SCHEMING FOR MONEY AND IGNORING THEIR CITIZENS’ WELL BEING, NORTHERN GOVERNORS REFUSE TO LOCKDOWN THEIR STATES

Femi Orebe

Just imagine Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, United States of America, saying  that  because of the huge business being anchored by Wall Street, being the world’s financial centre, and home to both the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, he would not put the Lower Manhattan area of New York City under  lockdown, with coronavirus daily harvesting death by their hundreds in the city? That impossibility alone, shows the egregious falsity of the Northern governors’ claim that because their people are farmers, they cannot lockdown their states even when they know that covid positive cases have more than doubled within a week in Kano, as well as how, rapaciously,  the pandemic may turn  round to pummel the  North for this  wrong- headed decision.

Not anywhere else in the world, not in huge oil producing countries or in great manufacturing or trading centres; not anywhere whatever, besides Northern Nigeria, have I seen anybody claim this type of  arrant  pedestrianism  as reason to make short shrift of one of the most effective means of  putting coronavirus in check – i e lockdown.  When they refuse to lockdown their states, what becomes of social/ physical distancing, regarded the world over as the most efficacious strategy against the spread of the disease?

I think these governors  are just trying to be clever by half;  intending to get federal grants  by all means. If they fear famine in the North, won’t farmers have to be alive to go to their farms?

I would have been  surprised if the  Northern governors, already so used to easy, unearned money  – they earn hugely from VAT even as  the highest contributor  from the North, Kano, accounts for a measly 5%, compared  to Lagos state’s  55% – have not seen this pandemic as another opportunity to garner  federal freebies. It is beyond baffling that like the Boko Haram war, concerning which the country spends billions, a group of Northern leaders would think nothing of trying to instigate a spike in covid’19 cases with all the consequences.

 

What the hell are they thinking? 

That for  the sake of money, it means  nothing to them that they may come to harvest  covid -19 related deaths beyond their wildest imagination? What would it cost them, if like Governor Wike, they had merely asked the federal government for grants, as was given to Lagos state, but continue with the lockdown? Why the subtle attempt at blackmailing the President, a ploy which, unfortunately, may now see the federal government pumping money to the states even after  governor Wike had shouted himself hoarse, to no effect?

Like his statesmanlike approach to the issue  of the murderous Fulani herdsmen, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state  has, once again, demonstrated  leadership as he continues the lockdown in Kano. I am persuaded that  he would still have put the state in a  lockdown even if  it was yet to record a single case. He is that mature.

In the herdsmen’s  case , even whilst other Northern governors would not sympathise with their Benue state counterpart, but was instead  being mocked,  governor Ganduje came out like a true leader, asking the herdsmen, who were fast turning the country to a killing field, to relocate to Kano state where, according to him, there  was more than enough land to accommodate them all.

I think these  governors deserve to  be told the brutal truth, which is, that where they find themselves today, which they now claim as reason to endanger  Nigeria , is nothing but the consequence of  their  historic  mental laziness. “We do not have money”, they chorused, tangentially adding  the ridiculous bit that their people are farmers, as if Nigerians in other parts of the country do not work. What, for instance, is the highest IGR in any Northern state, or is it not a shame that Kaduna state contributes no more than 1 per cent to VAT? Just because they have been historically spoonfed, as in VAT distribution where they collect much more than those who ‘bake the cake’, as most  vatable items are banned in these states,  they have come to love easy money. This, incidentally, is one of the reasons restructuring Nigeria has been turned to a rocket science.

Or what manner of governors are these who seem not  to care a hoot for their people except when they can be purloined to make money? 

While their Southern counterparts who spend a much larger chunks  of their budget on Healthcare are doing much more than mere lockdown, Northern governors, just like they facilitated Boko Haram recruitments through their lack of social responsibility to their youthful population, thousands  of who they  used to ferry  down South, complete with  motorcycles, they are again, through their  refusal to lockdown, going to birth another major problem for Nigeria.

But contrary to what is happening in the North, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state, for instance, did not merely restrict movement, he imposed a 7 pm – 7 am curview, effective from 14th April, 2020. On the other hand, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa state lifted restrictions on intra-state movement, asked civil servants, who were hitherto working from home to resume work; and  allowed  commercial motorcycles to ply major towns across the state.

What exactly can be more dangerous than this state of affairs, when all states in the North, except  Kano, can now operate in this manner, while  Lagos, Abuja and other major cities in the South,  are completely  locked down? I believe they are doing this because if there is a back lash, and coronavirus spikes, the North has very little of its own, to throw at it in form of resources. This, to me, is selfishness, but that is how the North has routinely inflicted unnecessary expenses on the country. Before coronavirus, for instance, I have warned on these pages, that the North’s huge, and torridly increasing population, if unchecked, would be the next bomb to detonate on Nigeria with terrible consequences . Now it is Boko Haram in the Northeast, birthed by politicians, and banditry  in the Northwest, the result of these  s  failure to educate the youth;  both of which have combined to constitute a sinkhole far  worse than the civil war. Yet these governors cannot reflect , and see in their mind’s eye, what cataclysm they just might  again bring on the country by avoiding lockdown of their states . When will they know, like President Buhari, that “this pandemic is no joke”? Incidentally,  the deficiencies  they complain about are mostly self- inflicted or how many health facilities, the types readily available in the South, were available anywhere  in the North at the onset of the pandemic? Rather than spend money on projects  or facilities to make life worth living for their people, especially in a part of the country that accounts for about 70 per cent of the country’s aggregate poverty, they would rather sponsor people on pilgrimage.

This pandemic provides a great opportunity for rethinking Nigeria, a time to open her  up and, once and for all, banish the crippling opaque-ness, the inequality, that have characterised our affairs for decades, and held us down.

So much is wrong with Nigeria. How, for instance,  can literally every city in the South be  swarming with  thousands of  Northern youth, many of them carrying  debilities they have acquired back home in their local communities, now constituting an army of beggars, but for who their  state governors haven’t  the slightest concern? Rather, they would choose to  marry off their daughters in obsequious grandiloquence.

Henceforth,  genuine, people -loving, home grown NGOs must spring up in the North to educate their people in the language they understand so that, come the next election, they will be better guided. I am more than convinced that this gallow’s decision, by the governors not  to lockdown, with the distinct possibility it may negatively impact  the efforts of  other entities to rein in the pandemic, is motivated, largely, by a craving  for money, seeing the billions that have tumbled into government coffers as donation. And bad enough, the Presidency may oblige them, which will be a shame.

While at this, however,  let me very sincerely applaud the governor of Borno state , Professor  Babagana Zulum, who sent a delegation of 2 commissioners and a serving legislator to Chibok, to  deliver 500 bags of 25kg rice, 250 gallons  of cooking oil and N5.6 million, in support of  the parents of the 112 girls who are still being held by Boko Haram.