption of their citizens”, that’s according to Farooq Kperogi, a professor of journalism from Greater Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Petrol subsidy in Nigeria is less than  $2 billion. So!

More, hear the ridiculous, pro subsidy removal, inane argument by the masters. El-rufai said “we are losing 250 billion monthly”, so it’s not subsidy but loss. We are subsidising petrol for Cameroon not Nigeria.  Splendid mendacity!

We know why the governors want the removal of subsidy. We know what it means. It means more statutory allocation for the governors and more economic pain for we the people.

If the subsidies are removed we just cannot afford it. We cannot cope with the multiplier effect of the removal. Of course the say there will be stuffs to cushion the effect of the removal. The poor won’t feel the pains. The same prescriptions of the Washington Consensus. And studies by the same neolibralists have shown that the prescriptions don’t help the poor. Go and find out from the foster boys of IMF and World Bank in Latin America.

What is remarkable about subsidies is that we the people subsidise everything for the governors until they be dead. 100% per cent subsidy! We pay them salary for life. We foot their medical bills, they can to any hospital in the world. We build them houses after office in the city of their choice. Fully paid vacation anywhere in the world. Everything. Yeah, it’s everything for the governors and nothing for we the people.

This has to stop. But unless we the people do something about it the masters of Nigeria will continue to take all for themselves and leave nothing for us. Their policies will continue to harm us. We must stand up. It’s not enough  for us to elect the governors and then remain passive. We need to fight for policies and measures that serve our interests.

Ideally, in a democracy, according to Noam Chomsky, “it’s the public that influences policy and then the government carries out actions determined” by we the people. But here the governors influence every policy to their advantage. Again, we need to change this. Not by prayers. God will not change it for us. “God will not change the condition of a people as long as they do not change their state themselves” [Quran 13:11].

Stopping governors the masters of Nigeria won’t be easy. The elite are not on our side. Political elite. Religious elite. Intellectual elite. Economic elite. All this elite know that fighting for the multitude is not always rewarding. They understood what Plato was saying. The governors will leave them out in the air to dry. The masters will cut them off of the delicious cakes they are feeding them, fom the easy and unearned income.

Yet, it’s not impossible to stop the masters of Nigeria. It’s true that the governors have power and wealth. But we the people are more powerful than them. We have the strongest force. Hear David Hume: “force is always on the side of the governed, the governors have nothing to support them …. Hume, like me, was surprised by “the easiness with which the many are governed by the few and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passion to their rulers”.

Malam Saadu Umar is a lawyer, Secretary of APC Media and Publicity Committee Bauchi State and former Director-General Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency (BASEPA).


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