Anyone with an ear to the ground would notice that many Nigerians are presently calling out state governors right, left and centre.  These are not ordinary citizens; most of them are experts and professionals. They say governors are destroying governance in our clime because of their lavish lifestyle which is a total contrast to the reality on the ground –  widespread poverty. I believe this is the time to beam more searchlight on state governments because therein lies true governance. A situation whereby the more the Federal Government tries to stop the economic hardship, the worse it gets, shows that the epicentre lies somewhere else.

It is not an accident that all hands point in the direction of the subnational. Indeed, there is no smoke without fire. The Kaduna State Governor, Uba Sani, revealed in a recent television interview (TVC) that fuel subsidy removal is reflected in their state allocations, and they now have a “surplus of money,” therefore, his fellow state governments should give an account of what they have done with the money. He was trying all he could to account for his own. It did not quite sit well, because to me that was not the best of ways to give account. It was more of a conscience-soothing outing.

He said that he was able to pay pensioners, death benefits and gratuities worth about N3.5 billion. He was also able to help smallholder farmers and small and medium-scale enterprises by distributing N4.3 billion among them. However, one thing the governor said that made absolute sense is that Nigerians should spread their blame, instead of heaping everything on President Bola Tinubu. He explained, “Everyone in Nigeria that is blaming the President, for me, is missing the point. Government is about local governments, state governments and the federal government…”

Perhaps, Nigeria is now in one of its seasons of epiphany. Yes, government is about local governments because this is where the hungry Nigerians reside. This is where they are born, and when the chips are down, this is where they stand up to be counted. But have we ever really seen it this way? The truth is that our so-called Executive Governors have deliberately obfuscated the matter so much so that we do not know the difference between the state and the local governments. The state is the big snake that swallowed the small local snake, and all that it stands for. In plain terms, when allocations from the FG come, it is in a joint account for both state and local governments, straight to the governor. Therefore, we do not see any development in the local government because governors are collecting double but killing governance at the grassroots level.

Just this week, I overheard a former local government chairman of the Ungogo Local Government Area of Kano State reveal on a live programme, on Human Rights FM 101.1, Abuja, that when the FG removed subsidy on petrol, his LG monthly allocation rose from N250 million to N950 million, but the state governor, who collects them from Abuja, never approved even a million for any project in Ungogo.

This is why I was amused by the Kaduna governor’s submission. He never mentioned how much was given to him for the local governments, and he would never mention how much was due for the grassroots executives, i.e. local government chairmen.

He would conveniently lump the sums and then throw up some “palliative distributing” initiatives they usually conceive as governance. End of story! This is how all of them do it in all Nigerian states; none is exempted. And until we begin to interrogate how these monies that never reach the locals are given to them, and demand a better structured legal accounting paradigm, Nigeria will never get out of this morass.

The popular but highly criticised book written by Walter Rodney and entitled How Europe Underdeveloped Africa takes the view that Africa was deliberately exploited and underdeveloped by European colonial regimes. Rodney argues that a combination of power politics and economic exploitation of Africa by Europeans led to the poor state of African political and economic development evident in the late 20th century.  In my view, this same model plays out in Nigeria. The state governors use a combination of power politics and economic exploitation of the rural populace to exploit Nigeria. They amass wealth for themselves and then pick their successors so that the cycle of doom never abates.

The states today are riddled with a high rate of unemployment, unequal and unjust distribution of income and wealth, high level of insecurity, abject poverty, low level of social and political consciousness, increased illiteracy rate, poor health services, pitiable housing conditions, lack of amenities and government services, among others. We must then wake up to the truth that the states are Nigeria. There is no land mass known as the Federal Government.

The first strategy is power politics. The governors do all in their power to install subservient officers at every level of government. This makes them accountable to only themselves. They pocket the electoral officers who then help them install local government chairmen who are totally tied to their aprons. When their tenure as governor is over, they handpick a ‘loyal acolyte’ and sponsor them as the next governor. Unlike in saner climes where funds could be a challenge in election campaigns, money is not a problem for them. They have already amassed so much wealth that they simply need to anoint you for you to be bankrolled and, of course, win.

The second tool is economic exploitation. Believe it or not, no big contract or project goes on in the state without the governor benefiting. I have seen this first-hand. A non-Nigerian friend of mine once went to a state governor for a foreign-sponsored project which would bring jobs and wealth to the state. The state governor insisted that he or his proxy should be included on the board of directors of my friend’s foreign company. When the man refused, he and his team were so frustrated that they left the state with all the goodies they had brought to Nigeria.

Nigerian governors exploit their own state. They grab lands, float companies, and engage in all sorts of unpatriotic endeavours. And because they do not have any idea of production, yet want to block people with productive ideas; they have endorsed and enabled consumerism. If you go around the country, especially in Abuja, and count how many properties are marked “EFCC, KEEP OFF”, that are owned by past governors and their cronies in crime, you will understand how these governors sank Nigeria.