This general advice to every elected Governor, was first published on May 27, 2019. I feel the need to republish it now that we have concluded the gubernatorial elections in concerned states of the federation.
Your Excellency, this is unsolicited advice, of course. You got elected presumably for your ability to convince the electorate that you will serve them better than those you contested against. No doubt you promised to make the lives of the people better than they are at the moment; that at the end of your tenure, they would look back and acknowledge that you have taken them to a higher level.
Your Excellency, have you sat down to ponder why every round of election is just like the last? That the issues never change? That an incumbent always struggles to return? If you did, you may come to the sad and painful realisation that you need to make some changes and review some appointments. And you need to “put eye” on your aides, just you entrusted with responsibilities, and the assignments you give them.
Every human being has his character, and every leader has his style. You should consider some of the things you think should be done differently or taken more seriously as we learn and improve from cradle to grave. Only through that would your legacy be established and for you to hand over to an anointed of yours.
Your Excellency, it has become a vogue for some chief executives to encourage segregation. This will pose problems in the future. Take education as an example. Rather than build specialist schools to take care of targeted, neglected or disadvantaged segments of society to bring them up to par with their contemporaries, they would rather spend huge amounts erecting elitist schools where few students and further fewer teachers would become “masters”. The implication is that the government has given up on the other schools and all those hapless youths attending them. Such a policy is a sure recipe for social disaster and a boost to the recruitment drive of insurgents. It also inculcates the psychology of “master” students and “servant” students. I am speaking based on experience because I went to such special primary and secondary schools.
Students in such magnificently elitist structures tend to look down on students going to normal schools. They never have confidence when they stand near such elitist students. The teachers in such schools also get to see themselves as superior. Therefore, this policy, rather than help, breeds a kind of apartheid system that does the society no good in the long run.
The Government should distribute such colossal amounts to upgrade all existing schools that all and sundry can have the benefit of attending. No group should be elevated above its peers with public resources. Private schools, those built by some interests – individuals, corporate organisations, non-governmental organisations or some nations – can be exceptions but not those built by governments with taxpayers’ funds.
All teachers should have the opportunity for training, retraining and everything possible to shore up their capacity, confidence and morale.
Your Excellency should also make sure that those who have their children in private schools do not determine the affairs of public schools. How can one be in charge of education but send his wards to private schools or abroad?
Anybody who will administer education must have faith in what the government is doing to improve education, which he spearheads. Anybody who cannot sacrifice for the state should not be permitted to gain from the state. Your Excellency, do that and education would improve by leaps and bounds.
There is a reason why Malaysians in 2018 overwhelmingly brought back Dr Mahathir Mohammed at the age of 92 to lead them again. He was ready to sacrifice his life for them when he refused to travel abroad for medical treatment in 1989, opting to be operated upon in Malaysia, which led him to build world-class medical facilities in the then under-developed country later.
He had this to say, “As a doctor myself, I knew the risks. I knew there was a possibility that I might not survive the operation as it was not, at that time, a common procedure.”
Yet he rejected his doctor’s recommendation for surgery in the US. “I had to have faith in our Malaysian doctors,” he said. “If I didn’t make an example of myself, no one else would have confidence in our medical service.”
Your Excellency, anybody who, together with his family, has to travel abroad for medical reasons need not be in charge of your ministry of health and any health facility. Not only those who go abroad, but even those who patronise private hospitals or clinics, please relieve him of his duties if you had already appointed him. The only exception is in dire cases determined by a competent medical team that such cases have to be treated abroad.
You can aim at providing standard primary health care centres in at least each ward, a standard General Hospital in each local government, a standard Specialist Hospital in each Senatorial Zone and a world-class referral hospital, maybe in the state capital. You can even partner with world-renowned hospital managers and administrators.
These two measures, in education and health, when taken with such seriousness, will see a turnaround in the standards of education and health in your state, and ultimately, the general quality of life.
Sir, make sure your appointees stay and serve the people they are sworn to cater for. Build houses but make sure your appointees do not take them over and create a “reserved area” where they and their families will not mingle with the downtrodden. How can you have correct feedback when your supposed eyes and ears live in such seclusion? Their kids go to private or government-pampered schools with well-motivated teachers and they fly abroad for even minor medical challenges? You will risk being caged, barricaded and isolated from the people you are leading and whose welfare should be your primary concern.
Agriculture, Your Excellency, can propel your state into the age of industrialisation, give direct and indirect employment to both the old and young, increase cash flow, arrest capital flight, and enhance the state’s revenue base. Brazil’s foreign reserve is nudging $400 billion and 80% of it comes from agriculture.
Your government must come out with an agricultural policy that would make farming attractive, less laborious, and rewarding. Not only that, your government must seek to add value to what your state produces. For instance, why sell yam when you can have an industry that produces starch and yam flour among others? Why just sell groundnut when you could have an industry that creates groundnut oil, peanut butter, animal feed, body cream, etc.? Why carry livestock down south when you can have canned meat, bottled milk, gum, leather, manure, etc, exported? Why export sesame seed when you can process it into the oil with many other uses such as nutrition, candy, baking, beauty, and pharmaceuticals?
Your Excellency, if in your tenure you can turn things around in education, health and agriculture, your government would go down in history as the best thing that has happened to your state. You see, sir, revolutionising agriculture will necessitate access roads and an improved transportation system, and so would health care and education. On top of that, all three would demand, as a necessity, the construction of massive infrastructure – roads, as mentioned, houses, office and shop complexes, transportation systems, etc.
While at it, never give in to injustice in whatever way. Followers in Nigeria always give their leaders their rights; be mindful of theirs as well. You must guarantee they enjoy them. Once there is social justice from the leader, his appointees must take a cue and followers would no doubt love, cooperate willingly, and be loyal to you and your government.
At whatever turn, security for lives and property must be paramount, and no one should be exempted from obeying the laws of the land.
To achieve this, the traditional institutions must be engaged, and local vigilantes empowered. At the state level, strictly within the ambit of the constitution, you can improve security consciousness and community policing.
Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Neptune Prime.