If the presidential media chat of 30th December 2015, is anything to go by, then it is clear that President Buhari means business in his fight against corruption. When he was asked by Ibanga Isime of Premium Times, why Dasuki Sambo had been re-arrested several times on fresh charges by men of the DSS, even though he had been granted bail by the courts, he retorted “if you see the atrocities he has committed, you will understand”. For reference see:
Essentially, what Buhari meant is that he has mandated the DSS to continue to re-arrest Dasuki on fresh charges to forestall any chance of his escape from Justice. This dogged and tenacious approach to dealing with corruption is only comparable to what he (Buhari) did in 1984 to Alh. Umaru Dikko (former Transport Minister in Shagari’s regime), who looted public funds and then ran to London in order to escape the wrath of the law. Well, as we all know, Buhari went to all lengths to make sure he faced the wrath of the law, including trying to smuggle him into the country in a shipping container.
Now, if this is not evidence enough of his seriousness to dealing with corruption, consider another question he was asked during the media chat,about corruption in his cabinet. The President appealed to the questioner that “please if you know any ministers or public officials engaged in corrupt practices, you the media should expose them and we will investigate, sack and prosecute such officials accordingly. What his answer here means, is that any accusations of being involved in corrupt practices will be critically investigated. It almost sounds like he actively seek-out allegations of corruption against public officials.
This brings me to the home front. Simon Lalong is 7 months into his administration and the honeymoon period (i.e., the overwhelming support) he enjoyed from Plateau electorates appears to waning. Several people are already asking questions about the promised “change” and if there is any tangible difference between his (Lalong’s) administration and the past one. At the time of writing this piece, Civil servants are owed 3 months salaries (for October, November & December). The state debt profile has swelled N10 billion, with large borrowings from key Banks and the Federal Government. So essentially, the age-long Plateau problem where civil servants continue to toil and not get paid appears to be plaguing this new administration. Equally, the high borrowing rates seen during the last administration appears to continue in this one. But in fairness to Lalong, the non-payment of salaries and borrowings are somewhat justified, given the current state of the nation (with oil at 36 dollars per barrel) and the meagre resources available to him at handover.
With the above challenges, it is not far-fetched to say that Plateau state is not just broke – but very broke! Huge borrowings, spanning decades has crippled the state to the point where our monthly debt servicing (i.e., month re-payment to banks) is almost as high as the monthly salary burden of workers (i..e, close to N1 billion). This development means the state government is in a very difficult situation to meet all its obligations of salaries, recurrent expenditure, capital projects and the lot. Which should generally mean that cutting the cost of governance and halting reckless and needless spending should assume top priority of this government.
With this in mind, the recent revelation that PLSG spent approximately N500 million on Christmas gifts for political friends and cronies is unfathomable. For such a broke and financially challenged state like Plateau to embark on such lavish spending when even financially buoyant states like Lagos, Kaduna, Kano etc have halted buying of gifts for festivities or paying for pilgrimages is quite simply ridiculous. This large spending of N500 million makes the previous expenditure of N40 million for Sallah rams etc look like mere pittance. For civil servants to work and not get paid, for our communities to be filled with desperate IDPs and yet for us to embark on such spending is quite frankly a little bit reckless.
Beyond the high spending though, is the allegation that the purchase of rice, cows etc was handled by a relative of the Governor – now, I must point out that the involvement of the Governor’s relatives has already been debunked by the Governor’s director of press affairs as a myth, but no clarification on the actual amount spent was given – so people have been left to second guess. Either way, the allegation is already in the publics sphere, meaning people’s positive perception of the Governor has been dented and the governor’s political opponents can begin to exploit such allegations as evidence that the promised “change” is actually “more of the same”.
The above brings me to an important point. Buhari, is on the hunt for his first political scapegoat who can be dogged by unethical practices (afterall his anti-corruption war would not be credible if one of his own from APC is not consumed). So, if he gets the slightest inkling that a political office holder is indulging in any unethical acts or doing anything short of the constitutional norm, he’d descend on them swiftly to prove a point that his war against corruption is not selective. Of course the constitution does not allow a president to remove a sitting governor, but don’t be fooled – in every political setting, there are ways in which this can be done.
This brings me to Barrister Solomon Dalung. You’d probably recall that in one of my previous articles, I discussed Solomon Dalung and how his political stocks are rising astronomically in Plateau and Nigeria. Well, I still posit and assert that Dalung stands to gain a lot from any crisis which may brew in Plateau. For many reasons which I have already detailed, Dalung commands respect, adulation and the confidence of Buhari’s inner circle. They view him as someone who can potentially assist in the reclamation of Plateau from the existing power bloc and as such he has been appointed minister as a stop gap for that lofty position (Hmmm…..2019 would be interesting). And Dalung’s recent body language demonstrates that he is already scheming and auditioning for the role, by attending key political functions, networking with youth and generally playing a savvy game. He knows that the Hausa/Fulani bloc of Jos North, Wase and Kanam trust him more than they can ever do Lalong. He knows that if he is able to command some following in the central zone, he can couple it with his support base in the Southern zone to cause and upset as such, he has been working assiduously to pacify and win over people whom hitherto had grouses with him.
In closing, even though some of the allegations levelled about the N500 million expenditure and contracts executed by relatives of the Governor have been debunked, the handlers of the Governor need to do more to manage the public’s perception of his policies, leadership and personality – else irreparable damage will be done to his political stocks and the very politically savvy Solomon Dalung will pick up the pieces – thats for sure!
Happy New Year
Dr. Chinan Maclean
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