On Sunday, 27th November 2016, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN was announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission as the winner of the Ondo State Governorship Election amidst jubilation by his supporters across the Sunshine state.
On 24th February 2017 in Akure the state capital, the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association was sworn in as the governor of Ondo State.
Fast forward…2020. Covid-19, ravaging countries across the globe!
The index case of the Covid-19 global pandemic which emanated from Wuhan, China late last year birthed in Nigeria on 28th February 2020 with Ondo state recording its index case, a military officer who returned from India, on 3rd April 2020.
Just about the time that the index case was recorded in Akure, capital of Ondo state, Mr Governor constituted the state Palliatives and Response Fund Committees on Covid-19, with his son, Babajide serving as the Secretary of the latter.
That Governor Akeredolu appointed his son in this capacity has since raised dusts across the Sunshine state, with not a few persons giving him knocks thereby.
Of the different shades of criticism, two positions stand out.
That it is “standard practice” for the secretaries of government constituted committees to be civil servants.
Those who advance this position believe that this practice serves to entrench accountability, as a career civil servant will be able to interface with government easily and be available even much later when called upon to give account of all that transpired in his committee, including disbursement of funds, as against a non civil servant like Babajide, who may not be readily available when so called upon in future, especially after the tenure of his father.
Customarily, this sounds reasonable.
But since it is neither constitutional nor gazetted, it makes this advancement weak as it hinges explicitly on tradition, which may be subject to discretion per time.
That of the 3.5 million people that inhabit Ondo state, rather than his son, Governor Akeredolu should have picked any other as the Secretary of a committee where funds will soon start rolling in, in millions and perhaps billions…of naira and hard currencies!
Why must he pick another and not his son?
Beyond the veil, I came to understand that this latter position is based upon the premise that the occupation of political office in Nigeria is the key to amassing wealth illicitly from public treasury!
When a person thus finds himself in government, either elected or by appointment in Nigeria, his friends and relations congratulate him exceedingly like one who has just won a jackpot, because it is deemed that his ancestors have smiled on him, for his own turn to become rich from looting public treasury has finally come!
This is basically the motivation for many Nigerians who seek to occupy political office.
Premised upon this, the several knocks given to Governor Akeredolu by his critics in this instance therefore, emanates from the calculation of “chop-I-chop”.
That Mr Governor is “chopping” and should therefore allow other families to also chop!
That the young, newly-wed Babajide, should go into the kitchen of the government house and “chop” from the several dishes prepared therein, to which he already has unfettered access, rather than “chop” what other starving families could have benefitted from!
This is where I stand to differ.
Governance should be about service, not accumulation of wealth.
If this be our deed, anyone from anywhere could as well occupy political office in our ancestral domain without much ado, if the purpose be for service.
Isn’t it a paradox, that the same set of “indigenous” professionals who would seamlessly elect a “non-indigene” as the State Chairman of their Association, would never do same when the same person runs for the office of the Governor of that state?
The answer is simple!
While they see the office of the State Chairman of their Professional Association as a place majorly for service, that of the State Governor is seen as a place majorly to amass wealth from public treasury!
So, rather than ‘shorten the ration’ of the “sons-of-the-shoil”, he should go to his own state of origin and “chop” from the ancestral pot of his forefathers!
This generic permutation, I hold in great disdain as it makes mince meat of excellence!
In the United States of America, the Bush family has held various national and state offices spanning across four generations, including a U.S. Senator, Prescott Bush, a Governor, Jeb Bush, and two U.S. Presidents—one having also served as Vice President, George H. W.
Americans never complained about the same family repeatedly coming up to occupy political offices. This is so because in those climes, they’ve built strong check-mating institutions so much so that occupation of political office is deemed for service and not for illicit wealth accumulation.
This is why an African migrant in the U.S would be voted for by Americans, against their own “indigenous” American if they’re convinced that he has better capacity for performance, knowing that he is going there to serve and not loot their commonwealth.
So, rather than give Mr Governor knocks for appointing his son, we should rather demand for transparency and accountability of the funds that the committee will oversee.
The Response Fund Committee should make daily publications of sums received, ditto for specific channels of disbursement with fine details, devoid of ambiguity, so that those who make donations can be fulfilled, the needy reached, while even more people, here and in the diaspora are encouraged to donate their widow’s mite.
This is my expectation of the discourse, not whether Mr Governor appointed his son or not!
Beyond the horizon, I might have been verily enthused if the discourse had centered around the gross composition of members of the committee, not by virtue of their ancestry, but of their social pedigree; of former Governors, captains of Industry, renowned professionals, distinguished private sector players, foremost traditional and religious leaders.
While Mr Governor may wish to re-address the overall composition of the committees in response to the widespread agitation of not a few, it is expedient that we begin to situate politics for what it’s actually meant to be; a privileged avenue to serve and not a ticket to loot!
Dr Ikubese, a former Presidential Aspirant and Convener YesWeFit Movement, writes from Akure.