Politics has been repeatedly described as a game of numbers. The person with the most supporters (or the least haters) carries the day. This explains the constant drive by politicians and their cronies to build broad support from stakeholders in order to actualize their ambitions.
Campaign seasons are like a huge gambling carnival. While a few remain neutral, the vast majority place their bet on one candidate or the other. Some make their bets hidden, going to sneaky lengths to ensure that the pot containing their bet never becomes public knowledge. Others, however, latch on to the campaign spirit, and publicise their bets via endorsements, advertisements, and any other means available to them. While some of these persons may have a genuine interest in their preferred candidate, others are pure sycophants, who like businesspersons, are attracted by the scent of profit.
The two frontline presidential candidates have been touring different states in the country for rallies as part of their election campaigns. In each state, the governors, depending on their party affiliation, have tried to show support for whichever candidate they have placed their bets. In all the frenzy, some governors have really overstepped the moral bounds of their office, becoming “excessively supportive”. It is one of those governors that has warranted this article.
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) is to visit Borno State for his campaign rally, and by way of support, the Borno State government has declared a public holiday. The Punch Newspaper reported that the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Ahmed Jidda, said, “The Borno State Government has declared Monday as a work-free day. The declaration is to enable the people of the state welcome the APC presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who will arrive Maiduguri on a campaign visit on Monday”.
Really? A public holiday because of a campaign rally? I was not there when the Constitution and the Public Holidays Act were written to empower governors and the president to declare public holidays. However, I can bet my credentials that the writers never envisaged a time when public holidays would be declared for campaign rallies. It defies any form of logic! I can imagine someone saying, “There’s a public holiday today”, another asks, “What are we celebrating?”, and receives an incredible response, “Buhari’s rally”.
Governor Kashim Shettima and his cabinet must be suffering from massive ignorance of common etiquette. Even if everyone in Borno State supports Buhari, it is morally wrong to declare a public holiday for his rally. In all fairness, Buhari may not have been consulted before the declaration was made. I doubt that “Mr Integrity” would have supported such a move. I doubt he would have allowed Shettima to display his support in such a reckless manner. However, if he was aware, then it is a sorry case.
Declaring a public holiday for a rally is worse than using state monies for campaigns—a common crime in Nigeria. By this action, the governor has shown that he sees nothing wrong in diverting government resources for the use of a political party. I would be amazed if the word “misappropriation” exists in his dictionary. Since it has now been accepted that “stealing is not corruption”, Mr. Shettima may wish to add that, “misappropriation is not corruption”.
Setting morals aside, the public holiday has deprived Borno State of one day of work. That is lost productivity from thousands of wasted man-hours. Without any economic adviser, I know that no work equals lost productivity. Why is a governor who has a retinue of advisers and commissioners (plus two degrees in Agricultural Economics) not able to know this simple self-explanatory paradigm. Or does he choose to ignore it?
The way public holidays are declared in Nigeria really gets one thinking about accountability. If the persons making these orders cared about the productivity of their workforce, they would be less hasty in dishing out work-free days. Unlike private sector organisations that value every minute, governments appear lackadaisical about the effect of lost time on their economies. Maybe if there was no “free” oil money, governors would be more careful knowing that their economic solvency depends on how well they can effectively manage their state’s resources.
I’m done with bashing Shettima and his team in Borno State. Here’s a piece of advice for him and any other governor whose ears still function. Learn from Lagos State. Yes! Learn from Fashola. Governor Fashola showed his support for Buhari by ensuring that proper traffic management was organised during Buhari’s rally. Unlike the PDP’s rally when Lagosians groaned in hectic traffic congestion, during APC’s rally, Fashola deployed the state’s personnel to ensure a fairly smooth flow of traffic (at least from the reports I got). Whether he was biased or not, is a case for another court. He can always claim that the PDP never asked for help.
Political supporters need to get creative with how support is rendered. The days of blatant abuse of power are gradually drawing to a long-overdue close. As more Nigerians become enlightened and gain political awareness, the citizens would begin to demand more from their leaders. Only wise and smart leaders would survive at that time.
PS: [Update – 16-02-2015 21:58] Someone just pointed out that Ondo State and Delta State also declared public holidays for President Goodluck Jonathan’s rally in those states. I was not aware of this as at the time of writing this article. The actions of these two PDP governors does not however make that of Borno State right. All of them are guilty of abuse of official powers.