THE LOW BAR OF GOOD GOVERNANCE IN NIGERIA
By Akin Ojumu
If there’s one explanation for the perennially horrible governments in Nigeria, it is the subservient attitude that a broad swath of Nigerians has towards the people they elect to public office coupled with the rather low expectation of what they hope elected officials will do while in office. This servile attitude and undersized expectation are in full display in a recent video by Njenje Media TV which showcased the King David University of Medical Sciences (KDUMS) located in Uburu, Ebonyi State.
Billed as part of the effort by the independent news media to demand accountability from the government, the video featured a tour by Mazi Ezeoke, a correspondent of Njenje Media TV, of KDUMS facility currently being built by Ebonyi State. As he walked around what appears to be a glittering state-of-art facility of colorful buildings with delicate fittings and multiple floors high, Mazi Ezeoke couldn’t help but gush effusively over the massive project, hyperbolically describing it as something he has never seen in the African continent, talk less of Nigeria.
Mazi Ezeoke was evidently beside himself and exuberantly over the moon about the ongoing construction. Repeatedly, he stressed, “Built by Governor Dave Umahi,” as if to engrave into the mind of his listeners the magnanimity of the governor for facilitating the construction of the medical school. He found it incredulous that the governor was reluctant to toot his own horn about the project, and he wondered why the news media weren’t helping the governor to do the bragging either.
“So, people, this is King David University School of Medical Sciences, Uhuru built by Governor Dave Umahi. You know, I came here with some people and the general belief is that Governor Dave Umahi is not being fair to himself by not showcasing this to the world. Yes, I do understand that the governor is an action man, a man who wants to do things without blowing his trumpet. But I think I will be unfair to the great Igbo nation, and I will be unfair to Nigerians and Africans in general that Mazi Ezeoke and the media will not also do that which the governor appears reluctant to do. But I have come because when I look at these things happening, it beats (sic) me. Can you believe that this is a school of medical studies, Uburu…this is a university…this is a university, people…it’s a university.”
Not yet done in his adulation of a governor doing his job, Mazi Ezeoke wondered:
“So, like I said before, can you believe that this is Nigeria, and Ebonyi State governor is not making mouth about this? We have states in Nigeria that have nothing to show for it, but they brag every single day. But this is what a man…a fellow man…in a state that receives virtually nothing from the federal government…a state as poor as Yobe…is doing all this gigantic work without making any iota of noise.”
This sycophantic praise singing is what passes for holding elected government officials accountable in Nigeria these days. Cringeworthy bootlicking is how people of the Fourth and Fifth Estate conduct the all-important business of relentlessly and independently scrutinizing elected officials.
Obviously lost on Mazi Ezeoke is the fact that the KDUMS was not built by the governor, it was built by the people of Ebonyi State. The medical school project wasn’t paid for with Dave Umahi's own money, but with the blood, sweat, and tears of Eboyin people. It is the collective inheritance of Ebonyi people that built the school. Worse still, Mazi Ezeoke didn’t think it was even important to ask why the university was built in the governor’s hometown at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The governor does deserve some credit for thinking it fit to do what other governors usually won’t. That said, the mentality of lavishing exuberant praises on elected officials for doing the job they were elected to do in the first place is the reason Nigeria struggles to advance. The country remains backward because the bar for good governance is set embarrassingly low.
Nigerians have endured so much shellacking in the hands of their elected leaders and have been browbeaten by political office holders for so long that they’ve come to accept their fate as the unworthy slaves in a master-slave relationship. And as slaves, they believe it’s their duty to be eternally grateful for any crumb that may fall to them from the master’s table.
It doesn’t take much for a leader to please Nigerians, and not a whole lot is required before the people stamp a state executive with the label of “Action Governor.” Build a wooden walkway across a stinking gutter, you are an action governor. Construct a one-holed shalanga (i.e., pit latrine) in the marketplace for thousands of your citizens, you are most definitely a governor exuding action. Pour gravel mixed with tar on a pothole-riddled, perpetually flooded, impassable road, your stocks as an action governor skyrockets. And when you happen to build a state-of-the-art medical school, your rating as an action governor shatters the glass ceiling to smithereens.
In civilized societies, building a medical school is nothing but a low hanging fruit in the tall tree of responsible governance and competent leadership. Providing quality education and affordable and accessible healthcare to their citizens are the barest minimums elected officials are supposed to do.
Yes, kudos to Governor Dave Umahi for doing his job and facilitating the building of such a magnificent medical institution. But for goodness, enough already of the silly sycophancy and embarrassing obsequiousness. There’s a reason elected officials are called public servants. The people who elect are the masters and those elected are the servants. Nigerians must stop groveling before their leaders as though they are ordinary slaves undeserving of anything good they provide.
As long as Nigerians continue to expect little from their leaders, they’ll continue to get the barest minimum. The people must stop shortchanging themselves. When it comes to good governance, there’s nothing honorable about lowballing expectations. To whom much is given, much is expected. It’s high time Nigerians raised the bar and demand more from those who rule over them.
And to the folks of the Fourth and Fifth Estates, stop letting the country down. You are the conscience of the nation and not paid PR agents and mouthpieces hired to burnish the image of elected officials.