Open letter to incoming governor, by Hassan Gimba
Your Excellency, you got elected presumably on your ability to convince the electorate that you will serve them better than those you contested against. No doubt you promised to make the lives of the people better than they are at the moment; that at the end of your tenure they would look back and acknowledge that you have taken them to a higher level.
Your Excellency, have you sat down to ponder why every round of election is just like the last? That the issues never change? That an incumbent always struggles to return?
If you did, you may come to the sad and painful realisation that your state remains the same because all those who became leaders saw themselves as lord conquerors over the people and their treasury. The power that comes with the office perhaps makes them believe they are invincible, omniscient and omnipotent, a breed different from the rest. Entitlement mentality sets in and so they take and plunder instead of sowing and building up. Even though man always craves for change but almost all leaders repeat what their predecessors did – some even worse.
Your Excellency, it has become a vogue for some chief executives to encourage segregation. This will pose problems in the future. Take education as an example. Rather than build specialist schools to take care of targeted, neglected or disadvantaged segments of the society so as to bring them up to par with their contemporaries, they would rather spend huge amounts erecting elitist schools where few students and a further fewer teachers would become “masters”. The implication is that government has given up on the other schools and all those hapless youths attending them. Such policy is a sure recipe for social disaster and a boost to the recruitment drive of insurgents. It also inculcates a psychology of “master” students and “servant” students.
Students in such magnificently elitist structures tend to look down on students going to normal schools. They never have confidence when they stand near such elitist students. The teachers in such schools also tend to see themselves as superior. Therefore, this policy, rather than help, breeds a kind of apartheid system that does the society no good in the long run.
Such colossal amount should be distributed to upgrade all existing schools that all and sundry can have the benefit of attending. No group should be elevated above its peers with public resources. Private schools, those built by some interests – individuals, corporate organisations, nongovernmental organisations or some nations – can be exceptions but not those built by governments with taxpayers’ funds.
All teachers should have the opportunity for training, retraining and everything possible to shore up their capacity, confidence and morale.
Your Excellency should also make sure that those who have their children in private schools do not determine the affairs of public schools. How can one be in charge of education but send his wards to private schools, or abroad? Anybody who will administer education must have faith in what the government is doing to improve education, which he spearheads. Anybody who cannot sacrifice for the state should not be allowed to benefit from the state. Your Excellency, do that and education would improve in leaps and bounds.
There is a reason why Malaysians in 2018 overwhelmingly brought back Dr Mahathir Mohammed at the age of 92 to lead them again. He was ready to sacrifice his life for them when he refused to travel abroad for medical treatment in 1989, opting to be operated upon in Malaysia, which led him to build world class medical facilities in the then under-developed country later.
He had this to say, “As a doctor myself, I knew the risks. I knew there was a possibility that I might not survive the operation as it was not, at that time, a common procedure.”
Yet he rejected his doctor’s recommendation for surgery in the US. “I had to have faith in our Malaysian doctors,” he said. “If I didn’t make an example of myself, no one else would have confidence in our medical service.”
Your Excellency, anybody who, together with his family, has to travel abroad for medical reasons need not be in charge of your ministry of health and any health facility. Not only those who go abroad, but even those who patronise private hospitals or clinics, please relieve him of his duties if you had already appointed him. The only exception is in dire cases determined by a competent medical team that such cases have to be treated abroad.
You can aim at providing standard primary health care centers in at least each ward, a standard General Hospital in each local government, a standard Specialist Hospital in each Senatorial Zone and a world class referral hospital, maybe in the state capital. You can even partner with world renowned hospital managers and administrators.
These two measures, in education and health, when taken with such seriousness, will see to a turnaround in the standards of education and health in your state, and ultimately the general quality of life.
Sir, never encourage your appointees to run away from the people you are sworn to cater for. Build houses but make sure your appointees do not take them over and create a “reserved area” where they and their families will not mingle with the downtrodden. How can you have a correct feedback when your supposed eyes and ears live in such seclusion? Their kids go to private or government pampered schools with well motivated teachers and they fly abroad for even minor medical challenges? You will risk being caged, barricaded and isolated from the people you are leading and whose welfare should be your primary concern.
Agriculture, Your Excellency, can propel your state into the age of industrialisation, give direct and indirect employment to both the old and young, increase cash flow, arrest capital flight and enhance the state’s revenue base. Brazil’s foreign reserve is nudging $400 billion and 80% of it comes from agriculture.
Your government must come out with an agricultural policy that would make farming attractive, less laborious and rewarding. Not only that, your government must seek to add value to what your state produces. For instance, why sell yam while you can have an industry that produces starch and yam flour among others? Why sell groundnut while you can have an industry that produces groundnut oil, peanut butter, animal feed, body cream, etc? Why carry livestock down south while you can have canned meat, bottled milk, gum, leather, manure, etc, exported? Why export sesame seed when you can process same into oil apart from its nutraceutical, confectionery, bakery, cosmetics and pharmaceutical value added chain?
Your Excellency, if in your tenure you are able to turn things around in education, health and agriculture, your government would go down in history as the best thing that has happened to your state. You see, sir, revolutionising agriculture will necessitate access roads and improved transportation system, and so would health care and education. On top of that, all three would demand, as a necessity, the construction of massive infrastructure – roads, as mentioned, houses, office and shop complexes, transportation systems, etc.
While at it, never ever give in to injustice in whatever way. Followers in Nigeria always give their leaders their rights; be mindful of theirs as well. It is your duty to guarantee they enjoy them. Once there is social justice from the leader, his appointees must take a cue and followers would no doubt love, cooperate willingly and be loyal to you and your government.
At whatever turn, security to lives and property must be paramount and no one should be exempted from obeying the laws of the land.
To achieve this, the traditional institutions must be engaged and local vigilante empowered. At the state level, strictly within the ambit of the constitution, you can improve security consciousness and community policing.